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Ringo Starr says new EP was therapeutic respite from pandemic
Ringo Starr's latest EP, just out, is called "Zoom In," so it's appropriate that the Beatles drummer and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer takes to Zoom to talk about it.
The five-song set is yet another testament to what Starr, 80, does so well, which is get by with a little help from his friends. "Zoom In" was preceded by the single "Here's to the Nights," an all-star extravaganza whose chorus includes Beatles mate Paul McCartney, brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl, Lenny Kravitz, Finneas, Chris Stapleton and Sheryl Crow -- just to name a few. Elsewhere, Doors guitarist Robby Krieger plays on "Zoom In, Zoom Out," Toto's Steve Lukather (also part of the All-Starr Band) and Joseph Williams contributed "Not Enough Love in the World," and reggae great Tony Chen appears on "Waiting For the Tide to Turn."
Contemporary hitmaker Sam Hollander, meanwhile, helmed the track "Teach Me to Tango."
"Zoom In" comes out alongside the new book "Ringo Rocks: 30 Years of the All Starrs 1989-2019," and while he's holding off on live performing until 2022, Starr still has been anything but locked down during the past year of lockdown in his Los Angeles area home...
As with everyone else, the past year has been "very difficult" for Starr and his family. He canceled two tours for his All-Starr Band and took the pandemic seriously. "What big plans we had for 2020. I was 80. We were gonna have a big celebration -- all the kids, grandkids, everybody coming into L.A. We were gonna have a great time, and it didn't happen. I left the house eight times in a year; It's far out. This is the longest I haven't seen the kids or the grandkids...It's really making me live a day at a time, because that's what we've got now. Theres no sort of big future. We hope there'll be a future...when we all just hang out together."
Making "Zoom In," in fact, was therapeutic for Starr and his cohorts. "I think everybody was looking for something to do," he says. "It just keeps you in music mode, which I love. I prefer playing on stage, but this is the best I can do right now, is to make a record here in this room and hang out with musicians."
But Starr promises the hanging out was done safely. "We were all very cautious. We all got tested...Benmont Tench came over, playing piano. Nathan East (on bass) came, Luke (Lukather). We were all pretty six-foot apartish, but at least we could feel each other. There was only, like, two people besides me at a time. We didn't have a whole gang. Like the chorus for 'Here's to the Night,' the two people who came over were Ben Harper and Dave Grohl and that's it."
Starr had previously declared that his 2019 album "What's My Name" would be his last full-length project and that he intended to concentrate on individual tracks after that. But "Zoom In" "unfolded as we went along. I'm making EPs because it's not such a big situation. To do the 10 tracks, it's joyful, but it's work. With the EP...four tracks, now five of course, it's easier to look EPs in my day were four tracks. I love EPs. I've got plenty of them in storage."
And, Starr notes, it's probably the way he's going to work moving forward. "Don't tell anyone, but I have started EP 2," he says.
Despite its brevity, "Zoom In" manages to cover diverse stylistic ground, from the pop to reggae "Waiting for the Tide to Turn" and the hints of Latin rhythms knitted into "Teach Me to Tango." "I was sort of in that mood of looking for people I hadn't worked with, to come on over or I sent the files to them. For me it's a really good phase of my recording life. I made a decision (that) though I'm the producer and I do play the drums and I do sing the songs, I don't have to put on all the other instruments. I don't have to be the writer or co-writer of the song. So I started calling people (to ask) have they got any songs. I get to play or listen to what they played in their own studios, and it worked."
In addition to the EP, Starr has played on others' albums, including Lukather and Williams' respective solo albums, Edgar Winter's upcoming tribute to his brother, the late Johnny Winter, and a Rodney Crowell charity track. "I'm not gonna do everything everybody asks me. I don't play jazz...Sheila E. did 'Come Together'...She came over with the files...A lot of fun in playing. But she forgot to tell me it's seven and a half minutes long, and the last for minutes are jamming. So I'm jamming." (laughs)
Starr is currently planning to return to the road with the All-Starrs May 31, 2022, despite hopes of being able to play this fall. "I don't want to go out on the road and have social distancing or masks on. We thought maybe September-October (of this year) we could manage, but just two days ago I canceled that one, too. I'm gonna wait 'til next year to go out -- there may be four or five EPs out before then, who knows?"
And after putting together a virtual event for his 80th birthday last July, Starr has little interest in revisiting the idea. "I'm not really interested unless I'm there and you're there. That's the way I want to do it."
This year's birthday celebration (July 7) in in "limbo" right now. "We'll have the peace and love moment, but we won't be having the bands playing, the stage at the Capitol (Records) building...We've had my birthdays in several countries now, which is always amazing. We're now in 27 countries celebrating the 12 noon peace and love, so it's growing which is great. This year we don't know what we're doing."
One thing Starr is very much looking forward to this year is "The Beatles: Get Back," Peter Jackson's take on the "Let It Be" recording sessions that's due out Aug. 27. "It's about the music and a lot of joy. I didn't feel any joy in the original documentary. I thought it was miserable. Peter and I had several talks; I said, 'There's lots of laughter. I was there. We were laughing. We were having fun. We were doing what we do.' So he would...come over with is iPad and show me sections, 'Look what we found here!' and we're laughing, having fun as a band. There was a lot of joy in making those records. I'm certainly looking forward to the whole thing."
Starr's latest public appearance was at the 63rd Annual Grammy Award, presenting Record of the Year to Billie Eilish. "It was a great pleasure for me to do the Grammys...Finneas, who writes (the songs with her), he's actually on the chorus (of "Here's to the Nights') with everyone else...Beautiful human being, and musically great. I listen to what's happening, but I play what I play. You're not gonna see me any minute now, rapping."
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