Northern Express, June 13, 2011

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Northern Express
  • 2011 June 13

Michigan publications

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Elvis Costello

When it comes to songwriting he's anything but an imposter

Rick Coates

When Elvis Costello takes the stage at Interlochen's Kresge Auditorium on Tuesday June 21 to kick off the music portion of their Summer Arts Celebration, his eclectic approach will be a fitting tribute to Interlochen's summer concert series.

The 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee has extended his popular "Revolver Tour" to include Interlochen and other dates this summer and for the first time in 25 years he is bringing along his "Spectacular Spinning Songbook." This carnival-like atmosphere will feature a gigantic game-show wheel with 40 song titles on it ranging from hits to rarities to covers. Concertgoers will be invited up on stage to spin the wheel to help create the setlist for the evening and then after spinning the wheel they have the option to hear their song while hanging out in the "Hostage to Fortune Go-Go Cage," or taking a seat at the "Society Lounge," where light refreshments are served.

"Certainly the audience will see several recognizable songs but I also will have some real rarities songs that rarely or never have been performed live," said Costello. "These songs came out of playing them at rehearsals. Of course we mix it up each night with the songs on the wheel."


Born Declan Patrick McManus in England 56 years ago, Elvis Costello took on his stage name at the suggestion of his manager in the early '70s. Costello rode in on the punk rock wave to enter the music scene in 1977 with the release of his first album My Aim Is True. The album produced the song "Allison," considered to be among his best, the song was was actually released on the "B" side of the 45 "Miracle Man."

Elvis Costello and the Attractions (he now tours with the Imposters made up of some of the original Attractions) would find themselves at the center of the pub rock/punk rock and new wave scenes of the late '70s early '80s. Numerous artists have recorded his songs and had hits, and Costello often jokes: "I don't always like how my songs have been covered but I sure enjoy spending the money those artists have made for me." Yet, ironically, despite his impact on the music industry Costello did not make the Billboard Charts with his early classics including "Allison," "Watching The Detectives," "Pump It Up," "Everyday I Write The Book," and "Radio, Radio."

Over a 34-year musical career that has included 30 albums and recording and writing songs with a who's who of music greats, Costello has explored almost every musical genre possible. He has released nine albums over the past 10 years and his most recent is last years National Ransom, a vaudeville meets bluegrass at a bar in Nashville kind of album. "I would say this is my best album during the later part of my career," said Costello. "I am very proud of it."


Costello has always taken an explorative approach to his career, inspired growing up in England and watching his father face the challenges of a musical career. "My father started out as a trombonist and eventually became a singer. He was definitely a ‘working mans' musician," said Costello. "I saw the struggles he faced but he managed to put food on the table. He was definitely an inspiration to me. He still is today; he is 83 and still alive." As for his songwriting approach: "My approach to songwriting over the past 30 years has been to be adventurous," said Costello. "I think songwriters during their career need to turn to different styles and genres. For me the songwriting process is based on what I am feeling, and sometimes what your feeling can't be expressed in the musical genre you are currently working in so you have to step outside of that and see where that goes."

For a man with a wife (jazz pianist and vocalist Diana Krall; they married eight years ago at Elton John's home ) and twin boys just starting kindergarten, Costello remains busy recording albums and touring.

"I guess you could say I am trying to get as many albums out before there are no more record companies. Certainly the downloads are changing everything but I am still a fan of having that physical album in my hands. But also, I really believe that records are simply the starting point and that music is best enjoyed in a live concert setting, essentially cutting out the middle."

As for continuing his torrid recording and touring pace, Costello takes this perspective. "I am at the age and point in my career where I do ask myself if I feel like carrying on with this career," said Costello. "For me everything I do from this point forward has to be worthwhile and it has to count otherwise I have better places to be, namely with my family. But as long as I continue to find what I am doing worthwhile I will carry on."

Certainly there will be no "better place to be," than at the Elvis Costello and The Imposters concert on June 21 at Interlochen Center for the Arts Kresge Auditorium. It certainly will be worthwhile.

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Northern Express, June 13, 2011


Rick Coates profiles Elvis Costello ahead of his appearance with The Imposters, Tuesday, June 21, 2014, Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen, MI.


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