For the last 22 years, British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello has consistently delivered some of the best music out there.
This despite veering far away, at times, from his fierce punk-new wave roots, most notably heard on his classic 1977 debut, My Aim Is True.
There have been forays into country and classical, but most recently it was Costello's collaboration with noted composer Burt Bacharach that got the music industry's attention. Their work garnered the duo a Grammy — Costello's first ever win after four nominations — for "I Still Have That Other Girl" from their 1998 album Painted From Memory.
"When they read our name out — I'd just flown from Australia directly to Los Angeles and I'd had about four hours sleep — I thought I was hallucinating 'cause I really didn't think we'd win," says Costello, who pulls into Toronto's Massey Hall tonight with original Attractions keyboardist Steve Nieve.
"I had to be dug in the ribs to get up there and get it."
Maybe the Oscars will be next. Costello's on the soundtracks for two summer blockbusters. Mike Myers' Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me features Costello and Bacharach reuniting for a straight-ahead remake of Bacharach's "I'll Never Fall In Love Again."
"Mike's my guy at the moment 'cause we're in his movie," says Costello, who appears as a busker alongside Bacharach in a Carnaby Street scene. "He was delightful. He came to the session when we were recording. And Mike was in there giving the 'We're not worthy' bow as I'm doing the vocals, so that was pretty encouraging."
Costello has also rerecorded, with the 96-piece London Symphony Orchestra, Charles Aznavour's 1974 hit "She" for the Notting Hill soundtrack, which also features Shania Twain. Costello's song plays over the opening and closing sequences in the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant movie.
"She was really charming," says Costello of meeting Roberts at the British premiere of Notting Hill. "I'd never been to anything like that before. It was just like you see it in the news reels in the movies — it's a million flashbulbs and you're inside and the photographers are saying, 'Put your arm around Shania!' And I'm saying, 'Well, do you think she'll mind? We've only just met.'"
These two high-profile projects follow two years of wide-ranging movie work for Costello, including appearing in the Spice Girls' 1998 movie Spice World and playing himself "in slightly surrealistic circumstances" in a French film, Sans Plomb (Unleaded).
"I'm doing this bizarro world version of my life where I get to go to movie premieres and be in Hollywood films," he says down the line from London.
And while he's concentrating on touring now, Costello says he wants to get back to writing another album soon. His last release, before Painted From Memory, was 1996's excellent All This Useless Beauty.
"Ideas are bubbling up in my head," says Costello, who says he may end up with Nieve in the studio. "I haven't written any big body of songs, purely for myself, in a number of years now. So I'm really kind of itching to get back to writing."
First, however, is another musical detour. Costello is going to write and arrange an album of non-classical material for mezzo soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter.
"I just love all types of music," he explains. "And I don't feel that you should necessarily be confined by just 'cause you started out somewhere that you should stay there.
"So I just follow my curiosity, and curiosity often turns into something a bit more passionate and then it becomes necessary to do something."