NEW YORK — Elvis Costello, considered the most talented songwriter to emerge from English new-wave rock, has released two records this year with songs he considers to be more compassionate than usual.
King of America was released last spring, co-produced with T-Bone Burnett and used country studio musicians.
"It's a more open record, more clear lyrically and more generous in emotion," Costello said in an interview. "There are not so many mean songs on it. Some of my most successful songs have been quite malevolent."
Blood and Chocolate, Costello's 13th LP in the United States, uses his long-time band, the Attractions.
"I very much want the new record to be successful because I've had few commercial successes," he said. "Over the last couple of years I haven't been doing songs of great emotional substance. People's feelings have been strong for more vivid material that came earlier in my career. I haven't gone to the hearts of people. The ones they get excited about are the old songs, still."
The Columbia record was No. 74 with a bullet on the Oct. 25 best-selling chart, and has been applauded by music critic.
An aura of mystery and unavailability has surrounded Costello through much of his career.
"It was for avoiding having to do interviews," he said in an interview. "They had written the article before they came to you. There was very little point in saying anything. It was easier to foster being difficult or mysterious or violent or all three, so people stayed away from you. I was working at a very furious pace. Let them write the stupid nonsense they were going to write anyway. All I wanted to do was get on with the work."
Costello lives in London. He put his real name, Declan McManus, on King of America.
"I'm 32. I was 22 when I started. It's a way of saying that a period of time has elapsed and that's my name. You're not to take my name changing too seriously. There's no psychoanalytical reasoning behind it."
About changing Declan McManus to Elvis Costello, he said, "McManus was had to say over the phone, the N and M. And teachers had great difficulty pronouncing Declan. My great-grandfather's name was Costello. My manager added Elvis, like a stunt, a life-long stunt.
"There was a sense of 'How dare you appropriate that name?' There was an attraction in that."
Costello has recently been producing for the Irish band the Pogues. "I'm not technically minded as a producer. I'm more like a musical director. I grab something with imaginative feeling and strong emotional content and capture it. I can describe what I want to hear.