Celebrity Portrait


Breaking His Silence

By Mark Gray

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Photograph by Penny Lancaster Stewart

Rod Stewart finds his voice. After penning his autobiography, the rocker’s renewed interest in songwriting led to the release of his 2013 album Time.

Stewart is now busy working on another record, due out in the spring of 2015.

It’s early October and Rod Stewart has just finished a three-week run of shows in Las Vegas. Settling into his sprawling Los Angeles-area home, he’s finally able to do something that he hasn’t done much of at home over the past 21 days: talk. No, he’s not in a fight with his wife Penny Lancaster Stewart, who he married in 2007, nor is he angry with any of his children. He’s simply been protecting his voice,
or as he calls it, his “crown jewels.”

In fact, he’s maniacal about his voice— borderline neurotic even.

“It’s always difficult for any singer to play Vegas because it’s so dry being in the desert. You’re constantly looking after your voice,” he says. “For me personally, I do voice rests, so my kids wonder why I’m not talking. Mum has to tell them, ‘Daddy can’t talk right now, he’s working.’ But now it’s all over for a while.” Well, it’s over until he returns to the Caesars Palace stage at The Colosseum again in November and then for shows in January and February of 2015.

Nearly all of his eight children are old enough to understand why he is sometimes a mute at home, but Stewart suspects that his youngest, three-year-old Aiden, is confused by it.

“I think he must think Dad’s gone dumb or something. The other kids, the eight-year-old and all the way up to the older ones: They’ve had to put up with this for years, Dad’s silence.”

About to enter his fourth year playing The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Stewart has come to love the arena and the advantages that come with performing about 25 shows a year there. It’s close to his California home, the acoustics are top notch and, from an audience standpoint, the seats are comfortable. Almost too comfortable, he says. Sometimes, he even gets to perform with his 27-year-old daughter Ruby, who occasionally joins him on stage. Heck, considering his occasional self-imposed silence, it might be the only time she actually hears his voice.

“I would have imagined of all my children that one of them was going to have a good singing voice, and it was her,” he says. “It’s a wonderful experience. Not many dads can say they go to work with their daughter and actually share a stage with her.”

And as his daughter learns the singing business, Stewart himself says he’s even learned a few things, especially from playing Vegas. The Colosseum has actually taught him how to be a better performer.

“It teaches you to be able to talk to an audience one-on-one, as if you’re talking to one person. I always thought I was pretty good at that. I’m very spontaneous; I don’t have a script like some of the people who have played Vegas,” he explains.

“I don’t say the same thing every night. I do swear now and then, just occasionally, but not for the effect, just because I feel like it. I like to be as spontaneous as I can, and Vegas has taught me that. Everyone seems to hang on my every word and I feel very responsible about what I say now.”

That is, of course, when he’s verbally speaking. Lately, it’s been the written word that has been keeping the rocker busy. In 2012, he released an autobiography. During his research, he became interested in songwriting again, something he hadn’t done in about 20 years. In May 2013, he released Time, which showcased his renewed love for songwriting. And in the spring of 2015, he’s planning on releasing yet another album, one that will feature not only a lot of Celtic melodies, but he says he’s also experimenting with a reggae and ska song.

“Believe it or not, I’ve got ten tracks ready for the new album. I’ve got songs coming out of my bum at the moment,” he says with a laugh. “I just wish I could have had this twenty-five or thirty years ago. I was enjoying myself too much then.”

Don’t let him fool you; he’s enjoying his life now, too. Asked how old he feels, he’s quick with an answer. “It’s all about being comfortable with what you do, who you are, what you wear, what you say and who you mix with. I’m very comfortable in the suit I’m wearing at the moment,” he explains. “When I do feel uncomfortable, I will step aside and there’s no doubt that day will come. We all know nothing can last forever.”

This begs the question: How long does the “Forever Young” soon-to-turn 70-year-old plan on continuing to perform and record new music?

The way Stewart sees it, the answer to that question isn’t actually his decision, for the most part.  

“As long as the voice is there, I’ll keep going. I’ve been really lucky with my voice. It’s stayed in pretty good shape,” the raspy-toned singer says. “It gets a bit of a battering now and then—four shows in six days—but I look after it as if it were the crown jewels. I’m paranoid about it to the point that I’m drinking tons of water, getting plenty of sleep, not talking, and doing an hour and a half of warm-ups before I sing. It’s my instrument and I protect it, like I said, like it’s the crown jewels.”