Gilbert O'Sullivan, 76, 'naturally' remains a pop star, visits Nashville on March 22
The '70s era Irish icon behind "Alone Again (Naturally)" discusses a revival in his popularity, love of Nashville, enduring creative process, more Gilbert O'Sullivan, 76, is set to visit Nashville on March 22, 2023, to perform an intimate set at Music City's City Winery. His piano ballad "Alone Again (Naturally) achieved double-platinum selling status in the United States and spent six non-consecutive weeks at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 charts. He has maintained the same creative process since starting roughly five years before earning the equivalent of $250 as an advance when signing his first recording contract with CBS Records in 1967, and has released 20 albums with varying levels of success. His latest album, "Driven," is titled "delivering sharp-witted rockers with infectious energy and zeal" and includes songs like the KT Tunstall collaboration "Take Love," "Love Casualty" and "You Can't Say I Didn't Try". O' Sullivan's multi-million-selling career has been largely defined by his rhythmic approach to driving melodies throughout his music, and he credits an enduring love of his craft as motivating his art.
Published : 2 weeks ago by Marcus K. Dowling in Entertainment
Five decades have elapsed since 76-year-old Waterford, Ireland-born singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan's melancholic piano ballad "Alone Again (Naturally)" achieved double-platinum selling status in the United States and spent six non-consecutive weeks at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 charts.
He returns to Nashville -- his American recording home (the Hendersonville suburbs, to be exact) since 2011 ("the local musicians there are wonderful and world-class") -- to play an intimate set, only accompanied by a guitarist, at Music City's City Winery on Wed., Mar. 22, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. CT.
"35 years ago, my only American tour was a proper disaster," O'Sullivan jokes to The Tennessean. "My manager Gordon Mills wanted me to be perceived in America the same way his other clients, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, were. So instead of having me open in support of the Moody Blues, he had me go out alone for dates. Though I had sold five million records in America, I still had no track record for putting butts in seats (domestically)."
"They pulled my tour before it could even make it to the west coast," Sullivan recalls. "It was a lovely disaster."
With this story as context, his self-effacing bristling when asked about the impact of his musical legacy -- as compared to fellow powerhouse songwriters and chart-topping artists of the early 1970s, including Burt Bachrach, Roberta Flack, Elton John, Barbra Streisand and Bill Withers -- makes sense.
However, a pleasant pragmatism and a sense of the professional qualities required to maintain respectable longevity over brief flirtations with stardom enters the conversation.
"Songwriting wasn't -- and still is not -- rocket science to me," says O'Sullivan. He notes that he's maintained the same creative process since starting roughly five years before earning the equivalent of $250 as an advance when signing his first recording contract with CBS Records in 1967 -- fresh from gaining comfort with his piano skills honed in a garden shed in his home's backyard.
Developing good melodies and great lyrics over 20 album releases -- of varying levels of success -- now includes 2022's critically-acclaimed "Driven" (featuring songs like the KT Tunstall collaboration "Take Love," "Love Casualty" and "You Can't Say I Didn't Try"). The album has been praised for "delivering sharp-witted rockers with infectious energy and zeal."
"After so many years, getting good reviews about my music -- instead of how I look -- is wonderful."
His label and management's decision to shift his appearance from mimicking silent film stars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to unveiling the then nearly 30-year-old O'Sullivan as a classically collegiate-styled artist wearing a letterman-style sweater bearing a large letter "G" is considered by many observers -- alongside the twin invasions of UK glam rockers like Sweet and American teen idol vocalists like Donny Osmond -- to have led to his decline in American popularity following his multi-million-selling success.
Undeterred and remaining creatively vital since (he also charted singles and compilations in the 80s, 90s and 2000s), O'Sullivan cites an enduring love of his craft as motivating his art.
"The discipline of often approaching songwriting like a 9-to-5 job driven by imagining stories that inspire lyrics and [inventive] melodies has remained constant," continues the artist who achieved six No. 1 singles worldwide between 1970-1973.
"In the morning, I listen to musicals like (1940-released Rodgers and Hart- written American songbook-style) 'Pal Joey.' In the afternoon, I'll get in some great learning [courtesy of] the songs of Burt Bachrach and Hal David, or early Beatles tunes. Late afternoon, I'm listening to more modern music."
"I'm annoyed by digital devices," he continues. "So when it's time to write [in the midst of that day], I sit at my piano with a cassette recorder that has an in-built microphone on either side, push record and away I go!"
A multi-instrumentalist, O'Sullivan's time as a guitarist, drummer and pianist has directly influenced his rhythmic approach to underpinning thoughtful lyricism with driving melodies throughout his career.
Aside from "Alone Again (Naturally)," songs like "Clair" and "Get Down" (UK No. 1 hits in 1972 and 1973) feature swinging vibes driven by O'Sullivan's attempts at keeping a ragtime-style syncopation in his playing -- the left-hand plays a basic beat, while the right hand emphasizes melodic chords.
He describes still being driven by the rhythm's pace and the melody's mood in an empathetic, frank artistic style that often draws comparisons to Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Randy Newman, among many others.
"I never know what the song is going to be about. It's actually rarely about my own personal experiences. Instead, I use my ability to [uniquely connect with and understand] a subject to allow for genuine, sincere songs to develop."
When asked to summarize what else allows him to maintain a constant recording and touring schedule, the pleasure his life has allowed him to experience becomes apparent.
"As long as I find joy in everything I do, I see no reason why I should ever stop. That's all that matters, right?"
Topics: Tennessee, Music, Nashville