The entertainer talks ''The Union,'' his duet album with Leon Russell, and shares thoughts on Lady Gaga and ''Glee''
How did you come to team up with Leon Russell for this album?
I was listening to [his music], and I got very emotional and started to cry. His music takes me back to a wonderful time in my life when things were just beginning to happen for me. It takes me back to the late ’60s and early ’70s, when there was so much different music. There were 10 or 12 albums that you had to have every week. Now, it’s trying to find 10 or 12 albums a year. Leon was the first person I’d heard play the piano with classical, gospel, and soul influences all at once, and it just blew me away. The main purpose of this album is to make a great record, have fun, and make people aware of Leon again.
The album has a pretty retro sound.
The secret is that it’s done live. We’ve been using computers to make the last three or four albums. This was like, the red light is on — one, two, three, off you go! I haven’t done a record like that in so long, I can’t remember when.
You’ve said that you feel like you don’t have to make pop records anymore. Does that feel liberating?
It does in a way. Not that I don’t like pop records. But I can do the side things for pop, like when I worked with the Scissor Sisters or if Lady Gaga wanted to do something. It’s just nice to not have to go into a studio and think about writing a hit single. You’re not going to get on the radio at 60 years of age. That’s fine by me.
Speaking of Lady Gaga, any plans to work together after your performance with her at the Grammys?
I’d love to in the future. She and I come from exactly the same place. She’s kind of like the bastard daughter of Elton John. I love her, and I love her ability to write.
Will you show up on her upcoming album, Born This Way?
There’s a chance I might do one track with her, but she’s so busy and I’m so busy, we can never get together! But her record — it’s f—ing amazing. ”Born This Way,” which is the title song, will completely get rid of Gloria Gaynor’s ”I Will Survive.” This is the new ”I Will Survive.” That was the gay anthem. This is the new gay anthem. Actually, it’s not a gay anthem — it can apply to anybody.
Any chance an all-Elton episode of Glee is in the works?
I love Glee, but no, no. Of course I’d be into that. It’s always great when someone covers your songs, no matter how good or bad the version is. I am supposed to be doing something with [Glee star] Matthew Morrison for his album. We had a little meeting together, so hopefully that’s going to happen when I get to L.A.
Anything on your iPod right now that you want to share?
I don’t have one! I don’t have a computer or a phone, either.