What inspired your new album, Standards?
The same as every album I make — great songs. These songs have stood the test of time.
You worked with some of the musicians Frank Sinatra worked with. What did that feel like?
It was the best part. It was so fulfilling — having tears in my eyes as the orchestra played the middle section of Smile and understanding the gravity of it was wonderful. Being able to record with some of the greatest musicians in the world in a real studio, live, singing with them — that’s how old records were made and sadly it isn’t like that any more.
Is making albums in this way quite an unusual experience now?
That’s how I was brought up to make them with my mentor Trevor Horn — my early records took time to make. We put a lot of effort and love into it, and there was respect of the craft. It’s an experience that’s too costly these days but fortunately for me I’ve been spoilt — I’m used to making records in the traditional sense.
How has the industry changed throughout your career?
The development of artists has been forgotten. It’s obsolete. You’re dealing with diminished returns caused by copyright violation, so record companies don’t invest as much as they used to. If my first single didn’t hit, the record company moved on to the second single — that’s because they initially signed me for millions of pounds so they had a vested interest. I was an investment. But people aren’t getting signed for that kind of money any more and record companies aren’t spending that sort of money on promotion. Also, because people aren’t paying for music, the perceived value of it no longer exists. If you don’t pay for something, you don’t respect it as much.
Did the Christmas songs on the album put you in a festive mood?
Yes, I guess they did. Every year when Christmas comes around, my kids ask when I’m going to do a Christmas song and I haven’t before so I’ve recorded a couple on this album to give them something to listen to.
What’s the best Christmas present you’ve received?
Just being with my kids and them being healthy and happy over Christmas, that’s the best gift I’ll ever receive.
Because people aren’t paying for music, the perceived value of it no longer exists. If you don’t pay for something, you don’t respect it as much
You’re a judge on The Voice Australia. Would you fancy doing it here?
Only if it was authentic. My favourite part of the Voice experience is working with the artists. That’s why I did it in the first place. I have an obligation to get them to where they need to go, so my agenda is to make the best use of our time. I understand I’m employed to make a TV show but I see myself in every one of those artists I’m fortunate enough to coach, so my first priority has to be to them. I haven’t been asked to do the one in the UK so who knows if I’d do it?
The Voice hasn’t produced a successful act yet — how come?
Because of the bulls*** deals they’re locked into afterwards. It’s not about them being developed by great managers or a great record company — it’s about capitalising at any expense on the visibility they’ve had over a few months on the TV show. They’re in the infrastructure of this TV show where everything is done for them and at the end, whether they win it or not, it’s all whisked out from under them and it’s on to the next. But that’s when they need good management the most. So it’s not a surprise that very few artists come from it and go on to be something.
You and your ex-wife Heidi Klum were famed for your Halloween outfits. Did you have a favourite?
The most exotic one was when we were chimpanzees. My ex-wife got the person who did the make-up on Planet Of The Apes to put the prosthetics on us, which was memorable. We had them glued to our faces, which was very uncomfortable.
Do you regret going on Loose Women and telling Coleen Nolan you don’t like her song I’m In The Mood For Dancing?
Did I say that? I don’t remember it. I’m sure it was all in good fun!
You’ve lived in the US for more than 20 years. What do you miss about the UK?
The fact we don’t have guns. The fact you can’t go into a shop and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle along with your trainers. That’s something I miss about England… among other things.
Standards is out now