Phil Collins goes "Back" to Motown favorites

Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:28pm EDT
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By Craig McLean

NEW YORK (Billboard) - It's a rainy day in New York, and London-born, Switzerland-based Phil Collins is making the most of his time stateside.

The 59-year-old singer/songwriter/drummer has brought his two youngest sons with him for a summer vacation. They've visited the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas -- collecting artifacts from the 1836 battle is Collins' abiding passion these days. It's a hobby he can clearly afford, having sold 11.2 million albums as a solo artist during the Nielsen SoundScan era alone, while Genesis has moved 9.3 million albums in the same period.

But he also has a new record to promote: "Going Back," a collection of vintage soul covers, will be released on Atlantic September 28 in North America and September 14 in the rest of the world. It was recorded with musicians including three alumni of legendary Motown session players the Funk Brothers -- and one of the music teachers from his 9-year-old son Nicholas' school.

"I wanted to keep it a low-key, low-profile album," Collins says of the self-produced set. "I wanted it to be fun."

There were other, more practical reasons for keeping the recording simple. He has a hearing ailment that has "leveled off," while a nerve-induced problem with the grip on his left hand meant Collins had to tape his drum sticks to his hands during recording. He doesn't think he'll fully play the instrument ever again. Which makes the cover image of "Going Back" all the more poignant: a photograph of a well-scrubbed 12-year-old Philip Collins, poised over a drum kit.

In an interview with Billboard, Collins revealed his love of Motown and why Genesis is finally over.

Billboard: How did the idea for this album come about?

Phil Collins: I didn't really have any desire to make another record. I figured it would be the most difficult thing to do; to do another record and then still maintain the time that I want to spend with my kids. As soon as you start making a record, things start getting lined up: the promotion, possibly even a tour. So I was ready to do nothing. But Tony Smith, my manager, mentioned as an aside one day, "Why don't you think about doing a Motown covers album?" And I thought, "Actually, that is something I've always wanted to do." And it sounded like it could be fun. So I started to work on demos in my studio at home. That took about nine months.   Continued...