'Roadsinger' by Yusuf
With his reintroduction to the pop world behind him, renowned singer-songwriter Yusuf (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) is ready to once again strike up an intimate relationship with his audience. After retreating from the pop stage following classic ‘70s multi-platinum albums such as Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat and acclaimed hits such as “Wild World,” “Peace Train,” “Moonshadow,” “Morning Has Broken” and “Father And Son,” Yusuf returned in late 2006 with his first pop album in 28 years.
Now a second album, Roadsinger (To Warm You Through The Night), is set to be released with EMI Music Arabia in the UAE on May 18th and subsequent CD release dates around the Middle East will follow soon after.
“I was absent from my audience for so long,” Yusuf says, “people thought another album would never come. The 2006 album, An Other Cup, was a surprise. With this new album, the distance is much less. I’m back to doing what I do best - painting pictures with music and storytelling on a very human, personal, intuitive level through lyrics and song, so I can help people feel good again. I guess in some ways the new album picks up where the Cat Stevens the public knows left off.”
The album, Roadsinger, was produced by the now singularly named Yusuf with help from Martin Terefe (James Morrison, Jason Mraz, Martha Wainwright), and recorded in London, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Guests include Morrison,
Michelle Branch, and Holly Williams (granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr.).
“The new album is a response to the way An Other Cup was received,” Yusuf explains. “Fans said they wanted to hear more of me with a guitar. So this album is much more folk-tale oriented. Also, apart from one track, all of it was recorded live. I listened to a lot of’ ’70s L.A. music, such as Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carole King, and it inspired me to go back into that intimate style of recording. The songs are somewhat autobiographical but abstract enough so everyone can relate to them and connect them to their own lives.”
The title track, “Roadsinger,” unfolds the tale of an outcast who revisits his old hometown; along the empty street a child peeks from behind a store window and gives an innocent smile out of the shadows of prejudice. “The theme of a journey has always been big with me,” says Yusuf.
“There are plenty people who sing, but not enough who have walked the walk,” he says. “But, unfortunately, I’m still often misunderstood. I embraced an unexpected spiritual path that was confusing for many (converting to Islam in 1977) and since then people have concocted their own ideas about it.
Maybe because of subsequent world-shaking events, people wanted to put me into their own one-sided view, but I don’t fit those limitations. My world is still borderless and wide. The removal of conflict and establishment of peace has always been my global objective. It’s sad that lot of people, including some Muslims, forget that the name Islam actually comes from the word ‘Peace’ in Arabic.”
The forthcoming album also showcases some songs from my forthcoming musical “Moonshadow.” One, “This Glass World,” is a reflection of our split society of haves and have-nots. The story takes place on a dismal planet of perpetual night where only the moon’s shine lights the darkness; it is about a boy’s meeting with his Moonshadow and adventurous search for the lost world of the sun and happiness.
Yusuf’s return to his guitar came about when his teenage artist-musician son, Muhammad (aka Yoriyos), brought one home. One morning, Yusuf was alone in the lounge when he looked over and felt a draw of curiosity overtake him. He slowly picked it up. “I put my fingers on the fretboard to make a ‘C’ chord,” he remembers, “and surprised myself, ‘It’s still there!’ It felt right. So I started playing again.” On the forthcoming album, Yusuf even plays electric guitar on a couple of tracks, along with keyboards.
“This part of my career feels similar in one sense to when I began,” Yusuf reflects. “I had to get past the songs on Mona Bone Jakon before I could move on to Tea For The Tillerman, etc. This time around it was the same story: I had to lay the groundwork with my debut album, An Other Cup, before a bunch of new songs arrived. I had quite a few in my back pocket and again it was my son who sparked the next step. He said, ‘Isn’t it time to start recording a new album?’ And it was.”
For one of music’s most extraordinary artists, the journey continues.