Elvis Costello on His 'Joyful' Summer Tour, Broadway Plans and New Music

Rolling Stone: Brian Hiatt: June 15th 2017

Costello talks reinventing 'Imperial Bedroom' live, and why making a musical is like trying to book "Beyoncé and Adele and Bono" all at once.

Elvis Costello named his current tour "Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers," but he and the Impostors definitely aren't performing his 1982 masterpiece in sequence. And they're not sticking to the original arrangements, either. "We're not playing it the way it was originally written or heard," says Costello. "We're going back and listening and saying, 'What's good on those recordings? What isn't so good? What can we do better? And more importantly, what do I feel about the songs, and how do I want them to feel for the people who are listening to us sing them?" He spoke to Rolling Stone about the tour, the musical he's writing and other future plans.

What was it like when you first tried to play the Imperial Bedroom songs with the Attractions in the early Eighties?

One of the things that I think recordings of the original band trying to play this music reveal is that it was challenging when we got out in front of an audience who were expecting the songs from Get Happy. And we just couldn't play them at the right tempo or the right dynamic. We just rushed through them or we brutalized elements of the arrangement. Probably partly because we were so full of vodka or something. Now, it's by no means sedated, but we've certainly worked out how to set it up so that we can just go out there and just be joyful in playing. And it's a very odd contradiction that some of the saddest songs on this record can be joyful to play, because you're being true to the songs and you're not making them sound more cheerful than they are. Quite the opposite.