Keeping up with Tom Jones

Tom Jones cancelled his shows in Singapore in 2010 because of laryngitis. He then performed at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2013.
Tom Jones cancelled his shows in Singapore in 2010 because of laryngitis. He then performed at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2013.PHOTO: LIVE NATION LUSHINGTON

Welsh singer, 75, shows no signs of slowing down - playing shows worldwide and releasing a new album and autobiography

More than half a century after he made his singing debut, Welsh singing icon Tom Jones is feeling unstoppable.

The man with the distinctive deep baritone is still going strong, playing shows worldwide.

In the past few months, he has released a new album, Long Lost Suitcase, and an autobiography, Over The Top And Back.

"Singing is my life. People say to me sometimes, 'When are you going to retire?' Yeah, to what?" the 75-year-old says in a telephone interview from Sydney, part of his global touring itinerary that also includes a show in Singapore at The Star Theatre on March 31.

Jones had to cancel his shows here in 2010 because of an illness.

He adds: "I'm not a secret golfer. I'm not a person who has a passion other than music. That has always been my biggest passion and I want to continue to do that as long as I possibly can. I don't see the point in stopping when I don't have to."

In a way, the new album, his 41st, and the book, mark his career coming full circle.

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Like his past two albums, Praise & Blame (2010) and Spirit In The Room (2012), Jones went back to basics for Long Lost Suitcase.

With the backing of a stripped-down rhythm section, the soulful songs are worlds away from the bombast of his signature pop tunes such as She's A Lady and It's Not Unusual.

"I'm doing more of the type of things I was doing in Wales before I got my first hit record. It's great to be able to do songs that I wanted to do for a long time. I've never had the chance until now and I'm in a very happy place."

Jones, who was knighted in 2006, worked on the book and album at the same time.

"One complements the other. There are a lot of the song titles which are also the chapter names in the book. These songs refer to different times of my life."

A track, Take My Love (I Want To Give It All To You), originally by R&B pioneer Little Willie John, for example, was included because it reminded Jones of going to dancehalls with his wife when they were teenagers. The couple have been married for 59 years.

Still, Jones' upcoming show will have all the familiar hits, he assures, although they might sound a little different from what his listeners are used to.

"I think it's more interesting. It's not exactly the same as the records. Give them something different to hear - there are other ways of doing things, but it's still me singing them," he says.

"It's not like I have changed my style or anything, but some of the arrangements have changed. It's a great show."

Jones, who is based in Los Angeles, says having to cancel his Singapore shows is still fresh on his mind. He left the Resorts World Sentosa stage after singing two songs and later cancelled a rescheduled show because of laryngitis.

"That bothered me because I hate cancelling shows. I'm glad I was back there and sang and people realised it was just a glitch," he says, referring to his subsequent 2013 set at the Singapore Grand Prix.

The singer - whose accolades include a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966 and a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 2003 - keeps abreast of what is happening in the contemporary pop music world.

He was a coach on British television talent show The Voice UK for four seasons from 2012 to 2015 and has performed with singers such as Ed Sheeran and Jessie J.

Asked who he would like to collaborate with next, he names James Bay, the 25-year-old British singer-songwriter who was nominated for three prizes, including Best New Artist, at the recent Grammy Awards.

"I've met him a few times. I said it would be great if we could do something if he can write a song that he thinks could be suitable. It all depends on the material."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Keeping up with Tom Jones'. Print Edition | Subscribe