Some 60-odd years into his career, Ringo Starr is about to release Rewind Forward,a four-song EP that is part of a series he began working on during the pandemic. Ringo has kept himself very busy since the Beatles split up in 1970, releasing 20 solo albums and four EPs and collaborating with everyone from Harry Nilsson and T. Rex’s Marc Bolan to indie rock icon Jenny Lewis. He’s been steadily touring with his All Starr Band since 1989 and is hitting the road once again in September 2023. Since Sir Starr clearly has no intention of retiring, his people figured why not give him a good jolt to the system by sitting him down for 20 minutes on Zoom with one of these loonies they keep hearing about over there at CREEM? A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-lop-bam-boom!
Ringo! Happy belated birthday! 83, huh? You don’t look a day over 60!
That old?! [Laughs]
You look amazing! What’s your beauty secret? Peace, love, and broccoli?
Great, now the kids are going to start showing up at the gig holding signs that say “PEACE, LOVE, AND BROCCOLI!” [Laughs] I do eat a lot of broccoli, though. And carrots.
I’ve been listening to your new EP. When I heard the guitars come in on the first song, “Shadows on the Wall,” the first thing I thought of was the Replacements. You know them?
They were a great Midwestern alternative rock band that was mostly active in the ’80s. You should check them out.
I know Steve Lukather [Toto, Ringo’s All Starr Band] wrote that song and played the guitars, so it wouldn’t be your bit anyway, how the guitars sound.
Yeah. The songs I do with Lukather and Joe [Williams], they put all the meat on it. I always play the drums and sing the songs. Do some tambourine. On one of the tracks I play bongos... Wait, no, that’s on the new one I’m doing right now.
You’re working on another record already?
Well, I’m doing three. I got a three-EP deal with Universal.
I’ve never heard of a three-EP deal. I feel like you just made that up.
Well, maybe! [Laughs] I don’t know. Everything I do is attached to Universal, the Beatles and all. So yeah, we have a laugh about it.
EPs are a clever way of releasing music, especially now. You’ve been recording your music at a home studio these days, yeah?
It was a guesthouse, and then I put my studio in it. We set up the drums in the bedroom and it’s one of the best sounds I’ve ever had. And because I do them all here, you know, the plan changes as I go along. Rewind Forward is done, so that was that, and then Linda Perry...you know Linda?
I mean, not personally.
[Laughs] Well, over the last two EPs she wrote a song for me; I got to know her, we hung out a little, and she came up to me and said, “Y’know, Ringo, let me do an EP on ya,” and I said, “Okay.” So that’s the next one that will come out after Rewind Forward. It’s all by accident. Olivia Harrison was reading her poems for George over at the Sunset Marquis and T Bone [Burnett] was there. I’ve known T Bone since the ’70s, but I hadn’t seen him in a while. So I went over to him and said, “Look, I’m making EPs. If you want to do a song together, that would be great.” He sent me the most beautiful country song I’ve heard in a long time, so now I’m going to do a country EP with him. I had no plans of doing that! The songs for the EP with Linda are great. She’s a beautiful writer, but I said to her the other day, you know, “Write me a ROCK song.” So she did! And it rocks.
One song in particular on Rewind Forward also really rocks—“Miss Jean” with Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers. What’s it like working with him? Didn’t you guys work on a record with Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople recently?
Yeah. Ian Hunter just said, “Would you play on it?” Mike was on it too. I guess that record was number one on the Heritage Chart. What is that? I don’t know. But we were number one! And that gave me the impetus to call Mike and see if he had any songs. He had this great song I loved, which was “Miss Jean.” So it’s always just flowing. We go, “Oh, let’s try this. Let’s give him a call.” I got Joe Walsh playing stuff, too. It’s just like, the pals from the neighborhood come over and play. It’s really loose.
Dudes rock. There’s this thing on Twitter... You do all your own tweets, right?
Okay, so “dudes rock” is a joke thing people do on Twitter. For example, you see a great photo of a bunch of seals just hanging out together in the water, having fun. And someone will post it and say “dudes rock.” So when you were describing your recording process, how it’s just pals from the neighborhood hanging out, I instantly thought “dudes rock.”
Dudes Rock Studio. [Laughs]
Exactly. So let me get this straight: By the end of this year you’re gonna have three EPs finished? Putting the kids to shame, the speed you’re working at!
I don’t think it’s speedy, you know what I mean? I live here, walk over [to Dudes Rock Studio], take a break, pet the dog who’s sleeping outside, have a cup of tea, go to the gym. 2020 was such a crazy year. I left the house eight times. One of them was to give Billie Eilish a disc for the top record of the year at the Grammys. We got in the car, went to the gig, not many people were there. Opened the envelope, gave her the award. By the time she was giving her acceptance speech I was in the car on my way home. It was very strange.
Sounds surreal. Let’s talk about the title track, “Rewind Forward.” You wrote that one yourself, yes? With engineer and frequent collaborator Bruce Sugar?
Yeah. “Rewind forward” is just one of those things I said and thought, you know, that should be a song. Like we did with “Hard Day’s Night.” I just said it one day and it just sounded so crazy, “rewind forward.” I was trying to explain it to myself and it’s like, sometimes you need to rewind in order to go forward ’cuz you were much further on last week than you are this week in life. I was trying to make sense of it, but it makes very little sense.
I get it. What about the song with Paul McCartney, “Feeling the Sunlight”? Did he have that one written already?
No. He didn’t know it was gonna happen. We talk a couple of times a month or more on FaceTime. One day I said, “Well, I’m in the studio doing another EP. Have you got any songs?” And he went, “Oh, let me see.” And then a week later he sent that track over. Of course it had him doing everything on it, every instrument including the drums. So I had to take his drums off and put mine on. [Laughs] It wasn’t difficult at all. I mean, he’s played on about six of my EPs I’ve made here. But this is the first time he had a song he thought would be good for me. And you know, he knows what’s good for me. He did write “Hard Day’s...” Um, uh, no, no, he didn’t. He didn’t write that. Which ones did he write?
I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
[Laughs] Oh, “Yellow Submarine.” That’s right. Oh, and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” That’s right. You know, I have this career because Paul wrote those two songs. I’m still out here!
And we’re so lucky that you are. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Ringo!
Thank you, Hether. I’m gonna press the button and leave you now. Peace and love!
Rewind Forward will be released Oct. 13 on UMG.