Lionel Richie turns 60 this month and he can’t believe it either.
In fact, the singer — who in the ’80s found international fame with hits like “Hello” and “All Night Long” — is upbeat. Life for him these days couldn’t be sweeter, he said. Richie recently released the album “Just Go” on which he worked with several acclaimed producers and writers, including Stargate, Tricky Stewart & The Dream and Akon. The multi-Grammy winner and former lead singer of The Commodores said he thinks the album could be his best since 1986’s hit, “Dancing on the Ceiling.” “That’s a very heavy statement,” he said. “I love when I get nervous. When I really get nervous — and I’m nervous about this record — it means that it’s beyond what I thought it was going to be.”
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Having just completed a European tour, Richie said a North American jaunt is on the drawing board in the next year. “We are going to tour … in fine fashion,” he said. “We’re going to give them everything they ever wanted.” Richie spoke to CNN about avoiding rap, keeping up with the club scene and what gives him chills. CNN: You’ve always been very diligent about updating your sound. So how do you describe Lionel Richie’s sound in 2009 Lionel Richie: It’s all in production. You have to first of all feel it. I have to feel it. If I don’t feel it, then forget the song. I’m a storyteller, not so much a singer, but a storyteller. So when it comes down to production, we just updated the production. But Akon and Ne-Yo and all these guys … what do we all have in common Melody. As long as they don’t rap and ask me to rap we have show business. CNN: Have you ever rapped before Richie: I rapped a couple of times. And it was clear to me, it was told to me from some of the greatest rappers in the world, “Don’t even think about it.” Flavor Flav … years ago I went to him and I said “You know I’m thinking about doing some rap on my album. What do you think” And he said “Are you out of your mind” He said, “The only reason I’m rapping is because I can’t sing.” And that’s the clear channel of where I need to be going. CNN: Right. Just do what you’re good at. Richie: Do what I do and don’t get away from it. CNN: How much time do you spend doing research in nightclubs Richie: Now try to explain that to your girlfriend or to your wife! Where are you tonight I’m doing research! As much time as I can. You have to be in it to see what people are moving to and what turns them on. It’s all in beats and rhythms and in lyric content. You can send somebody down to do some study for you. But the bottom line is there’s nothing like going in yourself in the middle of a club in London, or in the middle of a club in Australia or a club in the middle of Germany somewhere. Just sit over in the corner and watch what people dance to. By the time I leave France, England, Germany, Italy, America, I can go home and write the most incredible album in the world because I know what the world beat is. I know where everything’s going. CNN: You turn 60 very soon. Richie: I cannot believe the number, but yes I do. Watch Richie say “hello” to getting older » CNN: How do you feel about that Richie: You know, I don’t feel anything except better than anything before. My life is better now than it has ever been ever. So maybe all night long may not be all night long, but it’s pretty darn good. CNN: How long are you going to keep churning out records Richie: I like doing this. I don’t like fishing, so this was my hobby when I started. This is how I got into the business when I started because it was a place to go to get away from everything. So I still love doing it. CNN: Looking at all your past hits, what song gives you the most chills to perform Richie: Wow. That’s so tough. [It’s] between “Hello” and “Still.”
What happens is I look at people in the audience and I kind of know where they are. I know that there’s so much depth in their thoughts. Those songs touch the core of whatever it is their lives were about. If there was ever a song about love, or in “Still,” something you lost, you could see it in their faces that they’re trying to remember every detail of the experience or the person they were with.