Still makes me feel like dancing

Leo Sayer
Leo Sayer

Born in Sussex in 1948, a glittering 43-year showbiz career awaited Gerard Hugh Sayer, one which brings him to Lancaster’s Grand Theatre later this month.

Gerard – perhaps better known as Leo – Sayer plays the venue on Monday September 14.

I’m enjoying the fact people want to talk to me

Obviously, that 43 years has packed its fair share of ups and downs – huge waves of popularity, times when he couldn’t even get arrested – but is now happy to be somewhere in the middle.

Far from ‘cool’, but around long enough to command respect, and with a larger number of global hits under his belt than you might think and back on the road.

“I’m enjoying the fact people want to talk to me,” says the man himself.

As we talk, his Aussie accent becomes stronger – he moved Down Under in the 80s and became a full citizen in 2009 – veering from a Sussex twang at the beginning, to full-on, Home And Away by the end.

Tickets for his forthcoming UK tour have sold thick and fast, leaving Sayer happy that 2015 is going to see him do “some very good business”.

It’s a bit of a change in fortune since his last tour in these parts, which he feels, was under-promoted and led to him and organisers making a loss.

This time around, he’s a got “a terrific team” helping him, has booked some better, bigger venues and, of course, has new music to perform, which adds a new dynamic.

His days of being seen as a relic of the70s, when he first appeared, decked out in Pierrot costume and make-up, singing The Show Must Go On, are behind him.

“On the last tour, I was trying to break away from tours I’d done previously with the likes of David Cassidy and The Osmonds. Those 70s package tours, ” he says.

“I wanted to break that mould. I wanted to tell people, Yeah, I’m still recording’, and I can still sing as well as I could. I still view myself as a current artist. It’s an attitude thing.”

He says attendees on such package tours, unfortunately for him, only want to hear the 70s hits - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, When I Need You, Moonlighting, Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance) and One Man Band. But it’s understandable - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing reached No 2 in the UK, and topped the chart in the US, while follow-up single, When I Need You, hit No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Without dissing it too much, those tours are for people who want to revel in nostalgia, and they’re not really fussed whether an artist has aged or can still sing well.

“I found those shows easy - I’m still in good voice, ” he adds, “but it didn’t matter and it got rather depressing. They’d have accepted me if I’d gone up there and rolled through the motions.”

It does rather sound like biting the hand that feeds him, and while the idea of endlessly performing songs from the mid-70s pomp of your career is likely to grate after a while, surely signing up to tour after tour of nostalgia trips isn’t the way to get out of such obligations?

On the plus side, being stuck on the cabaret circuit made Sayer want to do something new, and spurred him on to put a band together, consisting of session players he insists are Australia’s best.

“They remind me of the guys I worked with in Los Angeles in the 70s, ” he says. “They can play anything.”

Sayer recorded Restless Years – released in August, his first collection of new songs in years – in his own home studio.

But knowing he needed to do something a little more spectacular, he took his recruited band into a new studio, and they “wisely disregarded” everything he’d done and rearranged the songs themselves.

He’s very happy with the results, and hopes the album will reignite his career.

He talks about wanting to play Glastonbury - “people have told me for years I should play the Sunday afternoon heritage slot” - and is already itching to get back into the studio to record his next album.

“I was touring in Australia last year and I was piling the songs up, ” he says. “I’ve just moved to a new place in the country where I’m building a new studio, and I want to get in there to start recording other songs I’ve got stored up.

“I must have 300 songs unreleased or unrecorded, lying around. I’m a production machine, it never stops.

“And I am happy about that, because the moment those ideas dry up, you’re done. I reckon artists only record 20 percent of the songs they write or have ideas for, so I’ve got to keep going.

“For now, I’ve got Restless Years done, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way it’s come out.

“I’m 67, so very happy to be as lively as I was, and to be as active as I am, ” Sayer continues. “To still be a player is great.”

Leo Sayer is at Lancaster Grand Theatre on Monday, September 14.

Tickets: £25, VIP Ticket £55 with meet and greet,signed programme, and photo with Leo, see www.lancastergrand.co.uk/ or call 01524 64695.