You've just released 'Please' from your forthcoming album 'Magnet'. What made you decide to go ahead with it now?
It just felt right to do it now. It's taken me this long due to commitments with The Bee Gees, doing live shows, and writing stuff for other people. But, it just felt like the right time to focus on solo material.
You've included on the album some re-workings of tracks you'd written some time ago. What was it that made you feel that they were finally completed now?
I didn't really analyse exactly what tracks I was going to put on the album until quite recently. I chose to work with two young black producers, Deacon Smith, who had been working with Mary J Blige in Los Angeles and Michael Jackson, and Michael Greaves. They were able to add some really great, contemporary sounds and R&B inflections to the album, which motivated me to be clear about the direction I wanted to go in.
As a solo artist and as a Bee Gee, you've seen and influenced the development of soul and R&B music over five decades. How would you say your latest project fits into that?
Well, I think it fits into it very well, because again it is very soulful, R&B-based and black-influenced. The Bee Gees were always heavily influenced by black music. As a songwriter it's never been difficult to pick up on the changing styles of music out there, and soul has always been my favourite genre.
Has being a Bee Gee ever got in the way of personal projects? And, how important is it to you to distinguish yourself from the distinctive Bee Gee sound?
Well, I'd never try to be that distinctive from the Bee Gees' sound. I'm very proud of being a Bee Gee and am always aware that I'll be identified as a Bee Gee. All my solo projects have been 'along with' Bee Gee commitments, rather than 'instead of'. It's not a separate identity I'd be looking for really, but more a vessel for my own indivdual creativity.
Have you consulted Arif Mardin, who was in part responsible for the Bee Gees' sound, on your new album?
Not at all actually, although I was with him a few weeks ago. He's been a very close friend for many years, as well as a creative colleague and it certainly wouldn't be out of the question that I'd work with again in the future. Other than Deacon and Michael recently, I haven't really met anyone else who has influenced me, but you never know, it could happen next year or next month. I just like to go with the spur of the moment.
You're regarded as one of the finest popular music songwriters ever, so it's interesting that you've enlisted the help of some young or unknown songwriters on your new album. Why did you choose to do that?
Well, thank you and yes, I'm really happy that I got to work with such fresh talent. In a day when record companies are not particularly good at encouraging young, talented songwriters to come forward and get exposure, I think it's important to give tomorrow's songwriters the opportunity.
There's been a particularly big resurgence in the popularity of music of black origin recently. Why do you think that is and what do you think of the current urban scene?
I think it's popular because it's ground-breaking and I think it's always been a genre that takes more chances or risks musically. I would say that what I call the 'white music scene' was far more ground-breaking three decades ago, which is why everyone's looking to the urban scene for inspiration now.