“Melodies, melodies. People love music, people love melodies,” Billy states in his impossibly charismatic Trinidadian cadence. “Whatever people are exposed to, they’ll accept it until they hear something better. I think it’s like this new generation, they hear a lot of music made by machines. But once they hear songs that are really true to the form, with nice melodies, they love it just as much, or they love it more. I see a lot of young people at my concerts, obviously the older generation too. But the audience is very mixed sometimes, the young people are there because they want to hear melodies, they want to hear songs,” Billy raises.
“First and foremost, let me thank god for that longevity, thank him for the blessing. When I go into the studio to make music, when I go into the stage, I give 110 percent, I don’t give half,” he states vehemently. ” I love going into the studio, for me it’s like going into a different world. There’s nothing as fulfilling as making a beautiful record, which starts with the writing of the song, then you lay the track. And each of these things that we do has a different spirit within itself. It’s something you enjoy doing, then your personality comes out on it. If the end result is something good, then I think it can transcend. People can hear the honesty of what you’ve done. I try and make music that gives me the vibe of when I hear other people’s music. You might hear a Rolling Stones record, and you know the vibe is in there. You might hear a Stevie Wonder record, or a Marvin Gaye record. So when I make a record I want it to be nothing less than what I hear and feel on other people’s records. If I can get that same vibe on my own record then I know I’m on the right track.”
At the crest of his success, Billy famously took time off away from the spotlight and completely removed himself from the follies of the music industry. “I took the time out to be with my family as my kids were growing up – and there’s daddy travelling over the place, having a lot of fun. I can’t exactly say I was having the sort of fun I am having now,” he ponders. “I say age brings wisdom and knowledge, so you approach things slightly differently. In those days, as you could imagine, I was trying to sell myself, everything was very pressured, and I was getting a lot of success. But with success, people fall out, and things start to go a little contrary. When things started getting contrary, and the decision was spending time with my family, or staying in that confusion, I though the easiest thing to do was to pull out. I didn’t have one foot in the door, I just totally withdrew myself and concentrated on my family,” he recalls.
It goes to show that time has not forgotten Billy Ocean, judging by the success of his perpetual comeback tour, which saw Billy perform in Australia for the first time ever in 2009, and will see him return in early 2012. “It shows you how good it’s been, because I haven’t been off the road since then, I’ve kept going. That initial tour in 2007 was just a taste to see what the whole thing was all about. But the response and reaction has been so good, that here I am still out here wondering what I’ve started. It has gone very good, I must admit. At the end of the American tour, a few weeks ago, working in Virginia with the symphony orchestra, I just felt things are getting better and better,” he states.
With a career which has generated number one hits on both sides of the pond, multi-platinum records, and a multitude of awards (including a Grammy), just how does Billy quantify and rationalise his success these days? “I can look at that in the loungeroom and say to myself, ‘Yeah, well done.’ But it doesn’t stop there, does it?” he muses. “Because if you are going on and on, then you stop and look at that as if you’ve done it all. If I stop and say that I’ve done it all, then it means I have no more to give. Far from it, I still feel as though I have a lot more to give. I think as long as you live, you can improve – in a lot of cases you could probably do better. If you look at it in the sense of some of these classic musicians, especially some of the jazz musicians, their music got better and better. Look at Tony Bennet for god’s sake! Over the years he’s just got better. If you’re not striving for improvement, you become very stagnant within yourself, your public sees it. I like to try and learn. I’m very much about learning, about knowledge, about improvement. I still feel that I’ve got some lovely songs to write still.”