Exclusive: Eurythmics Dave Stewart’s Career Seems to be “Speeding Up Instead of Slowing Down”

“I seem to be speeding up in my life instead of slowing down,” Dave Stewart tells American Songwriter. 

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At 71, things are moving faster rather than decelerating for Stewart. He has sprung up all over within the past three years, from his 2020 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Annie Lennox for Eurythmics, to their entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2022. A master of many musical ceremonies, Stewart has also continued stretching himself across dozens of projects spanning theater and film, producing and expanding his own solo catalog.

This time, Stewart has detoured from the warmer sands of his home and studio in the Bahamas to the frostier Nashville, Tennessee, and his 909 Studio, where he’s returned to rehearse for an upcoming run of tour dates with Bryan Adams. 

In 2023, Stewart warmed up with a series of dates in Europe performing songs by Eurythmics. It marked his first time on stage since the 2019 Meltdown festival in London, England. He credits Nile Rodgers with helping him get back in front of audiences by encouraging him to close the fest with some Eurythmics songs—with the help of some special guests. 

“I thought I could take this on the road, it should be great,” Stewart says. “Then COVID happened, and I forgot about it.”

When he and Lennox had their near-back-to-back high-profile inductions, it prompted Stewart to revisit the duo’s catalog again, live. “Everyone was going on about Sweet Dreams [(Are Made of This), Eurythmics’ 1983 breakthrough album], and it was the 40th anniversary, so I thought, ‘I should do that,’” says Stewart. “So I put a band together.”

The Eurythmics Songbook Tour started with the European leg in 2023. “It’s like an introduction of Eurythmics songs to America, and the way you’re presenting them without putting yourself front and center straight away,” says Stewart of joining Adams in the supporting slot. “It’s almost like a litmus test.”

Adams’ and Stewart’s connection goes back four decades. “He jumped on stage with Eurythmics in Canada in 1984 or something,” remembers Stewart. “He would come by my flat sometimes and had got into photography.” 

Adams was a professional photographer by the late 1990s. He photographed Lennox for the cover of her 2009 greatest hits album, The Annie Lennox Collection, and has conducted shoots with Cher, Iggy Pop, Jennifer Hudson, St. Vincent, Rammstein, and other artists. He also shot Lennox for the 2010 Hear the World campaign to bring awareness to the impact of hearing loss.

Lennox, who has stepped away from touring, has always been Stewart’s other half in Eurythmics, so having to perform their catalog without her pushed him. He’s explored new interpretations of classic hits like “Here Comes the Rain Again,” “Would I Lie to You?,” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” 

For the Songbook Tour, Stewart reconfigured some arrangements around an all-female band that includes backing vocalists Judith Hill (who’s sung backups for Michael Jackson and Prince), Vanessa Amorosi, and RAHH, keyboardist Hannah Koppenburg, bassist Julia Lamb, drummer Ellie East, and Indiara Sfair on harmonica. 

“It’s amazing because although I’ve always worked with loads of female artists, I’ve never had a band that’s all-female before,” says Stewart. “Obviously, there was Annie and I, but it’s just got a certain feel. But it’s not soft or anything. It’s woman power, and it’s great being behind that.”

On the Eurythmics tour, Stewart insists on having no one in the background on stage. “I encourage everyone—singers, soloists, everybody—to be up front. There are no microphones over here or there for the backing vocalists. Everybody is in front, and I’m playing the role of a bandleader and conductor instead. And it’s great because then I can just help orchestrate.”

Along with immersing himself back into the Eurythmics, in 2022 Stewart extended his solo catalog with the autobiographical album Ebony McQueen. The project is a collection of 26 songs sketching his coming-of-age years growing up in Sunderland in Northern England. Themes covered include his first loves: music and a blues voodoo priestess.

A year later, Stewart released the jazz album Cloud Walking, which he co-produced with pianist Koppenburg. That same year, Stewart collaborated with Joss Stone on original music for the musical The Time Traveller’s Wife, based on Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 book and its 2009 film adaptation. 

Before restarting his Eurythmics tour, Stewart was working out of his Bay Street Recording Studio on Harbor Island in the Bahamas, writing and producing Daryl Hall’s new album and another project with the surrealistic theatrical company Dragone, which is based out of Las Vegas and Luxembourg.

He also launched The Time Experience Project, a creative collective featuring writers, composers, actors, and filmmakers. Along with Italian actress Greta Scarano and the Italian band Mokadelic, Stewart released a 10-track rock opera, Who to Love, in October of 2023, along with a companion film that premiered at the Rome Film Festival.

‘The feature film is narrative-driven, it’s not a musical,” says Stewart. “The story centers around somebody who becomes disassociated and comes from Italy to America and things go haywire.”

Now, 40 years after Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Stewart’s connection to the songs has naturally shifted. This is reflected in some of the new arrangements for the show.

“It changes,” he says. “You look at everything from different sides because as you get older, you have a different lens that you look through. I don’t know if I wrote it or if somebody said it, but ‘Experience grinds the lens through which we perceive reality.’ It might be me that said it,” laughs Stewart. “I don’t know, but it’s a good quote.” (In a 2016 interview, Stewart said that his stepfather once shared the adage with him.)

He adds, “And it’s true because, for instance, ‘Sweet Dreams’ still goes boom everywhere. Kids have no idea that it was Eurythmics or has anything to do with me or Annie. They’re just hearing the song on TikTok or wherever.”

It’s less about keeping the songs precious and within one form and more about letting them evolve. “My experience of making that song [‘Sweet Dreams’] was every tiny nuance that made it onto that eight-track tape recorder, so every time I would hear it, I heard the way I was trying to make it work. Now I hear it completely differently.”

Performing the Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again,” “Missionary Man,” and other classics from their catalog is a different experience now, too. “I’m no longer thinking, ‘Oh I did that [on the song], therefore it should be like this.’ These songs can stand in any kind of rearrangement.” 

For instance, the 1986 Eurythmics song “Thorn in My Side” transformed into a very “classy, strange jazzy arrangement” on tour, says Stewart, with pianos, soprano sax, and the vocals set in a very ’50s-jazz way. They also produced a more acoustic rendition.

“I think ‘Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves’ sums it up,” says Stewart referencing Eurythmics’ 1985 hit featuring Aretha Franklin. “It’s a gang of girls and me. I’m like this old band leader. It’s like Quincy Jones and his orchestra. I’m the person in the background with all the arrangements and a wall of amazing female power.”

His band of women was mostly pieced together by his messaging musicians directly on Instagram. “It’s a band of virtuoso female musicians with three different interchangeable singers,” adds Stewart. “Some people might say ‘Well, She’s not Annie [Lennox].’ Annie is a unique singer in her own way, but the songs are so powerful that when we played in Britain and all over Europe, it got amazing reviews. I was amazed that people accepted it straight away. Every song we started, there were people singing along, and it was great fun.”

Stewart’s 23-year-old daughter, Kaya—and Lennox’s goddaughter—also performs in several shows on the Eurythmics tour. The younger Stewart released her self-titled debut in 2016, followed it with If Things Go South in 2022, and recently formed the duo Kiss Bang with Max Mercier.

“She’s a great little songwriter,” says Stewart of his daughter. “She’s always obsessed with music. She knows every song that comes on. It doesn’t matter if it’s some grime music out of England or some underground indie band from Nashville; she just seems to know the words to everything.”

Even as he approaches 72 in September, Stewart isn’t someone who comprehends the notion of retiring. “It’s funny, because the two letters in the beginning of the word, ‘re,’ mean you’re starting up or rewiring something,” says Stewart. “I don’t know where the word retire stems from.”

Answering more directly, he adds, “Retiring from what?”

Main Photo by Kristin Burns

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