Ringo Starr, now 80 and somehow looking younger than ever, just wrapped up a Zoom conference call with press from around the world to announce today’s release of Zoom In, a new five-song EP he made mostly remotely.
Speaking from his home in Los Angeles, he said he’s been spending his lockdown time here with his wife Barbara and their family (which includes Joe Walsh, who is married to Barbara’s sister Marjorie). They go back and forth, Ringo said, between his home and Joe’s.
He finished Zoom In many months ago, but it took considerable time for it to be ready for release, he said, because of lockdown. Unlike the old days, he said, when he’d finish an album and bring it into the label where there would be excitement, nobody goes to work anymore, so it took more time to get everything finished.
The first single is “Here’s To The Nights” by Diane Warren, who sent in two songs for him to choose from. It was in the key of “F demented,” he joked, meaning it was way out of his range, so his good pal and Heartbreakers legend Benmont Tench transposed it for him “to a key that humans can sing.” For the chorus, he invited many friends, as did Diane, to sing. These friends included Finneas, who Ringo said is a new friend. At the Sunday Grammys, Ringo presented the Grammy for Best Record to Finneas and his sister Billie Eilish. “I was happy to do that,” he said. “They are absolutely great.”
He made the EP at his home studio (which he said requires his engineer to come by “just to turn it on”) with a lot of help from his friends – including Dave Grohl, Ben Harper, Steve Lukather, Paul McCartney and others. Some who could come by played in person, including Lukather, whose approach to music is as joyful as Ringo’s.
“Luke is one of the greatest guitarists in the world,” Ringo said, “He’d play guitar on my track, and then some more. Then we’d do the vocals and other parts, and Luke would come back and add some more guitar.”
Then with his famous Ringo smile, he added, “If it’s more guitar you’re after, ask Luke.”
[More on the album and its five songs to come tomorrow. But first more on today’s Ringo Zoomtime.]
He likes to stay busy, and stay fit. He works out daily in his home gym, and with the Vegan lifestyle they’ve had for years – plus his hair longer than it’s been for years (publicly) – he looked healthy, happy and especially vigorous.
When not writing songs with friends for his albums and recording them, he generously drums (remotely) on projects of others. And because he is Ringo, he gets a lot of requests, so has to say no sometimes.
“I can’t do everything, you know,” he said. “I don’t play jazz.”
But for Edgar Winter’s tribute to his brother Johnny Winter? Yes.
For the great Rodney Crowell’s new album? Yes.
And when Sheila E. told him she was doing a cover of “Come Together,” he agreed to play on that. He wouldn’t, however, play the full famous drum pattern as he played it on Abbey Road. “I only did that once,” he said. Instead he played the beginning of that phrase each time, and was humored, he said, when hearing the finished record, that Sheila filled in the rest of the phrase on percussion.
He also spoke about the director Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie using footage shot for the Let It Be film but never used. Let It Be, the movie, he said, was all about discord and fighting within the group, whereas in truth most of the time was joyful and fun. The roof segment alone, he said, which is about seven minutes in the original, now is much longer. “Just the little preview they released last summer shows you – we mostly were having a lot of fun.”
Asked how he was getting through the lockdown, he said it was tough because he misses hanging out with friends. “There is no big future right now,” he said, “like knowing when we can hang out again. I do Facetime with my kids, which helps. Mostly it’s one day at a time.”
Regarding his ongoing campaign for peace and love, rather than be cynical like most humans, he still projects genuine love, sunny charm and hope.
“I just keep doing it,” he said. “Peace and love. I can’t make anyone do it. But it’s like ripples on the ocean. It’s a start. And it’s a big ocean !