Elvis Costello talks new album and sets the record straight on cancer scare

Elvis Costello talks new album, cancer scare

In 40 years of making music, Elvis Costello has often collaborated across genres like with fellow Liverpudlian Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, and Questlove and the Roots. He continues that tradition of collaboration with his new album, "Look Now," which Rolling Stone said "finds him squaring his restless artistic impulses with his storied past."

He's back on tour after taking a sudden break last summer, canceling dates after surgery to remove a "small, but very aggressive cancerous malignancy." But things got complicated last year when the British tabloids blew it up into a life-threatening cancer scare. 

"I was answering letters for three weeks, you know, 'No, I am not dying.' You know, but it's not to make a joke of it," he said. "Because you don't have to walk very far to find somebody who you love who's genuinely having a fight."    

On his first new album in five years, Costello teams up with Burt Bacharach, who he's written with for 20 years, and his band The Imposters.

"Sometimes I lead the way, sometimes he leads the way. Sometimes the music is entirely his. In the case of the song, 'Stripping Paper,' which was intended for this show, I wrote all the music and sent it to him, said 'Burt, do you want to try and add something to this?' He said, 'No, this song is finished.' So that's a pretty good compliment, isn't it?" Costello said.

Costello also has an old song he wrote with Carole King in 1995 on the record which finds his voice stronger than ever. But Costello didn't always think of himself as a singer.

"No, not originally ... one of my favorite songwriters of my teenage years was Robbie Robertson. He didn't sing in the band. He was the main writer and yet there were three people in the band that sang. I just couldn't find a Rick Danko and a Richard Manuel and a Levon Helm to play with. So I had to do the singing myself. It was simple as that. You know it was forced upon me. Everybody took a step back and I was just left there."