You know that Rod Stewart, rock’s perpetual bon vivant, is partial to blondes, fancy clothes and soccer, not necessarily in that order.
Two things you might not know about the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer: He’s ridiculously sentimental and — this seems unbelievable — he has stopped playing soccer.
“I retired about six months ago,” said Stewart, 69, who still promises to kick soccer balls into the audience Sunday when he performs with Santana at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. “It broke my heart. It’s a huge lump out of my life. I’m over it now. Knee injury. It would take me three or four days and two boxes of Advil to try to get me back to sort of normal. It was interfering with the stage show. So one had to go.”
He watches soccer on TV when he works out (“there are about a dozen soccer channels here in California”). And he attends his kids’ games.
“I live vicariously through my two younger sons. My 8-year-old is crazy about it. He came home from school the other day and had an assignment: What is the one thing your dad has taught you to do? ‘My dad has taught me to take free kicks and corner kicks.’ Nothing worldly.
“I miss the kids. It’s so quiet here without them,” he said last week from Los Angeles. “They’re still in London with their mum.”
Told you he’s sentimental.
“I’ve always been sentimental,” Stewart confessed. “I’ve never found the vehicle to put it on tour and to music. I’m especially sentimental about kids and about my dad, who I idolized. I’m a romantic, as well.”
His sentimentality is all over his latest album, “Time,” released last year.
The song “Brighton Beach” is a yearning for his heady youth and that 17-year-old girl who got away. “Can’t Stop Me Now” is a nostalgic celebration of his career, from his record-label audition to pub gigs to that fateful meeting with Maggie May. Nothing gets more personal than “It’s Over,” a reflection back to a wedding, then the kids and now a breakup after five years “poisoned by the lawyers’ letters.” Stewart is twice-divorced with eight children, including two with third wife Penny.
“Time” was the first album in years for which he penned a bunch of new tunes. Since 2002, he’d recorded five albums of vintage pop, soul and rock covers.
Writing songs was “a shock to my system,” he said. “You know, my biggest output, I think, was [1978’s] ‘Blondes Have More Fun,’ which I wrote nine songs for. This was 10 or 11 songs. It was all prompted because I put the autobiography together [“Rod,” published in 2012]. Talking to family and friends and relatives for stories for the book, I thought: ‘Maybe I could write [songs] about that.’ So one inspired the other.”
Stewart’s current endeavor is a tour with Carlos Santana. It’s not the first classic-rock act he’s toured with in recent years: He’s also teamed up with Steve Winwood and Stevie Nicks.
“I don’t think Carlos and I had any ambitions to tour together. Our agents suggested it to us,” Stewart admitted. “It’s hard to put bums in seats. It’s been very successful. We’re doing two songs together.”
Over the years, Stewart has played with some of rock’s greatest guitarists: Jeff Beck in the Jeff Beck Group, Ron Wood in the Faces and now Carlos Santana. Each has a different style and personality.
“Ron Wood really makes me laugh. The other two don’t,” Stewart said when asked to compare the three. “Jeff is a more inventive guitar player. If you’re singing beside Jeff, you never know quite what’s going to happen. Carlos anticipates what I’m going to sing and leaves more gaps. Woody is the most melodic. Every time he picks up a guitar, [melodies come]. … The intro to ‘Maggie May,’ the intro to ‘[You] Wear It Well.’ ”
Stewart rose to fame with the Jeff Beck Group (which also included Wood) in the late ’60s. Before that, he wanted to be a soccer star but, despite rumors, he never got a professional tryout.
“The wonderful thing about putting the book together, you could correct a few lies and misunderstandings that have been written about me as time goes by,” he explained.
He and Beck talked in 2011 about collaborating again, possibly on a blues album. What happened?
“We got so close. Jeff’s demons took over again,” said Stewart, adding that he doesn’t expect the project to happen but “never say never.”
What was he thinking?
“Ummm, I think the cover of ‘A Night on the Town’ [the 1976 album that includes ‘Tonight’s the Night’]. That boater hat, we could have done without that.
“When making records, I made some mistakes but I don’t know whether they were humongous mistakes. When I recorded ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,’ we knew it was a mistake. But people actually love that song. It’s the one song now where everybody gets a big smile on their face. It’s my novelty song.”
It’s been a colorful life, from working in a cemetery (he measured graves, but didn’t dig them) to being named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles in 2007.
Who should play Stewart in a biopic?
“If Ronnie [Wood] is still around, he’d have to wear a blond wig.”
Who spends more time on his hair — Wood or Stewart?
“We cultivated it with the Jeff Beck Group. That’s when we both discovered that drying it upside down gives it extra volume. You’d be surprised: Mine takes like five or six minutes. Then it’s ready to go. There’s product. I get mine cut every two weeks. I don’t care where I am. I don’t care what it costs. I fly my hairdresser in and we cut it. Because it’s a wonderful privilege to have a head of hair at my age.”
Speaking of Wood, talk of a reunion of the Faces — that great working-class bar band of “Stay With Me” fame that included Wood, drummer Kenney Jones, keyboardist Ian McLagan and the late bassist Ronnie Lane — has been going on for years.
“Woody and I spoke the other day. He said, ‘Let’s go out for a drive.’ I said, ‘No, I’m on holiday in the south of France.’ He was in London. He said, ‘OK, I’ll see you when we’re 78.’
“We’re kicking the flag around. I want to do it. If we could just keep Ian McLagan quiet for a little while. Every time I say something, he says just the opposite. I can’t see an album happening. It used to take a long time to make albums in the old days. It would take us years now. We’re too old for that. We can do a tour.”
Meanwhile, Stewart has his tour of arenas with Santana. Would he consider playing theaters without a famous opening act?
“If I did that, I think it would be the American Songbook, which I’d like to do. Not just yet,” said Stewart, who also is in the midst of a four-year, part-time residency at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
Plus, if he played in theaters, he couldn’t kick soccer balls to the fans, right?
“Of course I could. I do it at Caesar’s Palace. [Shifts to a Vegas boss’ voice] ‘Please don’t kick them into the third tier, someone might fall to their death.’ ”