Since Led Zeppelin imploded in 1980, vocalist Robert Plant has worked in many different and rewarding situations.
There were the 1950s-loving Honeydrippers, his Middle Eastern-flavored and blues collaborations with Zep's Jimmy Page, the Grammy-winning acoustic pairing with Alison Krauss, and his two Americana-ish ensembles, Band of Joy and the Sensational Space Shifters.
He'll bring the Space Shifters, his band of six years, in concert to Minneapolis on Thursday. An avid musicologist, rock's golden voice, 69, called from North Carolina on the eve of the tour.
Q What do you like about playing with the Sensational Space Shifters?
A It's exciting. Very, very stimulating. It's laced with a lot of fun and a lot of live work completely around the world from Japan to North Africa to everywhere. It's a mobile caravan of splendor, really.
Q Compare the joy of playing with the Space Shifters and the joy of playing with Led Zeppelin in arenas and stadiums.
A I don't know. I can't remember.
Q Let's talk about the new album from last year, "Carry Fire," and my two favorite songs. Why did you decide to cover the old rockabilly song "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" from the late 1950s?
A I've been singing it on and off in the shower since before showers were invented. It's a kind of angst love ballad from when I was a kid. It's about young love and how you never know where it's going and if you've really got it down. I sing it as a kind of cutie looking back. I don't sing "Speedy Gonzales," or that sort of thing. I sing it as a kind of ditty like I'd sing something by Dale & Grace. I just wanted to do it and see what it came out like. I just psychedelicalized it. Turned it into a bit of a dirge so the vocal melody is still plaintive as it was in the beginning but everything around it has changed.
Q What sparked "Heaven Sent," the last song on the album?
A Musically, we'd been listening to some remarkably spectacular pieces by a guy called Gorecki, who is a Polish composer. His music would hang onto one chord for a long, long time and create this kind of shimmering soundscape. So musically it began like that. We were inspired by his work. And then lyrically, it's the story of my condition.
Q What do you do to stay in shape for your tours?
A I fall in love about every 18 months. I do my best to be in love with life. I like to see the sparkle that exists and the kindness and the charm of the world, as well as the mess. So I stay in shape as long as I'm happy and I can add something creative.
Q Will you do some Zeppelin songs on this tour?
A I think so, yeah. I've never not done that since 1982.
Q Are there any Zeppelin songs you won't do because you're not comfortable doing them, you can't hit the notes or for whatever reason?
A I'm struggling with "White Christmas."
Q What motivates you — in your career and in life?
A Development. And testing myself against it. The challenge of creating 10 original songs. I keep moving into different zones so I can actually stay nimble — artistically, creatively and vocally. My love of communicating with like-minded spirits.
Q Why do you refuse to live in the past?
A Well, do you?
Q I try to move forward.
A Then there's your answer. All I do is I keep moving. And all the small talk and the white noise, it's just the media stuff. It's conjecture. It has no place in my life.
Q Since I'm from Minnesota, I have to ask you how you discovered the Minnesota band Low. You recorded two of their songs on your "Band of Joy" album in 2010.
A Oh, just like you would. In a record store. I really liked their whole deal. They're from Duluth. I like what they do. It's very particular and very unique.
Q How do you feel about a Led Zeppelin reunion at this point?
A I don't know. John [Bonham, the drummer] passed away 38 years ago and that speaks for itself.
Q No interest in getting together again with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and possibly Jason Bonham on drums?
A I can't hear you. I think the line has gone dead. You're talking to the wrong guy here.
Q I heard that you, at one point, thought of becoming a teacher at a Rudolf Steiner School. My son went to a Steiner school — Waldorf schools is what they're called in the States. Was that true about you?
A I was interested in it. I did apply to do that. My kids went there, too. I was impressed. It was a long time ago. Like 1977. I felt it was a good environment for kids. It gave a child respect and allowed them to get through the chaos of the world with some degree of preparation.
Q Any talks about doing another project with Alison Krauss?
A Occasionally we talk about it. We've got a bunch of songs we might think about. My whole concern now is not the story of my life but the story of this new record. The fact that we have this little teeny-weeny tour. I love Alison very much, and I'd very much like to have cocktails with her. If you have one more question, I'd be happy to answer it.
Q When was the last time you talked to Jimmy Page?
A I'm sorry, the line's gone dead again. It's most unfortunate. [He chuckles.] I spoke to him this morning. Take care.