Julia Roberts


ELVIS COSTELLO has never seemed a likely host for a television talk show.

Though as an artist he’s been stubbornly impossible to pin down through his 30 plus years in the industry, on a personal level he has always seemed intense, nervy and fiercely intelligent – not necessarily the formula for a successful talk show host.

As he first began putting together his new show SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… – a mixture of interviews with musicians and performances exclusively hosted by him – he admits there was an adjustment period.

“Nobody’s born to be a television presenter. You have to gather some skills and confidence about it over a matter of weeks,” the legendary musician said over the phone from his Vancouver home.

“If you went back and looked at the first appearances of the most practised and confident of TV performers now, you’d find the same thing. You’d find them being more hesitant. Little by little the process kind of educates you.”

For SPECTACLE, he interviewed such heavyweights as ELTON JOHN, THE POLICE, TONY BENNETT and even former U.S. President BILL CLINTON.

The show features laid back interview segments peppered with performances, which often feature ELVIS COSTELLO himself.

ELVIS COSTELLO, who was warm, friendly and sharp witted even when reached early in the morning for an interview, says his participation is important, because it reminds the guests that he too is a performer, not strictly an interviewer.

He opens each show by performing one of his guest’s songs. In ELTON JOHN’S case, he performed BORDERTOWN, while he played a medley of PLEASE STAY and EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE for THE POLICE.

ELVIS COSTELLO has been on the other side of thousands of interviews over his career. He also had a bit of experience on television, filling in for David Letterman in 2003 when the talk show host fell ill.

Still, it was a skill that he honed over the course of the first season.

So how does he describe his interview technique now?

“Like a lion tamer. It’s a chair and a whip,” he replied.

(I know there’s a private joke in there somewhere. But I digress…)

ELVIS COSTELLO said that his status as an artist has helped him draw his guests into some surprisingly candid conversations. “They shared a side of themselves where, in some cases, people were quite surprised.”

Specifically, VELVET UNDERGROUND front person LOU REED might have caught viewers off guard, he reflected.

“I think people were surprised that he was as enthusiastic about other people’s music as he was. I think maybe because they have just one image of him, instead of thinking of him as a human being with different moods, you know?”

Meanwhile, ELVIS COSTELLO hasn’t actually had the chance to sit down to a broadcast of the show. Since finishing production of the first season in New York, he’s either been in Canada or the U.K., where the show wasn’t available yet.

He said he’s looking forward to getting to watch it.

“It’ll all be new to me. I’ll be sitting there with my cup of tea when it airs.”

He also has a new album coming out in June called SECRET, PROFANE & SUGARCANE.

T BONE BURNETT produced the record and cowrote two songs with him. He also collaborated with LORETTA LYNN on a track.

ELVIS COSTELLO said they recorded the CD in three days in Nashville.

“People say it’s live. Of course, everything you do is live. But it wasn’t an overdub record. It was a recording of performances. That’s the best way to play the music we were playing.”

“It’s a really beautiful sounding record. I’m really happy with the way it sounds.”

He plans to head out on the road between June and August to play some shows in conjunction with the album.

Of course, scheduling such trips isn’t easy.

ELVIS COSTELLO is married to Vancouver singer DIANA KRALL. They have twin two year old sons. He said that he and his wife are so busy, they need to be firm in trying to schedule time together.

“We’ve spent a lot of time heading in different directions and there’s a master plan of how we retain a sense of family life by grabbing all the available days that we have together – no matter how far flung they are on the map. We’re pretty tenacious about finding the days that we can carve out of a very busy year.”

It doesn’t help that both need to travel so much, though he does note: “I regard Vancouver as close to a home town as I can have as a travelling musician.”

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