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Yusuf/Cat Stevens on brand-new album, a Green Day collab, & Glasto 2023


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Yusuf/Cat Stevens has actually spoken with NME about his newly-announced album ‘King Of A Land’, in addition to his ideas on the Glastonbury 2023 legend’s slot, Rishi Sunak’s federal government, and his imagine dealing with Green Day. Check out brand-new single ‘Take The World Apart’ listed below, together with our interview with the icon.

The very first wave of artists for this summertime’s celebration was revealed previously this month, with Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses set to sign up with Elton John in headlining the renowned Pyramid Stage – and Yusuf/Cat Stevens filling the desirable legends slot on Sunday afternoon.

Fresh on the heels of the statement, the renowned singer-songwriter – who initially discovered popularity ‘Matthew And Son’ when he was simply 18 in 1967, prior to launching the similarity ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’, ‘Father And Son’, ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘Peace Train’ and ‘Wild World’ – has today (March 15) revealed information of his brand-new album, ‘King Of A Land’.

“I didn’t have a plan for what this album was going to be and, in a way, I’ve been recording it for 12 years,” he informed NME. “I began taping it in Berlin in 2011, however I wasn’t happy with the tracks I put down there. Over the years, I’ve slowly been improving them. I reside in Dubai, where I’ve been including information in my studio. So it’s taken a very long time, however it’s taken advantage of that.

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“I wasn’t going to let go until it’s ready and I’m very, very pleased with the results. It’s probably one of my best albums.”

Yusuf / Cat Stevens Performing Live On Stage In 2020
Yusuf / Cat Stevens Carries Out Live. Credit: Getty

Made with Yusuf’s long time manufacturer Paul Samwell-Smith, ‘King Of A Land’ is a fascinatingly varied album, diverting from the childish marvel of ‘How Good It Feels’ and gospel-tinged ‘Highness’ to the politicised rock of ‘All Nights All Days’ and the heavy ‘Pagan Run’. The album is released with contagious acoustic single ‘Take The World Apart’.

“I kept on feeling it was somebody else’s song,” he said of the track. “I’d play it to individuals, stating, ‘Who wrote this? It sounds like one of your songs’. It got put to the back of the rack, however every tune has its time.

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“Once I found the right words, the daylight came in and that song had its chance to live. It utilises a melody by Tchaikovsky, and I’m so pleased I can pay tribute to the first composer who inspired me.”

NME overtook Yusuf to discuss his brand-new record, in addition to why it’s taken so long to get to Worthy Farm, his anguish at political leaders and affection for Greta Thunberg, and why he’d enjoy to deal with Green Day.

NME: Hi, Yusuf. Congratulations on ‘King Of A Land’. It’s such a varied album. The tune ‘Pagan Run’ is a remarkably acid rock tune. What motivated it?

Yusuf: “I sometimes write songs that focus on periods of my life. ‘Pagan Run’ focuses on the really messed up time in my life when I had no idea where I was going. Happiness was so elusive for me, and I’d become superstitious. Some people only have superstition, not faith, and that’s all I had. When Stevie Wonder came out with ‘Superstition’, I thought: ‘Wow, he’s hit it on the head!’ People say they don’t have faith, but they do. There’s always something where you think: ‘If I do this, it’ll save me from getting into trouble’.”

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“‘Pagan Run’ took me back to that very confused moment in my life. It’s a great rock song, so you’ve got two things to listen to: the words, and I think it’s musically one of the best rock songs I’ve made.”

In 1977 you transformed to Islam, altering your name to Yusuf Islam and giving up the music market in 1979 prior to slowly returning in the 2000s. Do you want you’d had it simpler prior to discovering your faith, or are you grateful you went through that dark time to get to where you are now?

“I’ve never wished to change anything, as it’s how you learn and progress. Every problem is an opportunity got get a little higher on the ladder. I’ve always motivated to go forward and do things better.”


How do you feel about playing the legends slot at Glastonbury?

“I’m petrified, obviously! I haven’t done a big gig like that in a long time. How many hundreds of thousands of people is it?”

Without wishing to petrify you even more, the authorities participation is 195,000.

“There we are. It’s teatime on a Sunday, when everyone has spare time to see whoever is on. That’s why I’m a little bit scared. But something usually helps you when those challenges are there to be met. I think I’ll get that help, and Glastonbury will be a very important moment in my career. It took me time to say yes to the offer, but it’s a bucket list moment. A lot of people would like to see me live, and this is one big go when they can do that. For me, I could have done it years ago, but I took that long sabbatical in my life.”

It’s unexpected you didn’t play Glastonbury in the ’70s prior to that sabbatical. Why not?

“Maybe because my music was prone to solitary contemplation, to working things out within yourself. My music was microscopically very important but, for big things? People never danced to my records, they used them to sit down and listen. I thought that was my lot in life, that my songs made people sit down and listen.”

Will you be remaining for the entire weekend and take pleasure in the complete Glastonbury experience?

“I don’t know, I’ll see how much I can manage. It’s such a big gig, I’ll be thinking about my set and making sure that goes alright as my priority.”

Glastonbury Festival Crowd
Crowds Of Individuals Collect In Front Of The Primary Pyramid Stage At Glastonbury 2022. Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You launched your very first album as Yusuf/Cat Stevens with ‘The Laughing Apple’ in 2017. Do you see any distinction in between Yusuf and Cat Stevens?

“If you call me by my first name, it’s Yusuf. But I cannot deny the fact that most people think of Cat Stevens when they think of me. That’s their embedded impression of who I am, what I’ve contributed to their life. And that’s OK. You can be many things at the same time in life: father, son, brother, and all those identities are OK.”

You re-recorded your traditional album ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ for its 50th anniversary in 2020, as ‘Tea For The Tillerman 2’. How do you feel when you review your old tunes now?

“Remaking ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ was a brand-new method of linking to those tunes. ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ was such a huge album that it was a little frightening for me, having an effective album that altered individuals’s lives. I’d been frightened of it, and reviewing it was my method to recover it. It makes it appropriate to me once again.

“The imagery on the front of ‘Tea For The Tillerman 2’ tells it all: those were the days of summer and love, but now that person is wearing a spacesuit because it’s dark and the air is so polluted.”

Speaking of contamination, what do you consider Greta Thunberg?

“She’s someone who we dream of arising. There are still brave souls, which is the way of human nature. You can think life is very dark, but someone like Greta comes along with a little lamp to make you think: ‘Wow, I can see the way forward now’. She still has to deal with the establishment, of course.”

You deal with the establishment in ‘All Days All Nights’ on the brand-new album. How do you feel about the present federal government?

“I say it clearly in the song: ‘Lock them up in London Zoo’. Politicians are meant to look after people, but it ends up as a squabble. Even if they believe in what the opposition party says, they have to oppose it. That’s the default position in politics, which takes away the great moral incentive politicians can start with, of wanting to help serve people and save the world. That gets lost along the way.”

‘King Of A Land’ is launched on George Harrison’s record label, Dark Horse. Could you feel George’s spirit when you were blending the album at his old Surrey home, Friar Park?

“Oh, George’s spirit was there, of course. George left his spirit in so many places, including obviously his music. His son Dhani is the carrier of George’s legacy, and he protects it beautifully. Friar Park is like it’s brand new, as everything in the studio works so fantastically. It was a joy and a privilege to work there. Walking around the grounds, there’s fields and lakes, amazing rock arrangements. It’s just beautiful.”

How much do you stay up to date with contemporary music?

“Not very much. I came from one of pop’s pinnacle eras, when there’d be a new milestone every week, so I tend to listen to that period most. But I love Green Day because of their message. ‘Know Your Enemy’ is an incredible song with a message about the Iraq war that was right on time.”

Billie Joe Armstrong Of Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong Of Green Day Carries Out Reside In 2022. Credit: Jim Bennett/Getty Images

Would you be intrigued in dealing with Green Day?

“Yeah! Wow, that’s a good idea. I think they listened to my song ‘Bitterblue’ before making ‘Know Your Enemy’, as I can hear little titbits of it in the chords and some of the words. I reckon we could definitely get it on.”

‘King Of A Land’ is launched on June 16 on BMG/Dark Horse. Check out the complete tracklisting listed below.

Train On A Hill’
‘King Of A Land’
‘Pagan Run’
‘He Is True’
‘All Nights All Days’
‘Another Night In The Rain’
‘Son Of Mary’
‘The Boy Who Knew How To Climb Walls’
‘How Good It Feels’
‘Take The World Apart’

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