Even at home in Notting Hill, Robbie Williams can be found entertaining, which perhaps explains the title of his new album, The Heavy Entertainment Show
Words: Ken Summit
With his new album, The Heavy Entertainment Show, storming the charts and plans for a London show in June, Robbie Williams tells us what to expect from the new tracks, how his life has changed now that he is married with children and what keeps driving him in his hopes for the future. It’s clear that family and community is central to Williams, and although he is keen to keep on entertaining, there is something special about the way in which this is all focused now.
So Robbie, how are you?
I’m excited. I’ve got a new album and I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, so it’s terrifying and exciting. Is it as exciting to bring out a new album now as the first time? Yes, it’s a huge weight on my shoulders to keep the ship going. But also, I’ve got a big ship that goes forward with me. I’ve got kids, a wife, houses, and a lifestyle. I’ve still got ambitions, huge ambitions, so I panic and I worry. I worry that the oxygen that is needed for my songs to be heard might be taken away from me at any time.
How come you worry so much, when you’ve achieved so greatly?
Don’t you worry all the time about stuff? I think my brain – and I’m sure as humans – its resting position is finding a problem, to panic and worry. It’s what keeps you propelling forward, I suppose.
You can rest a little now?
No, the album is done, but I was reading an interview with Paul McCartney the other day and it says that he’s very happy with his songs but when they go out there and they get reviewed, or people talk badly about them, he views his own stuff badly too. That’s Paul McCartney – probably the greatest songwriter ever – and he still struggles with that kind of thing. So the album is done, but that’s just the start.
There’s a track called Party like a Russian. How do the Russians party?
The Russians party in a big way. British people like to consider themselves hardcore partiers but I’ve been to Russia, I’ve experienced their parties, and I can assure you that nobody does it like a Russian. They don’t give a damn and that’s the spirit of hedonism, that’s the spirit of partying and I tip my hat to them. It’s all vodka, booze, girls, boys, fashion.
But you don’t do this stuff anymore, I hear…
But I have the spirit of all that inside me. I’m still a very naughty boy gone good. He still comes out to play every now and again in my dreams. Every night actually!
Does a song like Pretty Woman come from those dreams and fantasies?
No, Pretty Woman comes from Ed Sheeran. He sent me this song and I thought that it was missing a chorus, so I did the chorus. I love Ed, everybody loves Ed. He’s the nicest guy and he’s incredibly talented. He’s where the baton right now is for the best song writing on the planet, in pop terms. And I reached out to him and said, ‘Have you got any spare hits?’ so he sent me this song. I dusted it off, slapped its ass and sent it on its way.
Do you miss the partying?
No, I don’t. I can’t do the time, so I don’t do the crime. I can’t do the hangovers or the downs and the highs. I love my wife, I love my children and I have to be there for them mentally and physically. I’m really pleased that I did what I did, when I did it, because it was a life experience that I paid for in the end – nearly with my life – but in the good old days it was life-affirming and spiritual.
You say that you nearly paid for it with your life. Was it really that close?
Yes, I seemed to be pushing it further than anybody else that was around me. I was testing the limits before I either died or went to rehab. I went to rehab and got clean.
The track Love my Life is beautiful. You sing, ‘One day, you’ll say to me, I love my life, I’m powerful, beautiful…’ Who are you addressing this to?
I’m addressing this to Teddy, my daughter, and Charlie, of course too. Through therapy I learned that it all stems back to childhood and our relationships with family. I hope that I’m giving my children enough grounding and enough support for them to be not as messed up as I was when I got older. And hopefully, with the love we’re giving them, they’ve got a good chance. They’re really happy and they live in a world that I didn’t live in when I was four.
So, When you Know is about your wife?
Yes, we were playing the ‘what makes the album game’ with my wife, what should stay and what should go. She’s the gatekeeper of what happens in my life – everything. We were both in the bath and we were going through the album, song by song. When You Know is written about Ayda and after it finished she just went: ‘No, I don’t think that one should go on.’ I was like: ‘I know you’re looking at it objectively, but I did write it about you – so ouch.’
How did you come up with the entertainment theme of the record?
It’s a title and a concept that I’ve had for quite a long time. Before singing, before song writing, I’m known primarily as an entertainer and I’m embracing that. This is the Heavy Entertainment Show, there will be a tour and you will be entertained. Please buy this and come to the show.
Are you the happiest you’ve ever been in your life?
Well, I’m definitely not the most miserable that I’ve ever been. I love my life. I am powerful. I am beautiful. I am free.