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How Billy Joel Was Finally Convinced to Write First New Single in 20 Years: 'I Have a Very High Bar for Myself'

'I don’t hate it,' Joel said after listening to 'Turn the Lights Back On' for the first time.

Billy Joel
Source: MEGA

Billy Joel has spoken out on the creative process behind his new track 'Turn The Lights Back On.'

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Billy Joel's first new single in nearly two decades came out last week, and fans were thrilled to see the Piano Man perform "Turn the Lights Back On" live for the first time at the 2024 Grammys.

But as it turns out, Joel had to be cajoled into penning the new track.

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Billy Joel
Source: MEGA

Billy Joel performed the song live for the first time at the 2024 Grammys.

"I have this fear of writing something that’s not good," he told The New York Times for a feature plumbing the depths of the icon's creative process. "I have a very high bar for myself. And the work to get there is intimidating. I don’t want to go through it anymore."

That's why Joel was resting on his laurels. He hadn't released anything since 2007's "Christmas in Fallujah."

That all changed when the musician crossed paths with Freddy Wexler, a Los Angeles-based producer and massive fan of Joel's. The pair were connected through Joel's family doctor, who urged them to get in touch.

Wexler and Joel met in person for the first time at a restaurant — where Joel ordered food to-go.

Wexler knew he had to make the short time available with the pianist worthwhile. "I said, I don’t believe that you can’t write songs anymore or that you won’t write songs anymore," Wexler told the Times. "And he said something like, 'OK, believe whatever you want.'"

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The producer eventually convinced Joel to share some unfinished song ideas. The musician sent them over on a CD.

"I didn’t have a CD player, so that was a thing," Wexler said.

The two went back and forth for a while, becoming close in the process. Collaborating like this was a relatively new experience for Joel, who'd tried and failed to work with other artists like Burt Bacharach and John Oates in the past.

Wexler shared a song he had started writing with a few friends, which later morphed into "Turn the Lights Back On."

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Billy Joel
Source: MEGA

'I don’t hate it,' Joel said after listening to the single for the first time.

The producer finally got Joel into the studio to record vocals for the track, but the icon was surprisingly self-conscious.

"I don’t think of myself as a singer… I’m a piano player," Joel said. "I don’t like my own voice. So I usually come back and listen to a recording with my voice on it and I’m always disappointed that I’m singing it,” he explained. “I’m always trying to sound like somebody else."

That's why he had a somewhat muted reaction to hearing himself on the track.

"I don’t hate it," Joel said. "I don’t know what that meant to him, ’cause it must have been very underwhelming… When I say I don’t hate it, that’s a big deal."

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Billy Joel
Source: MEGA

Prior to "Turn the Lights Back On" Joel hadn't released any new music since 2007.

After debuting the new track at the Grammys, Joel closed out the ceremony with a rendition of his 1980 song "You May Be Right."

The star has won five Grammys over the course of his long career and earned 23 more nods from the Recording Academy.

He was nominated for his first two awards in 1979. Joel's single "Just the Way You Are" ended up winning Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

He returned to the ceremony the next year to take home two more trophies after his LP 52nd Street won Album of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.


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