Billy Joel says he took 17 years to release new music because “it wasn’t fun anymore”

Billy Joel has opened up about why it took him nearly two decades to release his new single, ‘Turn The Lights Back On’.

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Speaking with his co-writer Freddy Wexler (Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Kanye West, Selena Gomez) on the latest episode of Audacy Check In on February 1, Joel said that he had fallen out of love with writing new music, adding that he did not find it “fun” for the better part of two decades.

Joel said to Wexler: “It was fun. Music is fun. Rock n’ roll was fun. It was all about having fun — and I kind of lost that and I turned the lights off because it wasn’t fun anymore.”

He explained further that over the course of the last 17 years, other people attempted to get him back into the studio to work on new music, but he “always resisted it”: “I studiously avoided it because songwriting had become painful. I have this high bar. I said to myself, ‘If I don’t reach that bar, I beat myself up and I punched myself and I hate myself.’ So, I stopped doing it because I got tired of feeling like that.”

Billy Joel performs at Tokyo Dome on January 24, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
Billy Joel performs at Tokyo Dome on January 24, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

However, when he heard what Wexler was working on two years ago, he began to feel his love for songwriting return: “The melody, the chords, the chord progression, even the time signature was something that struck me immediately, and that’s how I relate to music.”

Joel continued: “This particular lyric in this song, I’ve had these thoughts, I could have written these lyrics verbatim. I’ve chewed on these words and I’ve thought of these words, and I’ve said these words before. It was all kind of falling into place — and who am I to fight that?”

Billy Joel released ‘Turn The Lights Back On’ on Thursday (February 1), marking his first new release in 17 years. The track serves as a love letter to fans who have waited for the ‘Piano Man’ singer to release new music, as well as self-reflection for the singer, who asks himself if he had waited this long to return.

‘Turn The Lights Back On’ is now available on all streaming platforms as well as a limited-edition 7” vinyl which you can purchase here.

In other news, Joel is set to perform the track at this year’s Grammy Awards, marking his first time playing the ceremony in 22 years. The ‘Vienna’ singer will join Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Travis Scott, Burna Boy, and Luke Combs as 2024 Grammy performers. This year’s ceremony is due to take place at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California on Sunday, February 4. It will mark Joel’s return to the ceremony’s stage since 2002 when he performed with Tony Bennett.

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