HAVING sold 80million records and raised millions for charity, Robbie Williams is quite taken by the idea of a knighthood.
And the Stoke-born superstar isn’t keen to hang around.
In an intimate interview ahead of the release of new record XXV, the 48-year-old says: “Sir Robbie would be great.
“But do you have to get an OBE before that? Because I can’t be arsed.
“If it goes OBE, CBE then I am not turning up. Straight to knighthood.”
The new album — which celebrates his 25-year solo career since quitting Take That in 1995 — has been three years in the making.
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And if it bags him his 14th No1 in the UK album charts when released on September 9, he will move clear of Elvis Presley, with whom he shares the record for a solo artist.
So does Robbie think he will overtake The King?
He says: “He doesn’t stay dead, he is constantly putting another album out. It’s like mouse and cheese. He goes, ‘OK’ and then the cheese goes further away.
‘I STILL DIG OASIS’
“It is another mind-bending moment in my life. I am so pleased it is me but I don’t understand why.
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“Everything that has happened in my life I am still so confused about.
“That being said, I am really ambitious and really competitive and I really want it. Watch out, Elvis.”
Robbie is at his self-deprecating best as he sits in the penthouse suite in central London’s Arts Club — a private members’ club no stranger to hosting musicians unveiling their latest albums.
“It’s only mine for an hour,” jokes Robbie, as he reclines on a large sofa in the room.
It has been two days since he played to 20,000 fans at Vale Park, the home of his beloved football club Port Vale.
The sell-out gig had been pushed back because of the pandemic.
Robbie says: “I didn’t know how I would feel, because I have been away for 30 years.
“Going through the town and seeing the bunting up — I believe that was for me and not for the Queen — and seeing all the messages, I felt blessed.
“It was the homecoming and the onus is to feel a certain way about that and I wasn’t sure if I would, but I did.
“It was the most relaxed I have been on stage, fannying about on stage with 20,000 mates.”
He adds that one highlight was playing 1995 Oasis smash hit Don’t Look Back In Anger, revealing he was a huge fan of Liam and Noel Gallagher.
The brothers, however, have not always been as complimentary, with Noel calling Robbie’s record-breaking song Angels “Oasis by numbers” this year.
Sir Robbie would be great. But do you have to get an OBE before that? Because I can’t be arsed.
Unfazed, Robbie comments: “Well, that’s as complimentary as it’s ever going to get. That is high praise indeed, so I’ll take that.
“I am a big Oasis fan. Nostalgia still pays. I am still that man but sober, 22-years-old in my head and still a massive fan of Oasis.
“No matter what has been said and what has been done, I still dig the band.”
How about a return to Knebworth then, just like Liam, who played two sold-out gigs there over the weekend?
Oasis played two iconic gigs there in 1996, while Robbie played three consecutive nights in 2003.
“I’m sure we’d do OK, if we sold tickets as cheap,” quips Robbie, before adding: “I apologise, I am being bitchy.”
For his latest album, Robbie has re-recorded 18 of his biggest hits with the Metropole Orkest, the world’s leading pop and jazz orchestra.
‘I’M JUST AN IDIOT’
His huge 1997 track Angels is one that has been reworked, along with Love My Life, Come Undone, Rock DJ and Millennium.
But Robbie says he almost scrapped Millennium, which in 1998 became his first solo song to take him to No1.
He adds: “This album is a chance for me to look back and think, ‘Oh, this is s**t’. Or, ‘I did alright there’. Or, ‘That’s good’.
“Millennium is s**t. ‘We’ve got stars directing our fate’, have we? ‘We’re praying it’s not too late?’ Did we? ‘We know we’re falling from grace?’ Are we? Millennium. It made sense at the time.”
Fans will also be treated to new song Lost on the album. And there will be three more — Disco Symphony, More Than This and The World And Her Mother — on the deluxe edition.
I am a big Oasis fan. Nostalgia still pays. I am still that man but sober, 22-years-old in my head and still a massive fan of Oasis.
Robbie says: “I used to feel like a charlatan through the massive albums.
“I would think, ‘I don’t deserve this. The people who deserve this are Prince and George Michael. I’m just an idiot from Stoke fannying about’.
“And I think I have been trying to prove myself wrong or right through those 25 years. And I still am, to a certain extent.
“But these days that isn’t the driver. I am in control these days.
“I don’t have to pay attention to feelings of lack of self-worth or being a charlatan. If you put it all into a box, physically, emotionally, happiness-wise and being content, this is the best I have ever been.
“I just did this TV show (Reel Stories) with Dermot O’Leary and I was playing at Glastonbury and I was like, ‘I am f***ing way better than him’ — and it was me!
“I do feel like I am way better than I was at everything, apart from maths and Spanish.”
On the cover of XXV Robbie poses naked in a recreation of Rodin sculpture The Thinker.
Is his decision to strip off fuelled by this new-found confidence?
“It is amazing what you can do with computers these days,” says a bashful Robbie.
The change in his mindset is down to his wife, American television personality and Loose Women star Ayda Field, with whom he has just returned to the UK following years living in Los Angeles and Switzerland.
Married in 2010, Robbie and Ayda, 43, have four children — Theodora, nine, Charles, seven, Coco, three and Beau, two. And Robbie says it is his kids who drive him nowadays.
I don’t have to pay attention to feelings of lack of self-worth or being a charlatan. If you put it all into a box, physically, emotionally, happiness-wise and being content, this is the best I have ever been.
He adds: “Daddy goes to work. Because I go to work, I completely put what I do in a box.
“It didn’t used to be like that, it would be like, ‘what the f*** is this?’
“Now I put it in a box, Daddy goes to work, now I have a focus point.
‘I LOVE EUROVISION’
“There is a tour planned but I am trying to figure out how to go on tour and be a dad.
“I was watching an interview with an actor and he said he didn’t see his kids grow up.
“Coming out of Covid, where I have spent two and half years with them, and now I am going to do my job again . . .
“It’s a Rubik’s Cube that constantly brings up new things you have to figure out.”
But Robbie doesn’t feel he needs to figure out what his career will be for the rest of his life. After splitting from his Take That bandmates, he has go on to have a solo career so successful he has broken countless records — including with his 18 Brit Awards.
Robbie says: “I am constantly looking at people and going, ‘What happens?’.
“Rod Stewart is still Rod Stewart and he still plays the O2. And he plays the version of the O2 in Texas and Chile and then in all these places around the world.
“You go, ‘I think I am OK, actually’. There will always be a place for me, and that feels good.”
But he still has things he wants to achieve — including getting on stage at Eurovision.
He says: “I love Eurovision. I am a massive fan. I have already put my name down. Not to represent the UK but to do that bit at half-time that Justin Timberlake did.
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“I’d have a bit of that. Nobody did that and then Justin did it.
“I put my name down, and I hear it might be in the Ukraine. I am still going. I want to do it.”
IMAGINE taking your biggest-selling single of all time, re-recording it and making it sound even better than the original.
Robbie has done just that with his reworking of Angels, now featuring more impressive vocals and better musicality than the 1997 original.
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but Robbie has turned that on his head by successfully remaking 18 of his most popular songs.
Let Me Entertain You is a big, punchy ballad, while Millennium – a track Robbie says he now hates – is accompanied by melodic strings.
The opening to Supreme has hallmarks of a Bond theme tune, while the updated version of Come Undone also hits harder.
She’s The One shows off Robbie’s matured, but no less impressive, range.
He may be just two years away from 50, but Robbie’s vocals and songwriting prowess are still a force to be reckoned with.
Fans will be treated to four new tracks on the Deluxe Version of XXV.
But Lost, which features on the standard album too, is the standout.
The song is a departure from Robbie’s usual upbeat fare, but there is method to the madness.
“I have noticed I have not been as successful since I’ve been happy so I have returned to depression for this song,” he explains.
“I visited that train station.”
And believe me, he will have no trouble with getting any of us on board.
- Let Me Entertain You
- Come Undone
- Love My Life
- The Road To Mandalay
- No Regrets
- She’s The One
- Rock DJ
- Nobody Someday
AND THE DELUXE EDITION EXTRAS:
- Lazy Days
- Hot Fudge
- Sexed Up
- More Than This
- Disco Symphony
- Better Man
- Home Thoughts From Abroad
- The World And Her Mother
- Into The Silence
- Angels (Beethoven AI)
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