Billy Joel released "Turn The Lights Back On" yesterday (February 1), marking his first single in 17 years. Speaking with his co-writer Freddy Wexler in a new interview, the Piano Man revealed why it took him nearly two decades to put out new music.
“It was fun. Music is fun. Rock n’ roll was fun," he said to Wexler. "It was all about having fun — and I kind of lost that and I turned the lights off because it wasn’t fun anymore.”
Joel went on to explain how others tried to get him into the studio 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,” he admitted. But things were different with Wexler.
In an interview with iHeartRadio's Jim Kerr, Joel recalled meeting with Wexler for the first time. "I'm thinking, yeah, we're just going to shoot the breeze and that'll be the end of that. And we ended up getting into some deep stuff just right off the bat. We hit it off and I realized this guy knows what he's talking about," he said. "I mean, he wasn't just like, 'I'm a fan and that's the end of that.' He knew music, he knew songwriting, he knew production. He knew the things that you need to know to do the craft, and he was a student of it. And you start respecting somebody right away when you realize they know what they're talking about."
The two stayed in touch and Wexler shared the idea of "Turn The Lights Back On," which Joel approved. "I heard it and I went, 'That's not bad. That's a pretty good song. That's possibly something I could have written or I would've liked to have finished,'" he told iHeartRadio's Elvis Duran in an interview. "And he played me this thing. And then he [said], 'So why don't you come down to our studio and sing it?'"
Billy Joel is set to perform "Turn the Lights Back On" for the first time during this year's Grammy Awards, on Sunday, February 4th. It's also sure to be on the setlist during his 2024 tour.