Few UK acts can speak with more authority about American success than Sir Elton and what he is witnessing in the Billboard charts right now is really exciting him.
He spoke with Music Week about observing a new march of British talent succeeding in the U.S. in a way that has not happened in years.
In the American charts at the moment you have Adele, you have Coldplay, but you also have Jessie J, Cher Lloyds record is happening, you have Ellie Goulding, The Wanted, One Direction. Two years ago this wasnt happening and now the British invasion is coming again, says Elton, whose own countless chart triumphs in the States have included six No.1 albums.
Others who have gotten the icon's attention include Mumford & Sons, Florence + The Machine, Taio Cruz, Calvin Harris, Alex Clare, Emeli Sandé, Rebecca Ferguson, Ben Drew (AKA Plan B) and Tinie Tempah.
The latter's own U.S. journey has already included a Top 40 album and million-selling single in Written in The Stars, but Elton suggests this is only the start.
I met Tinie Tempah the other day, he says. Hes going to break in America without question. Hes got the right attitude. Hes the perfect example of these new English acts that are so determined to do it and are really good guys. Tinie Tempah is one of the most impressive guys Ive met in the last 10 years and also people like Ben Drew. They want it and theyre humble enough to know theyve got to work for it and thats a very encouraging sign.
Ben is an incredibly intelligent person and so is Tinie Tempah. Its great ratification these kids are coming along and not being too big for their boots, wanting to conquer the world and willing to work for it and thats great.
Elton is particularly enthusiastic about Ed Sheeran, who is on the books of Eltons Rocket Music Entertainment Group and who got off to a record-breaking start Stateside at the end of last month when his album + debuted at five on the Billboard 200 chart. That made it the best start of all time by a brand new British male solo artist on the countdown.
What Id say about Ed is that in the last year or so he was always great and he is so confident and so assured of himself and hes loving every single moment, the piano player enthuses. I say to artists if you dont enjoy your success then youre in the wrong business. You work so hard for it and when you do get to be successful and you do see the rewards its fantastic. I saw him at the Queens Diamond Jubilee and he was very happy with everything.
He works bloody hard and he doesnt complain. Hes a really kind of perfect artist to manage and hes already said Listen, Ive got the next album finished. Hes been writing with Taylor Swift.
Hes going to be very big in America and so he should be.
Elton notes that Ed isn't bothered by spending months on the road across the country. He says he also didn't mind it.
I was in America for Gods sake. I was a kid in the candy store and he feels the same way and thats very refreshing with an artist. Dont moan and groan. Dont piss the record company off. Dont get too big for your boots. Just enjoy the process. This is his first release in America and hes going to be a hit and hes just overjoyed.
Elton has a history of supporting other music-makers. For instance, he helped John Lennon land a first ever Hot 100 solo No. 1 when he joined the former Beatle on Whatever Gets You Through The Night. He also played a pivotal role in Cliff Richard reaching the Billboard Top 20 for the first time in 1976, with Devil Woman released on and championed by Eltons Rocket label.
Reflecting some more on Sheeran, Elton comments: Hes such a social artist. Hes a pleasure to deal with and hes enjoying it. The thing is when I went over there I was so carried away by the fact I was in America and I was meeting people that I loved, other artists that I worshiped and its just so exciting.
Hes got that same feel as I do and I have no doubts. Hes great live. Hes very unusual live. He plays on his own. He uses a lot of loops and hes endearing and the audiences love him.
You know Ive always said our mantra at the management office: if you cant play live we dont want you and hes one of those people who is great live. Last year he was a support act on the iTunes Festival. This year hes coming back to headline it so hes grown as an artist. Hes more confident, but the most wonderful thing about it is he absolutely loves it.
When it comes to radio play, Elton can certainly offer advice. There remains much work to do in crossing over Sheeran to Top 40 with first Stateside single The A Team following an encouraging start at Triple A and Hot A/C.
The A Team has taken a long time to break at U.S. radio, says Elton. Look at Lights by Ellie Goulding. Its now in the Top 10 in Billboard, but thats been going maybe a year, 10 months. The A Team is not the sort of record American radio play. American radios gone very dance-oriented, of course, very R&B and hip hop and pop with Katy Perry and people like that and Nicki Minaj. The A Team is the sort of record you have to stay with and work.
Elton is anticipating a more straightforward time at American radio with Lego House, which will be the markets next single, and knows in + the project is blessed with a number of potential big hits.
Weve got a whole slew of tracks, he says. Weve got the hip-hop side of him, which is You Need Me, I Dont Need You, that sort of stuff and thats what the album is all about.
Its a very varied album. Its not just beautiful kind of songs. Hes a clever musician and because hes a friend of all the English rappers like Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, all that lot, thats giving him a wider base of songwriting and a more broad appeal across the board.
Im not saying the mission is completed, because it isnt. Weve got work to do. The record companys still got to bring this home. Ive spoken to Warner Music Group Recorded Music North American chairman and CEO Lyor Cohen. I did this thing for Clear Channel the other night in the south of France and theyre so on board with him. Its just relentless. Its kind of like breaking down the Berlin Wall, but its getting there.
It was just last year that Elton launched his Rocket Music Entertainment Group, which manages the careers of acts such as Lily Allen, James Blunt, Marina and the Diamonds, Leon Russell and the rocker himself.
It just shows we have a great management company and adopt a policy of caution, bringing out the record when it is the right time to bring out the record. We have Rocket North America chairman Johnny Barbis in America and a whole team of people helping on this record. We have a New York office, which is a very good office. If we didnt have that wed be struggling, but its important to have an American side of the organisation and its a very experienced side. Its our job as managers to make sure that Ed Sheeran happens because its a brilliant record. Hes won Ivor Novellos. Hes won Brit Awards and now I want him to win Grammy Awards and its my job as CEO to make sure our company looks after him. Hes got great people on the road. His manager Stuart Camps done such a great job.
Were a good little company. We treasure our acts and we relish them and we protect them and tell them the truth and Eds never shied away from the truth and he knew it was going to be hard to work in America to break this record, but hes gone out there and hes slogged his guts out. I can name you certain British acts over the past 20 years that failed to do that and thought just because they were successful in England it transferred immediately to America, which is not just the case. This is a serious thing. If you want a career youve got to work for it. It doesnt just happen because youve made a great record.
In the coming months Elton will be busy himself with not one but two brand new albums of his own. He reveals his next studio album, The Diving Board, is done, but its release has been postpone because he does not want it to get in the way of Good Morning To The Night, an album by Australian dance music duo and Rocket signings Pnau featuring recreations of Elton recordings. This is coming out next week.
Its really fantastic and the albums first single, Sad, is No. 30 on the airplay chart already. Im so excited with that project that I didnt want the two albums to cannibalise each other so I put my album back to next March, he says.
The Pnau record is a totally different thing for me. Im a dance fanatic and I love that kind of music, but Im certainly not technically qualified to do it, but this band Pnau, the two boys from Australia, we gave them all my old master tapes and what theyve done, which is something that hasnt ever been done before.
For example on Good Morning To The Night - which is the first track - theyve taken bass drum, snare drum, bass, guitars, brass, horns and strings from nine different Elton John songs and created a new tune. Its not a remix. Its not a mash-up. Its creating new songs from back catalogue, which is incredible, Elton declares.