Ringo Starr on ‘Rewind Forward,’ writing country music, the AI-assisted final Beatles track and more

Sep 28, 2023, 6:36 AM | Updated: 7:12 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — There are rock stars, and then there is Ringo Starr — drummer for the Beatles, award-winning soloist, photographer, narrator, actor, activist. To call him prolific would almost shortchange his accomplishments. But it also feels right.

“Rewind Forward,” out October 13, is his fourth extended play release in three years.

“I’ve loved EPs since they first came out in the ’60s,” he says of the format. “And then I heard the kids are making EPs and thought, ‘That’s good!’”

The title is a classic “Ringoism,” as John Lennon used to refer to his malapropisms, an unusual phrase ripped from the same mind that came up with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Assigning profundity to it came later. “I think it means that, you know, you’re sitting still for a while. You rewind and you find out ‘I was a much better person then,’ or ‘this was working for me better then,’ he says. You don’t have to ever live in the past, but just check it occasionally.”

“Of course, I’m making all this up,” he jokes.

Starr got a little help from his friends on the four track EP, a collection of life-affirming songs co-penned by Starr’s engineer frequent co-writer Bruce Sugar, Steve Lukather of the All Starr Band, Toto’s Joe Williams, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, and many more.

“Feeling the Sunlight” was written by Beatle Paul McCartney, who Starr says he “FaceTimes twice a month” and hangs out with whenever he is in London, or McCartney is in LA.

“When he sent the track, he’d actually done the drums, so we had to take them off,” he says, laughing.

If there is a thematic throughline to “Rewind Forward,” or any of Starr’s solo work, it’s a kind of unrelenting optimism — that even in the most troubling circumstances, peace and love will see you through.

It’s that spirit that has kept him moving forward. He’s currently embarked on a fall tour, which began September 17th in Ontario, California, and ends next month in Thackerville, Oklahoma. It’s a feat for a veteran performer when so many bands are embarking on farewell tours.

“A lot of people have said ‘That’s the last gig!’ And I say it after every tour and our children and my wife are fed up with me. ‘Oh, you said that last time,'” he jokes. And yet, he continues to hit the road because he simply loves it: “I get everything I need.”

More short collections are on the horizon, too. (“Right now, I’m EP crazy,” he says.) The next one is founded in country music. While attending a poetry reading by Olivia Harrison, late Beatle George Harrison’s widow, Starr ran into “T-Bone” Burnett. They decided to work together. Starr thought he’d get a pop number, but Burnett instead sent him a country song. “He actually opened the door,” he says. “So, I thought, ‘Why don’t we do that, too? A country one.’”

Recently, Starr collaborated with McCartney on Dolly Parton’s cover of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” (“It’s good to be a part of it,” he says, adding that it required no convincing. “I’m easy.”)

In June, news broke that a final Beatles recording would soon become available, created using artificial intelligence technology to extricate John Lennon’s voice from a piano demo — the same method used to separate the Beatles’ voices from background sounds during the making of director Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary series, “The Beatles: Get Back.”

There was some confusion — and potentially fear — around the use of AI. “The rumors were that we just made it up,” he says of Lennon’s contributions to the forthcoming track. “Like we would do that anyway.”

“This is the last track, ever, that you’ll get the four Beatles on the track. John, Paul, George, and Ringo,” he says.

When asked when it will be released, he says, “It should’ve been out already.”

And if it’s the Beatles you’re hungry for, there’s always their immense discography to dive into. Or all eight hours of “Get Back,” which its ineffable access the biggest band in history, and its most intimate moments: like the scene that shows Starr beginning to write “Octopus’s Garden,” and Harrison coming in to assist.

Harrison had left the band; Starr was in Sardinia on Peter Sellers’ yacht when the captain told him octopuses have gardens — they collect stones and shiny objects. He had his guitar — “I play three chords, that’s about it,” he says — and starting writing.

In his view, the documentary allows viewers to see exactly what came next — and the magic of being a Beatle.

“It was a great time of my life. Being a Beatle was great,” he says. “I had three brothers, I’m an only child, and that’s life.”


This story has been updated to include the correct mention of “T Bone” Burnett.

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Ringo Starr on ‘Rewind Forward,’ writing country music, the AI-assisted final Beatles track and more