The Piano Man is back, and to celebrate his first new single in nearly two decades, “Turn the Lights Back On,” Billy Joel and his co-writer Freddy Wexler discussed the writing process with Audacy Check In this week.
Joel opened up about losing his zest for music for a while. “It was fun. Music is fun. Rock n’ roll was fun,” he said. “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 added that his unexpected connected with Wexler was what convinced him to get back into the studio again. “Other people have tried to talk me into going back in and doing new material, and making the recordings, and I’ve always resisted it. I studiously avoided it because songwriting had become painful,” he recalled. “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.”
When Joel heard what Wexler was working on, it resonated with him. “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,” he explained. “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?”
Joel will perform “Turn the Lights Back On” live for the first time at Sunday’s (Feb. 4) 2024 Grammy Awards, which will air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.