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A Time To Love - Press Release

Liverpool Echo

Stevie's a star of Wonder
Friday February 10, 2006

WHEN rumours hit the grapevine last year that Stevie Wonder was to release a new album, excitement reached fever pitch.

After all, the legendary singer hadn't released anything for a decade after 1995's Conversation Peace.

And so when a 2004 release date was put back to May 2005, and then again to July, speculation about problems that were thought to beset the album's production became all the more fervent.

But says Stevie: "I saw the different things that people were saying, but it was not happening. I wasn't satisfied with it and it didn't feel the way I wanted it to feel."

The problem, says the 55-year-old, was the lack of a title song, a song that pulled the whole album together. It was only after he wrote the song A Time 2 Love with India Arie that the album finally began to come together.

Then, once he'd secured an appearance from his Ebony And Ivory collaborator Paul McCartney , Stevie finally began to feel he was nearing the album's completion.

"I'm glad I waited," he says. "My feeling is that when I give you something it's from my heart and my life and experience. I apologise for the delay only in saying that what I give to you is my statement forever - so it has to be right."

Now, as he releases another single from the album, From The Bottom Of My Heart, the album is out and the verdicts are in. It's been a mixed response, which must come as a bit of a blow to an artist whose back catalogue is always written about in glowing terms.

"Well, I'm happy with the reaction that we've received," he says. "But I think there's a stereotype sometimes in how people receive music - a black person is supposed to do this, or this artist normally does that.

"To me music is music and you do whatever feels right and good for you to do. I cannot go into the studio and go: 'OK I want to do another Superstition'. It has to happen the way it happens."

Much of the criticism could be put down to the seemingly long gestation period of A Time 2 Love. Some may have the attitude that leaving 10 years between an album, Stevie would have the time to come up with something amazing.

But, as Stevie says, he's not been working on the album all that time.

"I was doing life, experiencing life," he explains. "In the last 10 years lots of things have happened. "I've gotten married," he says, referring to his 2001 nuptials to his wife Kai. "And there's been some new children." ((Kai gave birth to Stevie's seventh child, his second with her, in May of last year.)

Stevie goes on to talk about two other events in his personal life that contributed to the emotions apparent in the lyrics and music of A Time 2 Love.

At the turn of the millennium he was told two people he was extremely close to - his brother Larry and his ex-wife and old friend Syreeta Wright - were both terminally ill. "I had invited Syreeta to the birthday celebrations of Nelson Mandela," he says..

"She told me she was worried about a lump she had found, and asked me if I would go with her to the doctor. Of course I did, and unfortunately the doctor said that the lump was a malignant tumour.

"So that was a very low time in my life, just knowing that my brother and Syreeta wouldn't be here too much longer. It was a painful situation."

He goes on to describe how family is immensely important to him - his children, his wife, the other mothers of his clearly become more distinct for him since the deaths of Larry and Syreeta.

The personality behind the music is as fiercely passionate and fascinating as ever. And although his musical career may have slowed down somewhat, he is still ambitious, wanting to do a gospel album, a jazz album and a children's album.

He also wants to tour soon, and talks about plans to try something new with visuals at the shows.

"I have visual ideas in my mind that I'd like someone to work with me on," he says, "so the visions I have can become reality."

Vision might also be a reality for Stevie himself as well. After his wife discovered her on the internet, he visited a consultant in Baltimore who was conducting a project involving implanting a chip that would enable the blind to see.

"I was surprised because we did discover that I had some ability to see light," he says. But even in this area of his life, where he might be able to embark on something life-changing, his natural altruism kicks in.

"If it were possible then it should be done for someone who was more eligible than me. I'm just happy to be able to make people aware this is happening.

"For now all of my staff are going to have a job," he laughs. "They're going to have to drive me for a while."

* The new single, From The Bottom Of My Heart, is out on Monday.