THE voice is youthful with its recognisable lilt, the face belies, by at least 15 years, his 71 summers and the fire for music still burns in the belly of legend singer songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan who is set to delight his Australian fans when he comes to our shores in the Autumn as part of his 50th anniversary tour.
The Senior caught up with Gilbert at his home on Jersey in the Channel Islands. It was evening his time, and he was winding down from working in his studio (as he does 9 to 5, Monday to Friday when he is not performing or promoting). Saturday and Sunday are spent relaxing with his wife Aase, walking with the dog, going to church and being surprisingly domestic for someone who in 1972 sold more UK singles than any other solo male artist fighting off a swag of top performers like Elton John, Michael Jackson and even Elvis Presley.
"I'm a pretty normal man," said Gilbert. "I'm not a red carpet person, I have a happy family life, my wife understands me and my work mentality. I'm a good housekeeper, a good sweeper-upper. I learned that from my mother. I have two lovely daughters. I'm completely computer illiterate, I don't drive and I don't like going out that much." Gilbert also now has a much-loved granddaughter who attends his shows.
Born in Ireland with the name Raymond Edward O'Sullivan, Gilbert and his family moved to the UK when he was still a young boy. Brought up in a Swindon council house and attending the local arts college, Gilbert played drums, guitar and piano for various bands before seeking, and finding fame and fortune in London with his clever music and catchy lyrics.
Many of The Senior readers will remember Gilbert's early works in particular the hauntingly sad Alone Again (Naturally), as well as Get Down, Nothing Rhymed and Clair. He had sell out tours in the UK and US and enough awards to break the mantelpiece. The late 70s saw a protracted legal battle with the owner of the record label he was signed to (which he won) and though his career was slowed, he continued songwriting; and his skills with often introspective, pithy and incisive lyrics has seen Gilbert performing into the 21 century.
Many people have assumed some of his songs, in particular the mournful Alone Again (Naturally), was written from experience. But Gilbert is quick to point out that it isn't always the case.
"To be a good lyricist you just have to have a good understanding of a subject," he said.
However, he does sometimes draw on world events for inspiration - All They Wanted To Say released in 2011 speaks of the tragedies of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. "I like to write about things that are going on around us, as a lyricist they have a fascination for me."
In 2015 Gilbert released his 23rd studio album - a collection of original songs inspired by Peggy Lee's 60's Latin-inspired music. Latin a la G combines the rhythm of Latin music with the musician's skills with melody and lyrics.
Gilbert still pulls sell out audiences. In September last year (2017) he performed at the BBC Radio Proms concert in Hyde Park, London to a sell-out 40,000 crowd, a great many of whom weren't born during his early days in the 60s and 70s.
It's performing which fires up the seemingly ever-youthful musician, who has no plans for retirement. "The fire in the belly comes from the performing in front of an audience. Where you get that reaction, that rapport..... that's very special. You don't get that when you write songs, you don't get that when you make a record but that's what you get when you perform," he said.
He believes he still has a lot of songs left to write. "Of course if I couldn't write tomorrow I would stop but I get great pleasure out of writing. I've never had writer's block in all the years I've been doing it."
For someone who admits to being such a home body, on stage Gilbert is entirely different person. His performances are renowned for his obvious genuine delight at being able to entertain his fans; and a sublime professionalism. He admits he still gets as much pleasure out of the older songs as he ever did. "I make sure I put in a much effort as possible into them." And the audience loves him for it.
Gilbert's faith is still important to him and he attends church on Sundays whenever possible. "I was raised a Catholic and there's that old saying 'once a Catholic always a Catholic'.
"Of course we often lapse when we get older. There's a lot I don't agree with but I hang in there. It stays with you. I go to church on a Sunday. I find it very therapeutic. I don't always listen to what the priest is saying, but I find the effort of going in there for that hour is good for me because there's no first class, there's no business class; you just sit anywhere you like and everybody's the same and there's something nice about that."
Gilbert's 50th anniversary tour in Australia will take in 11 venues including all states and the ACT.
March 10 The Star, Gold Coast
March 11 The Events Centre, Caloundra
March 13 Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane
March 14 Wrest Point Casino, Hobart
March 16 Civic Theatre, Newcastle
March 17 State Theatre, Sydney
March 20 Adelaide Festival Centre
March 23 Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah
March 24, Crown Theatre, Perth
March 26 Canberra Theatre
March 27 The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Ticket details: Contact the venue or www.gilbertosullivan.co.uk