Phil Collins has a big heart (if a smaller wallet) when it comes to his ex-wife Orianne Cevey, with whom he is happily reunited following their divorce back in 2008.
While announcing his comeback tour yesterday, Phil made passing reference to his reinstated family life.
“I’m back with my third wife,” he beamed. “I’ve only been divorced twice, you could you say, if you were being generous.”
He added: “She didn’t give me the money back. Nevertheless, we’re not downhearted.”
Phil is now living in Florida with Orianne, and their two teenage sons Matthew and Nicholas. The record-breaking artist was previously married twice, to Andrea Bertorelli and Jill Tavelman. He has five children in total, including actress Lily Collins, born during his second marriage.
It takes a big man to joke about such a sum - a £25million payout, reported to be the most expensive divorce settlement in the UK entertainment world at the time, trumping Sir Paul McCartney’s £24.3million payout to Heather Mills.
Phil has announced that he’s going back on the road with a European tour in 2017, and his fans will be ecstatic that there is a slight chance he’ll be playing THAT drum solo for which he is so revered.
“I’ve got a drum kit in the garage, and I will be getting to that to see if I can play… to see if I can do ‘In The Air’. That would be something that I think I should do,” Phil revealed this morning at the announcement of his tour.
However, he’s realistic about the drumming skills that still get his listeners air-tapping whenever they get 3 minutes and 40 seconds into his 1981 hit ‘In the Air Tonight’.
“I think I’ll be just singing. I play with my fingers, and a lot of it comes from dexterity. And that’s the thing that has clammed up over the last few years, so it’s a question of getting strength back in those fingers,” he explained.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to play the way I used to. Something happened. I can remember, it was on the Genesis reunion tour, around the time of the drum duet, pushing it as we used to.
“Something happened one night and it never came back. I tried to use heavier sticks, I tried to use bigger cymbals - but I couldn’t get any power with this hand. It’s a little bit of a mystery as to why it happened, but I’m 65, I’ve been playing since I was five years old. I’d like to have the choice, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
The tour is called ‘Not Dead Yet: Live’, adapted from his autobiography ‘Not Dead Yet’.
“I decided to call the book that because a lot has been made of my health, and also because there were still some things to do,” explains Phil.
There is his health to make a lot of. Aside from not being able to drum, 60 years of playing such a physical instrument finally forced him into back surgery last year, which has that’s left him with foot drop, forcing him to walk with a cane.
“That, I’m hoping, in time will get better, so I will be getting some physical stuff done. I’m doing water therapy, which is very good, it’s high on my to-do list.”
Fortunately, while he struggles with disability, he has at least put divorce and drink behind him. As for performing again after, bar three charity events, nearly a decade away, the prospect is a positive one, it seems. He says: “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done these three charity events, and when you first go out on stage and haven’t done it for 10 years, the reaction is very warming. The band play better than I do, so it’s really something I’m looking forward to.”
If Phil might not make it to the drums this time, the Collins genes will be on duty anyway, with his son Nicholas taking up the sticks. “We have this shorthand between us,” says his father proudly. “He’s a fantastic drummer.”
While Phil sees it as his job to give his fans the music they want on this tour, what he calls “a troll or a romp through my stuff that people know”, there’s a special place in his heart for the tunes he made as part of Genesis, an era he covers with affection in his autobiography, also called ‘Not Dead Yet’.
“Doing the book I was reminded just how good friends we are,” he ponders on the question of a Genesis reunion. “Quite often I would return to the fold and we’d do something. That changed when I moved to Switzerland.
“I just don’t want to get too busy… I know how things are. You write a few pieces of music, then you do an album, you go out and talk about it, suddenly you do a tour and suddenly it’s six months.
“I don’t want to do that, but what we had was pretty special. The three of us would just sit down in a room with nothing prepared, there wasn’t one writer, we’d come in with nothing and we’d just sit down and record it, and from there songs would develop. And that’s pretty special. So I wouldn’t rule it out.”
The book promises an honest look from the inside of one of pop’s most extraordinary careers, one that made Phil one of only three musicians to sell more than 100million records both as a solo artist and as a band member. It details the years when he dominated the charts throughout the 1980s, but also how the media turned on him, following his reported divorce by fax from his second wife Jill (in a chapter called ‘Faxgate’), his tax exile to Switzerland and his apparent hubris in performing twice at Live Aid with a Concorde flight in between.
“I just said what I felt should be said, whether it’s about the F.A.X issue which shan’t be mentioned, just taking the lid off some things,” he said today.
“Live Aid, I’ve been blamed for Led Zeppelin at Live Aid ever since we did it and now I’ve had the opportunity to explain what did happen. I feel like i’ve got it all out in the open.”
It also looks at his astonishingly prodigious work rate when it comes to the music, whose popularity was its own enemy when the music press decided they’d had enough.
“A lot of people tend to think of me as shiny BMW music,” he said today, “and if the truth were known, I’m completely the opposite of that. The way I work is improvisation, with a spontaneity. I think that’s a little bit of a misconception of me.”
It’s something fans will be able to see for themselves next year - what is the plan? “We’re doing a week here, five nights in Cologne, five nights in Paris, and then I’m going to have a lie down.”
Phil Collins’ ‘Not Dead Yet: Live’ tickets go on sale on 21 October at 9am. Click here for info.