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Billy Joel Explains 17-Year Wait for New Music: 'It Wasn't Fun Anymore'

"The whole point of why I got into music in the first place... it was fun... and I kind of lost that," Joel said

<p>Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM via Getty</p> Billy Joel in New York City in June 2023

Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM via Getty

Billy Joel in New York City in June 2023

Billy Joel is setting the record straight on why it took him 17 years to write new music.

The Piano Man singer, 74, revealed that he is often very critical of himself when creating songs and credited Freddy Wexler, his songwriting partner on “Turn the Lights Back On,” as the person who got the ball rolling bringing him back into the music scene.

“I have this high bar that I set for myself. If I don't reach that bar, I beat myself up and I punch myself and I hate myself. So I stopped doing [music] because I got tired of feeling like that,” Joel admitted on the Audacy Check-In podcast.

He also noted that the songwriting process often feels “lonely” when you “do it on your own,” which was the opposite of how he wanted the music creation process to be.

Related: Billy Joel Drops 'Turn the Lights Back On,' His First New Song in 17 Years — Listen!

“The whole point of why I got into music in the first place — same reason [Wexler] did — it was fun,” the singer explained. “Music is fun. Rock N’ Roll was fun.”

“It was all about having fun — and I kind of lost that,” he added. “And I turned the lights off because it wasn't fun anymore."

However, Joel said that all changed when he had a chance meeting with Wexler thanks to his family doctor who set the pair up. The singer said he felt his love of songwriting return and “turn(ed) the lights back on” when he heard Wexler’s work — thus inspiring the title of their new song.

Related: Billy Joel to Perform at the 2024 Grammy Awards

“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,” Joel said of the tune for his new single “Turn the Lights Back On.

He added that the lyrics also came naturally to him once he heard the melody. “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?”

<p>Taylor Hill/Getty</p> Billy Joel performs in Tokyo on Jan. 24, 2024

Taylor Hill/Getty

Billy Joel performs in Tokyo on Jan. 24, 2024

Joel dropped the track, which he first teased on Instagram on Jan. 22 — on Thursday. The lyrics of the song appear to be a love ballad and a message to the hitmaker's loyal fans, who have been awaiting a song from him for a long time.

The “She’s Got a Way” singer is set to perform the song for the first time live at the Grammys.

The 66th annual Grammy Awards will air live on CBS and Paramount+ on Feb. 4.

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