Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 584

13 J ANUARY 202 2 10 NEWS&VI EWS In February 2020, Elvis Costello kicked o his latest UK tour at the Liverpool Olympia in front of a sold-out crowd that included his mother, Lillian. “It was in the same dance hall she used to go to as a young woman, when it was known as the Locarno Ballroom,” the singer, songwriter and distinguishedmusical man of letters tells Weekend. “It’s an old circus building, which actually used to be onmy way home from school, except it had closed down by then. Anyway, they brought it back to life, and it was the opening night of the tour, and there’s my 93-year-oldmother singing along to Alison. I couldn’t have imagined anything better.” After the show, Lillian, who’d recently left hospital after a stroke, asked for her wheelchair to be pushed onto the floor where, seven decades earlier, she’d danced to the big band music of the 40s. It was, by all accounts, a good night. Elvis and his band The Imposters then continued the tour, making it as far as the Hammersmith Apollo in London before the encroaching Covid-19 pandemic caught up with them. With the remaining dates cancelled, Elvis flew to spend the earlymonths of lockdown in a cabin on Vancouver Island with his wife, Canadian jazzmusician Diana Krall, and their teenage twins, Dexter and Frank. “Given how confinedmany people were, that was very fortuitous,” says the 67-year-old. “We went for walks in the woods and, as bothmine andmy wife’s job often involves travelling to playmusic, it was no bad thing to have a good period of time together.” But even in splendid isolation, there was no escaping the anxiety and uncertainty of life during Covid. “I lost a few friends, you probably did, too,” says Elvis. “I couldn’t go to England, the border was closed. My eldest son [Matt, 45, fromhis first marriage toMary Burgoyne], I didn’t see for 18 months. Mymother had had a series of crises, and the last few I couldn’t respond to by travelling there to cheer her up. “And in the end she passed, with little anticipation, and… you know, you have to have a virtual funeral. Can you think of anythingmore peculiar? Of course, I’mnot alone –many people have said goodbye to loved ones in those circumstances, or have gone through a door in a hospital and never seen themagain. Very strange.”Music, perhaps inevitably, provided a therapeutic outlet. “You want to scream and shout and get something out,” he says. “Diana was up on the second floor, mixing a record, and I’mout in the back garden, screamingmy head o , so we’re a good pair.” Indeed, while the world slowed down, Elvis only seemed to becomemore prolific. Since the start of the pandemic, he’s released a new album, 2020’s Hey Clockface, re-recorded six of its tracks for a French-language EP, remade his entire 1978 album This Year’sModel in Spanish, written and recorded an original audiobook, and curated a lavish boxset reissue of 1979’s Armed Forces. And for an encore, he’s now created a second new albumof original material, The Boy Named If, for which he’s also written an accompanying book of children’s stories. Because of course he has. The record, he says, is a series of snapshots, loosely themed around the end of innocence – “themoment when you’re leaving the certainty and themagical imagination of childhood, and entering into the terror of desire and lust, and all the lies you tell yourself and other people”. The ‘If ’ of the title track, he explains, is a nickname for your imaginary friend – the ‘secret self ’ you can conveniently blame for all your bad or hurtful decisions. Not that the young Declan PatrickMcManus, who was born in Paddington and spent his early years inWest London beforemoving to his mother’s nativeMerseyside at 16, ever had an actual imaginary friend. “I didn’t need one, because I’ma Catholic, so I was told I had a guardian angel,” he says. “I’malso the person who confessed to adultery inmy very first confession, because I thought I’d better have something onmy rap sheet. I was quite an honest, fresh-faced boy, so I picked a sin where I didn’t knowwhat the wordmeant. “The priest, of course, just sniggered. Though I think confessing in advance to adultery put me in good stead for the number of times I did actually commit that sin later in life,” he notes drily. “Andmaybe I’ll have less time in purgatory when I go there.” Though he talks in the accompanying press notes about Elvis Costello talks to Paul Kirkley about guardian angels, imaginary sins, losing his mother in lockdown, and why he was never really an angry young man Confessions of a boy named Elvis