"When you get to my age, it’s very difficult to pick a favourite photograph. But I was flicking through a few snaps taken outside my house in the Bahamas earlier this year and this one jumped out at me. I’m relaxed, I’m playing the guitar… I guess the picture represents a sort of milestone in my life. I’ve reached 60, I recently became a grandfather, I feel settled and I’m still making music. What more could I ask for?That view is what I see every time I look out of the window from my studio. Being on land and constantly looking out to sea gives you a real feeling for what’s going on out there. I wouldn’t call myself an expert or anything, but I’ve learned a bit about the winds, the currents and the beautiful sea life that you find in this part of the world.
Sometimes the sea just seems to take on a life of its own – it will suddenly change colour or start bubbling for no reason. And of course we get the hurricanes. I was here for Hurricane Irene in 2011. I was down on the dock when I first heard it was coming in, and you could feel it in the air. Then it started to roll across the sea. It was time to get inside, fasten the shutters and hunker down. On no account do you move from your safe place until you know it’s all over. Only then do you poke your head out of the door to have a look at the devastation. Thankfully, they are rare occurrences and life in the Bahamas is wonderful. The economy is booming, which means there are jobs and people are happy. But when you get away from the coast and into some of the small villages, it takes on a different feel. It reminds me of England in the 1950s. There’s a lovely genteel quality, with people chatting on the street, children in their school uniforms and police stopping traffic at the zebra crossing. And if you want to find absolute wilderness, you’ve only got to take a short boat ride and you can stop off at countless little uninhabited islands. Literally, there is no one on the beach but you. I love that feeling, as if I’m Robinson Crusoe for the afternoon. The sea has certainly found its way into my music over the years. There’s a track called Sailing – not the Rod Stewart song – on my new album that was massively influenced by me sitting on that jetty, playing my guitarr, just listening to the sea and thinking about life. I never planned that music would be a career. I just remember seeing people like Hank Marvin and Bert Weedon on the telly and being enthralled by the sound of a guitar. There was a pawn shop near my parents’ house in Reading, and they had a little red guitar in the window. I pestered my dad for weeks and, one day, it appeared in my bedroom. Discovering music coincided with a sad period for my family – my mother was very ill and I sort of withdrew into myself. Music became my refuge. If I went out with friends, I didn’t make small talk – I just played the guitar. Music was how I communicated. It’s funny how a horrible period in your life can have such a positive outcome. At 60, I sometimes find myself wishing I could go back and have a word with my teenage self. I’d love to give him a bit of advice: ‘Don’t do this. Don’t worry about that. Be careful when you do that.’ I guess we all have to make those mistakes, though, don’t we? Those mistakes are how we learn. You learn about yourself – both the good bits and the bad bits – and you accept who you are. There have been times in my life when things were not so good, but that bloke you can see in that photo is very happy.” Interview by Express (March 2, 2014)