Phil Collins is trying to get back on his feet -- literally. A dislocated vertebra, nerve damage and foot fractures have left him feeling like he's walking "on sticks," he tells Billboard; he has been unable to play drums properly since around 2007.
But the Genesis singer/drummer-turned-solo star, 64, is aiming for a comeback, beginning with reissues of his 1982 solo debut, Face Value, and 1992's Both Sides (out Jan. 29 on Rhino Entertainment) featuring rare demos and reshot cover art. The British icon spoke candidly with Billboard about his health issues, ending his retirement and working with Adele -- and reveals he's back with his third ex-wife, Orianne Cevey.
How's your health?
I don't know if I'll ever be fit enough to play the drums again on tour. My left arm has changed -- it's a neural thing. The back surgery I had was great -- I mean, how good can surgery be? But it was problem-free. But then when I was recovering on crutches, I fell and fractured my foot. When I recovered from foot surgery, I fell again and fractured another part of the same foot. My right foot now is completely numb. It could be a year or three months to get feeling back -- I have no idea. But my kids want me to do shows so they can brag to their friends. I intend on doing some things. I stopped going into the studio because I was sad, but now I'm getting a taste of it again.
You've also struggled with alcohol, particularly after your 2008 divorce from Orianne. Are you still sober?
I'm doing well -- it's the third year. I had retired to be with my kids in Switzerland, but then they left to go to Miami with their mom [Cevey, after the divorce]. I'd wake up, turn the TV on and have a glass of wine. You look up at the end of the day and you've knocked off a couple of bottles -- and you're still sober! I spent way too much time horizontal. It started to be bad for my body. I almost died. My organs were beginning to shut down. But I'm all right now. I bought [a house in Miami] about six months ago. I'm actually back with my third wife -- I haven't really talked about it. We've been together for a while, and nobody's noticed.
The two albums you're reissuing were partly inspired by your first and second divorces. Is it hard revisiting them on those records?
I'm probably as much to blame as anyone else, but Face Value is often referred to as "the divorce album." Really it isn't. There are songs like "This Must Be Love" that are talking about meeting my second wife, Jill [Tavelman]. Some people say to me, "It must be painful." But it's not painful anymore. I might get some stick from it from the ex-wives, but that's it. When I perform "Against All Odds," people want to believe that I'm really reliving it -- but you can't! You know you're not feeling the way you felt when you wrote it. I'm not mentally revisiting my exes.
You were supposed to work on Adele's 25, but it didn't work out. What happened?
She sent me a piece of music that I began working on, but then she was very difficult to find. She had a kid -- all this [personal] stuff was happening to her, unbeknownst to me. I sent her an email asking, "Am I waiting for you, or are you waiting for me?" I found out she's a bit of a ghost -- Ryan Tedder told me that. You may not hear from her for a while. So nothing came of it. I was very pleased to hear [it], because she's being asked about this with the release of her new album, that she said, "It was too early, and I was too scared." That's better than "He was terrible." I was very grateful for her gentle way of looking at it.
© Billboard, by Brad Wete