He's left Genesis, his second wife and his country - and he feels great
Take a look at him now. Rock star Phil Collins says he's a changed man.
To recap the last two-and-a-half years of Collins' life: There was an ultra-messy split from his second wife, which reportedly included his faxing her to say that he wanted a divorce. The saga made daily headlines in the British tabloids for a month and a half.
"I have this English guilt because when you've got children I felt, `Oh, God. Everyone's looking at me as if I were a bastard. He had kids.' I love my kids but you can't stay together in a relationship that's not all it should be for the sake of the children."
Then there was Collins' relocation from England to Switzerland to be with his new love Lorianne.
"She was just actually helping the promoter out when we met," he says. "In the meantime, I fell in love with her. It's not a rock 'n' roll road story. It's not like `guy picks up chick.'"
If the divorce and move weren't enough, Collins - who's sold 70 million albums as a solo artist - ended his 25-year partnership with British rockers Genesis.
"We've never been handcuffed together as it were, but I don't want to do it anymore," says Collins of working with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. "I loved my time with the band, truly I've got no problem, it's not a personality thing. Tony, Mike and I - I think I can safely say we all have a tremendous amount of affection for each other. But from a musical point of view and just sort of space in my life, if I want to do some of these other things, I couldn't as often as I would like to."
Which helps to explain the positive nature of his new solo album, Dance Into The Light, a decidedly upbeat effort with plenty of African rhythms.
"On the last tour I was listening to a lot of Youssou N'Dour and Salif Keita, those guys whose music I love, and I was very, very happy even though I was going through some particularly trying times. I had everything to look forward to. Everything was very optimistic. And this music, Salif Keita's and Youssou N'Dour's, it was very buoyant and some of it rubbed off."
In fact, Collins, who was the drummer as well as lead singer for Genesis (after vocalist Peter Gabriel left), got back behind his drum kit for Dance. For his last solo album, 1993's Both Sides, he had used a drum machine.
"I'd forgotten I was a drummer, that's a simple way of putting it," he says. "As you go farther down a particular direction you start to lose track of what started you off. And I broke my wrist on the last tour. I guess I fractured it somewhere and I didn't know when I did it. Eventually it became a break and then eventually the bone died. And it's still broken. So I didn't know if I could play again. That's probably a subconscious reason for playing so much and so hard on the record because I wanted to see how far I could go."
So far, so good. Collins is planning a tour of North America in March and April - including a stop in Toronto.
In the meantime, he hasn't sullied his reputation as rock's "Mr. Nice Guy" for his work with various charities.
Dance features a song call Lorenzo, a collaboration between Collins and Michaela Odone, the illness-plagued youth immortalized in the Nick Nolte-Susan Sarandon film Lorenzo's Oil.
"I got this package in the mail, a little folder and a long, long letter from the mother," explains Collins. "And she said, `As part of his stimulation over the last few months, we've been writing Lorenzo's story in lyric form and it's Lorenzo's wish that you write the music.' It was about a year between them asking me and actually hearing the music, hearing the song. And they were very, very happy and moved and touched by what they heard."
© Toronto Sun, by Jane Stevenson