Alan Parson is as surprised as anyone that 15 years have gone by between his last studio album and The Secret, whose video for the closing track "I Can't Get There From Here" is premiering exclusively below.
"I've been keeping busy," the musician-producer-engineer — who won a Grammy Award this year for best immersive audio album — tells Billboard, ticking off a range of endeavors from buying a new home and building a new studio to putting together special reissues of the Alan Parsons Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination and Eye in the Sky and an album for ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro (2012's Grand Ukulele), who guests on The Secret. "Throughout this period Frontiers have been chasing me to make a new studio album, and eventually we came to an agreement and literally came to a deal that I could live with. Here it is, and here we are, almost 15 years later. I have no problem with that."
While most of The Secret's 11 tracks were written especially for the album, "I Can't Get There From Here" is different. It was presented to Parsons by Patrick Reed Johnson, a film director who also writes songs. "We pretty much re-recorded the whole song," Parsons says, noting that Frontiers "picked that song for being the strong contender for a single." The song is featured in Johnson's new film 5-25-77, a cinematic memoir about seeing Star Wars on the day it was released and how it inspired him to start making movies himself. Johnson directed the video, which includes scenes from the movie as well as glimpses of Parsons and Jared Mahone, who sings on the track.
"We shot some of it around my ranch here, on the hills in Santa Barbara," Parsons says. "It looks like a pretty sweet, nice movie. This will probably be the (end credits) song, as it is the closing song on the album as well."
The Secret, due out April 26, also features vocals by Jason Mraz ("Miracle"), Foreigner co-founder Lou Gramm ("Sometimes") and longtime Parsons concert vocalist P.J. Olsson ("Beyond the Years of Glory"), with Parsons lending his pipes to "As Lights Fall" and "Soiree Fantastique." Genesis alumnus Steve Hackett plays on a rendition of Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which kicks off the album.
Unlike 2004's A Valid Path, on which Parsons explored electronica, The Secret should sound familiar to longtime fans.
"We wanted to go back to the basic stylistic values of the albums past," Parsons explains. "We set out to come up with songs that could've been released on, say, Eye in the Sky or I, Robot or any of those albums. One of the things that people have said about my music is that it's timeless — the various albums could've been released in reverse order and no one really would've noticed the difference. I'm kind of stuck in a '70s/'80s time zone, I think, unable to escape it. And we stuck to another trademark with the different vocalists, and some big names as well."
Parsons takes his live band on the road starting Feb. 26 in Quebec City, with dates throughout April in North America and a European run right after that into June — and, Parsons promises, more to follow. Meanwhile, he's still enjoying the afterglow of the Grammy win for the Eye in the Sky — 35th Anniversary Edition. "All my fellow engineers who were on the voting panel said, 'Oh, you're going to win this year, don't worry,'" Parsons recalls. He learned about it, meanwhile, while shipboard on the On The Blue Cruise, where his band members were watching the pre-show awards ceremony on their phones. "We were on the lifeboat deck doing the drill…and then suddenly there came a cheer from this one group of people," Parsons remembers. "It's so nice to win. I'm very proud of it — and I hope we can get another one for the new album, too."