Love, Discipline Fuel Neil Diamond’s Latest Album

Neil Diamond wrote and recorded his first studio album of new material in six years floating in the heady glow of new love.

The 73-year-old entertainer, who married for the third time in 2012, says happiness with his new bride fueled his work on Melody Road, out Tuesday.

“There’s no better inspiration or motivation for work than being in love. It’s what you dream of as a creative person,” Diamond said in a recent interview. “I was able to complete this album – start it, write it and complete it – under the spell of love, and I think it shows somehow.”

Photo: Evan Agostini / Invision / AP
Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, New York

Not that he allowed his wife, Katie McNeil, in on the making of the songs.

A songwriter since the early 1960s, Diamond has become extremely disciplined about his process. He writes every day, regardless of inspiration or deadlines. He doesn’t listen to, or play, any other music while working on his own material, and he doesn’t preview his songs for anyone until they’ve been recorded.

His wife didn’t hear the album – even the songs he wrote for her – until it was finished.

“I’m very strict with myself now because I’m the only one who’s looking over my shoulder,” Diamond said. “Each song is a puzzle, and I’ve chosen to stay with it until it makes its incremental advance toward completion.”

He spent 18 months holed up making Melody Road, a collection of 12 tracks he says tells the story of his life over the past 20 years. There are songs about heartache, about family, and several about finding love.

Diamond is thoughtful and measured as he discusses his work. He takes it seriously and says he really does suffer for his art.

“It’s terrible because you’re forgoing real life,” he said. “I’m locked in a room and I should be with my grandson or granddaughters and I can’t be. I’ve had that for the last 45 or 50 years. … I’ve missed out for the sake of my music and I understand that, but it doesn’t make it any easier to do.”

And then there’s performing, his favorite part of the job. Diamond has five months of concerts scheduled in North America and Europe next year.

“I love performing. There’s no discipline involved. It’s the only time nobody can reach me on the phone. It’s got all kinds of benefits, not the least of which is having an audience that’s enthusiastic and that’s come from all over to hear what you’ve got to sing that night. It’s an amazing process,” he said. “So I adore the performance. I can’t say I adore songwriting. That’s hard work, and I don’t mind hard work, but that’s really hard work and it’s self-discipline. The only time you enjoy writing a song is when you finish it.”