NOTHING is Mysterious about Marti Pellow's spring tour, except for the new album of that title that he will be promoting at York Barbican on Tuesday.
"There'll be some new songs, some old songs, some borrowed songs, then if you shout loud enough for a song, I'll give it a go," says Marti, who is touring with his full band plus horns for the first time in more than a decade. "I've got a spring in my step, I've got some great musicians with me and I'm chomping at the bit each night."
Pellow will combine songs from Mysterious with three decades of material from his solo portfolio and Wet Wet Wet favourites, plus selections from his musical theatre career, in which he has starred in such shows as Chess, Chicago, Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical, War Of The Worlds and Evita.
"For me, these shows are a great way to interpret Wet Wet Wet songs, show my songwriting, and as long as it's eclectic and you're mixing it up, it's never Groundhog Day. I'm not changing the world here!" he says.
The new songs will be taken from the Wet Wet Wet frontman's eighth solo album, the self-penned Mysterious, recorded at the Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles last summer, when the Clydesbank singer worked with the legendary Tower Of Power horn section and a top-notch rhythm section on ten new Pellow compositions.
The record came about after Pellow finished his touring run as the Narrator in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers and undertook an arena tour with Wet Wet Wet last February and March. "I thought, 'you know what, I'm going back to my day job', so I started writing with Grant Mitchell, a songwriter from Scotland I've worked with before, who's an accomplished musician too, and we'd talked about making this album over many years," says Marti. "We'd threatened each other to do a record inspired by the records that we'd loved, like Quincy Jones's The Dude."
Off Pellow went to Los Angeles. "And I didn't come back out until we had the meat and potatoes of the record. I put in calls for guys to work with us, and there was serendipity when I'd ring and they'd be in," he says. "We were able to bring some of the musicians from my favourite albums ever made together in a room and create magic – and I'm talking about guys who've worked with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, The Crusaders, let alone Adele, Madonna and the Stones. Just mind-blowing playing!"
Pellow not only co-wrote and recorded Mysterious with long-time collaborator, accompanist, programmer and arranger Grant Mitchell and called on the services of musicians such as Lenny Castro, Dean Parks, Herman Matthews and Freddie Washington, he also teamed up with a master of soul songwriting. "Allee Willis, who wrote Earth, Wind & Fire's Boogie Wonderland, joined us to co-write on the songs... and we're channelling some of the funkiest pop you've ever heard.
Man of Mystery: Marti Pellow's poster for his Mysterious Tour
"Before I knew it, I had my cast of musicians in front of me and it was interesting to see what would happen because they knew each other, so it was great to get them under one roof. I knew they were songs that demanded to be recorded live, and it was just an amazing experience working with these guys in this great Los Angeles studio."
Where some songwriters might "go inside themselves and put pressure on themselves", Pellow revelled in working with his fellow songwriters and such stimulating musicians. "I always think of songwriting as a learning process where I'm sharpening my pencil and hopefully there's a song that comes out of it, but if not, I've still had a good day with great people and good food, where I can get a bellyful of laughter and a great box of memories," he says.
"If you have a head full of dreams and a great imagination, you'll always come up with something to inspire you. But it's taken 35 years to know what''s required to flourish as a songwriter.
"The beauty of these new songs is that I knew the people to get to play them with an understanding of what I wanted to achieve with them. Some were American, some were guys I'd worked with over here. It's the same with Wet Wet Wet, who have a great understanding of songs and can make them groove."
So, what distinguishes the songs on the "very soulful, quite funky" Mysterious? "I believe that with these songs, you don't play the songs, you feel them," says Marti.
York has the chance to "feel them" too on Tuesday, two days ahead of Pellow's 52nd birthday. The years may be ticking by, but Pellow's voice remains as velvet smooth as ever. "I'm happy to say my range is pretty much the same as in my teenage years, but you do become more aware of your voice and how you use it," he says.
"I don't pack my voice away in a case after a show; I'm always aware of it. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I look after it because there's nothing better than being able to make your voice do what you want with it when you're at one with your imagination."
Marti Pellow, The Mysterious Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, March 21, 7.30pm, supported by Philippa Hanna. Tickets update: fewer than 50 still on sale on 0844 854 2757, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from Barbican box office.