In the spotlight: Don McLean, playing York Barbican on April 30

AMERICAN singer-songwriter Don McLean returns to York Barbican with a new studio album, Botanical Gardens, this month.

Best known for American Pie, Vincent and And I Love You So, the 72-year-old New Rochelle musician will combine songs old and new in his set.

Here McLean discusses new material, covers and plans for the future.

What can people expect from your first new material in eight years, Don?

"The new album is a personal memoir of an older man looking back on life and love and romance. How surprising the time flight is and how splendid it all is."

You last toured Britain in 2015. What do you love about playing Britain and what can audiences expect this time?

"I have toured the UK since 1972; it is like a second home to me. So many personal and career experiences have accumulated that I can’t begin to list them. I have probably done 22 tours of the UK with always new towns to see. The history and tradition always interest me. I have had more record successes in UK than anywhere else and the fans have been loyal these 46 years."

How do you choose your setlist?

"I do not use a set list. I have never done the same show on any night since 1968 when I began my full-time professional career. I know at least 10,000 songs and can perform any of them with a quick brush-up. I have recorded hundreds of songs and have written hundreds as well."

Given the latest covers of Vincent by Ed Sheeran, James Blake and Ellie Goulding, how does it feel to have so many contemporary artists interpret your work?

"The high-profile recordings of my songs of late have made me proud that I took chances with my songwriting and created songs which were personal and not obviously commercial. We all need to inspire each other and I don’t mean just artists. All of us should shoot for the best we can do."

You said in a tweet to Ellie Goulding that hearing her cover helped you "carry on". What else inspires you to keep creating music?

"As we grow older, there is an effort on the part of the world to tell us we should quit, move over, get lost, you’re old news. In the beginning, validation comes from older artists; near the end it comes from younger ones."

After close to 20 albums, was there anything unique about recording Botanical Gardens?

"Botanical Gardens was recorded in two ways. Tracks were made of several songs according to ideas I put forth; then we went into the studio and recorded more songs together as a group with additional instrumentation added to everything and vocals done."

Having played more than 4,000 concerts, is there anywhere new where you would love to perform or anywhere you would love to go back in time to play again?

"I would go back to almost any town or city I’ve played but I have not sung in Italy and would like to."

Which songs from the new album are you particularly looking forward to playing live?

"I do enjoy Waving Man, When July Comes, Ain’t She A Honey, Botanical Gardens, The Lucky Guy and Total Eclipse Of The Sun."

What ambitions do you have for the future?

"I intend to double down on my fun seeking and try to be good to people."

Don McLean plays York Barbican on April 30, supported by Nashville singer Jarrod Dickenson; doors open at 7pm. Box office: 0844 854 2757 or at