NEW YORK Elvis Costello has become sort of an expert in collaborations, having worked with everyone from Burt Bacharach to the Brodsky Quartet over the past 10 years.
But his pairing with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter on the recent album "For the Stars" wasn't his idea.
"Actually, it was Anne Sofie's husband who said it first, like, 'Oh, you should work together sometime' just like that, not very seriously," the 47-year-old British musician said. "I was really taken aback. It had never occurred to me. I just thought her kind of singing was completely beyond my comprehension."
Costello became a fan after his wife encouraged him to attend one of von Otter's concerts. After her performance, the couple sent flowers to show their admiration.
"(Then) she invited us to like an after-concert supper, and we were introduced, and we talked," he said. "And discovered we had more in common than you might imagine."
"For the Stars" features relatively obscure pop songs performed by von Otter. Costello, who produced and arranged the material, doesn't sing.
Costello: We looked at a whole range of material. . . . I think it's very natural for her to want to explore every possibility, because her own range in classical music is enormous.. She goes from Verdi to Stravinsky and even contemporary compositions. . . . We found a lot of really great songs that we wouldn't have done if we hadn't spent 3 1/2 years looking for them.
Costello: You never know what might happen. It's not like I'm looking for another collaboration, as if that is my reason to carry on. . . . I do feel it is my turn now to sing my own songs. So I don't have a secret short list of people I long to work with. I don't anticipate (saying), 'Has anyone got Christina Aguilera's phone number?' It doesn't work like that.