Wil Marlow finds newly-knighted Tom Jones is shaken and rattled but still rolling...
Tom Jones is a bit flustered. This is an unusual sight in a man normally known to be brimming with confidence and not shy about any question that's put to him.
But having received the tongue-in-cheek query of whether it's appropriate that a newly-anointed knight of the realm is releasing a single with an obvious drug reference - his new dance track with Chicane is called Stoned In Love - he's a bit thrown.
"It's not necessarily a drug reference," says the 65-year-old after thinking it over. "When you're stoned in love with somebody you're going nuts over this person, that's the way I interpreted it." He pauses. "Stoned. Yeah, I didn't think of that."
It's not the first time the veteran singer has not been quite himself in recent weeks. The ceremony in which he received his recent knighthood was also something that unnerved him. Not something you'd expect from a legend like Tom.
"Well, you see, it's a very important thing," he explains. "The Queen can make you twitch. She always has done with me, ever since the 60s when I first met her, when I started doing Royal shows.
"When she asks you a question, boy, you better come up with a good answer. I remember one time she said to me, 'Where are you living now?', and I said, 'In Los Angeles'. She said, 'Do you like it?'
"I suddenly thought, I hope she doesn't think I don't like her country, and said, 'Well it's only for convenience's sake, your Majesty'," he laughs.
Tom spent much of the day he got knighted worrying about getting it exactly right.
"It's mind-boggling," he says. "You're so preoccupied with doing everything correctly - I've got to walk this way, and all that. That's all I thought about. Then, she talks to you and you've got to back off and make a turn. It's all like that, so you don't have time to really take it all in, you just do it.
"I just wanted to get through it as best I could. I didn't want to make a prat of myself, fall over or something. It was bad enough worrying about whether I could get back up," he laughs.
"It was easy to get down on one knee, but getting back up is a bit harder."
For Tom, being knighted is the realisation of a long-held dream. Such was his enthusiasm about the idea of becoming a Sir that some of his fans have actually been lobbying the Government to include him on the honours list since 2002.
"It's something that you'd love to have but you just never know if it's achievable," says Tom. "I think maybe I thought about it more when there's other singers that have been knighted, like Mick Jagger, who was the last one. You think maybe there's a chance then.
"It means a lot to me because I'm British and I'm proud to be British, always have been. And the royal family is very important I think. I've always been a royalist. It's the biggest accolade you can get. I mean, where do you go from that? Lord, I suppose," he laughs.
The only tinge of sadness on the day was that his wife Linda was not there. Throughout the couple's long marriage, Tom's wife has always shied away from the limelight.
But Linda's decision to stay at the home they share in Los Angeles was as much to do with her fear of flying as her dislike of the attention Tom garners.
"I knew she wouldn't be there all along," says Tom, "so it didn't put a downer on things.
"Linda hasn't flown since 9/11, that really shook her up, and I don't know whether she will ever fly again.
"But she thinks the knighthood is great. And she's a Lady now. She's a lady - good title for a song, that."
Other than now having a title, it's business as usual for Sir Tom. Since making a triumphant comeback in 1999 with the duets album Reload, Tom has again hooked up with a popular chart act, this time Chicane, to score what will undoubtedly be another hit.
Stoned In Love is Tom as you've never heard him before. The opening verse of this huge-sounding club record initially doesn't sound like him singing.
"It was me singing in a different way - lighter, younger," explains Tom. "Rather than sing it heavy from the top, I just sang it light, and then when I got to the chorus then I just hammered it. It was just some-thing that was suggested and I said, 'OK, let's try it'."
Tom says he does listen to dance music - "I listen to all music. I'm always interested in the way records sound." - and he admits he sometimes goes to clubs in London and LA.
The last time he went clubbing, however, was with Wyclef Jean, after they finished the 2002 album Mr Jones.
"He (Wyclef) was very impressed, especially in London," Tom recalls. "Because he's larger than life, Wyclef, and we went into a couple of clubs and he's in front of me strutting around and people are looking past him going, 'Look, it's Tom Jones'. He couldn't believe it."
You dented his ego a bit there, I suggest.
"Yeah, but he was digging it. He was impressed because he does look and listen, he's very inquisitive. So when he saw that it reinforced, I think, the fact that he wanted to do the album."
Despite having sold millions of records between them, Wyclef and Tom's unusual collaboration failed to connect with music fans and the album didn't fare well, only getting to No 36 in the UK.
It failed to waylay either artist's career paths, however, and Tom released a Greatest Hits set to keep alive the interest generated by Re-load. With the album going to No 2, it certainly worked.
He thinks his latest release will create enough momentum to make his forthcoming autumn tour an even bigger success than it otherwise would have been.
"Touring is the most fun part," he says. "Once you've got the music done then you can have some fun with it and take it on the road.
"I mean, I don't give it the energy on stage that I used to, but it's pretty close. As long as the voice is working it carries me through. It lifts me up when I open my mouth. It comes out and I think, 'That's not bad, is it?'"
* Stoned In Love by Chicane featuring Tom Jones is out today.