Musician Dave Stewart has a confession to make. He’s an extreme perfectionist, to the point of obsession.
He finds it very hard to stop working on a piece, believing he can always improve it.
Take his work writing the music and lyrics for Ghost The Musical, which is coming to Birmingham for Christmas.
“I’ve seen the show about 50 times, in different states,” confesses the singer-songwriter who shot to fame with Annie Lennox in The Eurythmics.
“We kept changing it for a year, even when people were watching it. Bits were added and taken away, it’s been a never-ending process until now.
“I’m a terrible perfectionist. Every time I see it I want to change something. And every time I hear one of my tracks on the radio, I think ‘I shouldn’t have done it like that’.
“I am trying to be better at letting go, when I am dragged away.”
Dave first began work on Ghost six years ago, although he admits he had a practice first with another musical. Not that he started with an easy challenge – 10 years ago he decided to write a musical all in German, staged in Vienna.
“It was a humorous version of Barbarella. My German is terrible, though. When you discover things like the German for butterfly is schmetterling, you think ‘Well that’s not going to work’.”
Dave has also written the music and words for Broadway Zombie, first published as a graphic novel and now, he hopes, being turned into a film.
“It’s about a zombie outbreak in New York. The mayor realises that zombies like musicals so he forces this theatre group to put on a show.
“It’s funny and bloody.”
The technically complex and special effects-laden Ghost The Musical, which plays Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre for three weeks from December 17, is based on the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze. He played a banker who is stabbed to death and returns as a ghost to warn his girlfriend, played by Demi Moore, that she’s in danger.
“I worked with the original film writer, Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for it, and Matthew Warchus, who is a great director. I was thrown in at the deep end, but working with these great masters of their craft made it exciting and easier.
“I’m a collaborator and I like working in a team.
“Writing for a musical is different from other songwriting, because it’s about moving the narrative along so the audience doesn’t think ‘what’s going on now?’. The songs are propelling the action along.
“It’s a 3D puzzle, like a Rubik’s cube. There are physical things you have to think about too, like the fact an actor has to get changed off stage and get back on so the music has to be extended by 12 seconds to cover that.
“I’m proud of the finished product. As well as the UK tour, it’s just started in America and it has opened in Italy and Korea. It will be in seven countries at the same time by the end of the year.”
The obvious question is, does he believe in ghosts?
“Like most people, I have felt that eerie feeling when you think someone has walked over your grave,” admits Dave, 61.
“Or when you wake up in the middle of the night and feel someone is in the room.
“I’m one of those people who thinks there has to be something, there can never be nothing. They haven’t proved scientifically that ghosts don’t exist.
“I think people leave behind something. Right outside my room there are thousands of radio waves – you can’t see them, but if you can tune into them, you can hear them. I think ghosts are something like that.”
Dave, who had hits with Annie Lennox like Sweet Dreams, Who’s That Girl? and There Must Be An Angel, has lived in LA since 2004.
Previously married to Bananarama singer Siobhan Fahey, mother to his two sons, he is now settled with Dutch photographer Anoushka Fisz and their two daughters.
Does he miss anything about Britain? Not even rainy days to make the constant sunshine more interesting?
“No, I don’t miss the British weather at all,” he chuckles. “I had 53 years of it, which is quite enough. And there’s nothing else I miss, really. You can get most things here now. I posted a picture on Facebook the other day of my shopping basket.
“I was in LA but it contained baked beans, Devon custard and HP Sauce. It confused people who thought I must be in England.”
Dave has released a new album, Lucky Numbers, and is considering touring the UK with it. He cancelled gigs last year, including one at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, because he was so depressed at the suicide of his close friend, filmmaker Tony Scott.
And he doesn’t rule out working on another musical, especially one based around his hits.
“I do like musicals. I have often, for years, thought it would be very interesting to do a musical based around Eurythmics songs.
“It’s all to do with getting a good story, It’s pointless just having a jukebox musical of the songs with no story.
“Let’s just say I have something stirring!”
* Ghost The Musical plays Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre from December 17 to January 5. For tickets ring 0844 871 3011 or go to www.atgtickets.com/birmingham .