Highly acclaimed singer-songwriter Elio Pace performs The Billy Joel Songbook in Sheffield
and live on Freeview channel 276
“I’ve been performing some of these songs for 30 years… And I’d play them for another 30 too,” said Elio Pace as he spoke about the extensive back catalogue of his musical idol Billy Joel.
Elio was just a teenager when he ‘tripped over’ Billy Joel’s music and began a life-long crusade to showcase and share the songs of Billy Joel to audiences across the UK and beyond.
And this autumn he returns to the road, taking The Billy Joel Songbook out on tour to bigger venues than ever before.
“I was 16 or 17 at sixth form college in Hampshire, where I grew up, when I fell in love with Billy Joel’s music”
“I was already music mad, already gigging, even at that age – in fact from 14 or 15 I was playing with bands in clubs.
“Then, when Billy came along it was like a light went on for me; the way he influenced my singing, writing, performance, piano playing – it was instant. Everything changed. And right from then, I envisaged, one day, singing my favourite Billy Joel songs on stage.”
Elio’s journey to The Billy Joel Songbook began as far back as 1993, when he approached a contact in the entertainment industry, and suggested putting something together.
“He looked through it and said he could see my passion, that it was a brilliant idea, but there was one big problem; Billy Joel was still doing it. He said I was 20 years too early.
“And 20 years later, almost to the month, in 2013, I started booking shows for The Billy Joel Songbook.”
Elio spoke to The Star music writer Chris Hallam for the podcast Chris Talks Music, where he expanded on his thoughts about Billy Joel’s songs, streaming services and why this collection of songs retains such relevance all these years later.
Listen to our conversation in full right here or you can subscribe to the Chris Talks Music Podcast here: https://anchor.fm/chris-talks-music
"Billy Joel is, from the very bottom of my heart, the greatest singer/songwriter of all time. So, I’m flattered and honoured that it’s me who gets to do the show. It’s an honour and privilege to be the guy behind the piano, singing these songs.”
A successful musician in his own right, Elio had been working in musical theatre and on the corporate circuit for years before turning his attention to The Billy Joel Songbook.
His big break came back in 2010 when the late Sir Terry Wogan picked up on his work, and insisted Elio front the house band for his Weekend Wogan show on BBC Radio 2 – which saw them perform live arrangements for the weekly special guests.
“We did 35 live shows, with three live performances on each – writing the arrangements for the incredible artists who appeared, people like Brian May, John Legend, Debbie Reynolds. But I was also a featured artist in my own right and, apparently, I’m a record holder for the most live performances on radio in one year.
“Wogan was a great champion for me as a musician and also opened doors for me as a singer/songwriter. I will always be grateful for that.”
With hits like Piano Man, We Didn’t Start The Fire, She’s Always A Woman and Tell Her About It, Billy Joel’s back catalogue is a great resource for any musician. But with around 120 songs at his disposal, how did Elio shape the show?
“The Billy Joel song book is ridiculously awesome, and I want to keep introducing people to it – there’s loads of songs there that you just don’t hear, yet they’re incredible,” he explained.
And while all the big hits feature, there’s one particular album track which plucks at Elio’s heartstrings far more than any of the chart-toppers.
“From start, to finish, the whole two-hour show, I can’t tell you how much I love performing it and performing all those incredible songs.”
“But I do have a favourite. If I could only play one Billy Joel song forever more, it’s Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel). It’s a powerful moment in every show. It’s not just my favourite Billy Joel song, but my favourite song of all time.
“It comes from Billy’s very last album River Of Dreams in 1993 – but it wasn’t until 2009 that it really took the place in my heart, when my daughter Marcella was born.
“When I became a father to her, and then listened that song again I couldn't breathe. Billy Joel wrote it to his daughter when he was splitting up from her mother, to tell her he wasn’t going far.
“Until that time, I liked the song musically, I appreciated it for what it was, but as soon as I felt that love as a father… That song took on a whole new meaning. It floored me.
“In the show, it’s the calm before the storm – it’s the last song before we go into the final 20 minutes when it’s hit after hit, after hit to send everyone out on a party high.”
As a true musician, Elio’s emphasis with The Billy Joel Songbook is always first and foremost the music – and it’s from this point that he has such great respect for Billy Joel and this reverence and respect for the material comes through within each and every performance of the show.
“I just have this absolute bee in my bonnet about getting this under-rated genius out there to get the credit he should, and that’s why we do this.”
Elio Pace performs The Billy Joel Songbook at the City Hall on Thursday, September 15, 2022.
For more information about The Billy Joel Songbook and to book tickets, visit https://www.eliopace.com/tourshttps://www.eliopace.com/tours