By his reckoning, Keith Richards has lived in Connecticut for 25 years. So when asked if he feels like a New Englander, the Rolling Stones guitarist lets loose one of his famously piratical laughs — the sound of countless cigarettes and late nights — and says, “I’m both, I’m an old and a New Englander.”
Richards is looking forward to returning to the area with his bandmates in the Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood — when their first major tour in six years hits the TD Garden, on June 12. Tickets go on sale Monday.
Dubbed “50 & Counting,” the tour celebrates the band’s golden anniversary. We caught up with the 69-year-old rock icon by phone to chat about the show, the recent Stones documentary, “Crossfire Hurricane,” his 2010 memoir, “Life,” the return of guitarist Mick Taylor — who is being billed as “a special guest throughout the tour” — and the importance of new music.
Q. You really seemed to enjoy yourself at the PEN New England songwriting awards event honoring Leonard Cohen and Chuck Berry last year at the JFK Library and Museum here in Boston.
A. It was great, I thought, because at last the literary society decided that songwriting was actually writing. [Laughs.] I was so glad that Chuck was the first one brought into that thing. His lyrics were poetry. I defy a lot of straight-up literary writers to come up with what he came up with, so I’m so glad he was recognized.
Q. I read a lot of good feedback about the New York and London shows in December and caught the Barclays Center show and have to say you seemed energized.
A. I was amazed. I think one of the main reasons we’re continuing into this year is because I think we surprised ourselves with how much energy and freshness we put into it. Maybe it was the years off or, I don’t know, but I would suspect that that had something to do it. . . . Energy and freshness [are] my key words this year. [Laughs.]
Q. The band also released another hits compilation, “GRRR!,” which featured two new songs, “One More Shot” and “Doom and Gloom.” How important was it to you to have those new tunes to play?
A. I don’t know how important but I think it was important to have a couple of new tracks to go out behind because it gives the sign of future possibilities and it gave us something new to play. So it’s something to add to the incredible list that we have already.
Q. Between your autobiography,“GRRR!,” the “Exile on Main Street” reissues, and “Crossfire Hurricane,” you’ve been forced to do a lot of reminiscing in the last couple of years. Have you enjoyed looking back?
A. I came to terms with it. Quite right, at the beginning [I thought], “Oh, all we’re going to do is regurgitate the past. Is that all we have left?” With a band that’s been going this long, you’re bound to have fallow periods and there’s going to be periods where it all suddenly hits the spot, and hopefully this year is one of them.
Q. Did you watch “Crossfire Hurricane”?
A. Oh yeah, I watched several edits of it. We were all involved in it. I loved [director] Brett [Morgen]’s work in it. I thought he did a great job and finding some footage I didn’t know existed.
Q. Was there any particular moment that struck you?
A. Not one incident. It was just the overall impression that, God, there was a cameraman, there? I had no idea. [Laughs.] That’s the sign of a good cameraman, you become friends, you don’t even notice them. They’re flies on the wall. You don’t think about it at the time. But I was just happy to see certain old friends of mine in the background, that I thought, “I wonder what happened to him?” I’ve got in touch with a few guys since then, so it brought a few old friends together as well.
Q. Writing the book was probably different and more solitary. There were probably some things that weren’t as pleasant to relive. Did you feel like you learned something about yourself when you were done?
A. I thought that I learned more about the Stones than myself. [Laughs.]
Q. That’s interesting, why is that?
A. I’m not really sure. I think just reviewing the whole thing from that distance, I detected certain patterns of events that I wasn’t aware of at the time. These were all separate incidents when they happened, but I saw a certain thread running through things.
Q. What was that thread?
A. That thread is how much I love Charlie Watts and actually how much I admire Mick Jagger for all of the work he does in front. You can take it for granted, but that man is incredible. His determination and the way that, with a bit of luck, he can be swept along with enthusiasm, which is very difficult to do with Mick. [Laughs.] The band tries to turn Mick on. That’s when we know we’re doing a good gig, when Mick is turned on by the band. That’s the whole point of it.Continued...