WHEN both your parents are musicians, life can involve an awful lot of travelling.

But when your parents are internationally-successful musicians, you end up even more well-travelled – and your geography lessons tend to be out of the back of a tourbus rather than in the classroom.

Since having kids, rocker Elvis Costello and his wife Diana Krall have had to rein in far-flung travels – slightly. But Elvis, who comes to the Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff, next week, admits their twins, Frank and Henry do sometimes join him on his globe-trotting tour dates.

Costello, who’s based in Vancouver nowadays along with his Canadian wife, says: “They start first grade in September, so we can’t be pulling them out of school to go wherever.

“Having both your parents as working musicians will mean a lot of travelling, but we have to be considerate. They’ll still get to come on the tour bus with me when I’m out and about. That’s got to be better than taking geography, right?”

The British musician is currently writing and recording songs for a new album due to be released before the end of the year and he’s teamed up again with songwriter Burt Bacharach to work on a stage adaptation of their 1998 album, Painted From Memory, so it’s busy times.

Costello says: “We’re writing new songs, so it would be nice to write songs for that. I’m also working long term on a book of my own. It’s not fiction, but it’s not non-fiction either. I’m not writing an autobiography.

“Everyone knows that story, everyone’s an expert, so I can only tell people what they don’t know.” But it’s his past musical exploits, which will feature at his Cliffs show, and see him bringing his tried and tested Spectacular Spinning Songbook tour to town.

The popular format is less gig and more vaudeville show with glamorous showgirls and a huge spinning wheel, that an audience member is invited to come up and spin, picking out the tunes that Costello and his band, the Impostors, will play.

The unpredictable nature of the format makes it a treat for fans as they wait to see whether their favourites will come up, and means no two gigs on the tour are ever the same.

But while it’s a treat and a tease for the audience, it’s a challenge for the band, who have to be prepared to play whatever comes up next at the drop of a hat.

Costello admits “We have to be well-rehearsed. We have to have 50 songs in the pocket to even play the game.

“We’ve delved into the back catalogue a bit, so I think we have about 150 numbers we can choose from.” He and the band are susceptible to a bit of light bribery, but in the main, the wheel is the boss.

Costello says: “The wheel’s fair – until we lean on it a bit when someone tells us it’s their wedding anniversary or something.

“Mostly we let it be true and it decides. Some songs have come up twice, or even three times in a night.”

Of course, there are gasps from the audience and a few crossed fingers when the big hits – of the likes of Oliver’s Army, Alison and Watching the Detectives – get close. The unusual format gives the gigs an unpredictable feel as big numbers that might usually feature in a finale or encore come up early on in the night.

Costello says: “We never know what to expect. “You have to drop into the darkest, most emotional songs without any preparation, and one of your favourites might not get chosen for five shows.”

But he does pull rank when it comes to two numbers – Shipbuilding and Tramp the Dirt Down – which he insists on playing at each venue.

The latter, which featured on his 1989 album Spike, describes Costello wishing to live long enough to see the death of Margaret Thatcher, so he can stamp on her grave.

But he says that now the former prime minister has passed away, he feels a little differently about it.

He says that he would stamp on the grave of her ideals, but not on the grave of the woman herself.

He admits: “I have difficulty with this one.

“Two of my family had dementia-related demises, so I would never wish that on my worst enemy. “I have difficulty wishing ill on people, despite having written that song. I can’t celebrate.

“I could if it meant the death of her ideas, but they’re alive and well. That’s the difference here.

“There are few people in history you would wish death on, but there would be something pathetic, and beneath us, in celebrating the death of anyone.”

Elvis Costello
Cliffs Pavilion,
Station Road,
Wednesday, June 19, 8pm.
Tickets £42.50
01702 351135