Why ‘Shy’ Ian Anderson Avoids Cowriting Songs
Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson reflected on the two occasions where he cowrote songs with others, saying he was too shy to collaborate effectively and joking that he didn’t like to share the income.
His book of Tull lyrics, Silent Singing, will be published in June. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he called it a work of “putting on the record the correct, accurately transcribed, entire catalog of songs.”
“Only twice in my life have I collaborated in writing a song,” Anderson explained. “Once was with my first wife Jennie, who provided the photographic visuals and lyric text inspiration for the development of the rest of the  song ‘Aqualung.’ The other occasion was with [former Tull guitarist] Martin Barre on the  free-form ‘Hot Mango Flush.’ … Great result in the first case; not so good in the second.”
You can hear both tracks below.
Watch Jethro Tull's ‘Aqualung’ Video
Listen to Jethro Tull's ‘Hot Mango Flush’
Anderson noted that "otherwise, I fly solo. I don’t think I have it in me to be a good collaborator. I can’t readily loosen up emotionally with another person in that creative process. I am shy, repressed, insecure, inclined to self-loathing and prefer to keep all of the royalties.”
He also described song lyrics as “tricky buggers” and distanced himself from the idea that they bore a direct comparison to poetry.
“I am a descriptive writer, not so often a storyteller and almost never a heart-on-sleeve love rat,” he said. “Social documentary that you can hum along to. I see something, I want to share it in word and music. That’s about the size of it.”
Looking back, he added, "there are references and stereotypes in some songs that would be rightly perceived as politically incorrect and insensitive in today’s world. That was then, and this is now. I wouldn’t wish to change the essence of the song if writing it today, but I might exercise discreet adjectival discretion!”