The gravel-voiced musician is responsible for such great songs as Fool (If You Think It’s Over), Let’s Dance, On The Beach, the emotive Tell Me There’s A Heaven, the Christmas standard Driving Home For Christmas and the anguished cry from a motorist, The Road To Hell.
From these hits, and the title of his new album, people might think Rea is a petrol head, but although he does like racing cars (“I have a Morris 1000 racing car,” he says) he doesn’t see himself as such.
“It’s a big misunderstanding. In fact I’m a compulsive songwriter and spend a lot of my working life in a f****** traffic jam.
“If I went sailing, I’d write a song about sailing; but I do love motor-racing.”
Rea explains his thinking behind the songs on Road Songs for Lovers.
“The album is about couples in traffic jams. I write about driving in a sarcastic way; I’m being cynical because we’re stood still a lot of the time.
“When you’re in your car – in a traffic jam – you look left and right and you see couples. We’re not actually driving cars, we’re sitting in a space. It’s all complex psychology.”
And he thinks it compares well with his other work.
“Well,” he laughs, “every one you bring out is your best. I always think I can do better.”
When Rea announced details of this tour, the demand was so great that a couple of extra shows were added in Newcastle and Birmingham.
“It’s been three years since I last toured the UK,” Rea says, “and it’s always the same. The first week you hate it because it interferes in your life. But by the time you finish, you hate the last week as you’re now comfortable. You’re immune to gas bills and television for so many weeks. Then you’re back in the ‘real’ world.”
The set itself will feature the new album, but not all of it.
“We normally have five slots for new stuff, and then there’s the songs we have to play like Road To Hell, Josephine, Stainsby Girls… stuff like that.”
What about the Christmas hit?
“In December you can’t get away with not doing it, but I like to have a huge snow cannon.”
Rea has written many great songs, but he has no favourites amongst them.
“No, not really,” he says. “the things I like are sometimes the songs that the public don’t get, but there is some detail that makes you happy. There’s a song that I can’t do live because it’s a long song and people would get bored, but I like it as a songwriter.”
And speaking of songwriting, Rea has a high regard for the lyricists.
“I wanted to do a documentary on lyricists, as I’m fascinated by how little people appreciate them.
“Burt Bacharach is a great songwriter, but if he hadn’t met Hal David we wouldn’t have heard of him. The same with Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Goffin was a great wordsmith – I’d rather have his brain than win the lottery.”
Chris Rea will be appearing at Harrogate International Centre on Friday November 24. www.facebook.com/ChrisReaOfficial/