A: "The tour has been such that we go out and do weekends and then come back home. It's still a little different doing this all these years later at my age. I can't lie, the traveling is a little difficult when you have to play the same day. But the cliché is all true: when you finally get on stage, it's all worth it. It's really been a lot of fun."
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Q: What have you liked best?
A: "The best part, I guess, is having Valerie Simpson as my special guest. She is not only a classic and a legend as a songwriter and performer, but she also just raises everyone's game. She is inspiring. She may even be a little older than I am and when I look at her I say, 'Stop claiming and get out there and perform.'"
Q: What has surprised you most?
A: "The people have been really attentive. After all these years, I have a lot of funny behind-the-scenes things and I tell a number of stories on my favorite artists before I play the song. The people love to hear these stories that I tell and they laugh in all the right places. Not only is it gratifying, every night I learn a whole bunch about what to do and what not to do. The audience really tells you what you're supposed to be doing. It's been a great learning experience for me."
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Q: How is this different from working with Letterman for 30-plus years?
A: "There's a big difference in being a guy's sidekick for 33 years and being the frontman because it's all on you. Not only that, when the song ends, you don't goof off while the emcee talks, it's you — so you have to continue with the talk and entertain. It's a solid hour and a half of performing, talking and playing all at once, and I just love it."
Q: You seemed suited for it, both musically and personality-wise.
A: "Well, I thank you for saying that. David showed up all those years and he was encouraging and generous with air time. He said, 'Whenever you have something, jump in.' It's wonderful for a boss to say that, but he's still the one carrying the whole show on his shoulders. When I got to jump in and host the show for him a couple of times I said, 'Oh my God, this is what he's been doing all this time?' There's a big difference and I'm experiencing all of that now. It's all on me and it's very thrilling to be in that position."
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Q: What was your first thought when Sire Records head Seymour Stein approached you about making a new album?
A: "I was thrilled to do it and it got me back into the studio and playing the piano again. It really showed me what I'm supposed to do with my life. I'd been working every night with Letterman for 33 years and I thought it was time to slow down a little bit. Well, that didn't work at all. I got so bored, right away. This got me going again and really showed me that I've got to keep playing the piano because that's what keeps me happy. My next thought, of course, was, 'What now? What am I supposed to record? Being the studio musician I am, I pride myself on being able to play any style. What will be style? I had to figure out what I really love the most and it's the songs I love the most. It was a simple as getting the songs that get me going and stir up my emotions and hopefully it will work for the audience."
Want to go?
WHAT: CANCELLED -- Paul Shaffer & the World's Most Dangerous Band with special guest vocalist Valerie Simpson
WHERE: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 23
COST: $30-$45 in advance, $35-$50 at the door. More info: 937-296-3300 or www.fraze.com.