THESE days Neil Hannon, who at 45 has been a pop star for half of his life now, lives in Kildare with his partner, singer/songwriter Cathy Davey, 15 horses, three pigs, five chickens, two donkeys, four dogs "and a few mice we didn't really intend to have."

This is possibly not the lifestyle he imagined for himself in his twenties, when he was racking up top 20 hits with The Divine Comedy – his pop alter ego – and appearing on Top of the Pops. "When I was 20 I presumed that my destiny was to live in a 1920s house overlooking the English Channel having gay parties. Not that sort of gay party," he cautions, in case I get the wrong idea. "Having F Scott Fitzgerald-type parties and being alarmingly witty at the piano to glamorous continentals."

If ever that was the shape of life in the Hannon household, it is no longer. "With time that really does pale and suddenly it's like: 'Why would I want to do that? I want to watch the football.'"

And so we find him surrounded by his dogs and his horses. There is a new album, Foreverland, and a sense of settled contentment about life in general.

Listen to the album and you can tell. Hannon says that it is a record all about "meeting your soul mate and living happily ever after".

I'm presuming he's talking about Davey here, not the pigs.

"It's just that feeling that: 'Oh, this is it then. I don't have to worry. I don't have to think what the next move is or the next person,'" he explains. "In fact the very idea of there being any other people fills you with terror. So let's hope that doesn't happen."

It's a very "up" record Neil, I tell him when we speak. "I'm pleased that you should say so," he replies.

Is that your natural state? The idea makes him laugh. "Umm, yes and no. I think, yes, probably I'm an optimist at heart. It's simply that I do like to look at the more bleak aspects of life. It's not something I shy away from when writing.

"But I think generally there's some kind of up side even in quite sad songs like Mutual Friend or Lady of a Certain Age. There's something quite heroic about the characters."

Those songs are gilded highlights of the Hannon back catalogue. The question is which ones from the new album will ascend to the same heights?

Foreverland is typically Divine Comedy-esque in its mixture of the archly knowing and the yearningly romantic. Personally, I can take or leave the self-consciously quirky side of his oeuvre (as represented here by Catherine the Great, a song about the Russian ruler though possibly also about his better half, and Napoleon Complex.

But the love songs – as represented by To the Rescue, the shivery sliver of tune Other People (one minute and 36 seconds in length, petering out with Hannon running out of words and going "blah, blah, blah") and the nakedly emotional final track The One Who Loves You – are the keepers.

As an audio experience, the album is a rich, string-laden confection of a thing all round. "It's amazing what you can do with a 30-piece string ensemble," Hannon jokes when I say as much. "It's always the scariest bit of an album, the couple of days somewhere expensive with an awful lot of musicians coming in and doing a song every two hours."

Foreverland was engineered by Jake Jackson at Air Studios because Hannon liked his film music background "and I wanted that kind of widescreen effect," he says. It clearly works.

About that "blah, blah, blah" bit in Other People, Neil? "What happened there was I wrote the words in a hotel in London and I came up with the tune at the same time which is not something I do often, so I thought I'd better record it quickly on my phone so I won't forget.

"So I sang it into my phone and when I eventually remembered its existence I thought 'Oh my God, that actually sounds pretty good and wouldn't it be cool to use that vocal at the very inception of the song.' So I put some nice strings behind it and hey presto. I thought I had to leave the 'blah, blah, blah' in simply because it would have been mildly dishonest not to.

"And I couldn't think of any more words anyway."

It's been six years since the last Divine Comedy album. He's been busy in the interim to be fair. There was another record from the Duckworth Lewis Method, the cricket-obsessed duo he formed with Thomas Walsh, a mini opera, Sevastopol, for the Royal Opera House in 2012, and even a "kind of oratorio" about the Hannon family's typical Northern Irish Sunday in the 1970s, created for the South Bank in London as a response to his father's Alzheimer's. All this from someone who says he is naturally lazy.

There was also his appearance at the controversial Bowie Prom at the Royal Albert Hall last month where he sang Station to Station. "They asked me the Monday before the gig on Friday. I guess everybody else had gone 'I'm not singing that.' I did sort of gulp at the idea but ah why not? You only live once. It's a great song and Bowie needs celebrating."

If nothing else it must have been a break from all those animals. All that mucking out. It must take up his time. "I just deal with the dogs. Every now and again I'll feed the pigs and it's great fun. They're just so cute. They're dogs really. They're full of character."

He has, he admits, stopped eating bacon as a result.

This bucolic vision of life though. Does it suggest he's retreating from the world? "No, not really. I think to city dwellers it always seems like surrender to move out of the city. I know I had that feeling when I lived in the city. 'Why would you want to live out there?'

"Not that I ever did anything particularly in the city. I've always been quite shy and not much of a goey-outy person. I enjoy writing much more than I do socialising, so to be honest it suits me down to the ground."

You wonder what that twentysomething version of Hannon would think of all of this? Well I might. Not the fortysomething version of Hannon though. "I try not to think of him too much. I'm glad he existed because he did all the things the teenage Neil Hannon wanted to do. But then Neil Hannon in his thirties got a bit confused and went 'actually, it's kind of silly now. I'll just get on with the work.'

"The idea of wearing pyjamas on stage or dancing around on a piano or all the various faux pas I made to famous people back in the nineties and getting drunk in the wrong places … Oh God, it was fun while it lasted but I wouldn't want to go back."

Foreverland is out now. The Divine Comedy play Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on October 12.