Richard Purden

It’s the morning after the four days before for Sir Rod Stewart, who is recovering at home with “a night on the water”. The singer admits he is “a little hungover from last night in Rome” watching Celtic claim a victory for the second time in a fortnight over Lazio.

It’s been a year of reflections for the singer who has united with the musicians he blazed a trail with during the late 1960s and early 70s. Firstly with the Faces, when the singer played with the band for the first time since 2015. “We did it for a prostate cancer charity,” he said. "I made an announcement that I’ve beaten it, although I don’t know if you ever beat cancer. I was on the mend, let’s put it that way. It was a lovely night. Kenney Jones [Faces/Small Faces] was on the drums and we had Jim Cregan [Stewart’s musical director and co-writer at various points since 1976] on guitar.

"Both of them have recovered from prostate cancer and, of course, Ronnie Wood [the Rolling Stones] on guitar has had lung cancer, we’re all still battling away up there. To play with them again was a real joy but with Jeff [Beck] it can be a toil.”

The singer joined The Jeff Beck Group in 1967 along with Wood. Shortly after the Faces reunion in Surrey, Stewart joined Beck on stage for the first time in a decade during a captivating set at the Hollywood Bowl. “There is a magic with his guitar and my voice that really fills the bloody room, especially when we did Morning Dew which we hadn’t played since we were in our mid-20s. It came together quite easily but Jeff and I are not the greatest of friends. We’re not enemies, we don’t argue or fight but we just don't always see eye to eye. It’s not like me and Ronnie Wood, where we’re close mates and keep in touch. I played with Jeff that night and I haven’t spoke to him since.”

Would Stewart contemplate a tour with the band who inspired the likes of Led Zeppelin and countless others but were never allowed to reach their full potential despite laying the foundations of blues-based rock? “I wouldn't say ‘no’. I want to be careful what I say about Jeff, there’s no one better as a musician than him but he’s got some demons, he’s a little bit irresponsible and erratic so I’ve got to play it by ear but I would do it with him, yes.

“We didn’t know those albums would be so iconic when we released them. I think Jeff has not forgiven Jimmy Page for nicking his idea for the band. They [Led Zeppelin] even did one of the songs in our set on their first album, You Shook Me.”

Despite recovering from prostate cancer and preparing for a knee operation, Stewart is already making plans for 2020 recording a country album with Glasgow songwriter and producer John McLaughlin. “It will be 20 of the best folk and country songs ever written by people like Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Johnny Cash. There will be some Scottish folk and Irish rebel songs in there as well. Later in the year, I’ll be touring the US and Australia."

Stewart says his cancer experience was, unsurprisingly, a hideous experience. "I never felt any different [during the illness]. I had treatment for two years and I was working all through that time. I went to Harley Street five times a week for a month and no one ever found out, which was a miracle really but I wanted people to know because it’s a horrible cancer to have. It gives you no warning whatsoever. You go to your doctor and get a finger up the bum and no harm done. That’s why I came out with it; to help other people. I couldn't be fitter than I am right now. I work out three days, I’ve got a lovely football pitch, an indoor pool and a gym and I use it.”

Stewart is naturally cautious when it comes to decisions about his back catalogue that stretches 50 years. He initially baulked at the idea of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra adding new arrangements to classic solo cuts and work with the Faces. “When I heard they were going to put an orchestra behind Stay With Me, I said: ‘Oh no, they’re not!’

"Trevor Horn, the producer, asked me to just give it a try, so I let them do it and I was astounded. It’s beautiful. I was surprised especially by the beginning of Maggie May. There’s a different feel to the songs, they are not too syrupy and the strings represent the tracks well.”

Purists shouldn’t be offended by the orchestra’s respectful treatment of Stewart’s much-loved hits that have helped define popular culture over five decades. As a vital interpreter of songs his voice continues to be lauded with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan both tipping their hat of late. His version of Danny Whitten’s I Don’t Want To Talk About It is among his finest covers but it remains a contentious hit, with some claiming that it was released as a budget double-a-side with The First Cut Is The Deepest to keep the Sex Pistols from topping the charts with God Save The Queen.

“Malcolm [McLaren, Sex Pistols manager] claimed they sold more but the numbers didn’t add up …but who cares? Punk gave everyone a kick up the arse, we’d all started to become complacent. It was great because anyone could get up and do it; you don’t have to be a fantastic musician. It was more attitude than anything else, the punk movement was wonderful.”

The Philharmonic collection is also a reminder of Stewart's abilities as a solo writer. He suggests The Killing of Georgie, “was a song about a homosexual, a friend of mine and back then it really was taboo but the words just came out. I wish I could explain it, you just open up the brain and sing whatever you want – it’s just hit and miss. I had a descending chord sequence and put the lyrics over it. I usually think of a title first like with Young Turks but Maggie [May] was different. I just sang and it came down an aerial, it does seem magical to me …you write something that wasn’t there the day before.”

Of the forthcoming trio of shows in Glasgow at the end of November, he says: “I feel at home there and loved by one half of the city perhaps. I sometimes wonder if Rangers supporters stay away but like my music.

“My oldest brother [Robert] is a Rangers fan and has been all his life. We don’t have fights about it. There’s a Rangers player engraved on my dad’s grave, Eric Caldow, Robert must have wangled that!

“My dad came from Leith and I have a few friends there. God bless Gordon Strachan who did some research on the street and building where Dad lived which we went and visited, that was wonderful. I love being in Scotland, I absolutely do.”

Stewart’s youngest sons Alastair and Aiden have also both been baptised in the Church of Scotland. “Yes, the two younger ones have, it’s very important for me to maintain that connection and the two boys are very aware of it. They are Scotland football supporters, they support Scotland at rugby and are Celtic fans. They are aware of the tartan blood inside them.”

On the subject of religion, he adds: “I’m one of those that believe it’s within yourself. I always tell my boys, ‘be good and do good and start with your time on this earth’ because there is so much evil around us and so much division and arguing it’s hard to believe there’s not anybody there that can’t help us. We have to do the best we can and treat others with respect and love.”

Sharing a Scottish diaspora connection with the 45th US President Donald Trump he admits the pair’s friendship has fizzled out. “I have a house in Palm Beach just up the road from Trump. I used to go to his Christmas party, he used to have two or three different balls but my wife [Penny Lancaster] said ‘No’. There was stuff he was coming out with, what he was saying about women he had known in the past and Penny said, ‘you’re not going; he’s a disgrace’. I suppose he is really.”

On the subject of Brexit leading to a second Scottish independence referendum, he adds: “I’ve always been Remain and I don’t know why we had to leave in the first place. There’s a lot of people who would like to rewind the clock, everyone is fed up now but we just have to make a decision.

"As for Scottish independence I find it hard to comment on that because I don’t live there, I don't know the hardships or the ins and outs but I’m an old sentimentalist; I’d hate to see the breakup of the union and the blue disappear on the Union Jack but if it’s good for Scotland, I’m happy.”

You’re In My Heart: Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is out now. Rod Stewart will play The SSE Hydro, Glasgow on November 26, 28 and 30 and Aberdeen P&J Live on December 7