How Def Leppard's Joe Elliott keeps that famous voice going -- and going and going

Wendy Geller
Senior Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

There are a handful of rock vocalists whose voices are unmistakable from the very first few words of any of their songs. Def Leppard’s frontman Joe Elliott is in that club — and now fans can hear him for the first time on streaming services (the band, one of the longest digital holdouts, finally allowed their catalog online Jan. 19). They can also, if they’re lucky, catch him on tour this year, as part of a massive 58-date North American joint tour with Journey, which runs May through September.

Elliott’s voice is not only highly recognizable, it’s been put to some serious hard work over the years, as well. If his work on the road with Def Leppard weren’t enough, Elliott isn’t one to rest on his laurels between the band’s tours, which have been going on nearly every year since 2005. The singer likes to keep busy with various side projects such as Down ‘n’ Outz and Kings of Chaos as well as putting his chops to a good deal of songwriting.

Long story short, there’s not a lot of downtime overall for one of the most famous voices in rock ‘n’ roll. Elliott is also 58, and has kept this up for some decades now. However, his voice still sounds undeniably incredible. How does he keep his cords in shape?

During a visit to BUILD Studios in New York City, Elliott revealed the surprisingly simple secret to taking care of his pipes: “I shut up. I sing and I go to bed,” he laughs.

“I watch movies a lot because they kind of encourage you not to talk. And you’ve just got to be clever and sensible about it, we don’t do three [shows] in a row, or four in a row. We do two at most. For us it’s all about doing a good show, not millions of shows.”

Elliott admits that he exercises caution regarding his lifestyle these days, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any fun. “I don’t spend a great deal of time in the bar, but we go out,” he says. “If it’s a day off tomorrow, yeah, we’ll have a drink that night before. The last time I was in a bar on tour was in Chicago just because Iron Maiden were in town…we went down and had a drink. But this is an instrument. And I’ve got to watch it. It breaks down if you damage it.”

Although he advises “You’ve got to be as fit as possible on the road,” Elliott admits that even the most careful preventative strategies can be thwarted.

“Everyone gets ill,” he notes. “Whether a singer losing his voice or a guitarist stupidly slicing his finger cutting an orange, it happens. Daft things happen to people. There are things you can’t help. You walk on an elevator and someone sneezes in your face!” 

Overall, though, as he told the BUILD audience, it’s always been in his favor to protect his British-accented voice — which, he jokes, has brought plenty of side benefits over the years, including some welcome attention from female fans in America.

You’d be amazed what this accent does in Texas,” he wisecracked. “It doesn’t do a thing in England, they wouldn’t touch you in England, but sound like this in America? It’s like ‘ooh….you’re cute.’ With a bag on your head, you’re cute!” 

Watch BUILD’s full interview with Joe Elliott at top.

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