NEW YORK – David Gilmour was midway through finishing his first solo project in more than two decades when he got a buzz from Bob Geldof — would he mind reuniting with fellow Pink Floyd alumnus Roger Waters for a momentous concert to raise awareness of poverty in Africa.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a noble cause. How could Gilmour turn down such a prospect?
But he did — or at least he tried to.
"I said `No thank you. I support your cause but I think you can manage perfectly well without us,' and I'm sure he would have," Gilmour said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "But then he got Roger to call me up, and I started thinking again, and finally gave in again and agreed."
Last year's reunion with drummer Nick Mason, keyboard player Richard Wright and Waters was perhaps the biggest highlight of the global charity event Live 8 and even helped end some of the discord between Waters and Gilmour. But it put Gilmour's solo album further off track: "Trying to get the thread of what you were doing before to get back on track took a while," he recalled.
But this month, the thread finally came together with the release of "On an Island," which made its debut on the pop album charts at No. 6. Gilmour says the album's inspiration is "really my life, the place I've got to in my life right now, which is a pretty nice place to be. I'm grateful for it."
The album, which mixes instrumental jazz, some folk and, of course, rock, has been described by some as very Pink Floydian in many respects. It's the guitarist's first solo album since "About Face" in 1984; he also released the Waters-less Pink Floyd album, "The Division Bell," in 1994. But Gilmour was always thinking music: "I'm always jotting down little bits of pieces."
Eventually, with the encouragement of his lyrical collaborator and wife, writer Polly Samson, he decided to do something with those "pieces.
"A long time had gone by and I think I was getting quite a bit of itchy feet," he said.
Besides his wife, there are several other collaborators on the album, including two other luminaries from a classic rock group — David Crosby and Graham Nash, who perform on the title track. That wasn't so much a planned production but a chance encounter, Gilmour noted.
"They were playing a concert in London. I had a chat with them and I just thought, no harm in asking," he explained. "We went down to my studio, and we sat in front of my friends and they sang like birds and there's the result. ... It wasn't a big plan, or something that I really set out to make a list of people that I wanted. It's just the people that I bumped into and know and love and respect."
Of course, his most high-profile collaboration in years didn't take place on the album, but onstage. His reunion with Waters at Live 8 in London — despite the much-detailed acrimony that has enveloped the pair for years — not only caused Pink Floyd album sales to surge, it also renewed hope from fans that the pair may eventually put their differences behind them for a more substantial reunion down the road.
Waters in an interview last year with the AP shot down such speculation, and Gilmour does as well.
"I don't feel that I would get more happiness or satisfaction out of going back to that old thing. I don't think it's anything that I'm likely to feel like doing," he said.
Still, they were able to patch up things, to a certain extent, as a result of Live 8.
"It's defused a lot of stuff. I'm very thankful for that," he said.
And even though he has no plans for a reunion with Waters, his upcoming U.S. tour in April will feature not only his new material, but classics from the rock group's catalog.
"It is all part of what I've spent my adult life working on, and I still enjoy quite a lot of it," he said.