Even in the decadent world of rock, this one came out of left field — the sudden cancellation of chime-pop trio Keane's fall 2006 tour so boyish-faced, angel-throated frontman Tom Chaplin could enter London's Priory rehab clinic.
"But it was a time when someone needed to put the brakes on, specifically me," recalls the singer, who became an overnight tabloid-news target in the process. "And obviously, the way it came about was fairly depressing and sad. But as a result, we've become a stronger band. We were able to resolve a lot of things that may have just bubbled under the surface for years had it not come to a head."
Keane's recent single "Spiralling" — penned by band Svengali/keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley — poetically details the singer's Dantean descent into drug and alcohol addiction.
Meanwhile, the revitalized combo, with new bassist Jesse Quin on board, is finally making that long-overdue world trek, backing its new third album, Perfect Symmetry. The CD's other tracks show an almost brotherly empathy for Chaplin's predicament, from the Bowied-out "Better than This" to the quietly optimistic coda "Love is the End" ("Now is the time of our comfort and plenty / These are the days we've been working for / Nothing can touch us and nothing can harm us / No, nothing goes wrong anymore").
The set is autobiographical, Chaplin explains, "because Tim's always written with the three of us in mind, not purely from his own feelings. Everything you do together as a band inevitably creeps into the lyrical side."
In the aftermath of Chaplin's rehab, at a point when things were looking their darkest, an unusual benefactor took him by surprise: "My manager said, 'Elton's on the phone.' And I was like, 'There is really only one Elton that I know of!' And I was quite shocked that it was him. But he's seen everything, he's been through it all, and he said, 'I see a lot of the way I was behaving 20 years ago in things I've read about you, and I just wanted to see if you're OK and if there's anything I can do.' So I went to Vegas and hung out with Elton, and he was very encouraging."
What advice did Sir Elton John offer during their pivotal summit?
"He said, 'Make amends — go and speak to the people you've upset and try to put things at rest for them and yourself, then move forward,'" says Chaplin, who keeps a low celebrity profile in the remote Kentish countryside these days. "Everything we've done in the last few years since those difficult days has been about trying to either live in the present or look forward to what we've got coming up in the future. The more you see the world through clear eyes, the better."
Plus, there's safety in numbers, Chaplin believes. In Keane these days, "it's much more of a gang mentality, with all of us looking out for each other."
What's more, Elton even gave him his private number, just in case.
"And I live in fear of phoning him up," he admits. "But I know that he'd be more than happy to speak to me if I felt like I was descending into any kind of troubles again."Purchase Perfect Symmetry: