Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabal says 'there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable' ahead of tour

Roland Orzabal knew that he and Tears for Fears partner Curt Smith had something special with their seventh album.

“The Tipping Point,” released in February, not only marked the band’s first release in 17 years, but its poignant songs of loss and healing solidified the profound chemistry between the pair.

“I think our partnership is rooted in our friendship,” Orzabal, 60, tells USA TODAY.

The guitarist/singer is reflecting on the past seven years of his life, which included a failed attempt by Tears for Fears’ previous management to coerce the duo to write with current hitmakers and Orzabal – reeling from the 2017 death of his wife of 35 years, Caroline – completing his second rehab stay in Colorado.

Tears for Fears - Curt Smith (left) and Roland Orzabal - resumed their fruitful partnership a few years ago and will hit the road May 20 to tour behind their new album, "The Tipping Point."

“By the end of 2019, I just knew when we tried everything and I’d been through the mill emotionally that the way forward lay in just the two of us,” he says from Los Angeles, where he and Smith are prepping for their Friday tour kickoff in Cincinnati. “I don’t know what it was, an inner voice telling me this was really important, maybe? I was so confident that I would get together with Curt with no one else involved – no democracy, no teams, just the two of us – and I had this really crazy sense that he would provide a spark. And he did.”

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Many of the songs on “The Tipping Point” – the title track, “Please Be Happy,” “Rivers of Mercy” among them – are emotion-soaked contemplations about crawling out of bleakness and seeking contentment. Not all of them will fit cozily on their set list amid such lush fan favorites as “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” “Mad World,” “Head Over Heels” and omnipresent ‘80s essentials “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

Tears for Fears’ live shows typically include about 17 songs, and Orzabal says the coming tour, which runs through June 25 with Garbage opening, will probably land at about 20 offerings. Some of the more sensitive new material, such as “Please Be Happy,” won’t be performed (“That one is too close to the bone,” Orzabal says). But it’s currently “Rivers of Mercy” that he’s fretting about learning for a live audience.

Tears for Fears' first album in 17 years, "The Tipping Point," proved a critical and artistic triumph for the duo.

“(That song) has so much peace and forgiveness in it," he says. "But we’re in the business of communicating emotions through music. There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable – there’s a strength in it. I make a fool of myself all the time, anyway. We did a Q&A thing in London, and I wound up bawling my eyes out. Ultimately, it’s about connection and this beautiful glue that bypasses the rational part of the brain and weaves a trail to your heart.”

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Even in the years that Tears for Fears spent sidelined, their music never disappeared from public consciousness due to other artists’ ongoing infatuation with their songs – one in particular.

“‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ feels like it doesn’t belong to us anymore,” Orzabal says, with wonder rather than bitterness in his voice. “It’s just a great song and so many people play it so well. The Weezer cover – how did they make it sound like Weezer? And Lorde’s cover is incredible, like what Gary Jules did with ‘Mad World.’”

Orzabal continues in an effusive tone.

“An artist called Brothertiger covered all of (1985’s) ‘Songs From the Big Chair’ – the whole album!” he says. “That is brilliant. I think we might have to play his versions before we go on stage. His ‘Mothers Talk’ is better than ours.”

The British duo Tears for Fears - Curt Smith (left) and Roland Orzabal - have reinvigorated their career with the 2022 release of "The Tipping Point."

Orzabal, who remarried last year and says he “moved from being plagued by the past to being open to a new future,” isn’t sure what Tears for Fears will do following their U.S. tour and a summer run through the U.K., but he knows that continued promotion of “The Tipping Point” is a priority.

“We’re keen to see what this album does,” he says, recognizing something special when he feels it. 

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