Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson “lost most of two years” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with tour cancellations and thwarted plans becoming the norm. “I’ve really got to try and pick up that lost time,” he says, “and make sure I don’t fall by the wayside.”

That plan involves a new Tull LP — and, no, not the one he’s currently promoting: The Zealot Gene, his first under that moniker since 2003’s The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. “I started work on a new project at 9:30 on Jan. 1 of this year,” he tells UCR's Matt Wardlaw. “I’m three and a half weeks into that now, [with] most all the essential music done and the first draft of all the lyrics. I’m on the way toward another project, which I hope to be able to send out to the guys in the beginning of March this year.”

He already has a target release date: March 2023. Perhaps that timeline is overly ambitious since he hasn’t finished writing the songs — but at age 74, Anderson feels motivated by the clock. “I can’t hang about," he adds. "Obviously, time is running out at my age, and I’m lucky to be active and mentally and physically able at the moment, but it won’t go on forever.”

Still, time hasn’t slowed down Anderson, the prog-folk band’s lone consistent member since 1968. He tends to trust his instinct and not overthink it — including the underlying concept for The Zealot Gene, drawing on Biblical themes.

“I get on and do it,” he says. “It’s not something to spend too much time [analyzing] why I’m doing it or how I’m doing it — I just trust my native ability to write music and lyrics, and it usually comes fairly quickly.”

Outside of his latest flurry of writing, Anderson eagerly awaits his return to live performance — including an upcoming run in Italy and dates under the banner of “The Prog Years.”

“This year, we’re focusing on some examples of the music that is generally described as 'progressive rock,'” he says. “There’s not much acoustic music — it’s all rock music, and it tends to be examples from several albums of more adventurous music, lyrically or musically. But it still spans the years from 1968 to 2022 — we’ve been playing the title track from The Zealot Gene since 2020 when we did actually manage to do two concerts before the pandemic brought everything to a standstill.”

Jethro Tull are hoping to incorporate “a couple more” new songs into the set list — but given their vast catalog of classic material, Anderson realizes he probably can’t play the whole LP from start to finish.

“I know we did that in years gone by, and we did it even in 2014 — we played all of the album Homo Erraticus on our tours in Europe,” he says.

“But the thing is, when you have so much repertoire, people understandably — whether they’re old fans or new fans — want to hear the landmark pieces of music. And I have enough of those that I can always come up with a set list where I don’t have to play what I was playing last time on the road.”

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