Joel doesn’t even listen to pop these days, he says, unless his wife, Katie Lee, or his daughter, Alexa -- herself a singer-songwriter -- gets in the car and dials up a hit favorite. Instead, he now spends most of his time on classical music, both listening to and writing it. “Orchestral, symphonic, some for chamber orchestras, some for large orchestras,” he says.

But he doesn’t know when you’ll hear his latest compositions -- if ever. Your being able to hear what he’s writing isn’t what’s important to him right now. “What’s important is that I’m writing,” he says. “If it ever gets published and orchestrated and performed, then great. Maybe it will happen after I’m dead. It’s not a priority to me right now to have people hear what I’m doing. I kind of like not having that going on right now. … It’s hard for people to understand, I guess. ‘Don’t you want people to listen to your stuff?’ No.”

Don’t get him wrong: It’s not that Joel hates his part-time gig of touring with Sir Elton or playing those old songs that you know every single word of. He’s proud of all the songs because, as he puts it, “if it’s a well-written song, it doesn’t go away.” And heaven knows he’s got enough well-written songs to fill the rest of this story with their titles alone.

“It’s always very gratifying to hear your stuff on the radio,” he says. “I don’t go home and play my own albums, but if it comes on the radio, it goes right up to 10. I love that.”

Really? Still?

“Yeah, it’s cool,” he says, grinning.

“[Sometimes, I forget] what was in a recording, because I don’t listen to my own recordings anymore. The only time I hear them is when they come on the radio. Then, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we played guitar on that; we played bass on that.’ I like remembering what the session was like.”

And he enjoys the tours with Sir Elton, with whom he was often compared in the 1970s. They push each other, Joel says, challenging each other to dig deep during the three-plus hours they spend both apart and together onstage. Joel says he’d like to do an album with Sir Elton, though he has told the “Rocket Man” there could be no outside writers. “Because then, what would be the point?” he asks.