Vancouver, on a sun-dappled Saturday afternoon, seems an unlikely place to meet Elvis Costello. It feels too much at ease, too lacking in sharp edges. All morning, I've been walking in Stanley Park, dodging the joggers and cyclists circling the waterfront with its tethered yachts and pleasure boats, while relistening to a selection from Costello's 33 albums on a loop through my headphones. The soundtrack doesn't fit, quite. Though he is capable of the full range of human emotion, the staples of "guilt and anger" that he identified once early in his career "after 14 Pernods" as his songwriting stock-in-trade remain dominant themes. The voice is not always used in the attack mode that has long made it such an insistent weapon, but it still carries an unrivalled degree of hurt and vitriol when required. You'd hesitate, in this sense, to suggest that Costello had mellowed; he still, no doubt, has little desire to venture in the vicinity of Chelsea; even so, when I meet him in a cafe near the water, he cuts a chipper figure – all gap-toothed smiles and heavy specs and winklepickers and carrying his silver fedora in a toughened box. Contrary to appearances, as he sits down among the latte drinkers in their chinos and leisurewear, he says he has rarely felt more at home than he has here. Most of that has to do with his third-time-around marriage, to the Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall. After our interview, he explains, he has to dash home to look after his twin four-year-old boys. Krall is playing in Lima, Peru, so he is the stay-at-home dad for a weekend. They have been married seven years now and absences still seem to be making hearts grow fonder. "We have a lot of time apart, which makes for a lot of longing," he says. "Monday night will be great when Diana is home and we can be a family with the boys until one of us has to leave again. That seems to keep things alive, for us anyway."
He appears, I suggest, for someone who, in his public persona at least has always looked a little at odds with the world, to be more content than he has ever been. He flinches a little at the thought. "I don't know if content is the right word," he says. "Content is a word that has never sat well with me. Like 'maturity'. They are two words I've never liked. I think they imply some sort of decay. A settling."