Elton John provided inspiration as James Hetfield continued writing sessions for Metallica's next album.

They performed John's "Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding" during the March ceremonies where he and longtime co-composer Bernie Taupin received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Hetfield came away "challenged" – and inspired.

Metallica then took a break, only getting together for a few loose jams, before preparations began for ongoing European dates in support of 2023's '72 Seasons.

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"The time off has been pretty fantastic but, at the same time, I missed playing with the guys," Hetfield tells The Metallica Report podcast. "And I let them know, 'Man, I miss jamming with you guys!'"

Hetfield spent much of this downtime working on new songs while hidden away in a makeshift basement studio. John's signature medley from the 1973 multi-platinum double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road stuck with him. "The Elton John thing was so fantastic – had a blast there," Hetfield adds. "Elton, what a beautiful soul."

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It may have been a vacation, but Hetfield continued "playing guitar pretty much every day. I have to. It's like breathing," Hetfield confirms. "Whether it's an escape from life or whatever it is, I love my little music room basement. I've got a computer, a few guitars and a little rig set up. It is my soul-nourishing place, to go in there and just play and write. Not so much practicing; it's just writing."

As for the songs, "I get inspired [by] all kinds of different music, listening to it. Even the Elton John thing, hanging out with Elton and Bernie Taupin challenged me. Watching [the 2019 John biopic] Rocketman and seeing how they wrote – Elton is such a visionary in the way that Bernie sets a set of lyrics, a poem, in front of him and he sees the music just appearing, which is bizarre to me. I'm more of the old Tony Iommi way, where, 'Here is the riff, and we build around the riff,' you know?"

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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