At 87 years of age, Tony Bennett has understandably cut back on his touring and likes to perform in "nice theaters" only nowadays.

"I always tried to be myself," he recently told New Mexico’s Salina Journal, reviewing a career in music that has exceeded 60 years.

"If you try to imitate another singer, you'll just be a member of the chorus. To learn the phrasing of a song, imitate how a musician, an instrumentalist, would do it. Then be yourself, and you'll sound different from anyone. Sinatra, Nat King Cole -- they had different styles, but they were always themselves."

Tony Bennett’s daughter Antonia, a singer and pianist, has been opening for the 87-year old crooner for the past few years, most recently in Santa Fe on May 24.

His repertoire, he said, had generally been been based on high quality, intelligent songs. "I never tried to get a hit record, but I've had quite a lot of hit records,"  he declared. 

Bennett first topped the US charts in 1951 with Because of You, but 1962 was the year of his biggest hit around the world,  I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

He boasts a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and daily vocal warm-ups. "People don't think of age when I go out there," he said. "Audiences see me and say, 'Look what this guy is doing at 87.' I'm in top shape. I exercise three times a week and still do a lot of walking. I sleep well, wake up well and I do two things I love every day -- sing and paint."

Bennett paints under his birth name, Anthony Benedetto, and an exhibition of his paintings of legendary jazz musicians will be mounted later this year in Greenwich Village.

"I want to knock the audience out every time I go out there," he said. "I'll never give audiences anything cheap. And when audiences walk out feeling happy, it makes me feel so happy too.

"I just love to make people feel good. That's what I was put on Earth for." 

The singer also told the Salina Journal that he still doesn't like rock 'n roll. In March in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme the singer roundly criticised the music industry, saying songs do not have a “lasting quality.” He lambasted record companies for their lack respect for the public.

Bennett told Today that there is now such a focus on the young audience that families cannot enjoy music together. “The songs that are written today, most of them are terrible, " he said. "It’s a very bad period, musically, throughout the world for popular music.”

The crooner argued that the most important thing for the current music industry is money, rather than producing good material.