Steve Smyth interview and new video

Our Editor Bobby catches up with Australia-based musician and all-round legend, Steve Smyth:

Howdy Steve! Last time we saw each other was at Coogee Beach, when you emerged from the sea like an Adonis to say hello to me! Where are you at the moment? And how are things?
HA! Hey Bobby!! Was good to see you. I was hoping to catch you back in ol’ Blighty but I was on the run most of that tour. How you been matey? I’m in Sydney at the moment jumping around the country as much as one can here. Flippin burgers at my brother’s bar to get this new album out for June and living in a shed I restored/built that backs off King St, Newtown. All is well I feel.

Tell me a little about your new single, Shake It
Not to get too explanatory with its jive but it’s about living in/with a system or under a government in which you feel powerless to see or feel change . Sometimes the only way to shake it loose is when your eyes are closed and send your body to a naive abandonment on some unlucky dance hall… To shake the energy that wants to keep you in a passive conforming state. Dancing is a universal language, every culture has its accent, uniqueness and its empowerment. I believe in it.

You worked on the single with Joey Waronker and Gus Seyffert. How was it collaborating with those guys?
It was brilliant time for me to get to know these gentlemen, it was with great ease and kindred in direction. Top shelf musicianship and years of experience in their craft and working with artists in which I deeply respect. I was nervous to be in the room and hit it out with them but we found good friendship which I feel comes through with the record.

In the last month I have spent time with Juanita from Howling Bells and Kitty from Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, both of whom you have also collaborated with. They talked about you in the highest regard. Are either of them appearing on your upcoming album? And are there any other collaborations on your new record we should know about?
I wish that I could say they were, would have loved that indeed! It was recorded in ten days in a house on a hill in L.A., it was just us few and one or two of Gus and Joey’s mates that swung by for a hit. Maybe the next album 😉

steve smythWhat can we expect from the album? Is there much of a direction change from your previous record, Release?
I’m not really sure Bobby, I don’t really listen to the last one… But I feel like it has more extremities than Release. I dived deeper into exactly what each song asked for in its story. One track is horrific, another very pretty, the next is an open landscape and so on. I feel they came together in a run that I hope people will enjoy from start to finish. It may confuse some people, if they buy the record hoping that the single they heard will have an album the same or similar. Cause they are going to be a bit disappointed.

An artist’s second album is known as being notoriously difficult to create. Did you find the process harder/different to when you wrote and recorded Release?
Much different but not in any way more difficult. I had the songs, good people and the same excitement. Only a few more years in the game lets you feel not as green as you once were, though you get taught once it’s all done just how little you do know. It always knocks you for six. We were playing the tracks live to tape all together and all for the majoritively the first time. I knew what needed to happen but kept the door open for creativity in the moment we were bringing them to life.

Generally speaking, how does the songwriting process work for you? What makes you feel at your most creative?
I still have no idea about songwriting in a defining structure. Only when you feel it come on you better place yourself in front of a pen or an instrument quick smart. Then it can be when you’re strumming for so long you find you’re almost in a meditative state. I find it comes when you have your windows open and you’re waiting for a gust of wind to blow your curtains wild, then you may feel like a good storm is brewing… I don’t know really, some songs hit like lightning, some stuck around for days. But you know they were finished similar to when you make a perfect cup of tea.

I know you enjoy touring Europe. How was your most recent tour there? 
Incredible times! Great shows. I feel at home in Europe. I feel open arms to when i play there. I feel they have more of an understanding.

Will you be heading out again on a tour of Australia and overseas once your new album is out?
Yes, more touring here in Oz and getting back [to Europe] in July. I’m excited to let this album drop and get on stage with it!

What’s been your favourite live show experience thus far?
Ohhh man oh man, I can’t pin point it down to one?! Maybe south France in the middle of old Roman ruins with a few thousand people? Or maybe it was… they are all very special. So many, I’m very lucky!

Finally, tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you….
My real name is Robert. Lucky my parents called me Steve from once they got me home from hospital as I would have shared the name very close to a member from The Cure. 😀

‘Shake It’ is out now through Ivy League and is taken from Steve Smyth’s forthcoming album. Steve plays at Bigsound this year. Full line-up details can be found here.



Interview by Bobby Townsend.