Before his one man show at Bonn Harmonie on Sunday, multi Canadian Award winner Steve Hill kindly took the time to talk about life as an electric one man band and the challenges of making those sticks stick.
Hello Steve and welcome to Bonn. Is this your first European tour as Headliner?
This is my second time in Germany, I was here last winter opening for Wishbone Ash. I’ve played in France and Belgium many times in the last 20 years
It seems all the Canadian musicians I meet have a debt to the late, great, Jeff Healey for getting them noticed early in their career. Do you have a story about Jeff?
Jeff Healey has had a big influence on me. His first album came out around the time that I started playing, and the first show ticket I ever bought was to see him. I opened for him and met him a few times over the years. Jeff was always the gentleman. I happened to be playing at his club the night that he died.
I’m assuming that, like many starting musicians, you began as a one man band because that was the economical way to get started early on. Where, when, and for how long, were you playing on the streets?
I was never actually a street musician, aside from a couple of months when I turned 18. I turned professional a few months after that and have been a professional musician for 25 years now.
I actually recorded six albums as a singer/ guitar player accompanied by a band before I started this one man band thing. At first I was just gonna do a few solo gigs between my band ishows to make ends meet. Being a studio owner, I decided to record some solo tunes in order to sell an album at those solo shows. It ended up being a proper record, probably outselling everything I had done before, and even winning album of the year at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. That was ‘Solo Recordings Volume One’.
Your bio calls you “An overnight sensation, 20 years in the making”. How did the ‘Overnight’ part come about? What was the breakthrough?
I had a lot of success in the province of Quebec where I’m from, but not in the rest of Canada until Solo Recordings Volume 2. For them it was as if I came out of nowhere, and I did win every possible award and broke records with this album (7 Maple Blues Awards in 2 years, Juno award etc). By that time though I had been a professional musician for over 20 years
Your musical style is Rock with a heavy Blues base to it. Who are your inspirations? Who did you grow up listening to?
Some people say my music is Blues with a heavy rock influence! I don’t know what it is, there’s Blues, different types of rock in there, country, folk… I have many influences ranging from Muddy Waters Hendrix Robert Johnson AC/DC Waylon Jennings Black Sabbath Grateful Dead Zeppelin Jerry Lee Lewis Chuck Berry Bo Diddley Albert King Gram Parsons And the list could go on and on…
As a one-man band, surely all your recordings would be ‘solo’, so your ‘Solo Recordings’ project isn’t surprising. Can you tell us about the project please Steve.
It’s called Solo Recordings because, as I mentioned earlier, before that I was not a one man band. I was not even a one man band when I started working on the first disc, ‘Volume 1‘. I became one as I recorded the album. The concept for all three records is that they’re recorded live in the studio by myself
Recording in a studio would give you the chance to also embellish your songs with other musicians and instruments that you yourself can’t play. Why record solo when you have the chance to colour your songs with the help of others?
Because that’s what I do! I’ve done plenty of records with other musicians but this run of records is called Solo Recordings and I’m going for something raw.
Folk music as a one-man band is not so unusual, but Blues-Rock is technically rather demanding I would think! You’re covering electric guitar and bass not to mention of course drums. How do you manage that? I like the clever drum stick on the end of your guitar for the hi-hat. Is that your own invention?
Yes I invented the drum stick on the headstock and from what I know I’m the only one crazy enough to do it standing up!
Do you, or have you considered, using loop pedals or backing tapes of any sort in your live shows?
I have no intention of using loopers. Don’t need them. I can handle it on my own. I’m way too old school to use machines
Any plans, or wishes, to go out and play as a full band with other musicians?
I’ll eventually work with musicians again but as to when it’s hard to say. I really enjoy doing what I’m doing right now.
What future plans do you have?
Future? I can’t predict the future, so who knows!