So I promised an interview with Steve Rich, here it is. He is an honest storyteller, a Brit with Bob Dylan’s musical sensibility, but above all else a pretty chill dude. I enjoy his answers, and I hope you do as well.-Derek
Derek Kortepeter: Hey Steve, it’s real awesome of you to take the time to do this. So first off, tell me what drew you to music?
Steve Rich: When I was 17 or 18 everybody I knew was either into English house music or American rap. I wasn’t really into that stuff. Me and my brother used to put on our dad’s old vinyl records at home. Beach Boys, Beatles, Stones, Animals….one time I happened on his 1965 copy of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’….the sound hit me like nothing I can describe. That started me on this journey.
DK: The hybrid of blues, folk, and alternative sounds is a pretty interesting choice. Why did you decide to play music with these genres? Were there certain albums or songs that drew you in?
SR: Absolutely. Blues and folk music is so pure, so honest. I started to play it because it was a form of music that I felt I understood. I was never musical as a kid. I borrowed a guitar when I was 18 and I learnt how to play Bob Dylan songs. It was like opening a new world. ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is the greatest album of all time for me.
DK: Folk musicians are first and foremost storytellers, and from what I have been told and listened to, relationships and substance abuse are strong themes for your story. How do you break down your life experiences and pack them into your songs?
SR: I don’t do it consciously, not at the start anyway. I don’t sit down and think I’m going to write a song about alcoholism or a broken love affair. I tend to catch a mood and I’ll come up with a line and build around it until it starts to make some kind of sense.
DK: There seems to be a trend of folk influence coming back onto the mainstream airwaves (especially here in the States), what separates you from these artists?
SR: I don’t think folk music will ever go away. I don’t know if I’m different to anybody else….I wish life was more simple. I wish I didn’t walk into an advertisement as soon as I step out of the house.
DK: In the Facebook description for your music page it mentions Jack Kerouac. He happens to be one of my all-time favorite authors, do his books like “On the Road” and the “Dharma Bums” or others have an influence on your lyric writing?
SR: My mum is a great reader, when I was 18 she put ‘On the Road’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in my hands and just said “read these”. I really connected with those characters. We had Shakespeare at school you see…..Kerouac and JD Salinger made much more sense to me! I wanted to be able to talk like they did, like kids want to talk like rappers. I’m English and from the suburbs though so I can’t talk like a Beat poet any more than I can talk like a rapper. But maybe I can use a bit of that language in my writing.
DK: The debut album “Rolling Thunder” will come out this fall. What was the process of creating the album like?
SR: When I was writing the songs I was always thinking of the bigger picture, the album. And the album being like a book where all the songs are connected to each other. Writing an album to me is like writing a novel. Each song is a different chapter and the order of the songs is very important. I kept coming up with lines in my sleep and getting out of bed at 4am to get them down on paper. I couldn’t really think about anything else the whole time I was writing this album. It consumed me. It was a relief when it was finished.
DK: Tell me about your band “The Hills”?
SR: The Hills are named after Hillary who sings with me. Everybody calls her Hills. I put the band together to go out and do shows and play these songs in this style. All the guys are into American Country and Blues. We all love Steve Earle, he’s a common thread. The guys in the band aren’t young kids who just want to play as loud and as fast as they can. These guys play with a ‘feel’ that is just great.
DK: What do you want your audience to take away from your work?
SR: I want them to really listen, I hope that some people can really connect with the songs. I’d rather there be a hundred people who love this record than a million who think it’s just ‘ok’.
DK: Are there a lot of musicians performing this type of music in London right now? What’s the current music scene like to play in?
SR: No. Most of the bands in London are young indie bands or really heavy rock bands. It’s difficult for us at the moment as we’re pretty different from most of the bands gigging in London. There is a small Americana scene in England though. We should probably move to the U.S.
DK: I always like to ask musicians a variation of this question. What is your honest opinion about the state of music right now? What does it do right and what does it do wrong in your view?
SR: It’s tough for musicians to make a living. My problem with the X Factor and all the talent shows is that there is absolutely zero creativity or originality in any of them. The record companies will always go with a tried and tested formula and turn them into One Direction. I understand why because people love One Direction. They have a zillion fans. I just wish I could turn on the TV and see a bit more originality and creativity. If it gets harder and harder for original musicians and bands to make any money then you’ll stop seeing original musicians and bands.
DK: Anything else you want to say to the readers before we close?
SR: Thank you for taking an interest in this music. It’s real. Keep supporting real original music. Extraordinary beauty will always come out of it.
Steve Rich can be found at http://www.facebook.com/steverichandthehills