Preview: STEVE WINWOOD
Seneca Niagara Casino
Friday January 23, 2009
STILL IN THE GAME…..
Few artists have had the integral impact in the music cosmos as
The Rock and Soul Pioneer whose suave
voice and unparalleled instrumental prowess are woven into the
fabric of four decades of musical history.
The 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll
Hall of Fame inductee began his extraordinary musical journey
with the SPENCER DAVIS GROUP in 1965 at the age of sixteen.
Following a successful
stint through the mid-sixties
along with longtime collaborator JIM CAPALDI, CHRIS WOOD and DAVE
MASON would form the influential Hall of Fame band TRAFFIC.
In between TRAFFIC jams
in 1969 WINWOOD
would join forces with ERIC CLAPTON, GINGER BAKER and RICK GRECH
to conceive one of Rock ‘n’ Rolls first “super-groups” BLIND
FAITH. While the endeavor would only produce one album, it would
be one for the ages delivering the expansive jams “Can’t Find
My Way Home” and “Presence of the Lord”.
contributions were far from over with the halting of TRAFFIC in
1974 as he would embark on a distinguished solo career with his
self-titled release in 1977.
His career continued to
ascend throughout the next three decades with chart topping hits
that include: “While You See a Chance”, “Higher Love”,
“The Finer Things” and “Don’t You Know What the Night
Can Do”, to name just a few.
The New Year finds
“Back in the High Life Again” with his recent
release “Nine Lives” which charted at number twelve on the
Billboard Charts, his highest U.S. debut ever.
He also was most recently
recognized in the Rolling Stone Top 100 Greatest singers of all
time chiming in at number thirty-three.
The Rock Rapport had the
delightful opportunity to chat with
STEVE WINWOOD (www.stevewinwood.com)
as he gets ready to “Roll with It” inside the Events Center
at the Seneca Niagara Casino (www.senecaniagaracasino.com)
this Friday Night.
Thanks so much for taking some time out for the Rock Rapport
it’s truly an honor to speak with you.
problem at all it’s a pleasure.
If I’m not mistaken your last visit to the Buffalo was this
past summer and included quite the electrical storm complete with
a few power outages during the
summer tour at Darien Lake.
right I do remember that evening quite well, we played on and the
fans were great for hanging in there for the show despite the
Congratulations on an exceptionally auspicious 2008 with the
release of “Nine Lives”; your ninth solo studio album
which garnered both critical and commercial success.
Thank you very much. Yes I’m extremely
proud that the new music is still reaching people.
that great cover photo on the new disc a young
playing guitar in his father’s band?
exactly right, I believe I was about eight or nine years old when
that photo was taken. In those days every wedding or birthday
party would include a live band so my father would play all the
classics from the 30’s and 40’s.
After my brother MUFF and
I where born Rock ‘n’ Roll began to rear it’s ugly head and stir
in the bosom of Jazz and Dance musicians, so as young men we where
roped into playing all different styles of music.
Of course growing up
having to learn the dance music from my father’s era it managed to
stay with me and found its way into what I do.
Lets talk about the world music sounds of “Nine Lives”,
what is the writing process like for a dexterous
multi-instrumentalist like yourself; do you arrange most of the
songs from the piano or from the strings?
for me it’s different every time, at the end of the day there are
no formulas for song writing. Even if you do find one particular
way that you like to work you end up trying to change things up
again to explore a different direction.
For me the music
materializes universally, it could be a beat or a groove or even a
chord progression, I’ve even worked from the title of a song.
The adage is that music
is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration and very often it is. It’s
not always in those particular proportions but there is always an
element of perspiration in trying to knock the songs into shape.
you mentioned creating music can be very laborious, being such a
prolific musician and songwriter what are your feelings on the
Reality Talent shows that seem to create superstardom overnight?
are some very talented people in these televised talent shows. I
think in some ways it’s created a renaissance for some of the 60’s
and 70’s music through each of the pop oriented contestants.
get back to “Nine Lives” one of the several stellar songs
is the ethereal track “Dirty City” which sees you reunited
with your one time BLIND FAITH band mate ERIC CLAPTON joining in
for a feverish guitar solo. How did that long overdue
paths have most certainly gone in slightly different directions
since we played together in BLIND FAITH. I had the pleasure to
reconnect with ERIC again a few summers back as he kindly invited
me to play with him at the Crossroads Festival. It really turned
out to be a great success; it was a real honor for me to play with
musicians of that caliber.
ERIC and I had so much
fun playing together again we decided to play some more shows
which subsequently culminated with the three concerts at Madison
Square Garden not quite a year ago.
I happened to be working
on “Nine Lives” while we where rehearsing arrangements and putting
together set lists for those shows; at the time I couldn’t quite
figure out the end portion of the song “Dirty City”, it occurred
to me that ERIC would be the perfect fit, and indeed he was.
Interestingly enough I
asked him if he wanted me to send him the song so he could get a
listen to it and he said “No”. He just wanted to step in and play
the first idea that came into his head which is exactly what he
did. I think it’s fantastic and I truly think it’s some of the
best guitar work he’s done in a long time.
had the absolute thrill of making the road
trip to Madison Square Garden to witness one of the entrancing
performances with CLAPTON, what was that experience like
rekindling that on stage spirit after so many years?
It was a great experience, what really
captivated me in sharing the stage with ERIC again is how he’s
developed as an artist. What I mean by that is back in the BLIND
FAITH days ERIC didn’t sing; he didn’t really want to sing, he had
no desire to be a band leader he left that to me. Of course since
then he’s become a fabled singer and band leader in his own right.
It really was a pleasure
to sing together this time around seeing how our voices blended
and meshed together.
tell me that those momentous Madison Square Garden shows where
captured for DVD release.
they certainly were, we’ve just recently been looking at some
final edits so that should be out early in 2009.
I recently read the CLAPTON autobiography a must read by the way;
what a fascinating history you’ve shared with him not just
artistically but on a personal level.
On numerous occasions in
the book he describes what a pivotal role you played in his
sometimes precarious youth.
At one point CLAPTON even
lobbied to have you join CREAM as it was coming apart at the
seems, stating in his book: “I
had been thinking a lot about STEVE WINWOOD who I had heard left
TRAFFIC, when I was first having my doubts about CREAM it used to
cross my mind that he was the only person I knew with the
musicianship and power to keep the band together. If the others
had shared my interest and let him I, CREAM could have evolved
into a quartet with STEVE as the front man, a role for which I
lacked not the capability but the confidence.”
relationship started in the mid-sixties, I was only sixteen at the
time and ERIC was a few years older then me, he really took me
under his wing in the
London music scene. I
would go out with him to clubs and he’d introduce me to his
friends and we’d jam together. He really helped open up some
doors for me early on.
the reunion of sorts with CLAPTON and reflecting back on your
unprecedented career; do you think that the influential bands you
where part of early on like SPENCER DAVIS, BLIND FAITH and TRAFFIC
where so far ahead of their time musically that they where
destined to be short lived?
perhaps, I mean each situation was slightly different. I was very
young when joining the SPENCER DAVIS GROUP and we were just really
copying the music that we were hearing on the radio. In essence
we just wanted to spread the wonderful American R & B music to the
world that we were being influenced by.
Of course I soon realized
that I couldn’t be MUDDY WATERS, JOHN
LEE HOOKER or HOWLIN’
WOLF so I had to then create my own way of getting that music
With TRAFFIC we really
made a concerted effort to combine all the elements of Jazz, Rock,
Blues and R & B what ultimately became the term World Music.
BLIND FAITH was so short
lived for a lot of complicated reasons, first and foremost was the
financial pressures put on the band. There where a lot of
demands put on us both in the studio as well as in our live
Also in reading ERIC’S
book you will see that it was a transitional time in his life.
That being said, I too had some different changes going on in my
life as well, so we just kind of drifted apart. I’m very glad to
say that we did get back together again in recent times and it’s
been a great thrill for me.
Let’s delve into your impressive solo catalog, you took the
term “solo” quite literally with the release of “Arc of a Diver”
and “Talking Back to the Night” in the early 1980’s.
Was it your intent from
the onset of recording these particular records to play every
instrument on both albums?
because the technology at the time was allowing that and so I
wanted to exploit and explore the technology as a tool for making
I’ve always thought
that there are two distinct ways to make records, I liken it a
little bit to cinema and theatre.
When making a film you
shoot pieces all at different times and then put it together so
that it makes a story. You can actually do the same when making
an album by recording everything at different times and then
bringing it all together.
The other technique as in
the case of a theatre production where all the actors or musicians
collaborate on stage simultaneously with the performance having a
beginning and end; which I would say is the traditional way of
making a record.
talk about your longstanding synergy with the late great
percussionist JIM CAPALDI; it reaches as far back as the SPENCER
DAVIS GROUP’S classic “I’m a Man” and is evident through
all the various stages of your career, talk about the chemistry
you shared with him.
talent as a percussionist was and is unprecedented, what is all
too often overlooked was his tremendous abilities as a songwriting
He is truly missed by the music masses; he was an
inspiration to work with musically and it’s an honor to have
called him a friend.
such an incredible body of work to chose from what goes into
selecting a set list for a show outside of presenting new
question; we try to play a little bit of something form all the
different periods of my career going all the way back to the
SPENCER DAVIS GROUP through BLIND FAITH as well as the three
different chapters of TRAFFIC. Then we delve into the early solo
work in the eighties on through to the present day records “About
Time” and “Nine Lives”.
Rock Rapport would like to
Thank STEVE WINWOOD
as well as Susan Cistone from Sony BMG for making this