Seasick Steve

“No one under 50 should be a star”

Interview: Marcel Anders
Photography: Scott Campbell

The American bluesman got his big career break 11 years ago, aged 62. Before that, he was a bona-fide hobo. To The Red Bulletin he talks about becoming the real deal

THE RED BULLETIN: You’ve sold a million records since the release of your debut album in 2004, but your new, seventh album, Sonic Soul Surfer, was recorded at home and not in a high-tech studio. Aren’t you overdoing the modesty a bit?

SEASICK STEVE: That’s not why I did it at all. Nothing sounds better than my old reel-to-reel tape decks. You can forget your studio. Things were produced much better in the past. Take automobiles: ’50s cars still work today. Do you think we’ll be seeing cars from 1995 in 30 years’ time? They’ll already be rust.

Lets talk about your fashion choices. Why the lumberjack shirts and overalls? Do you never get the urge to put on a good suit? 

I have got photos of me as a four year old, where I am wearing the same clothes as I am now (Laughs). I have never even considered changing what I wear. 

 

“Summertime Boy” by Seasick Steve

So Seasick Steve isn’t a fictional character, Seasick Steve is the real deal?

There is no one else who I could be when I walk out onto that stage. I have no idea how other artists do it. I don’t even change my clothes. I am who I am. I had no idea that someone like me could be successful in the music business. 

What does success mean to someone like you, a busker that never had money?

Success means being able to pay my bills and not have to worry. I have got a dream job. I play gigs in front of 50,000 people. It is just surreal, like being in a daydream. That’s is why I am the happiest man on the planet.

What is your biggest luxury?

My cars. I have a 51 Chevy, a 55 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and an old motorbike – an Indian. The funny thing about it is, they don’t feel like old-timers when I drive them. They don’t seem old to me at all. They are just cars, cars that I have driven all my life.

How do fellow drivers react when they see you on the road?

I once had a banged up 49 Dodge that I drove from Norway down to France through Germany. I got some pretty crazy looks on the motorway. A Porsche driver even had to stop because he couldn’t believe what was creeping up on him to overtake (Laughs). It was as if I was driving a UFO or something! 

“I had no idea that someone like me could be successful in the music businness”
Seasick Steve

Do you follow modern day music?

I don’t listen to many new albums, but when I do discover something new then it is usually at festivals. But I do buy new records every now and then, like Michael Kiwanuka’s fantastic album, or Frank Ocean’s debut.

How do you feel about being idolised by the likes of Dave Grohl, Jack White and Nick Cave?

I got to know Dave at the Isle of White festival in England. He had seen my show and invited me check out his Foo Fighters gig. During the show he took a deep breath and said: „I say something truly breath-taking today. One of the best bands of all time.“ I had no idea who he was talking about, and then he called out my name and a stage light shone down on me standing there at the edge oft he stage! He came over and took me by the arm. What a gentleman! 

Were you able to learn anything from him?

The thing I love about Dave is that he always give 100% when he plays, just like Jack White. They sweat like pigs, I love that devotion to the cause.

When you look back at what you’ve achieved in such a short space of time, do you wish you’d started earlier?

Do you know something? No one under 50 should be a rock star. Music managers will tell you what you’ve got to do and promise you the Earth. When I was 20, I would have believed them and turned into a jerk. No, you’re better off waiting until you’ve got greater perspective and more life experience.

Seasick Steve’s new album Sonic Soul Surfer is out now! 

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05 2015 The Red Bulletin

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