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This article was originally published in issue #53
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SH: I've always been fascinated by the instrument, I just never thought I could become a musician. In fact, I didn't even know you could find electric guitars in my hometown until I became friends with a bunch of guys who were already playing a bit, I had just turned 12.
This issue's Songwriter Spotlight features the inimitable, Steve Hill. The solo blues-rock machine released his new album “Solo Recordings: Volume 3” on October 20th, 2017 and to support the release; he is currently on tour with Wishbone Ash on their twenty-seven-date tour throughout the UK.
When it comes to one-man bands, guitarist and singer extraordinaire Steve Hill appears to have no limits. Anything goes. He performs standing up while singing and playing guitar, his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drumstick fused to the head of his trusty guitar, any other percussion within reach. This is no gimmick, however; Steve is the real deal. He's an overnight sensation that’s 20 years in the making. His ambitious and raucous music is truly a force to be reckoned with.
SH: I've always been fascinated by the instrument, I just never thought I could become a musician. In fact, I didn't even know you could find electric guitars in my hometown until I became friends with a bunch of guys who were already playing a bit, I had just turned 12. Two of them had electric guitars, one was playing drums, we had a piano at home, and none of my friends could play that so I started on piano. One of the guys who played guitar showed me the riff to Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive about a year after that. You could play the whole thing on the big string. I was hooked. Around the same time, I heard Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love," Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. There would be no turning back. I would be a guitar player from then on! I had my first band two years later, and we didn't even think about not writing songs! All our heroes would write songs, so we did. As with anything, it was really bad at first but the more you do it, the better you get.
SH: I'm not sure if it's really that important. I guess if you want to have a hit you gotta put that into consideration, but I was never into that. Of course, you want the listeners to enjoy your creation, but you can never please everybody. So I go for what I like, what feels right and I figure if I like it others will.
SH: I usually write on my own, but I also write with a friend of mine, Josh Parlett. We've been working together on and off for 20 years. He's a lyrics guy. I always write the music, sometimes the lyrics, very often I'll have a chorus and verse ideas and I'll need help to finish the song, and I always have a bunch of riffs or musical ideas that sometimes become songs. I was working on Vol 3, doing demos when Josh came to my place to help.
In 24 hours we had finished Dangerous and Slowly Slipping Away, which I had in the bank for a while but just couldn't finish on my own, and we wrote Troubled Times, Emily and another one that didn't make the album. A pretty productive day!
SH: Never studied it formally but I've worked with many great songwriters and learned from all of them. I also listen to music all the time. You can learn everything you need to know from listening to the greats and learning their songs.
SH: To listen to what's on the radio and try to write like that. First of all, I don't usually like what's on the radio and by the time you've written something that sounds like what you're copying, recorded it and released it, you're already too late, it's not popular anymore.
SH: I know when a song's over when I've given away the master, and the albums are being printed! I'll usually work on it right until the deadline, and I'll try to get a few extra days if I can.
SH: I've fallen in love again with my old 59 Gibson Les Paul Jr TV model. I've had it for 7 years, I bought many guitars since then but nothing seems to be able to top this one. It's been real good to me.
SH: Judas Priest! I've never really been into Metal, except for Black Sabbath. Never liked Priest until I heard 'British Steel' about 12 years ago or should I say before I really LISTENED to them, That album sounds so good! Screaming for Vengence is another one that's worth checking out. I've seen a lot of bands live and I've yet to find one that sounds as good.
SH: Across Canada, From out West back to Montreal. There's a song I wrote called "Nothing New" that was written when my crew and I drove from Regina back to Montreal in one 36 hour stretch, stopping only for gas and take-out food and to go to the bathroom. Canada is a huge country, it was in March, so when I started writing the tune the weather felt like Summer, by the end of the day we were in northern Ontario caught in a snowstorm and when we got to Ottawa it was Spring! When you tour as much as I do in these parts, there's literally "Nothing New" there!
SH: I have a routine that I do every day when I'm on the road. Some stretching, yoga, push-ups, set-ups and the likes. I always listen to "In A Silent Way" by Miles Davis while I do it. I never get tired of this album. It puts me in a nice vibe. I might play a bit of guitar and sing a bit. I might have a beer. Stretch the guitar strings to make sure they stay in tune.
He is currently on tour in the UK with Wishbone Ash from October 18th until November 18th.