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Seasick Steve - Feelin' Blue

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
3d’s Carlisle Rogers speaks to blues musician Seasick Steve about fame and misfortune.

The music industry has more rags to riches stories than a lot of other industries. Guys like Charles Gayle, homeless for 20 years who became a world-renowned free jazz musician are legendary. Our own John Butler busked for years before becoming the first independent number one artist in the country. And Seasick Steve, hailing from anywhere, USA, who has been riding the railroads for half of his life, just signed a deal with Warner Brothers, while his debut is about to go gold in the UK.

A couple of years ago Steve dropped his solo debut, Dog House Music, on an obscure UK label, Bronzerat, and after a lifetime of moving around, working dozens of jobs, learning the blues and paying his dues, his number came up.

“It seems like some strange dream that I’m going to wake up from with a hangover,” Steve drawls. “I made this one record with some friends called Cheap and then I had a heart attack three or four years ago. I wasn’t going to play music anymore, but my wife was like ‘Why don’t you just sit in the kitchen and record some songs like you do when you sit around and play the guitar-’ And so that’s what I did and I didn’t think it was no record or nothing, but a friend of mine heard it over in England and they all went crazy and wanted to put the record out. All of a sudden I was on this big Jools Holland show, which millions of people watch. I was a nobody and the next minute I was famous. Then last summer I played all the big festivals, Glastonbury, and the thing just kept getting more and more crazy.”

On his past, he is reticent, but a little romantic. Steve says he left home young because it wasn’t much of a home. “I rode trains for too long. I had a bad home, so that was my way to escape,” he says. “I got into that and working. There are still people riding trains. It ain’t like it was years ago, but there are still plenty of people riding trains. It’s just a little harder now because the trains go faster and the people who do it now almost do it for sport. And then there a lot of homeless punk kids who do it. There ain’t too many what you call ‘hobos’ riding the trains anymore, but there are still some.”

Steve says even signing to Warner was strangely surreal, sitting in an office where the company’s A&R guys usually wooed 16 year olds with six figure sums.

“I’ll tell you something really funny, I’ve turned into some kind of big deal and normally they sign all these young kids,” he begins. “I’m sitting in the office and they are telling me all the blah, blah, blah they are doing and what they are going to do for me and that I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I could see in their brain they were thinking ‘Are we really having this conversation with this old guy-’ I could see on their face that they couldn’t believe they were actually offering me a record deal, some grandfather.”

WHO: Seasick Steve
WHAT: Plays The Basement / Dog House Music through Bronzerat/Inertia
WHEN: Wednesday 26 March / Out now