Thursday, April 17, 2014



 Alice Mascarenhas and Jonathan Sacramento Interview Vocalist Steve Balsamo

 Steve Balsamo is not just a two-dimensional singer, he is a student of the voice who has drafted into his repertoire a range of influenced from different cultures, including Western and even Mongolian throat singing. Steve not only has an incredible voice, but is fascinated with the effect of the voice on mood and emotion, and is constantly on the look out for new techniques and new teachers to learn from.Most famous for his fabulous rendition as Jesus in the 20anniversary production of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar, Steve's career has already seen him display a range of talents, from rock bands, to musicals, and now his pop record 'All I Am'.

Yet the young man from Swansea is humble enough to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground. You don't describe yourself as a musicals singer/actor despite the fact that you've come across very well in both the musicals you've done. Why is that? I don't describe myself as anything other than a singer. The route I took back home was firstly to come through Jesus Christ Superstar, that's how I got recognition. I was singing in bands and writing songs before that, but I really got recognised when I got the part of Jesus in 1997.I was able to, luckily, make the leap from that into pop music. Superstar was such a high profile thing I was recognised by record companies.

What was your experience like in Jesus?Playing Jesus was is hard thing. I did a lot of research, read a lot of books, went to see a lot of plays, watched a lot of films. Probably every culture in the world has some sort of image of the crucifixion scene, so performing that over 400 times and keeping it fresh was not easy. It becomes very tiring, and also takes its toll on the voice- there was no drinking, smoking or partying for a year to keep it fit.

Was it something you'd think of doing again?I may do, I never ruled anything out. I never set out to be a musicals actor or singer, I set out to be a singer and this is one of the things that was part of a pre-destined route in my career.I am currently involved in a project by Eric Wolfson (the writer in the Alan Parsons project) who's written a musical based on Edgar Allan Poe. We've recorded a record which will be released in Germany and Holland in September. It's a 'rock concept' musical kind of like what Superstar was when it came out.What was your favourite song from JCS?My favourite songs were probably the Judas songs, I think they are better songs. But of course Gethsemane was the song I was recognised for.I know Andrew Lloyd Weber liked the performance very much, he was there during rehearsals and he was very complimentary and supportive.

How did you get to Notre Dame de Paris from Superstar?I got asked to do that. It was a huge phenomenon in France, I was working with Sony at the time and Sony records were putting out an English version. I think that having done something as high profile as Superstar people know what I can do, and even though I still have to audition, I am in the position that people are forthcoming in asking me to play parts.

What direction do you want to take now?I released an album with Sony Records aimed at the pop market, which was great and I had some amazing fun. It was a personal expression of where I was at the time. Now I'm part of a new band comprising four or five different singers who are all fantastic, and four or five writers who are all fantastic. I don't take the lead vocals on some of the songs- there's a lot of harmonising and is really going back to the music I grew up listening to. It's a little rockier than my album, but that's how I started, playing in rock bands in Wales.You grew up in South Wales, which has become an excellent breeding ground for musicians over the last few years.

Why do you think this is? I tell you something, South Wales has been an amazing breeding ground for musicians for a long time. What the industry didn't do is go down there. 25 years ago Ireland was the butt of British jokes, but they reinvented themselves and put an infrastructure in place to nurture talent. Then you had really amazing bands like U2 come out of there. Around five to seven years ago- in my view- the music industry exhausted talent in England, Ireland and Scotland, and looked to Wales. There is a huge music scene in Wales, and bands like Catatonia and Stereophonics have emerged 100 years ago, people who used to work underground in mines for six days a week used to come out on Sundays and sing in chapels and churches. This huge choir society grew up from that. I'd love to see a merging of American Gospel music with Welsh male voice choirs.Gibraltar has been linked with the Southwest of Britain in time for the European Elections.

Do you identify any cultural ties between Gibraltar and Wales?Gibraltar is very much like Wales. Because it's so small, you always know what everyone else is doing, and there's a great in interest in other people. There's also a great music scene here. We've been here a couple of days and we've seen more than twenty bands in concerts and jam sessions. There's a Welsh sort of feeling here, which is very much like Wales, and some of the roads and areas in Gibraltar remind me of Swansea. We were walking down Main Street the other day and I thought we were in Neath.

What sort of reception have you had from the Gibraltarian people?Very good. It's very exciting. Some of the VIPs are part of my new band and we've written a lot of new songs, so it's been really exciting to have the chance to play some of these songs for the first time. We had a feeling they were good, but we've had the chance to play them for audiences without any pressure because nobody knows us here. It's nice to get a fresh set of ears. When something is new, on a spiritual level it's a good indication of how something is going to carry through ultimately.

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