December 5th 2011
He’s gone from Son of God to father-of-two, but becoming a dad again hasn’t slowed Steve Balsamo down. Here the West End star-turned-rocker tells Nathan Bevan about cosmic co-incidence, performing with his childhood musical hero and giving Robert Plant singing lessons
STEVE BALSAMO is a big believer in serendipity. The former West End star-turned-rocker recently became a dad for a second time to a bouncing baby boy born at 2.22pm on Friday, November 11
And 2.22, 11/11/11, as he’s keen to tell me, is quite significant chain of digits in numerologist circles.
“Some friends of mine who are into that sort of thing have informed me that those numbers together have a very auspicious meaning,” says the Swansea-born singer.
“So we’ve named him Frankie Balsamo, and with a name like that he’ll either end up a boxer, a rock star or a gangster – or all three.
“Personally, I’ve always been more into psychic phenomena and, without being too hippy-dippy about it, usually take note of the significant events that occur in my life and see if they correlate with other things further down the line,” adds the 40-year-old.
Talking of which, I tell Balsamo that next summer my sister (who’s a big fan) is holding her wedding reception in the same Swansea hotel where I first interviewed him back in 2006.
“See! There you go, spooky,” he laughs, adding that since his Elton John-approved West Coast-style rock outfit The Storys broke up a few years back he’s been gigging around the world with one of his childhood heroes – Deep Purple’s keyboard maestro Jon Lord.
“God, I was huge Purple fan growing up and loved their singer Ian Gillan’s turn as the Messiah on the album version of Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar,” he adds – a part which, co-incidentally, Balsamo would later go on to make his own when it became an acclaimed London stage production.
“In fact, if I’m honest, I pinched most of his chops for my own rendition.”
And it was performing at a cancer charity event organised by Lord’s wife that turned the 70-year-old legend onto Balsamo’s impressive three and a half octave range voice.
“Next thing I know I was part of his band and performing a show halfway up a mountain in Switzerland,” says the singer, who was first prompted to perform in his teens as a means of competing with a then-girlfriend’s crush on Jon Bon Jovi.
“Ever since then me and Jon have been writing songs, largely classical crossover numbers that we’ve thought about getting Bryn Terfel to sing, really beautiful stuff.
“Unfortunately though Jon is battling cancer himself and isn’t well at the moment, so we’ve had to put a few things on hold,” adds Balsamo – although he later emails to say that, serendipity again perhaps, Lord had phoned him shortly after our chat to say he’s feeling much better.
So that means the pair’s recent re-recording of part of Purple’s groundbreaking 1969 Concerto For Group And Orchestra, also featuring Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, should get to see the light of day soon.
“Proper rock royalty that lot, it was a thrill to be asked,” says Balsamo.
Until then though the Italian-blooded dad-of-two has got his “Celtic Americana” musical project with winsome Anglo-Dutch-Indonesian folk singer Rosalie Deighton to occupy most of his time.
“I love Rosie, I’ve know her for ages and she ended up joining The Storys in 2008 when Dai (Smith, guitar) left – she’s fabulous, got a voice just like Emmylou Harris,” he smiles.
“At the moment the group’s called Balsamo/Deighton, which sounds a bit like a firm of solicitors, but I quite like that though.
“It’s quite an eclectic sound, with a bit of cajun in there – a bit like that Grammy-winning bluegrass/country album Robert Plant did with Alison Krauss a while back.”
And while we’re on the subject of certain ex-Led Zeppelin front men...
“The Storys played at Radio Two DJ Bob Harris 60th birthday and Robert had seen us and liked our harmonies,” recalls Balsamo.
“So when he rang me up asking if I knew anything about Appalachian mountain music I automatically found myself saying, ‘Yeah, sure’, when what I really meant was, ‘No, haven’t a clue’,” he laughs.
“In any case, what on Earth can I tell Robert Plant that he doesn’t already know – he’s sold a gazillion albums for God’s sake!
“But that still didn’t stop me finding myself in a recording studio with him going, ‘Mmm, that sounds great Robert, but what if you try it like this’?” he smiles.
“You can’t help but love it though when someone of his stature still has such great love and enthusiasm for music – I mean, he could just be out playing golf or something.”
And would he ever consider rekindling his love for the stage, having originally found such great acclaim there back in 1996?
“Never say never, that’s my motto,” says Balsamo. “I keep getting asked and occasionally I’ll go along and sing something just for the craic.
“I’ve not done that sort of performance in a long time but I take my voice very seriously and have a great vocal coach in London whom I go and see all the time.
“The voice is like a muscle, a tool that needs a constant workout,” he adds.
“But people’s ranges generally change over time and they tend to get lower the older you get, so I’d have to see.
“Then again, everything starts to drop when you hit 40, so it might be nice to be told I have a lovely bottom end,” Balsamo laughs.