Saturday, February 6, 2016

Steve Balsamo launches new album in Swansea: "I'm always writing songs, it's like an addiction"

The Storys might have called it a day, but former frontman Steve Balsamo just can't stop songwriting. He talks to MARK REES ahead of the launch of the new Balsamo Deighton album in Swansea tonight.

Much-missed Swansea rock band The Storys had a very simple, and highly effective, philosophy to their music: it was all about the song.
A philosophy which former frontman Steve Balsamo has adhered to with his current project, Americana duo Balsamo Deighton.
"We always used to say that 'the song is the king'," he explains ahead of the launch of his new album Unfolding, which will be unveiled at High Street's Coast Italia this evening.

 In fact, he describes the whole art of songwriting as something of a mystical process, a compulsive drive which he seemingly has little control over.
"It's magical," says Steve, who has penned songs for the likes of Meat Loaf, Anthony Callea, Jonatan Cerrada and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.
"I'm always writing songs, it's like an addiction. What's amazing is that you start with nothing, and then a magic, or alchemy happens.
"You go into a room, and when you come out six hours later you've willed something into existence.

"When those songs go out the door, you have no idea where they're going to land, and what I've noticed is that the more personal you make things, the more they connect with people."
Steve recalls one in particular which has had a profound effect on him, both as a person and as a songwriter.
"When we play the song Unfolding, I tell the story of it beforehand," he says of the title track from his latest full-length offering.
"It's one of my favourite songs that I've ever been involved with.
"A lot of the songs on the album have got a big sound, very poppy and rocky. But this one is very stripped down with a Springsteen vibe.
"The Storys played a gig in Aldershot once, and our manager got a call afterwards from a man whose son was killed in Afghanistan.
"He wanted the song God Take Care of the One I Love, written by Dai Smith, to be played at his son's funeral. It became a part of his story.
"It was a very humbling moment — the song is based on that story."

"He heard it on the radio, and before you know it we're in a film with Jason Statham."
Steve recollects another tune which, after being released into the world, was played on radio and caught the ear of a movie director – which led to the group landing a role in a film with Hollywood hardman Jason Statham.
"It was quite trippy," Steve says with a laugh of their part in 2008 crime film Bank Job.
"He heard it on the radio, and before you know it we're in a film with Jason Statham. He was very nice, and very short – but I wouldn't tell him that to his face!" he jokes.
But now it's time to look to the future, and with The Storys going their separate ways in 2010, Steve thinks that his time away from the spotlight has helped his new music with fellow former member Rosalie Deighton.
"It's been a long time coming, but it's all beginning again now," he says.
"Rosie joined The Storys after Dai left, and the band was such a big part of our lives that I needed to take some time out.
"When we started writing again, it was almost like therapy. It was cathartic, and we had some good songs."
And with no pressure from being in a band, the songwriting process was much more organic.
"There were no expectations on us," he tells me.
"The songs came very gently, they're songs about life. A lot has happened over the years, like the birth of my son Frankie.
"We had about 30 songs, and the album is actually album mark three – it's our favourite configuration of those songs."
And fans of The Storys will be glad to know that, musically, Steve and Rosalie haven't strayed too far from the sound that they know and love.
"It's quite poppy," he says.
"We love the American West Coast sounds, and we've got a country influence, very much in the singer songwriter vein."
He credits the likes of Jackson Brown and The Eagles to Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris as influences, with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand album being a particular inspiration.
As Steve says: "We just like good songs."
But along with his musical influences, there is another equally important factor which has had a profound effect on shaping Steve's musical talents – his hometown.

"I've been all over the world, and Swansea is one of the greatest, most creative and vibrant places I've ever been."
"Being from here is a massive influence on my creativity," he says, pointing out some of the major cultural figures to emerge from the city and the surrounding areas.
"I've been all over the world, and Swansea is one of the greatest, most creative and vibrant places I've ever been.
"It's an edgy, bohemian city, and I always used to say with The Storys that I'm from a little town that's got all these great poets, actors and artists.
"Actors like Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen from Port Talbot, or musicians like Badfinger, Bonnie Tyler and Mal Pope.
"And then there's Dylan Thomas, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Harry Secombe – he was one of The Goons, for God's sake!" he laughs.
"And that's just the big names. I think there's something in the water."
In fact, Steve's only complaint with the area is that we don't shout about it quite enough for his liking.
"The Welsh don't like to brag. They unveiled a plaque to Pete Hamm a few years ago, and had a concert in the Grand afterwards," he says of the celebration, at which Balsamo Deighton performed on a line-up which included the likes of Mal Pope and former Badfinger band members.
"Pete Hamm was one of the best songwriters to walk the earth, and if that was in Liverpool or somewhere there'd be a museum to Badfinger."
On a more positive note, he is excited by the recently unveiled plans to develop the area — in particular, the news that Swansea could soon have its own indoor arena.
"That's a massive statement, and a massive chance for up-and-coming artists to support some big artists. We had some funding from the Arts Council when we started this journey, but it's so difficult, and anything that can help is a good thing."

Balsamo Deighton's debut album Unfolding is on sale now, and will be launched at Swansea's High Street Coast Italia on Saturday, February

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