In Riffraf’s Indie Spotlight, we feature talented indie artists from around the world who create music, record, and tour without the support of a major label or financial backing.
Today, we’re talking to Steve about his influences, traveling the world, and one very dedicated fan in India.
When did you decide you were going to be a musician?
It happened right after I learned to play my first couple of chords. I was only 14. I immediately tried to compose songs. The songs were really bad but the seeds were planted. I still have dozens of cassettes in Belgium with the first songs I recorded on a Tascam 4-track.
What are some of your biggest influences, music or otherwise?
My mom would listen to Pink Floyd and Santana. I was also a big fan of a radio program called “Les classics de Radio 21.” The classics of Radio 21 that aired every Sunday at 10am in Brussels. It was mostly classic and progressive rock and I loved it. While none of my songs scream either of those genres, they were great motivators for me. Singer-songwriter types, especially Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel, probably had the most profound impact on my development as a musician.
Absolutely. Whether we realize it or not, every single thing we do, however big or small, affects something else. Traveling is the ultimate eye-opener, and I’m certain those experiences have played a big role in my songwriting.
What has been your favorite and/or most interesting gig?
I remember playing for a guesthouse owner in the north of India, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by breathtaking scenery. He told me that I could stay as long as I wanted, free room and food, as long as I played for him an hour a day. I declined taking anything for free but loved the opportunity to play in such a surrounding. If only I can get the music industry as excited about my music as that kind man in Northern India.
What’s an underrated album everyone should listen to at least once?
I’m having trouble thinking of an album but as far as artists go, I think Bruce Cockburn never quite achieved the widespread popularity he deserves. He has had a significant cult following, but I think he’s an exceptional songwriter and musician, worthy of the highest praise.
What was the first song you wrote that you felt truly proud of?
I’m always feeling proud about a new song, but often when I listen to it the following day I’m unimpressed and move on to the next one. It’s rare to find a song that stands the test of time. I like the song “Thrive” that I co-wrote it with Jonathan Klein. At least once a week I get a message from a listener telling me that the song really lifted his or her spirits. Most of the people who write me about “Thrive” are having a bad time (illness, depression, unemployed, wounded soldiers). It’s very moving to read such messages and it makes me proud of the song.
Was there a song on Barricades you found especially difficult to complete?
The vocals for “A Modern Tale” were not easy to record. It took countless hours until one day when I went to the studio feeling really down. The producer pushed the record button turned the light off and left the room. I thought it will be just another worthless track but four minutes later the vocals were done. No need for editing. Miracles happen.
What would you say is your favorite song on Barricades?
I like “Barricades” and love the lyric: “Acts of bravery may immortalize / honor is so arbitrary.” There’s a fine line between being remembered forever and being forgotten.
I’m in the process of recording a new album. Then I’ll start touring. Always looking for new collaborations.