After a short layoff to take care of schoolwork and the huge amount of artist correspondence I've been getting, I am excited to return with my first interview of the new year featuring none other then singer-songwriter Steve Winwood. I know, wicked right? Because I am such a big fan of all of Steve's musical incarcerations, I was really happy when he agreed to be put under the microscope.
Starting at age 15 with the Spencer Davis Group, Mr. Winwood has contributed some of the rock's most eclectic and memorable performances with both his solo albums and iconic bands as diverse as Traffic and Blind Faith. He is currently preparing for a 14-city tour with Blind Faith pal Eric Clapton this summer and I am so honored to be able to bring you this interview.
You were very young when you started in music and your father seemed to be a big influence early on. Were you classically trained or did it just come naturally?
It came naturally at first. I was also classically trained but forced to leave music college at age 15 because contemporary music wasn't acceptable in those days at music college.
Still in your teens, you performed with some major American blues artists when they toured England. How did this effect your own writing and playing and were you at all nervous being on the same stage with legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf at such a young age?
No, I wasn't nervous and it was a great learning experience for me.
"I'm a Man," which you co-wrote and recorded with The Spencer Davis Group has become a staple for Garage Band Musicians through the generations, and "Gimme Some Lovin'" is equally if not more recognizable. Do you still enjoy performing these classics as much as when you wrote them?
Yes, but I enjoy performing different arrangements of them.
Can you tell us a little about the "Voodoo Chile" session at The Record Plant studios with Jimi?
Jimi broke his strings on the first take and restrung his own guitar and this take is also available on bootleg. Take 3 was the one that was used.
It seems like Traffic was the perfect fit for your music. What is your favorite Traffic album and how well did the various members get along?
It is like asking me to pick a favorite child which I'm unable to do however John Barleycorn is close to my heart as that was the essential core trio of the band.
"Can't Find My Way Home", another Winwood composition, is probably the most memorable song of your short-lived super group Blind Faith, and another classic. Is it true that you originally thought Eric (Clapton) should sing it and any plans for an extended reunion, sans Ric Grech, after the success of the recent Winwood/Clapton shows?
No, Eric Clapton was never asked to sing this and there are no plans at the moment for an extended reunion.
Your solo albums of the 80s and 90s brought your music to a whole new audience and won you some hardware at the Grammies. Was this period in your career as fulfilling to you as a musician compared to your earlier and more recent work?
Yes, although it had a very 80s production style, it was fulfilling at the time.
What importance do you place on the fact that you started out as a musician first as opposed to a frontman?
It gives discipline and the art accompaniment is very important.
It seems your audiences have been treated to more and more guitar licks from Steve Win shows. Are you in fact playing more guitar in your shows and are there any instruments that you tried and just don't feel comfortable playing?
Yes, I'm playing a bit more guitar although still enjoying the hammond and kicking the b. I don't really play wind instruments.
Would a Steve Winwood be able to make the same impact in music if you were born in 1988 given the state of today's music scene?
There is no way of knowing but perhaps it is easier to launch oneself in music now with the internet.
Quick One Word Answers:
1. CDs or MP3s? MP3s
2. Coffee or tea? Tea
3. Acoustic or electric Neil Young? Like both
4. Favorite curse word? Bother
For more go to Winwood's official site.