Wold’s classic rags to riches tale
IF ever there was a classic rags to riches rock ‘n’ roll music story, it is the story of Seasick Steve.
Before the world discovered his unique brand of blues, Seasick Steve (otherwise known as Steve Wold) had lived life as a travelling tramp – scraping by working jobs as a ‘carnie’, a garbage man and, for a while, a shoe salesman.
Steve couldn’t even get a job working behind a bar back in 2006, when producers of the Jools Holland show happened to hear a tape of songs he had made as something to do while recovering from a heart attack.
“At that time of my life, I thought my life was over, let alone any dream of having a career as a musician,” Steve told Pulse earlier this week.
“But this guy who had heard my tape got it into the hands of the producers of the Jools Holland Show. I thought the tape sounded like s**t, but they loved it and booked me on the 2006 New Year’s Eve show, alongside acts like Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. I could never have dreamt in my wildest of dreams what happened next.”
More than a million people in the UK witnessed Steve perform Dog House Boogie. It was a watershed moment. Overnight, Steve shot from a life of obscurity to stardom, winning the Best Breakthrough Act at the 2007 MOJO Awards months later, as well as playing the most UK festivals of any act that year.
His debut solo album, Dog House Music, sold more than 140,000 copies in the UK alone and in 2008, his sophomore album, I Started Out With Nothin and I Still Got Most Of It Left, made it to the UK Top 10, selling more than 250,000 copies.
Since then, Steve’s sold-out major shows, including a prestigious Royal Albert Hall date, have charmed every festival from Bluesfest to Glastonbury. He also became the oldest Brit Award nominee in history.
Steve’s latest album, Man From Another Time, throws away modern studio tweaking in favour of the warm style of ‘live’ analogue recording. Just like his raw and personal live show, everything on the album is performed by Steve, aside from drums.
His life today is a world away from the four-year-old boy who watched his father walk out the door after his parents broke up back in Oakland, California.
“My first memory is of music,” Steve says. “My dad played the piano, but then he left ... so I picked up the guitar and never really put it down.”
At 13, he left home to escape abuse at the hands of a vicious stepfather. “It’s not something I like to talk about now, it’s been documented enough,” Steve says when asked about his early life.
“Life is great today. My wife and I get to visit places like Australia, a place I have fallen in love with. The audiences are really responsive here. Then we get to hang out in places like Byron Bay, which is one of the prettiest places I have seen, and I have seen a lot of places around the world. I have talked to my wife about moving here, but she wants to stay near family. But we will be back, I love surfing here.”
But do the famous waves of Byron Bay make Steve seasick?
“I got the nickname Seasick Steve from the fact that whenever I get in a boat, I get really seasick, but surfing the waves of Byron Bay is another story,” he says.
Catch Seasick Steve when he plays the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, Friday night. Tickets $44.50 are available from the venue on 6685 6454. Doors open at 8.30pm.