Over the years singer, guitarist and songwriter Steve Newman and his band Newman have busily gone about recording some of the best Melodic Rock the UK has produced. However with his last three albums The Art Of Balance, Under Southern Skies and his brand new release Siren, Newman are possibly in their richest vein of form. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid recently had a chat with Steve to discover the inspiration behind his songs, the reasons behind his recent band reshuffles and how Newman are about to take their music to new shores...
Hi Steve, it's great to speak with you. As with all of your albums your excellent new release 'Siren' offers a slightly different take on the Newman sound. To me it feels more like the follow up to 'The Art Of Balance' album than your previous 'Under Southern Skies' release. How would you describe the evolution between '...Skies' and 'Siren'?
Steven; it's a pleasure to talk to you and thank you for the kind comments on the new album. I totally agree with you. I think 'Siren' is probably more of a natural follow up to "The Art Of Balance". I guess the reason for this is that prior to releasing 'Under Southern Skies', I had a lot of emotional upset in my life with both of my parents passing away in the same year. I very much write what's in my heart; I believe, as an artist, that this is very important and so that album became a very reflective and emotional release for me. Since then, I have got myself married and relocated/redesigned the studio, so my mind is most certainly in a different place. I think that comes across in the songs in a more upbeat way.
Obviously 'Under Southern Skies' was a very personal album, as you say. However I also think that with songs like (my personal favourite on the album) "Arcadia", 'Siren' also finds you revealing a lot of your personal thoughts and emotions. Is it difficult, or rewarding (or both) to put together a song like that?
Yes! "Arcadia" was written for my wife, and I hoped that other people would relate to it as well. It's loosely based on the comments of Mark Twain in his thoughts that you should never look back wishing you had done certain things. So, cast off your bowline and find your dreams. I guess "Arcadia" takes that a little further in the sense that now I have found the person that I want to be with - my Arcadia - we can cast off on this voyage and discover things together. I always love to try and find different angles to write about. I think it's as important as the musical content, as it gives each song its uniqueness.
Previously you have gone down the independent route to get your albums "out there". However 'Siren' is now the second Newman release to come out through AOR Heaven. Do you prefer having a well-known label backing you in this way?
I found that being in control of everything in regards to my product was a really good thing, however, the promotion is very time consuming and I felt that AOR Heaven could do this a whole lot better. Now, I get the best of both worlds, as I am still very much in control of the musical aspect of my work, but can hand it over to a company that I respect and trust.
Even though I have every Newman release, I was still taken aback when I realised that with 'Siren', Newman have now released nine studio albums, a re-recorded compilation and a live album. Looking back over those years and releases can you believe you've achieved so much under the Newman banner?
Nope!!! hahaha I did say to myself, after the first album in 1998, "If I never record another album then at least I can say I achieved my goal". To this day I still say that. I am forever grateful that fans love what I do and believe in me as an artist. It's a great, great feeling. So far I have managed to work with, and meet some great musicians who, if you told me back in 1985 I would be working with, I just would have laughed. For the past few years I have had an awesome live band which also strongly believes in what we do, so everything is really good currently.
Taking 'Siren' out of the equation, as it will obviously be the album you are closest to right now, is there a Newman release you'd say means most to you, or that you'd point potential new fans at to savour the quintessential Newman sound?
That's a good question!! I don't think so really, I am always going to believe that my next album will be the best; obviously this is what drives me as an artist. All of my albums, because I write from the heart, are time capsules to me, as songs are to many people as well. I can remember where I was when I wrote, or recorded a particular song, or the album itself, and the particular memories that are associated with it. It's a very colourful palette!!
The live album I referred to earlier, 'Another Step Closer - Live 2010' was recorded at Firefest, where I believe you'll be heading again this year to perform a couple of acoustic shows. That must be something you're looking forward to?
Yes, we're really looking forward to the two shows, and seeing all the other bands across the weekend; there's some great talent this year. This time around Shaun and I are downstairs playing a kind of after show party; we've played a couple of acoustic shows previously and they are always great fun.
You are also doing a couple of full band shows this year, at MelodicRockFest3 in Chicago and the HEAT Festival in Germany. Have Newman played in either of these countries before?
No, this will be the first time the band has played in both the USA and Germany; it's really cool, as a lot of fans come from those territories. I'm hoping that a lot of people will travel from Europe to the HEAT festival to see not only us, but the other bands on the bill; and to play in the US is also a dream come true and a great thrill for the band.
And then there is also a show lined up for January 2014 in Athens, Greece with Farraday. How did that come about?
Well, basically, we played the Rosewood Festival in Thessaloniki back in March 2012, and this was organized by one of the Greek Promoters out there, who now currently manage Farraday. As you may be aware, the new Farraday album has just been released on AOR Heaven so things tended to click into place. It will be great to get back out to Greece again, we had some great times last time around, and the fans are great!!
In preparation for these performances there have been a couple of recent changes to the Newman live line-up, with the addition of Eden's Curse and Tainted Nation powerhouse Pete Newdeck behind the kit. You must be delighted to have such a force behind the band for these upcoming gigs?
Yes, most definitely. We had our first show with Pete at HRH AOR which was really good; he brings so much to the band, not only with his drumming talents but as a great vocalist too.
I believe that bassist Dave Bartlett won't be heading out with you this time. What are the reasons behind that?
Yes, that's correct. Dave had discussed his position in the band with me towards the end of last year because it was getting to the stage where the Newman dates were conflicting with his other musical commitments; and after a few discussions we both decided that it would better for both parties to go our separate ways. Dave is a great talent and will be missed but it was the right decision to be made. We're still great friends.
And I presume that Pete had a hand in bringing Dave's replacement Joel Peters from Tainted Nation and Fury on board?
Yes, Pete suggested Joel. Although he is currently the guitarist in Tainted Nation, he originally played bass, so we dragged him along for an audition and it immediately clicked.
I've met Pete at a couple of Firefests, and I presume he is just as much fun to work and perform with as he is to watch on stage and chat to?
Most definitely. All of the guys in the band have a great sense of humour and it's something that has to happen in this band right from rehearsal through to the live shows. I've always maintained that if the band onstage aren't having fun then it's difficult to expect the audience to. We have to be, first and foremost, friends, because this industry can throw a lot of crap at you and you need to be prepared to stand up and support each other.
You and Pete co-wrote a couple of songs; "Some Kind Of Wonderful" and "Waiting For The Day" for 'Siren'. Had you worked with him prior to this album?
It started because I'd been asked by Alessandro Del Vecchio to sing some backing vocals on an album by a band called 'Paris, Only One Life'. At the time I was in the middle of my re-location to the new studio, so didn't have any facilities to do this. Alessandro suggested Pete Newdeck's studio. Although I have never worked with Pete, I have known him since around 1999 so it was really easy and natural working with him. We'd always talked about writing together and when I had a couple of ideas that needed some lyrics and melodies added, I called Pete up straight away and he came back with some monster ideas!
However it was drummer Rob McEwan, who has played on all of your albums since 2006's 'Heaven Knows' release, that sat behind the kit for 'Siren'. Will you be continuing to work with Rob in the future, or do see Pete playing drums on the next Newman album?
This really depends on both Rob and Pete's commitments. Rob is a very busy session musician, and of course Pete is heavily involved with both Tainted Nation and Eden's Curse, as well as recording for other artists.
'Siren' features a whole host of talent, with your live guitarist Shaun Bessant handling guitar on "When It Comes To Love", while the hugely talented Work Of Art and W.E.T. guitarist Robert Sall joins you on "Feel Her Again". Why did you invite them on board for those specific songs?
When I'd finished recording "When It Comes To Love" I just thought the whole mood of the song would suit Shaun's guitar style and I think it flows really well. As for "Feel Her Again", I'd met Robert in Greece when we played the Rosewood Festival with Work Of Art, and then subsequently at Firefest later that year. We just got on really well and discussed the possibility of recording something together. When I'd finished this track I immediately thought of Robert and sent it over to him; he came back with a wonderful solo that compliments the song so well.
Ex-Kick and current Vega man Nick Workman also co-wrote "When It Comes To Love" with you. How was it working with him again fourteen years after you first collaborated?
Was it 14 years ago, wow!!! Oh no, hang on, Nick co-wrote the lyrics to "Ghost In The Night" from 'Under Southern Skies', so maybe it's closer to 14 months ago
Ooops! I must have missed that!
Seriously though, whenever there's a chance that we can write together we jump at it. Nick and I have been friends for years; he's one of the really good guys in this business, and I'm so pleased with the success of Vega, it's so well deserved.
Which such talent at your disposal, have you ever considered taking the live-band line-up into the studio to record a Newman album, or are you more comfortable creating in the studio as a "one-man" operation?
I think there's two reasons for this; and one is that I tend to be a control freak and I don't want to dilute the Newman sound too much by bringing too many other people in. But you're totally correct; the guys I have around me now are very talented, and I guess that is a double edged sword because, as such, they are in demand with other projects and bands. So the time constraints and getting everyone together to record or rehearse can become a real problem.
And finally, after the live dates are wrapped up, what is next for Newman, or do you have something planned outside the band?
I have a couple of projects that are in their infancy currently and one other project that the details have to be finalized on, but the focus for Newman is very much on the live front at the moment. My hope is to begin writing at the end of the year for the next studio album.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Steve.
. And many thanks to you too Steven, for taking the time to speak to me. Please let me take this opportunity to thank yourself and the readers of Sea of Tranquility for your continued support and the response we are getting for the new album it's truly appreciated!! See you all soon, out on the road!!
.All the best!!
(Click here to read our reviews of Siren)