Already a well-regarded blues musician, Hamilton, ON-based Steve Strongman has released a new single, “No Time Like Now,” featuring a striking rock sound – an enjoyable, but not surprising, departure for the award-winning artist. The song is the title track from Strongman’s forthcoming album of the same name (releasing in March), which includes a great supporting cast of musicians as well as an appearance by none other than Randy Bachman on a cover of “Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”
We were fortunate to have the opportunity for a brief interview with Steve Strongman about his new project.
Your new single is a much more straight-out rocker than your previous projects (e.g., “Let Me Prove It to You” and “A Natural Fact”) – is that true of your new album as a whole or can we expect a lot of variety when it releases in March?
As a whole this album is a more rocking record than what I have released previously. After the success of my last two albums in particular, I wanted to do something a little different. I feel that an artist needs to keep pushing himself creatively to keep things exciting, and this record is very exciting!
What originally drew you to blues music as opposed to other genres?
Passion and emotion. People can get fooled into thinking that blues is a simple style of music. That may be true, but that simplicity opens up so many interpretations of expression for an artist. I do love many different styles of music, but blues-based material has always hit me the hardest.
How challenging is it as a musician to keep your work fresh and explore new territory while bringing your fan base along?
Good question. It is a challenge, especially in a genre that people like to put parameters on. As I mentioned, though, this is an artist’s job. Real music lovers will stay with the artist through transitional phases, and exploring new territory. I don’t think anyone wants to hear the exact same type of record release after release — and the challenge of creating new material and re-inventing yourself as an artist is something I get excited about.
Insofar as most Americans probably aren’t that familiar with Canadian musicians, they might not expect that Canada has a vibrant blues scene. How would you characterize that scene and what makes it unique or special?
I think the Canadian blues scene is very much like Canada as a country: Diverse. An interesting mix of different cultures come out in the music. Obviously the US is a huge influence as well, and as a neighbour we can’t help but have some of American style influence us. Because we’re so close, Canadians need to raise the bar to be noticed, because after all blues is an American art form. While Canadians respect that, I think it’s important to have your own identity, and try and sound unique.
I listened to your previous album, “Let Me Prove It to You,” on my way home from work last night, and one of my primary takeaways was that your songwriting is rooted not just in what some might consider the standard “she loved and left me” blues but also in real life – getting older, going out at night despite adult responsibilities, etc. What are some of the ways that you find inspiration for songs in your daily life?
I write about anything that moves me emotionally. Family life, friends, relationships… everything. My writing style reflects the idea that I want to try new themes, something different. I feel like a lot of blues artists can stick to the formula too rigidly, and that comes out in the music. At the end of the day, a great song is a great song, and when I write I try and tell a story that people can relate to, whatever genre they choose to classify it as. I try not to impose any boundaries when I write and just let the song happen.
Judging from your bio, you’ve been really fortunate to play with some tremendous musicians in your career. Are there any others with whom you dream of playing but haven’t yet had the chance?
Yes, I’ve had the privilege of playing with some of the greatest musicians. I’d like to sit down with Eric Clapton and play some guitar…. and Jeff Beck. I’d also love to sit in with ZZ Top — I’ve been a huge fan of Billy Gibbons for a very long time.
Photo credit: Matt Barnes