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A Conversation With Steve Strongman



Steve Strongman is an award-winning guitarist, vocalist, harmonica player, and songwriter stationed in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He’s put out 7 previous albums that have gathered accolades not only in Canada, but internationally. He’s won two Juno awards for album of the year as well as being selected as Best Guitarist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve’s music reflects a passion for the blues and he’s one of the most down-to-earth folks you’ll ever meet. He’s just released a new album that’s sure to take the charts by storm.


Ken Wallis interviewed Steve Strongman for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are edited excerpts of that interview.




Ken Wallis

There's a brand-new album out. It’s The Strongman Blues Remedy, Volume One and it is a fantastic album. Here to tell us all about it is Steve Strongman. Steve thanks for coming on the show


Steve Strongman

Always a pleasure Ken, thanks for having me.


Ken Wallis

Steve you've got a stellar lineup on this album; it just knocks me out. Tell me how that all came about?


Steve Strongman

Well, I sat down with the good people at Stony Plain Records. This was very early in the pandemic, and they were interested in my back catalog from a publishing perspective. Attached to that they said what are you working on coming up? I said well, I’ve got a few different ideas, so we were able to hammer out a recording contract and that became The Strongman Blues Remedy.

And right away the first person I thought of immediately was obviously a guy like Harrison Kennedy. It’s a no brainer. I’ve said many times, he's one of the best singers I’ve ever heard and he's a close personal friend. So everybody on this record that I called, Crystal Shawanda is the same kind of thing. And it’s great to have Dawn Tyler Watson, my good buddy Steve Marriner, and my core band that I’ve been lucky enough to work with for over 20 years. Dave King playing drums and Colin Lapsley and Jessie O’Brien, Alec Fraser. Every single person that I called and said I’m thinking about doing something, the immediate response was yes. It really came together. It was a difficult thing to do in the time given the challenges that we were all facing, but it was pretty amazing.


Ken Wallis

I assume a lot of it was done remotely?


Steve Strongman

Correct. A lot of it was done remotely. We did a lot of writing on zoom sessions just because we had to. We couldn't get in a room together. We did some, as things loosened up a little bit later on. Steve Marriner came to my place in my recording studio, and we finished up touches on Swansong, which is the track that he did an amazing job on. We co-wrote that one together, but for the most part everything we started was virtual because we had to do it like that. It really presented a lot of challenges and the whole writing process was different. The recording process was different than how I would normally have approached it.


Ken Wallis

And how did you approach the songs? Do you write for the artist's voices or do you write your tune and then they just meld into it?


Steve Strongman

It kind of goes both ways but with Harrison’s two songs in particular, the songs are I Like To Ride and I Don't Miss You. I had already recorded I Don't Miss You in its entirety. I had completely written it and recorded it with my voice. In one of the drum sessions with Dave King, he said you know Harrison would really kill this wouldn't he? I started thinking about it a little bit more and I was like wow. So, I brought the song to Harrison. He was in his backyard one day and I said hey, I got something I want to play and I played the song.


The first thing that happens for me is the person delivering the vocal has to be invested. They have to say I can see myself singing this, I'm into it. Harrison loved the song immediately. So that's how that one came about. Once I heard him sing that song, we did an independent recording session in the studio with just Harrison singing. That song immediately became his own, he immediately sang the song from what I had written. How it was presented, morphed into something different.


Ken Wallis

And there's a great video of I Like To Ride.


Steve Strongman

Yes, there's a very cool video of I Like To Ride. It was a bit of a different process that happened. Harrison came over to my place and I had an acoustic guitar. We sat in my kitchen, and we weren't really setting out to do one thing or another. It wasn't like here's what we're going to do. So, I started playing and Harrison started singing. At the end of whatever he was singing, I remember going wow! I know a lot of blues songs, but I don't know that one. I asked Harrison what that song was and he said we just wrote it. And that became I Like To Ride from that initial voice memo on my iPhone. I made a few little changes and a few chorus suggestions and that was a true co-write.


Ken Wallis

And why the title Blues Remedy?


Steve Strongman

I think during the pandemic, I was thinking about different things that were going on in the world and remedy popped in into my brain. We need a remedy for all this stuff that's happening, and you know a lot of people, as you and I have talked about in the past, they hear blues, and they get an idea of what blues is and oh it's melancholy music. But really for me it's not. It's always a very joyous, wonderful thing. Blues music is there for you and that's sort of where the idea of the remedy came from.


Ken Wallis

And this is one of your first ever productions that you've actually produced yourself. Did you enjoy that?


Steve Strongman

I did enjoy it. It was a huge learning curve for me. I think Ken one of the first things I did was as I became the producer of this project, I immediately called up producers that I’ve worked with in the past. It's a very different process approaching a recording as a producer than it is coming at it from the other side of the glass. For me as an artist, I didn't realize this until you get into a producing chair and go okay you know there's so many things that are that are involved that a producer is doing behind the scenes. From just logistical things like archiving sessions and making sure that you have what you want and then from the artistic point of view, can I get a better vocal out of this artist? Or am I pushing too hard? Guitar parts or keyboard? All those artistic decisions that have to happen and really everything stops with the producer at the end of the day. I’ve been fortunate in the past to work with amazing producers like Dave King and Rob Szabo and understanding the things a little bit differently. How they were able to get the best out of me from a production was really important for me. Quite honestly, I leaned on both of them very heavily for this.


Ken Wallis

So is this the wave of the future? You've got a contract with Stony Plain and you're talking about co-productions. Are you going to do more producing?


Steve Strongman

Well, I’m very happy that I’ve been able to work with a few different artists. I was working last year with Sass Jordan doing some writing and we were talking about different things. We're just in the very early stages of working together, but Stony Plain has also put me in touch with Horojo Trio. I wrote, co-wrote and produced two tracks working with those guys, which was just an amazing experience. That all came together through Stony Plain.


I see myself as an artist first and foremost that that's always what I am and that's a cornerstone of what I do. It was interesting to see Geoff Kulawick at Linus and Stony Plain look at me from a different perspective and look at the other areas of my career that he would like to see me explore. So definitely producing is one of those areas moving forward.


A lot of people are asking is there going to be a volume two? We'll see about that. This is Volume One and we're just focused on the success of that right now.


Ken Wallis

Let's hope there's a Volume Two because Volume One is fantastic. Again, the album is The Strongman Blues Remedy Volume One and Steve where can folks get a hold of the album?


Steve Strongman

They can go to stevestrongman.com or strongmanbluesremedy.com or stonyplainrecords.com. They can go to any one of those places and can get it there.


Ken Wallis

And what's up for the summer for you?


Steve Strongman

I'm very excited. We start rehearsals next week for Mont Tremblant. I've got a few other shows that I’m doing here in Ontario but then I go into Quebec for Tremblant and there's some traveling happening in August as well. It's been great that things are loosening up and we're hitting the ground running, so it's a very exciting time and there's lots of announcements coming up in the fall as well.


Ken Wallis

Steve it's a great album and I have a prediction about that album; I think you're in for some very pleasant surprises with this.


Steve Strongman

Thank you so much. I really hope so. You never know when you put an album out there and you hope people like it. The response has been absolutely incredible and I’m really proud of the record.





Website: strongmanbluesremedy.com/

Website: www.stevestrongman.com

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