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  • Writer's pictureKen Wallis

EXCLUSIVE: Ken Wallis Chats With Award-Winning Canadian Bluesman Steve Strongman


Steve Strongman


The Fabulous Thurnderbirds is an iconic band led by Kim Wilson. They are celebrating a milestone anniversary by releasing a new album. Steve Strongman co-wrote and co-produced the album.


Ken Wallis interviewed Steve Strongman for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview, edited and amended for clarity and brevity.



Steve Strongman


Ken Wallis

The Fabulous Thunderbirds are celebrating their 50th anniversary. They've released a great new album called Struck Down and Hamilton's own Steve Strongman was heavily involved in the production of this album and joining us is Steve. Steve, thanks for coming on the show.


Steve Strongman

Hey Ken, always nice to be here. Thanks.


Ken Wallis

Well, tell us, how did you get involved with the Fabulous Thunderbirds?


Steve Strongman

It all started with a phone call from Geoff Kulawick from Stony Plain Records. Jeff had signed me to an album deal at the beginning of COVID and also a publishing deal. And he was interested in working with the Fabulous Thunderbirds because he had seen them on a blues cruise. He called me up and said, hey do you know Kim Wilson. Kim and I had met when he was playing in Kitchener when I was a teenager. But that was the extent of our relationship at that point.


He asked me if I'd be interested in potentially going to California to do some writing with Kim because he was living in in California, and I said absolutely, I'd love to see what happens with it.


So, it was a leap of faith on Geoff Kulawick’s part. Kim and I immediately hit it off. I flew out there initially for five days and we wrote two songs in the first day and then I came home, and the first trip went so well that Kim was interested in doing another one. So then I flew out for a second week, and by the end of it all, we had written 17 songs.


Ken Wallis

Oh wow, that's quite a quite a repertoire of songs. On the album there are nine songs you co-wrote. Obviously, you've got some other ones stashed.


Steve Strongman

We do. Part of the difficulty as a writer, and it's a nice problem to have, is which songs are going to make the record. At the time we were just writing. We weren't talking about what would be on the record or necessarily what wouldn't, because it was still so early in the process. And then obviously writing was going so well that we decided, ok, this is going to be a record and which songs are going to make it and which songs aren't. So right up till very late in the process, I think we had 13 songs on the record and then we just sort of started listening to it as a coherent thing. Glen Parrish, who's one of the co-producers, Kim and myself started listening to it and then we made the tough decision of cutting a few songs, but that doesn't mean they're gone, they're just standing alone, waiting for the next project, hopefully.


Ken Wallis

And you not only co-wrote, but you co-produced this album. Were you there when most of this was recorded?


Steve Strongman

Absolutely. I was. We went to the recording studio, we did pre-production actually in a rehearsal space with the Thunderbirds and me and Kim, because all the demos were just me on an acoustic guitar and Kim Wilson. There are 10 songs on the record. Nine of them are co-writes with myself and Kim. Then we had to present those demos to the band and see how they sounded once they got into that kind of environment.


We booked a rehearsal space in New Jersey where some of the other guys in the band were. And I went out there for a couple of weeks to do pre-production for the record and then when we recorded, we went up to Northern New Jersey to a recording studio called Ponderosa Studios and we stayed there right on site, which was just amazing, because we could work long into the night and get up in the morning and do whatever we needed to do. That was a really great environment and it turned out incredibly well I think.


Ken Wallis

And there's some pretty heavy-duty guests on this album too.


Steve Strongman

Yeah, that's all because Kim being, in my opinion, a living legend. He has such deep ties and great friendships with some of the greatest Blues artists in in the world. That was all him. When we were writing the songs, I remember saying that part of it felt like Billy Gibbons would play something like I was playing or I was copying a lick from Billy Gibbons, and he just said, well, let me give him a call and see what he thinks. And I couldn't believe that which was great. So it was a no brainer to have Billy Gibbons on Payback Time. Kim just started calling some people saying this was a special record and he could really feel the momentum building and he wanted them to be a part of it. We had Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, Taj Mahal and Mick Fleetwood, also Elvin Bishop and Terence Simeon also put some really great accordion on the track, Don't Make No Sense.


Ken Wallis

Did they actually come to the studio or did they record separately and send?


Steve Strongman

Everybody did things remotely because that's the difficulty with touring schedules. It was hard to co-ordinate and get all the parts on at the same time, so that that pulls a pretty big challenge for us, but we were able to get it all done. I did have direct contact with all of the artists and their representatives, which was really quite a special thing for me. Just everybody from the very beginning was so positive and wanted to be on it. They said let's just do it. We were really lucky that everyone could make it.


Ken Wallis

Again, the album is called Struck Down. Steve where can fans get a hold of it?


Steve Strongman

It's streaming on all platforms, wherever they get music for sure, and there's also vinyl. Stony Plain did a great thing, which is as you would hope that they would do with a legendary band like the Fabulous Thunderbirds, there's vinyl available so everybody can get it. They can go to Stony Plain, but they can also go to stevestrongman.com, I'll have direct links.  I'm proud to be a co-producer of this and also featured on the title track.


Ken Wallis

And not only are you on the album, but you're going to be on tour with these guys when they come to Ontario.


Steve Strongman

Yes, I am really looking forward to that. We've got a bunch of Ontario dates booked at the end of October and I'm also going to guest with the band. Kim said if I'm going to be there, we're going to put you to work. I sat in with the band initially when I met the Thunderbirds in New Jersey as well, and they were playing a show and I got up and played with them and it just felt so good. I'm going to open the show as a solo acoustic artist, and then I'll be sitting in with the band too at all the dates. There's also going to be some American stuff that I'm going to head out and do as well.


Ken Wallis

And where can people find out about this actual tour?


Steve Strongman

They can go to stevestrongman.com and they'll be direct links to all the live shows and ticket links and everything like that in Ontario and more dates are being added also.


Ken Wallis

Well, Steve, it's a fabulous album. It's going to be a fabulous tour and we're all looking forward to it. So thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it.


Steve Strongman

Always a pleasure, Ken. Thanks for having me on.



Steve Strongman


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