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Interview: JON STEVENS

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Singer/songwriter Jon Stevens has enjoyed a remarkable career, as both a solo artist and fronting some pretty incredible rock bands.  As frontman for the very popular Noiseworks in the eighties and nineties, Stevens was brought well and truly into the public’s attention and his star has continued to rise ever since, stepping in as lead vocalist with INXS after the passing of Michael Hutchence and, for a time, with the ‘supergroup’ he formed in 2013, The Dead Daisies. But whether he is out front of a rock band or performing on his own, he has always come up with the goods and his latest offering, Starlight is no exception.

When I caught up with Jon recently to talk about the new album, he was spending some valuable time with his grandchildren. Something he cherishes, especially as the process of recording this latest album frequently took him away from home, travelling between Australia and America. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart who also co-wrote all the songs on the album with Jon. The two met last year and the creative process just seemed to flow between them from the very beginning, as Jon explains in our interview. “We met each other for the first time and pretty much fifteen minutes later started writing songs.  It was just one of those things. We just had great chemistry. He’s a lovely fellow and we understood each other. I understood what he was trying to achieve and he understood what I was trying to achieve. We’re not cerebral types, you know. We don’t write songs sort of A, B, C and D. We write from the heart. We write what feels good.  Writing is spiritual to a degree as well. It’s like a balance; finding that space where it just kind of ‘falls out’ and you don’t realise it but you record a bit and then you play it back and you go ‘Holy shit! Did that just happen?!,’ he laughs.

The pair worked on the album in between Jon flying back to Australia to do shows and then back again to L.A. to work on the album. “It’s been an amazing process actually, going back and forth,” he admits. “It’s inspiring really. I think when you’re at home, you get a little bit complacent sometimes so I think when you’re put in positions where you kind of have to show up, it’s challenging. Obviously working with Dave, who is a musician with a fabulous CV, I don’t want to be the weak link in the chain.”

But Dave Stewart is not the only special guest adding his talents to this album.  Jon is thrilled to have the superb vocals of Vanessa Amorosi featured on ‘Something Bout You’. He is full of praise for the singer. “Vanessa’s a great friend and one of the great voices of the world. She’s an amazing singer and amazing song writer so it was a real pleasure to be working with her again. I did an album called ‘Testify’ and we did a duet on that one about five or six years ago; I’ve known her since she was about seventeen. I’m a big fan of hers.”

And, of course, the album also features another very special guest. Ringo Starr plays drums on the ballad ‘One Way Street’. Jon still finds it hard to believe that he was able to get the former Beatle to play drums on one of the tracks on his album. “It’s funny how you meet people in your travels,” he explains. “It was one of those things where, after being in the studio all day, Dave asked ‘Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?’ and I said ‘Yeah. Sure.’ He said ‘Oh, I’ve got some guests coming over’. He didn’t tell me who and in through the door walks Ringo and his wife Barbara! There were six of us and we got our guitars out later in the evening and played and talked. Ringo was on tour with his All Stars and Dave and I had written a song called ‘One Way Street’. I said ‘Hey Dave, do you reckon I should ask Ringo to play drums on it?’ He says ‘You can only ask.’ Ringo heard the song and he just said ‘Oh yeah. Love the song. I’d love to play on it.’ It’s just such an amazing honour. It’s probably my favourite song on the record really because it’s such a deep song. It’s not every day you get to meet one of The Beatles, let alone get one to play on your record!” he laughs then ponders, jokingly, “Kind of raises the question, what do you pay a Beatle? But that’s not what it’s about. He’s a beautiful, beautiful man and it was just an amazing honour really.”

While he says that his last album, Woman, was written and recorded during a very difficult period in his life, Jon is quick to point out that the Starlight album comes from a very different place.  “It’s amazing what a year can do,” he reflects. “And a change of scenery; going to America to work with Dave and different people. The Woman album came from a hard place which everyone can relate to at some point. It was a pretty tough time but music for a creative person is an amazing outlet and I’m very lucky in that respect because a lot of people out there don’t have an outlet to let go of their negative feelings and end up doing bad things to themselves which is kind of what (the song) ‘Starlight’ is about.” He pauses briefly before elaborating. “It’s about suicide actually. I lost a brother to suicide. That thing is kind of prevalent in this day and age where kids and people are so caught up with trying to keep up in this crazy world we live in and there’s a lot of casualties along the way.”

But, on a lighter note, the first single to be lifted from the Starlight album is the upbeat ‘Hold On’. “It’s a good rocking song and it’s a lot of fun to play,” he tells me. “Well, they’re all fun to play but I love it when stuff translates in that ‘live’ environment because it’s kind of where I live.”

The official launch for the album will be at Trak in Toorak, Melbourne next Friday, 7th April.  After that, Jon says he will be doing a couple of shows in Australia in May. “And then,” he informs me, “I’m going to Europe. I’m doing the Isle of Wight Festival and another one in Ireland and a bunch of shows in London. Then I’ll come back probably in July, touring through Australia.” And, after that? “Just one foot in front of the other,” he says with a laugh.

Starlight is released today through Liberator Music/BMG.


by Sharyn Hamey


Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2017.  All rights reserved

Read our review of Jon Stevens’ new album ‘Starlight’

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