Steve Logan – In The Spotlight
Steve Logan is a singer – songwriter – instrumentalist with a new album due. We had the chance to run some questions – triggered by his songs – past Logan and can present his thoughtful and informative answers. Thank you, Steve
Supplied By Artist
Who did the artwork for your new Backstreets Of Eden album?
My wife, Judy Logan, who has done the artwork for my last four solo albums. She is a painter and printmaker, specialising in zany, spiritual portraiture and is well-known for her love of crows (www.judylogan.co.uk). She does in colour and line what I’m trying to do in words and music.
The album title evokes Dylan or maybe Al Stewart – are you a fan of either? Any favourite tracks?
Dylan is one of the two artists I get most sustenance from (Neil Young is the other). He has been a presence in my work since I started and it’s because of him that I think of myself as a song-poet, trying to express the whole range of my experience in song. My next album will probably take it cue from a night when listening to Dylan – Street Legal – turned my life on end. Al Stewart’s song ‘Love Chronicles’ suggested early to me how to make a long story interesting.
Which song of yours could open a thriller film?
‘Deliverance’ on my album of the same name. It’s got a strong eery overdriven guitar hook and deals with the need we all have to be delivered from pain and into whatever feels like salvation. ‘Bought a ticket to Deliverance / Down a long and twisted rail / Met a man who said he’d been there once / Taught me tricks that couldn’t fail’
You’re offered the chance to record a Nils Lofgren song with Lucinda Williams ..which one do you choose and what musical arrangement do you put together?
The engineer who recorded my first solo album worked with Nils Lofgren. I’d choose ‘Black Books’. I’d sing the verses and then ask Lucinda to sing the choruses, bringing all her road-worn passion to ‘She wants / New shoulders to cry on…’, which would make the song feel like an assertion from her point of view though it’s a lament from the man’s. She’s got that blend of rawness and delicacy I’m always drawn to and she did a beautiful Nick Drake cover (‘Which Will’).
Honesty time! Which other band or artist would you NOT want to follow on stage?
That one really made me think. I’ve seen supports jeered at by people only interested in the main act, but generally I think I’d be happy to support anyone who thought it a good idea to ask me. Maybe I couldn’t expect too much patience from a Slip-Knot tribute band. But I met Jimmy Page briefly once and believe that the greatest musicians are often the most generous.
Do you have any tour or festival appearances lined up?
I’ve just played the Beaverwood Club in Chislehurst and have dates lined up at Hertford Corn Exchange (16 Feb) and the Portland Arms, Cambridge (13 April) among many others. My agent is planning a tour to promote the new album and the dates will be on my website: www.stevelogan.co.uk
Name the best live album in your collection – and what’s the appeal to you? The highlights?
I have to split the honours between Free Live (by Free) and Weld by Neil Young. The first gave me the sense of being at a live gig, with the sound balanced out but with no overdubs. It’s wonderful that the mistake in ‘All Right Now’ and the vocal squeak in ‘Ride on Pony’ have been left in. In Weld what I love is the guitar sound (especially the solo on ‘Cortez’) and the shuddering energy of the playing, singing and songwriting.
Which song reminds you of secondary school days?
‘Ramble On’. Hearing this song, one day on a balcony in England in summer, when I was missing Wales, it was like the sky opened and let in another world. I recognise now that Robert Plant got all that kind of longing into the vocal – the feeling that runs through the words but isn’t altogether in them. To see Jimmy Page play the guitar part on It Might Get Loud brought the feeling back. I told him that and was amazed how gracious he was about it.
Please describe your hometown in five words
On the new album there’s a song called ‘Pontymister’ which is my original home-town. I wanted to write about a place I love which has no recognition, but the song starts in New York. The five words: scruffy, ignored, kind-hearted, heavenly, unforgettable.
What did your release Signs & Wonders do for your musical path?
It gave me confidence to keep writing and recording fluently. My friend Kimberley Rew (formerly of Catrina and the Waves), who wrote ‘Walking on Sunshine’, showed me real generosity in playing on five tracks, as did Rhys Wilson. The album was originally planned as a full-band project but when the other musicians weren’t available I went ahead anyway and am glad to have in my catalogue an album featuring only acoustic guitars, vocals and harmonica. The song ‘Open Heart’, played acoustic, is now a staple of my electric shows.
Two things a performer should avoid doing on stage?
Scowling at mistakes (your own or anyone else’s) and seeming less than completely committed to the song you are performing. I try to get into a zone where the feeling in the song possesses me. Having said that, Hendrix famously let everyone know when he was bored. But genius earned him some rare privileges.
Is Hyacinth Girl your Cinnamon Girl?
Yes. The title of the song blends Neil Young’s cinnamon girl with T. S. Eliot’s hyacinth girl: both are visions of true, delicate, holy, vulnerable love.
Spotlight has wonderful bass, tell us about your bass player
That’s Andy Cross. He’s a fine guitarist too and I often play gigs where we both play acoustic and electric guitars. His bass lines are often richly melodic and remind me in some ways of Andy Fraser’s. He also runs the studio where two of my solo albums were recorded.
The title track is so peaceful, what inspired the song?
I don’t know that I’d describe the song as ‘peaceful’ exactly, since it’s a lot to do with human suffering: ‘Gotta walk down the iron road, with your heart near to overload’ and ‘Everybody is gonna die, everybody wants to stay high’. But I suppose the melody, the guitars and overall feel are hinting at sources of strength and beauty. I wrote the lyrics on the train from King’s Cross to Cambridge, after seeing a beggar in Spitalfields who’s described in the song.
Skylark is a winner for me. maybe it’s the emphatic delivery or fresh air feel but the drumming sounds like early Fairport Convention, how did you arrive at this arrangement?
Thank you! I thought of the song initially as a quietish acoustic number, with Robert Johnson behind it somewhere. But there was an energy in it that felt it should come out and so I plugged in and upped the tempo. Once the drums, bass and other guitar were brought in I had a force to ride on and could (in places) belt out the vocal in a blues-rock kind of way.
Biding My Time is almost TOO Crazy Horse! Which is your favourite Neil Young album…on times played, mine might be Psychedelic Pill!
Great to hear you like Psychedelic Pill, Pete and think my song ‘Biding My Time’ belongs in its company. Apart from Weld named above, I think my most-played Neil Young album is probably On the Beach, though I’ve got a nook in my heart also for Storytone (the solo acoustic disc, not the orchestral one which I don’t like at all). I like Neil Young best when sheer force of passion makes his electric performances ragged or his acoustic ones fragile.
Paperboy is a charming tune, what is it about?
I’m a bit wary of saying what songs are about, because that sometimes limits what people can see in them. But among the things addressed in this song are the pity of a bad start in life, a child being neglected, and then, later, that grown child being grateful for whatever glory, however fallen, like stars, they can find in the world: ‘I never said I’d love you till the stars fell from the sky and I saw you pick them up as the paperboy went by’. The paperboy is just doing his job, but he’s a paper, or fragile, child too.
Yesterday’s Hero is a tad epic..is it a set-closer?
Well this album is so new the songs haven’t really settled into their places in the live sets yet. But you’ve given me an idea. ‘Yesterday’s Hero’ is a commentary on a culture that thinks it’s better for having cut out the spiritual. It’s in two parts, one acoustic, one electric and now you mention it, I think we should try the electric version as a closer. Again, thank you.
What’s the Steve Logan Band Road Diet?
Tricky. I’m a vegan, so my choices aren’t the same as those of the rest of the band.
For me, I want beans on toast, fresh salad, good soup, pot noodles, lots of fruit, nuts, biscuits, marmalade, cornflakes, honey – and tea. Veganism is (wrongly) considered posh, but I’m a working-class Welshman. Vegans rock.
Thanks for a great set of questions, Pete and for listening to the album so closely and sympathetically.
(Many thanks Steve and to Golly at GFI for all help)
(All Photos Supplied by Steve Logan’s Website)
Steve Logan’s new studio album ‘Backstreets of Eden’ is released on Saturday 24th March 2018 on Moondragon Records.
For more information and tour dates visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2G4MXXo