Following up from their debut double album, sold out Fringe shows, festivals and a UK tour, Steve Hensby Band are back with a brand new album, Chase The Sun. Hensby and his band will be supported by a cast of thousands at the album launch in an evening of music and movement at the The Boston on Friday 22 February.
Around The Sound caught up with Steve Hensby over coffee on a sunny Saturday morning in Leederville to have a chat about the album launch, what it takes to organise a tour in the UK and why we all just need to be a bit nicer to each other.
I sent off over a thousand emails to venues
At one point in our conversation, we put it to Hensby that he’s known in his home town as a bit of a prodigious talent. He finishes up stumbling through an answer, all self-effacement and genuinely batting away the possibility of the compliment by saying, “It’s all the same silly Goldilocks man singing it all.”
“I don't know, really. There’s a long way for me to go in my music. I’m constantly working at it. You’re your own biggest critic and there’s a lot for me to work on as a song writer, vocalist and a guitarist. And as a human being. I think I’m a dabbler. I’ll transcribe crazy jazz solos for a while and then I’ll get stuck into writing a folk song, and then I’ll want to work on some vocal stuff ... It’s just the nature of music, there’s too much to cover. I think that defines who I am a bit, dabbling in a few different genres and whatever comes out ends up coming out on albums or shows.”
“I just try to play in time and sing in tune.”
For a musician, being eclectic isn’t always a good thing. As Hensby suggests, dabbling can be a bit of a curse, because getting really good at your craft takes a lot of time and dedication. Being a musical butterfly doesn’t help with that, but, if you’re as talented as Steve Hensby, it doesn’t hurt to ‘dabble’.
“With the double album we did (2017), it was definitely more folk based and this album is more funk and soul. I really like it (dipping into a range of influences).”
OK, we’ve had a listen to the new album and one that came before it. Hensby’s playing a bit fast and loose with the truth when he tries to pass himself off as a dabbler. The music on Chase The Sun makes you smile as it draws you into its heart of funkin’ horns and vocal melodies that are as warm and wide as a blue summer sky. The first album’s not half bad, either. This is feel-good music that channels grooves from the 60s on, but is as fresh and original as you’d ever want to find in the 21st Century.
In all of Hensby’s ever changing musical moods and projects, there’s one constant, of course, Hensby himself.
“That’s the big thing we heard in England, there’s all different styles [in the show]. But it all comes back to the Steve band.”
Steve Hensby is definitely someone to put on your musical to-do list, if you haven’t checked out his work already. As for the reference to English audiences, Hensby spent time in January this year with his musical and life partner, Elysia Murphy, gigging in England as a duo.
“It was awesome, so much fun. We were swimming at Scarborough beach (Perth) on Christmas Day and on Carnaby Street on Boxing day. I’m still getting messages from people asking about the songs we played, the music. So, from here, we’re trying to go back [to the UK] once a year.”
‘How did he do that?’ we hear you asking. Well, here’s the go.
“I sent off over a thousand emails to venues in the end, just seeing what was out there, and a few of them got back to me, and we sorted it out from there. Yes, a thousand emails! A few people said they’d love to have us on, but they’re closed in January. Then there were other people who said what we do is nice, but they were either booked up or we didn’t fit the culture of their venue, and a few places had us. And there was a load of no responses, which is quite understandable”
“It’s like, ‘Who is this strange, blond-haired man from Perth? Is that Perth in Scotland, Perth, Australia?’ They don’t know me from a bar o’ soap, mate!”
“I don’t enjoy doing it at all, but putting yourself out there and trying to get more shows is really important. For me, it’s respect for the musicians who are kind enough to play with you. It’s tricky, it’s nerve wracking, but you have to at least try it.”
“Don’t expect a lot of emails back. Expect nothing and then everything is a bonus.”
Time and again we learn that the recipe for success in the music industry has as much to do with an artist’s willingness to work hard as it has to do with their talent. Such old news it’s a cliché, really. But maybe the hardest part of that is being willing to put yourself out there in the first place and to risk the knock backs and, even worse, the nil responses? It’s heartbreaking stuff, but it can have a happy ending.
There’s more than a little of the fairy tale about Steve Hensby, as unfashionable as that may be in these current times. But even Goldilocks had to put in to get some porridge.
“The other thing is being match fit for every gig you do. In today’s world where there’s camera phones at every gig, it’d be nice if everything you did on stage was worthy. I do work hard on being ready for the show. It’s getting the notes right, but it’s also about getting the audience on board so that when people walk away from the show it wasn't just about the music, it was about the whole night, the experience. When you’ve got a nine-piece band, you want some dancing happening, so you need to make sure there’s movement on stage. It’s not a recital.”
When pressed, Hensby will say that he’s got a lot of musical development left in him. That’s development that we’d like to hear, so we’re going to keep an eye on his progress and we suggest you do, too. He also reckons he’s got a fair way to go as a person.
“I try to be a good person and polite and have patience. I think everyone could work on having a bit more patience, with themselves and with other people. There’s a lot of different opinions floating around. I think some of them are extremely valid and some of them are just making noise. I think everyone should just try to get along with each other a bit more. If this person thinks this thing and this person thinks that thing, it’s like, ‘But do you both love The Kinks?’ and then you can talk about The Kinks’ music.”
And who doesn’t love The Kinks? Next time you see Hensby at a gig, why not share the love with him?
Chase The Sun is launched at The Boston on 22 February with support from The Bambuseae Rhythm Section, The Donald Trumpets, Leah Grant and Joel Davis.