Fireworks Magazine Online 48 - Newman


Steve Newman returns with a new album ‘Under Southern Skies’ under his Newman banner, released on the ‘AOR Heaven’ label. The band, with new bassist Dave Bartlett, played various shows in 2010 including the Cambridge Rock Festival and after bringing new guitarist Shaun Bessant into the fold, the band were asked to play at Firefest that year, and a CD/DVD was recorded for future release. This brings us to 2011 and after the signing and release of the very well received ‘Big Life’ album featuring Steve Newman and Mark Thompson-Smith, the relationship between AOR Heaven and Steve Newman continues with the release of Newman’s brand new studio album ‘Under Southern Skies’. The album which was recorded and produced once again at Steve’s Blue Room Studios and features 11 great melodic rock songs much in the style of Newman’s earlier work but taking in some modern influences and as always features excellent production. So with this new release on offer and the prospect of seeing Newman play live again at this year’s Firefest – brought in as a last minute replacement for Farcry – Mark Warburton spoke with the main man in question to get his thoughts on all things Newman.

First of all congratulations on the new record ‘Under Southern Skies’, you must be very happy with it?

Yes, I’m really happy with the new record, and even happier as the reaction has been great.

How long have you been working on the new album and how quickly did the various parts come together for you?

I started writing various ideas as early as the middle of last year.

Can you tell me about the writing and recording of the album and maybe some stories behind a couple of your favourite songs?

Once I had around 20 ideas I started to work on the various elements and then chose 13 to take forward and record the demos. Rob (McEwen) then took the parts and added the drums; all the rest of the music came together pretty quickly after that. This album came very naturally, I had a pretty emotional year last year with the loss of both of my parents and so some of these songs are very personal to me.
At the moment I haven’t listened back to the album much, I tend to find I lose subjectivity after I’ve been working inside an album for many months. However, I really like all the songs on this album, I think it maybe because they are closer to my heart but also I think it has a good consistency. A particularly like the title track for its TOTOesque groove. ‘Wish You Were Here’, as this was written for my parents, ‘Ghost In The Night’ as it’s really a look back to my previous albums, and ‘Montserrat’ for the subject matter and also the change in direction musically.

Who has been the biggest influences on your career Steve and why?

Probably some of the more prolific songwriters. Michael Bolton, Stan Bush and the great Jeff Paris, the latter of which I believe to be one of the most underrated songwriters of our generation. Also artists such as Steve Lukather, Toto, and Mr Mister. Singers such as Mickey Thomas, Richard Page, and of course Steve Perry.

Musically the album sounds current in terms of production and recording values, however it does link very well with the sound that the band has been known for all these years. Was this something that you felt was important to achieve?

Thank you, It is always a huge learning curve on all levels when I record an album, from the performance to the recording, I always try and take as much from it and learn so I can improve. Over the last 12 or so years we have built up a great fan base, and I guess they expect a certain sound. I don’t actively try and make my music sound a particular way; I think I learned that from the first bands I played in. I was always told to believe in what you play and record as an artist, so everything you hear on a Newman album is 100% honesty.

Are you continually writing new material and has your approach to song writing changed over the years?

I tend to have breaks from writing but I always have ideas buzzing around in my head. It’s only when I sit down and approach the beginning of an album that ideas hopefully come over a period of months. I do find that in most cases the later songs are written more naturally when I get into a creative flow.

You seem to be an extremely busy man at all times Steve, so the $64,000 question is how do you balance your work and personal life out?

Personal life? Haha, No, seriously, it’s all a case of balance. I think you can spend too long on certain aspects of your life and they will suffer in the end. I try and balance the two so I can keep fresh and creative in both.

I understand you’re playing Firefest again, so you must be looking forward to getting this new material aired at Europe’s Premier Melodic Rock Festival?

Yes, it’s great. It came as a huge blow to hear that Far Cry weren’t able to make it over this year. Of course, we’re really happy to have been asked but as you know I am a regular visitor to the show each year and I was particularly looking forward seeing the band perform. Pete is a good friend of mine since we worked together on four songs for the new ‘Optimism’ album. I spoke to him only the other day and he was so upset about not be able to perform, although he will be travelling and attending the show.

You run the Blue Room studio in Southern England and worked on the Big Life project there with Mark Thompson Smith which was released earlier this year, an album which I was mightily impressed with?

Yes, that’s right. So glad you like that album. It was great to work with Mark; he is such a talented vocalist and songwriter. We had a great time writing and recording that album as we’ve been friends for years. I hope we find time to get together again and write a follow up, that would be great fun.

Have you worked on any other recent albums, either on the production or writing sides?

I have just finished work on a song for Federic Slama’s AOR Project. I recorded lead and backing vocals for a track called ‘Kimberly’ and I believe the album is coming out early next year. Apart from that, I have been working on the Newman ‘Another Step Closer Live 2010’ audio which is was recorded live at Firefest last year, the CD of which will be available on the weekend of Firefest this year. The DVD will be released sometime next year.

What has been the highlights and low points of your career to date?

It’s always a high point when you release an album. I get Emails regularly from people who have said that my music has touched them in some way, and it’s a great feeling. Obviously, the bands appearance at Firefest last year was great and I’m sure it will be great this year. On that subject I suppose our appearance back in 2006 was something I’d like to forget ha ha!

Why do you think there has been such a resurgence in Melodic Rock over the past couple of years?

I suppose recently it has to be the popularity of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and all of a sudden it’s cool to like 80s Melodic Rock again. We’ll have to see if it continues and filters down to the lesser know bands and festivals. I don’t think it’s really important, the melodic rock crowd is the most loyal in the world and I’m just so glad that I can share my music and have a profile within this genre. That’s always going to be number one for me.

Finally Steve what are your plans for the remainder of 2011 and into 2012?

We are already planning rehearsals for the upcoming Firefest show, which will keep me busy until the end of October. I will be taking a break from recording in order to focus more on promoting Newman as a live act. As for further writing I will see where inspiration takes me!!

This and more than 30 other interviews can be found in issue 48 of fireworks Magazine, available from ...

• Participating WHSmith and McColls Group stores (see Store Finder for participating stockists)
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