What would you say first sparked your interest in music/who inspired you to make music?
Music has been in my life for as long as I can remember, before I was playing it I was always listening to it and unknowingly analysing it! I picked up a guitar when I was 8 years old but air guitar was certainly a thing before the real instrument came along. Once I had a guitar I never really put it down, I was always working out the chords and lyrics to songs from my parents’ record collection. The Beatles, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Queen and The Temptations were a big part of my early years, I would listen to a song and write down the lyrics before putting the chords over the top. Later, when I was 13, I discovered Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Pink Floyd, and really got into blues guitar. I began listening to more and more artists and guitar players and figuring out what they were doing and how they created their sounds. Composition and creativity has always been a part of my being and I’m really influenced by musicians/artists who don’t have any boundaries in their work and what they put out into the world. Music is so beautiful and incredibly broad – it would be a shame to box yourself in!
How would you describe the music you are currently creating?
Funk and soul based but with a bit of a twist. I adore Latin, jazz, ska, reggae, psychedelia, 60s beat music, and all kinds of weird stuff!! I guess all the things I like pop out in the music from time to time. I am a bit of a traditionalist and adore the sound of a live band, hopefully that comes across in the music! For the last album I wanted it to be lively and danceable; I’m obsessed with the grooves of James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and Sly & The Family Stone. But then I did listen to too much Frank Zappa in my late teens so some of my songs have a quirky or humorous twist to them.
What does your creative process look like?
It all starts with an idea, be it a vocal hook, bass line and a riff. I have a ridiculous number of ‘voice memo’ ideas on my phone which are always there if I want to listen back to anything. I think probably 40% of them turn into proper songs and the rest are just hanging out in voice notes doing their thing! Likewise I have a lot of lyrical lines stockpiled and these could be a couple of verses, a stanza or even just a cool word or two that I can call upon if I’m stuck for ideas. I demo most of the songs with a few acoustic guitar layers, loops and a whole load of vocals on my computer and then send them through to the band. Our group has a four-piece horn section which is a big part of the sound. Some horn lines I write and some I give to our wonderful horn arranger and tenor sax player, Marc Osborne, to work his magic on. The basic tracks are sorted out in a rehearsal room with keys, bass and drums and then we have another session with horns. Having said that, every song has its own pathway to making it on an LP and there are at least two per album that are recorded from the ground up without having played them as a band.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? (let’s send it out to the universe and make it happen!)
I would collaborate with absolutely anyone and feel that everyone on the planet can offer up something musically! We have had some wonderful collaborations over the last few years…. Optamus from the Western Australian kings of hip-hop, Downsyde, and General Justice who has had the longest running reggae radio show in the southern hemisphere. There are so many fallen heroes that would have been incredible to work with, but in terms of folks who are still around: Elvis Costello, Questlove, Mavis Staples… I could go on for ages!! Ooooooooo Rufus Wainwright!!!!
What is the one message you would like to send out to your fans?
Be kind to yourself, be kind to one another and make sure you are always singing or dancing! There can be so many dark things that happen in the world, both on a personal and a global scale, and I’m a firm believer of maintaining a sense of humour and finding the good in people and situations, you know- accentuate the positives and all that jazz.
What’s your top tip to rejuvenate your creativity/get over a writer’s block?
Just keep writing! Most people don’t have writer’s block, they just don’t like anything that they are creating and it happens to everyone. The important thing to do is to document everything and then keep going. Checking out and learning a lot of new music (new as in new to your ears) can help you go down different paths and avenues that you might not have travelled down before. I think this is also where the best music comes from. The mind is an interesting beast and what can sound great one day is horrific the next and then great again the day after.
What’s next for you, what do we have to look forward to/ what are you currently working on?
We’ve just released our fourth album so I’m still shamelessly promoting that sucker!! ‘It’s A Dry Heat Ayyyye!!!’ is a dedication to our sunny home town, Perth, Western Australia. I’m about a third of the way through writing the next album, but for someone who writes a lot of ideas I’m being quite mindful of not rushing things too much. Hopefully we’ll have a new album out late 2023! The rest of 2022 will see us performing our latest album and back catalogue in regional Western Australia, and even bringing our jazz/funk stylings to the Perth International Jazz Festival, which is a highlight on WA’s musical calendar.
In December we’re heading to the UK for a month-long run of shows, which I’m booking at the moment. Keep an eye on our ‘socials’ if you want to catch us in person and say G’Day!!
Follow Steve Hensby band:
Check out their latest single ‘Righteous St’ below: