It was past midnight when Jimmy Iovine and The Edge walked into the studio where we were mixing “Waiting for the Dawn”. He was producing Rattle and Hum with U2, and they were recording guitar in the room next door. The studio sheet showed that “MaWayJa” was in with Shelly Yakus, and they wanted to know what that was all about. I had got the name from Don Laka (it means Voyager) and it seemed like a good fit for me. I was trying to finish the album that had been put on hold six months earlier, on the 27th of November 1987. I was alone making creative production decisions that I probably wasn’t in a state to make. Kevin was back in Australia, and his son Josh had just been born.
There were musicians all over the place in the A&M Recording studio complex, and after 25 years in the business, Shelly Yakus knew them all. Benmont Tench, Waddy Watchtel and Roy Bittan were all talked into adding parts to the album. It was a heady time, but I missed Kevin’s decisiveness, and I felt out of my depth. I wanted to get the album finished and to start feeling better. The album which had been put on hold in November had to be completed. I thought that this could be a breakthrough record for me, but the joy and excitement Kevin and I had shared were gone, and I struggled to recreate the magic that Kevin had created with his rough studio mixes.
“So, when are you are going to listen to the songs?” We were about to head out to dinner, the night before we would start recording in Nashville, TN, in February 2020. “OK, play me a couple now.” After five minutes Kevin looked at me, ”let’s go eat,” he said and headed out the door.
Walking down the dark windy streets I thought of the next day. I felt like I was a minor-league player, tossed out onto the field by mistake, at the start of a major league game. I was invisible on social media, hadn’t been in a studio for years, and had just played my top three songs to the producer with no visible reaction. Kevin looked at me. “How are you doing, Stevie? That “Seven Roses” is stellar, let’s get a steak!”
It sounded to me like the E-Street Band and The Heartbreakers had come to town. What great players, what gracious and humble people, what a killer intro. We had just cut the track for “Seven Roses” on our first day in the studio. Like magic, there was the song, playing, as I listened. It sounded great, it sounded like we had been playing together for years. It sounded like we were having fun. I felt like I was back where I belonged, making music.
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Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. He and his band Big Sky appeared on stage with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998.
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