The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 11 by Steve Louw

Pat Thrall called me from Atlanta in September 2003, where he was working with EurythmicsDave Stewart. They were coming to Cape Town and wanted to record with local musicians, in preparation for an album and concert to raise funds and global awareness to help fight the AIDS tragedy. I knew Dave Stewart as a great producer, musician and songwriter, and I looked forward to them coming to Cape Town.
 
Brian May walked into UCA, carrying his red guitar by the neck, plugged into a VOX AC30 amp and the sound of Queen filled the room. He was adding guitar parts to a track that Dave had finished the night before. Pat had called me that morning, laughing. “You lucked out Steve, after you left last night, Dave decided to work on the track you guys did together and it’s come out great! He is going to finish it today.”

Amandla – 46664


I stood backstage at the Green Point Stadium on the 29th of November 2003, where 40 000 people had to come to watch the first-ever 46664 concert. Johnny Clegg was singing “Asimbonanga” and “The Crossing” to Nelson Mandela in the audience. It was a riveting performance and a highlight of the concert. We had sat in the sunshine, outside the rehearsal venue, the day before and spoke about the years since 1985, when we had played together, the death of my mother, South Africa, and Johnny’s upcoming US tour. When he walked off stage, I hugged him. “You’re out the van, and in the big tour bus after that, Johnny!” We laughed, happy to be together on such a great night.
 
I had been on my farm for a few weeks working on my songs in early 2019 when I heard a crazy buzzing outside the window where I was sitting writing. I got up and looked up into the eaves at a watermelon-sized blob of hanging buzzing bees about to move into a new home. There were bees everywhere, and I locked down all the windows to keep them out. I phoned my buddy who was a beekeeper to come around and help me out. He calmly stuck his hand into the middle of the swarm, extracted the Queen, put her in a wooden box, and watched as the whole swarm followed her in. It was sunset, and I had the tag for the song I was working on. “You’re my Queen, my Queen Bee maybe, I’ll stick with you ‘til the sun goes down.”

Steve Louw – Queen Bee Maybe

 
I love the sound of a Hammond organ and its rotating Leslie speaker working together. Steve Winwood, Richard Manuel, Benmont Tench and Kevin McKendree can each make that sound. I heard it as Kevin played his solo on “Queen Bee Maybe”, the first song we recorded in Nashville in February 2020. I knew then that we were going to have a great time making this record. 
 

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #11

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 9 by Steve Louw

Rodriguez arriving in Cape Town, 2nd March 1998
Rodriguez arriving in Cape Town, 2nd March 1998

Rodriguez walked into the UCA rehearsal studio in Cape Town, grinning, looking fit and healthy, despite having just got off of a flight from Detroit, leaving the freezing winter behind him. It was the 5th of March 1998, the day before the first show of Rodriguez’ sold-out arena tour of South Africa, and the first time he had ever been to South Africa. There was a media frenzy around the tour and the fact that he was here, alive, well, and ready to rock a country where he was a mysterious, multi-platinum-selling artist, whose only media profile was the picture on the cover of Cold Fact.

Rodriguez - Cold Fact (South African pressing)
Rodriguez – Cold Fact (South African pressing)

 
We handed him the guitar we had bought him. Laughingly, he said he hadn’t played for a while as he’d been busy working, mainly on construction jobs. Then the voice and the songs we had all been listening to for the past 25 years filled the room.
 
Graeme Currie, our bass player, played the riff of “I Wonder”, for about the 15th time, and glanced backstage over his shoulder. The Bellville Velodrome was packed, and 7000 frantic fans surged forward to see “The Man”. Standing backstage, Rodriguez looked stunned. The audience spotted him as he took a step towards the lights. Seven thousand
voices erupted in a frenzy as he reached the mic and “I wonder, how many times you’ve been had….” filled the arena.

Rodriguez and Big Sky On Stage 7 March 1998
Rodriguez and Big Sky On Stage, Bellville Velodrome, 7th March 1998
Rodriguez Live In South Africa 1998
Rodriguez and Big Sky, Backstage, Bellville Velodrome, March 1998


The next week’s six shows around the country were just as triumphant as the opening night, and it felt as though this was Rodriguez, stepping out into worldwide artistic and commercial recognition. That would only happen more than ten years later, after the release of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The last time I saw him was Friday 13th March 1998, standing in his cowboy boots at 3am on the Durban beachfront, holding a beer and grinning. He looked like a happy man.

Searching For Sugar Man

It was 2019, the end of the decade, and 1998 seemed a long way back. I crossed the white-baked salt flats of Verneukpan, on my motorcycle, tracing the still visible route of Malcolm Campbell’s unsuccessful attempt to set the world land speed record in 1929, in his racer The Bluebird. My father was 14 when they came through his hometown of Calvinia, and I was always fascinated by this story. My dad was the ukulele player in a band, and together with a
banjo and a concertina player, they played the local folk songs at their towns’ weekend dances.
 
My bike kicked up fine white dust and the setting sun was blinding in my eyes. It was the second day of a solo motorcycle trip around South Africa, and it felt like I was back in a far-off distant time. The back of the bike was fishtailing as it spun in the soft sand, a jackal bolted for the bushes, and I turned out onto the road to the Namibian border. In a few months, I would be back in the studio after a long break. I opened the bike’s throttle as far as
it would go and felt the future accelerating towards me.

Steve Louw, Verneukpan, 2019
Steve Louw, Verneukpan, 2019
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 9

 

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

Dead Men Don’t Tour, Rodriguez in South Africa 1998 (TV Documentary)

This documentary was shown on South African Television this week, 20 years ago.

Footage from this documentary features strongly in the Oscar winning film, Searching For Sugar Man.

Dead Men Don’t Tour

Directed by Tonia Selley and featuring Big Sky, “Dead Men Don’t Tour”, was first broadcast on SABC 3 at 9.30pm on the 5th July 2001 just after ‘Ripley’s Believe Or Not’.

This film features wonderful concert footage, backstage antics, interviews with Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, Rodriguez and his family, the promoters, the fans and the musicians.

All live footage was filmed at the concerts in Pretoria, Durban and the Blues Room in Johannesburg.

The soundtrack for the documentary is based on the Live Fact CD with video collages from the various performances. The concert footage is linked with interviews, backstage antics, rehearsals, etc.

  1. I Wonder
  2. Inner City Blues
  3. Jane S. Piddy
  4. Sugar Man
  5. A Most Disgusting Song
  6. Like Janis
  7. Establishment Blues
  8. Climb Up On My Music
  9. I Wonder by Generation EXT (filmed during the studio recording)
  10. Forget It

Produced by Incha Productions
Executive producers: Georgina Parkin and Charles Watson
Directed by Tonia Selley
Edited by Cathy Winter

March 1998 (left-to-right): Willem Moller, Sixto Rodriguez, Tonia Selley, Steve Louw, Graeme Currie, Reuben Samuels, kneeling front: Russel Taylor
March 1998 (left-to-right): Willem Moller, Sixto Rodriguez, Tonia Selley, Steve Louw, Graeme Currie, Reuben Samuels, kneeling front: Russel Taylor

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 8 by Steve Louw

I was back in Brooklyn Recording, in early 1997, and the room felt familiar. We were tracking the songs that would become the album, one of which was “Going Down with Mister Green”, and the band that played on Horizon was back in the groove. We were friends, and I was getting used to producing. I figured it was easy. Just show them the songs and let everyone play! Horizon had done well, and the songs for the next album had come quickly. Benmont Tench (the keyboard player with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), walked up to me during a break. I had first met him in 1988, when he played on “Waiting for the Dawn” and “Diamonds and Dirt”, and he was a Southern gentleman, the son of a Federal Court judge, and a musical genius. I had been a fan of his since hearing his piano riff on “Breakdown,” and his Hammond B3 solo on “Refugee”. It was always a privilege to hear him play.

Steve Louw 1997

He had just traded his old Camaro Z/28 for a Mercedes sports, with a car phone, and we took a walk outside to have a look. As we looked over the car, Benmont looked up at me and said, “These are the best songs you’ve written. I love your lyric on “Hitchhike” … It’s easier for the needle, to pass through the eye of the meek. Lay down your guns, boy, sink down to your feet. We were standing in the hot LA sun; the studio was set up and we were into it. It felt like it was going to be a good album. 

Steve Louw in the studio recording “Going Down With Mr Green”, 1997

Kevin was in New York, producing Nine Lives, the Aerosmith album which went on to be one of their most successful. He was on a winning streak, having just done Silverchair’s Frogstomp, and Journey’s Trial by Fire, all of which had been multi-platinum successes. It had taken him just seven years to become a world-famous producer and engineer, and there was no holding him back. He had moved to New York City, and his 25th birthday party, at Rita’s, seemed a long way back. 

It was Saturday afternoon, the 29th day of February 2020, and we had finished eight songs in the last two-and-a-half days. I had called the songs that I felt hung together the best, first, but now my choices were becoming more difficult. I still had four or five songs, but I knew, as soon as we had tracked a song, Kevin and the band would look at me and say “What’s next?”

Steve Louw – Headlight Dreams

I had left the rockers to last, and I felt we could try one now. I played the acoustic intro to “Headlight Dreams” and looked for the reaction. “Cool, let’s do it, sounds like fun,” said Kev (McKendree). I liked the song’s story, and as I played the acoustic intro, the band kicked in, sounding big and heavy. “That was fun,“ Kev laughed, as we walked back into the control room. We were grinning at each other, and it felt like we had been playing together for years. As we walked up to the console, Kevin pushed up the faders, opened a bottle of red wine and started mixing.

Steve Louw and Kevin Shirley mixing Headlight Dreams, February 2020
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 8

 

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 7 by Steve Louw

“What are we doing, a polka thing?” Scott Crago laughed as he breezed past me into the studio. With long blonde hair and Southern Californian surfer vibe, he looked the part for the gig he had just landed as the Eagles’ drummer for their reunion tour. It was May 1994, and I was in Brooklyn Recording, a studio filled with vintage gear and an old Neve console. It was good to be back in a recording studio making music.

A lot had happened in the last five years. I was married, we had three daughters, and life was beautiful. Waiting for the Dawn had been well received in South Africa, with three songs getting heavy airplay. We had toured behind the album and had been as commercially successful as you could be at the tip of Africa.

 Steve Louw
Steve Louw

The world had undergone seismic political upheaval. Apartheid was over, the USSR was dismantled, South American dictators were on the run, and I had just participated in South Africa’s first democratic election and seen Nelson Mandela inaugurated as the country’s first President.

I was, by default, producing the album and Kevin was on the verge of a breakthrough in Australia, working with three fifteen-year-olds, making the album that would become Frogstomp by Silverchair. I didn’t know much about production, but I knew that I needed to get my songs into a studio with a great bunch of musicians and play. The rest would take care of itself. The engineer, Bill Dooley, a laconic New Yorker who shared my love of NHL Hockey and the New York Rangers, helped us all get comfortable with each other and rocking.

I had released Waiting for the Dawn as Big Sky, and this album, Horizon, would be the follow-up. I had taken a while to come up with the songs, and taken a few detours along the way, working on film scores, buying some land where I built our family home, and starting a tree farm.

Nashville 2020: “Play that again, you just played it in a different time signature” laughed Greg Morrow. “I don’t know if I can, what I played, in the beginning, is the right riff.” “Oh, OK,” and he changed his notes. I had been struggling with “Get out of my Heart” for days. I had written it as a full-on rocker, a call to arms, and performed it live to raucous applause. It never felt like I had found the song’s heart, and that there was so much more ambivalence in the song that wasn’t being projected. I hit upon the weird time signature, and then, the lyric and the vocal sat comfortably within the music. I had hoped that I could pull it off. Rob McNelley nailed it down right away, and with him leading, we cut the track, slower than the other songs, but powerful. It felt like I was on a back road in Twin Peaks territory, loving the nightlife.

Steve Louw – Get Out Of My Heart

I walked out into the cold Nashville night carrying my guitar. I felt like I could walk down that road and just keep going until the city’s lights faded behind me and only the moon to light my way. I was far from home, alone in a strange city, but it felt like I had turned back onto the right track.

SPOTIFY: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #7

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 6 by Steve Louw

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. 

Steve Louw

 
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!”

Steve Louw – Seven Roses


 
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.

SPOTIFY Playlist: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 6

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 5 by Steve Louw

Tony Visconti wore leather pants, his greying hair slicked back. I was straight out of two years of smoky, sweaty clubs and other dives. He was straight out of stardom, working with David Bowie. I had been asked by my record label to look after him during his trip to Johannesburg to record local stars, Ymage.

Steve Louw 1990
Steve Louw 1990

At the time, I was working on the songs that would become “Waiting for the Dawn” and Kevin was coming back to South Africa to produce it. He had been away in Australia for a year making a name for himself as a recording engineer.

Visconti had split his recording project into two parts, and Kevin and I would go to Cape Town with Godfrey Mcinga, Jimmy Mngwandi and Don Laka to cut the tracks of the album’s songs at UCA studio, while he went back to London. He was demanding. I was a bad gofer and was glad to be back at UCA’s studio with the three great players we had met in Joburg, making music. I felt good about the songs, and we, Kevin and I, thought that we could break through with a song like “Waiting for the Dawn”. Kevin was booked to fly back to Australia, via London, once the album was mixed by Shelly Yakus (Tom Petty, Patti Smith).

Steve Louw & Big Sky – Waiting For The Dawn

I sat at the bar having a beer with my brother Ardi, before leaving for London. He had introduced me to the music of Lou Reed, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin, and I had highjacked his Gallotone guitar and learned to play out of Alfred’s Chord Book. He looked into my eyes, saying: “Looks like you are going to make it, Boetman, I’m proud of you.” We had had a tumultuous fist-filled relationship, but we were finding our way back to each other again, and I felt like he thought my music had some worth. “Thanks, I think so too,“ I replied. It would be the last time I looked into his eyes.

Kevin put his arm around my shoulders as we walked through Hyde Park. I felt broken and numb. I had just heard that, as we flew to London, the 747 plane my brother was flying back to South Africa on, had blown up near Mauritius. It felt like the world had stopped turning. Everything seemed still and I couldn’t hear any music.

In late October 2011, I was journeying through The Grand Canyon on a raft atop a raging Colorado River with a group of friends who were serious adventurers, all about 20 years my junior. They had done first descents of remote Alaskan rivers, skied down 14 000-foot mountain peaks in Wyoming and kayaked over 200-foot waterfalls in Patagonia. I was glad to be invited along and glad there was a guitar to play every night.

This trip was a walk in the park for them, but serious adventuring for me. I felt I was deep near the Earth’s beating heart’s core, and for 21 days she and I were one. I left the river with my mind wiped clean and the rhythm of it in my heart.

Steve Louw – Crazy River

When I heard “Crazy River”, playing over the studio speakers 10 years later, I was right back in the Canyon carved by the Colorado River. I could see the night sky and full moon; I could feel the Earth’s heartbeat. The song’s beat was the Earth’s heartbeat, the rivers were the Colorado, Amazon and Nile combined. Wild, free, places always moving from the mountains towards the sea of change and greater possibility.

Spotify Playlist: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 5

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 4 by Steve Louw

It was Kevin‘s 25th birthday and he was leaving South Africa for Australia. He had hired Rita’s, a big underground club, and all of the artists with whom Kevin had made records were playing.

We had just finished the second All Night Radio album, and Tim Parr of Ella Mental had come in and played a beautiful solo on the title track, accompanying David Kramer’s dobro blikkitaar. It was a beautiful night to say goodbye.

Kevin left, drove his Toyota convertible to Cape Town airport, parked it, got on a plane and was gone, on his way to Australia, and the next part of his rock ‘n roll journey.

Kevin managed to get a release for “The Killing Floor” in Australia, and a year later we would be back together at UCA making “Waiting for the Dawn“.

Steve Louw & Kevin Shirley, February 2020, Nashville, TN…. just the cold hard facts.

Fast forward to March 2020 – “I’ve got to mix “Train Don’t Run” on this console,” Kevin says to me. “It’s the same one they used mixing Dark Side of the Moon”. He was excited. A tornado had just passed through Nashville, everything was eerie and, as usual, he wanted to make music. “This is your best song ever, Stevie,” Kevin declared, as Rob McNelley’s soaring solo filled the room. “I love this song!” It was good to be together again.

In 35 years, his passion for making music had always burned bright. Whether working with me or mixing “Stairway to Heaven” for “How the West was Won” (which he would change to “Stairway to Kevin” and crack them up!) with Jimmy Page, he could only do a great job. I was there because he had forced me to step up and believe in myself. I had been working hard for the last year and fragments of songs had been worked into stories. My friend’s direction, coupled with my daily discipline, felt good.

I had bought a small three-quarter Martin guitar in Vancouver, where I was spending Christmas 2019 with my family. It sounded great in the shop, and when I got back to my hotel room, I started playing it with a capo high up on the neck. That small guitar gave me the gift that would become “Train Don’t Run”.

Steve Louw – Train Don’t Run

The song had the wind, the dust and the breadth of the Karoo plains in it. A few months earlier I had been riding cross those plains for weeks on my motorbike. Alone, day after day, for 8000km. The landscape seeped into me. I could see ow the plains had looked for thousands of years, I could see how settlers had come and attempted to force nature to bend to their will. Now time reclaimed space. The rusted overgrown tracks where my father had got on a train to find work in the city of Johannesburg; the area where my grandfather had looked after an area of regional track for the State railway bore silent testimony. The sidings were empty and broken, trees grew through the railway tracks, the wind blew through the pepper trees. The earth was healing as time passed.

Spotify Playlist: The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 4

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

Illuminating Headlight Dreams

by Brian Currin, June 2021

Back in early April 2021, I read a press release announcing a new album coming from Steve Louw and it included the video of a song called “Crazy River”. I loved the big open spaces this song evoked (and enhanced by the video) and the subtle African guitar sounds reminded me of early Johnny Clegg.

I first heard of Steve Louw in 1990 when the cassette version of the “Pop Shop 48” album featured the song “Waiting For The Dawn” by Big Sky as a bonus track. There is actually no real band called Big Sky, it is the name Steve Louw has used when he surrounds himself with the cream of the crop of American and South African musicians.

I first met Steve in March 1998, backstage at the first Rodriguez concert at the Bellville Velodrome, outside Cape Town. Steve and that year’s incarnation of Big Sky were a worthy support act. The rest of Big Sky (led by Steve’s old buddy since the seventies, Willem Möller) also backed Rodriguez for his set. That sold-out tour of South Africa is featured in the Oscar-winning film, “Searching For Sugar Man“.

Steve recorded two albums in the 80’s with his band All Night Radio, and then four albums as Big Sky between 1990 and 2008, as well as a compilation album, “Best Of The Decade” (in 1999), and a live concert DVD recorded over two nights in 2008.

And now he comes blasting back with his first solo album (well, technically) in 13 years. As in his Big Sky days, he has surrounded himself with some top players in their fields. So let’s drop a few names; “Headlight Dreams” was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, produced by Kevin Shirley, mastered by Bob Ludwig, liner notes by Stephen Thomas Erlewine (from AllMusic), and a guitar solo on “Wind In Your Hair” by one of my favourite guys from the more recent crop of Blues guitar-slingers, Joe Bonamassa.

Louw also brought in some of the best musos in Nashville, namely Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Alison Prestwood (bass), Rob McNelly (guitars) and Greg Morrow (drums). Steve Louw wrote all the songs and sings and plays acoustic guitar.

This album is filled with great songs, from the bluesy, lyrically hard-hitting “Get Out Of My Heart” to the bouncy “Queen Bee Maybe” with its delightful Hammond organ solo from Kevin McKendree, however my favourite track on this album is the almost proggish “Train Don’t Run”. Clocking in at seven and half minutes this is an epic tune that you hope never finishes. There is a soaring guitar solo by Rob McNelly that David Gilmour fans will love. No surprise to discover that this track was mixed on the same console as the classic “Dark Side Of The Moon“.

If you immerse yourself in the Steve Louw back-catalogue you will find recurring themes and reappearing characters, in a similar vein to Rodriguez, Piet Botha and many others. It is one of the things I love about listening to music, that there are rewards for paying extra attention.

This album can be played in the background, but if you give it your full awareness and dive into its depths you will be rewarded with poetic lyrics melded with great tunes, recorded by superb musicians.

Steve’s enthusiasm for life and love is expressed in every note in this superb creation. “Headlight Dreams” deserves to be listened to over and over again, and if you do, you will get something new every time.

Steve Louw on Social

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 3 by Steve Louw

Little Steven - Voice Of America
Little Steven – Voice Of America

It was a hot summer in 1984 in Johannesburg when Little Steven (aka Miami Steve van Zandt) looked straight into my eyes through the lens of my camera. He was listening to the live recording of my band, All Night Radio, and I could see he was into it. His leopard print coat, snakeskin boots and silk bandanna were all too hot for the Johannesburg summer heat, but he looked like the coolest person I had ever seen. 

He was in South Africa to promote Voice of America, his second album. He had recently quit the E-Street Band to launch his solo career and I was interviewing him for a local newspaper. We had been talking for hours about studios, recording and his work as a producer with Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds, and his two Little Steven albums, Men without Women, and Voice of America.

The UN cultural boycott of South Africa was in place, and he was visiting South Africa to see for himself what was happening in the country. Voice of America was a political album, and tracks like “Checkpoint Charlie” and “Los Desaparecidos” dealt with the regimes of East Germany and Argentina. The Sun City album would become Little Steven’s natural progression of that work, and after Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”, one of the most significant protest songs against apartheid.

Little Steven’s Sun City video

I thought Steve would be cool with helping me get further up the road. He was, and he suggested we record with the engineer who had just finished his new album, and which I thought sounded great. Six weeks later we were in UCA studios in Cape Town with John Rollo, the engineer on Voice of America, and long-time associate of The Kinks. I had left NYC, figuring that recording and gigging with the great musicians I knew back home would break us through to some sort of recognition. John knew how to make a live rock ’n’ roll record, and we were ready, after a year of gigging in clubs. We stripped the UCA studio bare, brought up the freight lift, put the drums near its metal mouth, stripped off the toms and we rocked. Ten days later we were mixing at the House of Music New Jersey, and in August 1984 All Night Radio made its radio airplay debut.

All Night Radio (left-to-right): Rob Nagel, Steve Louw, Nico Burger, Richard "Dish" Devey, Pitchie Rommelaere
All Night Radio (left-to-right): Rob Nagel, Steve Louw, Nico Burger, Richard “Dish” Devey, Pitchie Rommelaere

We brought in our great drummer, Richard “Dish” Devey along for the tour and rehearsed on the stage of the now-defunct Three Arts Theatre where I had seen Ray Charles, José Feliciano and Tina Turner from backstage, with my school buddy, Dereck Quibell, the theatre owners’ son. 

We hit the road for a national tour, and from where I was sitting, behind the wheel of a VW panel van, the future looked great.

FEBRUARY 2019: “You’ve got songs, Stevie, and before I see you you’ll write more. Just be in Nashville the last three days of February next year, and we’ll make a record”. I put down the phone. Kevin (Shirley) was in Abbey Road studios with Joe Bonamassa, and I had a year to get myself together before leap year 2020 rolled around. The music started playing in my head again.

Kevin Shirley
Kevin Shirley
The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #3

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 2 by Steve Louw

All Night Radio (early 80's) with Steve Louw (centre)
All Night Radio (early 80’s) with Steve Louw (centre)

AUGUST 1981: The Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ echoed off every wall, and blared out of every cab window and shop door in the hot August weather in New York City. Their groove and the pulse of the city seemed to be superimposed, laying down a thick backbeat. Keith Richards’ guitar owned the city. I had listened to that sound since buying the seven-single of ‘Satisfaction’. His groove felt like the heartbeat of Africa. His sound took me to Elvis and Duane Eddy.

I had arrived from Cape Town, with a guitar, demos of my songs and an intro to legendary engineer and producer Phil Ramone (Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan). I knew I was closer to the heart of the music I loved, than ever before.

Phil owned A & R Recording Studios, where engineers Shelly Yakus and Bob Ludwig began their careers. Our paths would cross, but now as I listened, my music filled the control room of the legendary studio where Dylan had sung the songs which would become the masterpiece Blood On The Tracks. I knew Phil recognised that I still had a long way to go. That was OK, I wasn’t in a hurry, and just being there in that room was good enough for me.

A & R Recording, Inc. Analogue 1/4 inch tape master
A & R Recording, Inc. Analogue 1/4 inch tape master

NEW YORK CITY March 2020. The 5th March 2020 was our wedding anniversary. I had just got back to NYC from Nashville recording the songs that would become the album ‘Headlight Dreams‘ with Kevin ‘The Caveman’ Shirley. We had made five albums together, and been friends since playing small Cape Town clubs in the early 1980s with our bands ‘All Night Radio’ and ‘The Council’. Kevin had gone on to become a world-famous producer and engineer (Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin), but he had always looked out for me, and we had had a great time making records together.

I looked at my phone and saw an email headed: Bob Ludwig Master. A wedding anniversary present from Kevin! I clicked on the link and ‘The Wind in Your Hair’ played out across the NYC winter streets. “What a great song, vocal and band, this album sounds extra real like you-all were having a lot of fun” was the note with the link from Bob.

Steve Louw – Wind In Your Hair (feat Joe Bonamassa)

I had written the song after spending a few months alone looking after our farm, and Erna being back in Cape Town looking after our young children. She had decided to make the six-hundred-kilometre road trip alone to come and see me. Walking down the farm road I saw the dust of a car approaching and then stop. Squinting into the sunlight I realised who it was, and my eyes filled with tears. The most beautiful radiant smiling eyes looked back at me.

Forty years later the NYC streets seemed as though they were welcoming me back. It would be the last few days before the city would be locked down, and a global pandemic would strike. I walked out on the streets thinking of myself as the 25-year-old kid trying to hustle his way into a music career. I passed the building where the club ‘The Bottom Line’ had been and where I had seen so many riveting performances by artists I had followed for years from South Africa. I crossed Washington Square and headed uptown to where Phil’s studio had been.

It was great to be alive.

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #2

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

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.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

Colin Shamley Dies

Colin Shamley was one of the great musical commentators on life, love and politics in South Africa. I first met him at Dave and Franny’s house in High street, Berea, where I was squatting and selling zol to keep body and soul together. Colin was playing at Mangles and the first time I heard him it was a revelation. The skill, the words, the humour and the incisive view of our crazy world. One of my first gigs was opening for him at Mangles and I went down like a fart in a spacesuit to the mainly biker audience. But it didn’t take long to learn a few of the basic rules of the game from Colin, and I was up and running. I played at Mangles for a year before I recorded my first album. Colin recorded his master work ‘Born Guilty’ at about the same time and both albums received critical acclaim but few sales. “Born Guilty” is truly one of the greatest works ever to come out of this country. Colin died this morning after a long illness. Hamba Kahle Maestro.

Roger Lucey, from Jive Talking & Eyeballing

#MusicExchange: Steve Louw releases new album Headlight Dreams | Biz Community

From Biz Community, by Martin Myers

It’s hard to believe the last music we heard from Steve Louw arrived seven long years ago. With the wait now finally over, fans right around the world are already embracing the pop-rock icon’s return with arms wide open. The past year has been a rich and hugely rewarding one for Louw. Not only did Louw record his brand-new album, Headlight Dreams, in Nashville along with his long-time friend and producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes), but Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and genius guitarist Joe Bonamassa also pitched up and added his magic to the record. 

#MusicExchange: Steve Louw releases new album Headlight Dreams
Steve Louw

To boot, Sony ATV, upon hearing the finished album, offered Louw his first international solo artist record deal.

The album, which is out now, already has two singles on high rotation, “Crazy River” and “Wind in your Hair”; the latter is the one that’s quite literally blowing up all around the world. In its first week of release in the US, the track landed at the highly coveted number two position on the Billboard ACC Folk Chart, ahead of the likes of the equally commendable Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.

“Wind in your Hair” is the track that sports Joe Bonamassa guitar fills and outstanding middle-eight. The single has had over 100,000 plays on Spotify in under three weeks. 

With 10 tracks captured in an arresting three-day recording sprint, producer Kevin Shirley channelled each one of Headlight Dreams’ songs through a vintage Neve console inside of a converted church. 

“From the first moment, I loved the acoustics of the studio and the vibe created by the wonderful Nashville musicians with their great feel and playing, drawing you into a world shimmering in the half-light, just out of reach,” Louw shares.

A consummate storyteller, a supremely gifted guitarist and a genuinely wonderful human being, Louw’s Headlight Dreams is a beautiful statement.

I caught up with the Cape Town resident last week. 

BizcommunityThe new decade means: Radical carbon emission cuts.

BizcommunityFame is about: An illusion.

#MusicExchange: Steve Louw releases new album Headlight Dreams
Steve Louw and Kevin Shirley

BizcommunityRetirement will happen when: You have lived beyond three figures

BizcommunityI don’t do:Fake people. 

BizcommunityMy music is about: Everyday experiences.  

BizcommunityWhat is the most enjoyable aspect of your work? Playing live and singing. 

BizcommunityThe song you must do in every show: “Waiting for the Dawn” 

BizcommunityAny funny moments on stage: When the power tripped, half the show was acoustic; we just kept playing. Luckily, the power came back and then we had an electric show.

BizcommunityMy style icon: Bob Dylan. 

BizcommunityWhat is your most treasured possession? My 1964 Epiphone as played by John (Lennon), Paul (McCartney) and George (Harrison). 

BizcommunityIt’s your round, what are you drinking? Glenmorangie Single Malt. 

BizcommunityWhat makes you stand out? The stage lights. 

BizcommunityNicknames: Stevo. 

BizcommunityIf you were not a musician, what would you do? Conservation. 

BizcommunityWho would play you in a Hollywood blockbuster and why? Edward Norton; we both smirk. 

#MusicExchange: Steve Louw releases new album Headlight Dreams
Steve Louw

BizcommunityPick five words to describe yourself: Musical, songwriter, guitar player, dendrophile, singer.

BizcommunityFive favourite SA albums: 
GBB – Eet Kreef
Baxtop – Work It Out
Juluka – Scatterlings
Tananas – Tananas
Tribe After Tribe – Power

BizcommunityWhat is your favourite word? Truth.  

BizcommunityFavourite fashion garment: My leather flying jacket. 

BizcommunityGive us some real proper slang and what it means: Lank kiff: Awesome, great. 

BizcommunityYour greatest achievement: My family. 

BizcommunityWhat do you complain about most often? Dishonesty. 

BizcommunityWhat is your fear? Large puff adders. 

BizcommunityHappiness is: Riding motorcycles. 

BizcommunityWhere would you like to be right now? Where I am.  

BizcommunityDo you do charity work and, if you do, what do you do? Yes, conservation. 

Twitter: @stevelouwmusic

Website: SteveLouw.com

Great Local Musicians #2020-45: Steve Louw, last heard on All Night Radio | Jive Talking & Eyeballing

From Jive Talking & Eyeballing
by Ernesto Garcia Marques, April 2021,
edited by Brian Currin, May 2021

Anyone who supported local South African music will remember All Night Radio, the blues rock band from Stellenbosch who were truly world class. I have been meaning to interview Steve for the longest time and now that he is about to release a new album it seemed like the perfect time to interview him now. I would like to give a big shout out to Martin Myers and the sterling work he is doing as CEO of Music Exchange and Triple M Entertainment. Martin is handling the PR for Steve Louw and is also his manager. I contacted him about doing this interview. Thanks Martin 😀

By way of introduction many of you should remember this song, recorded live at Ellis Park Stadium, 1985…. 

Ernesto: Howzit Steve, hope you are doing well? No need to ask if you are still rocking as I am really thrilled to hear that you have a new album coming out soon but more about that later…  I believe ANR started at Stellenbosch University where you met Nico Burger and Rob Nagel and your combined love for the Blues and Rock ‘n Roll got you out there and playing with David Kramer and Lesley Rae Dowling in various clubs and student venues. When was this exactly and what songs did you play at those early gigs? Did you play any covers or only original songs? How did you get involved in music and who were your main influences?

Steve: Hi Ernesto, Great to hear from you! I met Rob Nagel and Willem Moller in 1976 at the Stellenbosch Folk Club and we have been friends ever since. It was great place to get heard and there was always an enthusiastic audience of music lovers. Most of the artists wanted to showcase their own songs, but there were also versions of other artists’ songs. I can remember doing a cover of Gallis Pole (Gallows Pole) on 12 string guitar, thinking I was covering a Zeppelin song! I never dreamed that 25 years later my bud Kevin Shirley would be working with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant! My Dad had a DJ friend in Johannesburg, and one day he brought home a copy of Duane Eddy, ‘Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel’ and I was mesmerised by the sound. Another of my earliest memories is hearing Fats Domino sing Blueberry Hill on my Mom’s car radio and I felt that I was being taken to another mysterious and beautiful place. I started playing piano when I was 8, and when I found my brother’s discarded GalloTone guitar that was it. Willem and I had a band called Rockaway which gigged doing originals and covers. Willem was always into recording, and we started doing demos of our songs between gigs.

I formed ANR in 1983 with Rob, Pitchie Rommelaere and Nico (Burger), as Willem had left Cape Town for Johannesburg with his band Nothing Personal, which had started to do well. Our first drummer was Ronnie Milne, a great Scottish drummer. I had started recording with Willem at a Studio in Cape Town in 1979 and 1980, and we did demos of my songs and then focussed on two songs which we thought had a shot. I finished them up when I moved to New York City in 1981. After trying to get going in NYC, and having some interest from A+M Records, I decided to come back to Cape Town and form All Night Radio.

E: ANR broke up and Steve headed for New York City and Rob Nagel went to Hamburg, Germany. Two years later Rob and Steve decided to return to Cape Town and, re-uniting with Nico, used the Mother City as the base for their assault on the record industry. Then came months of all-night rehearsals, live gigs to test the songs, more rehearsals, more gigs, and live recordings until the band felt they were ready to record.

Why did the band break up? Did you and Rob intend going overseas to gain experience before returning to give it a full go in South Africa? Did either of you play live while overseas or did you go and see as many bands as you could, or both? What bands really blew you away and inspired you with All Night Radio?

S: So we formed ANR, when I came back to Cape Town in March 1983. When I was in NYC, I saw so many great bands! It was a really inspirational time and also quite tough to survive! I met lots of musicians and recording engineers, and we would go into their studios during quiet times, like a Sunday afternoon, and work on songs. I remember walking in the streets of New York in 1981 hearing the Stones’ Start Me Up blasting from every car, shop and taxi wherever you went. It was incredible! Springsteen released Nebraska in 1982 and it played over and over on my cassette machine. The songs really resonated with me and I realised that the art of songwriting and storytelling were one.

That album really inspired me and I bought a 4 track cassette recorder and started making demos. All the first demos of the songs that were released on the first ANR album The Heart’s the Best Part were recorded on that machine, which I still have! I also remember a stand out gig by Elvis Costello, during his Imperial Bedroom tour which was just mind blowing. I knew that I had to really focus on songwriting to connect with people.

All Night Radio’s first release was the double A sided single: Breaking Hearts/Sea Side Love which was released on 1st September 1984 and what a great song it was… 

This was on the other side and my own personal favourite… 

E: That was a really good single Steve and though the blues influence was there these tracks have a real ’80’s feel. Were you listening to ’80’s music at the time because I can hear a little Billy Idol, Springsteen and Simple Minds influence on these tracks; meant as a compliment of course 😉. I believe your intention was to go back to basics with your sound and this was the first result of that….

S: Yes, the 80’s; what happened was the sound of drums completely changed. Everybody was competing to be heard on the radio and the drums, particularly the snare just got massive! When we recorded The Hearts the Best Part, we put a mike on the metal freight elevator wall, took all the toms off the kit, and placed the kit in front of the lift’s gaping mouth! It seemed like a good idea at the time, and that why the drums are so in your face. Luckily the 80’s passed!

E: The single received a very favourable review from Andrew Donaldson in his review in the Cape Times of 5 October 1984: “The first single from All Night Radio’s debut album was released last week. The double A-sided rocker, Breaking Hearts, c/w Sea Side Love, is a no-nonsense uncompromising recording debut, and an exciting glimpse of what the group intends to offer on its forthcoming album. Produced in Cape Town by New York-based John Rollo, “Breaking Hearts” is probably the noisiest and freshest-sounding rock single produced in this country to date. Guitarist Nico Burger effortlessly establishes himself as wunderkind here in one neat and fluid solo. ANR think they’re a great group. They probably are.”  All Night Radio Released their first album, The Heart’s the Best Part in 1984 and you can listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy the album….  

E: There is a very interesting story connected to the first ANR single and album and I can remember reading about that in the Argus Tonight newspaper and instead of repeating that article I will try to tell the story in my own words. So, Steve Louw was going to Joburg at the same time as Little Steven (Van Zandt) was in South Africa. A local journalist from Cape Town could not go to Joburg so he drew up some questions, arranged a meeting with Little Steven and gave these to Steve. Louw saw this as the perfect opportunity to promote his own music and looking for a break, dumped the questions and when he did meet Little Steven he asked “Will you produce my band?”.

Steve also insisted that Little Steven listen to the tapes (of the first album) to which Steven replied: “Er, I’d really like to,” said Little, “but, you see, I just can’t spare the time…” Unperturbed, Louw expressed his band’s willingness to wait. The persistence and determination paid off as Van Zandt told Steve that he could not do it but he could introduce Louw to the co-producer of his album, John Rollo. (Rollo was a British producer who lived in the USA who had produced: Little Steven & the Disciples Of Soul, Roberta Flack, Stevie Nicks, The Kinks and George Benson amongst others). Transatlantic phone calls followed, finance was discussed and after listening to the tapes, Rollo came out to Cape Town while leaving George Benson waiting…. Watched by Louw, Rollo completed the mixing of the single and subsequent album in his New Jersey studio, and that is why it sounds so good.

E: Phew Steve, that must have taken a lot of guts. Were you nervous meeting Little Steven but also determined not to miss out on this career altering opportunity? Did you really just drop the interview questions completely and just ask him to produce your first album? He must have been dumbfounded and impressed at the same time?

S: No, I was freelancing as a record reviewer for The Cape Times, so that I could get all the new releases from the Record Companies. I offered to interview Little Steven for the Cape Times and they said sure. I was really keen to meet him as I loved his work as an Arranger/Producer with Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary “US” Bonds. I also loved his debut first album, and he had just released Voice of America his second album. We had a great time talking music, studios and production and a 20 minute time slot stretched into hours. He asked me if I was gigging and recording, and said he would love to hear some of the songs. I had the cassette of our live 4 track recordings with me, and the band sounded good after a year of gigging. He listened to the set while I took photos to go with the piece on him. I can still see him in his bandana and leopard print coat looking into the camera while listening to ANR on my walkman. It was a great moment in my life. Anyway he liked what he heard and put me in touch with John Rollo in New Jersey. John agreed to come to Cape Town and work with us on Little Steven’s recommendation, so that meeting was the start of my career.

E: Rollo must have been impressed right off the bat with your sound that made him come out to South Africa and produce your album though I am sure a few words from Little Steven helped that project on its way 😉. Do you know if Van Zandt ever heard the album and I sure hope that you sent him a copy…..?

S: Yes, he came back to South Africa for a second visit in August 1984, (I first met him in May 1984), before starting on his Sun City project. I brought the album, which had just been pressed, (literally hot off the press), to him at his hotel in Johannesburg. Journalist Andrew Donaldson also published a review of the album in the Cape Times Funfinder of 9 November 1984; “All Night Radio’s The Heart’s The Best Part is a thunderous debut, with its hard-driving snare-drum guitar orientated sound (Springsteen a la mode). Forget the “well-produced, technically perfect” spiel (it is a remarkable album in that aspect) and listen to the songs. Singer Steve Louw displays a talent for crafting songs that are free of obvious and clichéd hooks. They’re energetic, they’re thoughtfully constructed and, what’s important, they have a shelf life that takes you far past the first listening.”

E: Jip, I agree. It is a true South African classic. The second ANR album; The Killing Floor was released in 1986 on Previous Records and was produced by Cape Town’s own Kevin “Caveman” Shirley who has produced albums by Journey, Iron Maiden, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Marya Roxx, Dream Theater, The Springbok Nude Girls, HIM, Tyler Bryant, Mr. Big, and Europe.

Did All Night Radio ever play any gigs with Kevin’s band The Council or did you only meet him later on as a producer? Your album must have been one of the first albums that he produced?

S: Yes we were often on the same bill at festivals, and he had been blown away by how our first album sounded, and was keen to do our second album. Kevin had already done a lot of albums. He has always been really busy.

E: Awesome. Did the above musicians come in and do their parts or did you jam and record with them in the studio? Who were the Glee Singers?  Rob Nagel had left the band at that stage to join the Blues Broers hadn’t he? 

S: We used Richard Pickett on our first album, and Richard Devey played live with ANR in 1984/1985. ANR stopped gigging in early 1986, but I still kept writing, and I love recording, so Kevin offered to produce an album with me. He put the band together and we cut all the tracks live. I love Tim’s solo on The Killing Floor. The Glee Singers were a gospel group that came in and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica in the studio. Rob formed the Flaming Firestones after ANR.

E: The album contained seven Louw originals with a storming cover of Here Comes the Night by Them (which featured Van Morrison) (also covered by David Bowie on his Pin Ups album) and The Killing Floor by Howlin’ Wolf and here is the original of the latter… 

E: Listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy people. Support our own…

E: The Killing Floor features the cream of South African musicians including: Steve Louw: Vocals and acoustic guitar, Nico Burger: Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Dobro, Mike Campbell: Electric Bass, Tony Drake: Piano, Organ, Synthesisers, Herman Eugster (of Ella Mental): Drums, Mike Faure: Saxophone, The Glee Singers: Choir on ‘Fire of Reign’, Tim Parr: Guitar on ‘The Killing Floor’ and André de Villiers, Tracey Dogon, Mynie Grove, Tam Minter: Backing Vocals.

What made you decide to include those two covers, though you do them really well? Were they live favourites perhaps?

S: Kevin thought they would be great songs to cover, and he was right!

E: When and why did All Night Radio stop/split and when did you start with your Big Sky project/band? Big Sky was essentially your band, a solo project where you were joined by some of South Africa’s finest. Would I be right in saying that? 

S: ANR stopped touring in April 1986, and The Killing Floor was recorded after that. I just kept doing what I always do which is write songs, and when you have ten good ones you can make an album! Some times it just takes longer to come up with at least ten good songs. Kevin and I just started making another album, and both Rob and Nico play on the album. I had come across a great band in Johannesburg, Ymage, and I thought it would be great to cut the tracks with them. So we recorded with Godla Mgcinga (drums) Jimmy Mngwandi (bass) and Don Laka (keyboards) at UCA Studios in Cape Town where I recorded the two ANR albums.

E: The first Big Sky album, Waiting for the Dawn was released in 1990 on Gallo Records and re-issued in June 2001 on the Epic label and it is indeed epic! The album was produced by Kevin Shirley again and features more of the top South African musicians including; Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar, vocals, Nico Burger: Guitar, Honest Rod Nagel: Harp (previously on bass), Don Laka: Piano, keyboards, Robbie McIntosh: Guitar, Slide guitar, Rupert Mellor: Accordion, Piano, McCoy Mrubata: Sax, Steve Newman: Acoustic Guitar, Jimmy Mngwandi: Bass, Godla Mgcinga: Drums, Benmont Tench: Piano, Hammond organ, Waddy Wachtel: Guitar, Roy Bittan: piano on ‘Here Comes The Night’, Cape Town Highlanders (The 1000 Pipers): bagpipes on ‘Waiting For The Dawn’ . The Atlantic City Horns: Horns (arranged by Mike Campbell), The Long Street Gang: Backing vocals. 

Stunning selection of South Africa’s top musicians and the legendary American Guitarist Waddy Wachtel who has played with the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Don Henley and Jackson Browne and co-writing songs with Keith Richards in the X-Pensive Winos. How on earth did you persuade Waddy to play on your album? Did you meet him when you were in the USA or did you send him some demos? 

S: When we were mixing the album, the engineer Shelly Yakus thought that ‘Diamonds and Dirt’ would sound great with Hammond and another rhythm guitar, so he called up Benmont and Waddy, and as a favour to Shelly, they came down to the studio and played on the song.

E: This is the brilliant Waiting for the dawn title track and the album also features a Radio Edit towards the end… 

Another great song off the album is this one but every track off Waiting for the Dawn is really good… 

 and another which has a lekker South African sing along chorus… 

E: The second Big Sky album, Horizon was released in 1995 and with it  Louw clinched the “Best Rock Act” of 1996 award at the FNB Music Awards. The album was mixed by Rob Jacobs and Shelly Yakus and produced by Steve Louw himself. Horizon featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: Hammond organ, piano, Tommy Girvin: electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals, Mona Lisa & Terry Young: backing vocals on ‘One Cut With A Knife’, Kip Lennon & Mark Lennon: backing vocals on ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ & ‘Kathleen’. This is one of the great tracks off Horizon… 

The album sold over 10,000 copies… 

E: Well done Steve, that is probably your most successful album then?

S: Yes, ‘One Cut with a Knife’ connected with people, and ‘Kathleen’ got a lot of Airplay. My favourite is ‘Strange Room’, so there were three songs that got people listening.

E: Going Down With Mister Green, the third Big Sky album was released in 1997 by Polygram and was produced by Steve Louw. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: keyboards, Tommy Girvin: guitar, Tim Pierce: sitar on ‘Wasted’. Another really good selection of songs and you can listen to all of them here but please buy if you like… 

E: Great album and you must have been really pleased with the result but also sad to learn that your former All Night Radio guitarist Nico Burger had died (sometime in 1996). How did that affect you and did it change or inspire the recording of this album?

S: It was really sad, and I wrote ‘Wasted’ for Nico. He was an incredible musician, really just genius! He was very intuitive both live and in the studio and came up with some incredible performances. His playing really makes the ANR albums as does his playing on ‘Waiting for the Dawn’ .

E: Steve Louw and Big Sky opened for Rodriguez on his 1998 South African Tour.

The 1999 album Best of the Decade featured the best songs Big Sky recorded and every single song is a classic. Pick your own favourite. Mine is probably Diamonds and Dirt but that changes, which shows how good the songs really are.

Were any of the songs on this best of compilation CD re-recorded, remixed or remastered or changed in any way from the versions on your previous Big Sky albums?

S: No, they were just taken from the albums, but I recorded two new songs for the compilation with Kevin, ‘Destiny’ and ‘Skin Deep’.

E: Louw returned with an album of new Big Sky songs with the Beyond the Blue album on 9 September 2002 and the album was produced by Kevin Shirley again. The album featured the ex South African musicians; Anton Fig: drums, percussion, Keith Lentin: bass, harmonica, acoustic guitar on track 9, Blondie Chaplin (The Flames/ Beach Boys/ Rolling Stones): guitars, vocals, Pat Thrall: guitars, Adam Holzman: keyboards and of course, Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar.  In 2003 Steve Louw composed Amandla for Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert with Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Anastacia and Brian May of Queen. The song was performed by Bono and Beyoncé. Here is that song from this historic concert… 

E: Wow, aside from co-writing that song were you involved in Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert and did you perform there? Did you ever get the opportunity to meet the great man? 

S: I was lucky enough to be on stage for the performance of the song Amandla, and it was great being backstage and watching so many incredible musicians perform. I think the highlight for me was watching Johnny (Clegg) sing ‘Asimbonanga’ for Nelson Mandela in the audience. It was a riveting performance.

E: The Trancas Canyon album was released in 2008 by Sony Music and was recorded in a house in a canyon in Malibu, California, over three days. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Blondie Chaplin: guitar, backing vocals, Pat Thrall: guitar, Rick Melick: keyboards, Anton Fig: drums, Keith Lentin: bass. You can listen to the here but please buy… 

E: Always thought that this album has a real warm, easy flowing homely sound as it was with the Travelling Wilburys. It sounds like you all had a lot of fun making this album. Can you tell us about the recordings?

S: The studio is up in hills above where Kevin lived in Malibu. It was done over a weekend as Anton had to get back to NYC to do his Letterman show on Monday. Its always great when Keith, Blondie and Anton get together as they are all friends for over forty years, so it is a lot of laughs ,and of course brilliant playing, from them.

E: Heart & Soul was a live DVD “Recorded live in front of a sell-out crowd at Cape Town’s historic Little Theatre. The show captures iconic South African songwriter Steve Louw and his band performing classic material from their other albums as well as previously unreleased songs.” This took place in 2009 and the recording featured : Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar and Vocals, Willem Moller: Electric and Slide Guitars, Jacques Steyn: Double Bass, Electric Bass and Mandolin, Simon Orange: Keyboards, Tea-Chest Bass, Rob Nagel: Harmonica These are the videos from that show… 

E: So good to see you at home in Cape Town playing with your blues buddies and having fun. Did you enjoy that performance? Did you do any more shows like that at the time or was this a once off performance?

S: It was a once off show at the Little Theatre, and as you can see we had a blast!

E: What have you been doing since this live performance and the release of your latest album? Were you in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa in 2020?

S: Yes I have been living in South Africa the whole time trying to come up with ten good songs! Yes, I left New York on March 7 [2020] right at the very end of the beginning of the time before.

E: On 6th April 2021 Steve Louw returned with a new single; Crazy River and you can watch that right here… 

E: Louw says of the song “once took a long canoe trip down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon and out again. It was a very spacy spiritual place and it felt like I was on a journey to the middle of the earth. I wrote this after the trip. On one level the song is about the river trip and the journey deep inside the raw power and beating heart of nature, but it also reflects on time, our time on Earth, how we experience it, and how the bonds of deep personal relationships with our fellow travellers nurture our souls. I played the acoustic guitar using a few African-style riffs and the band picked up on that feel. Guitarist Rob McNelley contributed beautiful slide guitar.” The song is from Steve’s new album; Headlight Dreams which is due to be released on May 7, 2021. The album can be pre-ordered right here….   https://orcd.co/SteveLouwHeadlightDreams

The album was produced by Kevin Shirley and mastered by Bob Ludwig.

Can you tell us about the latest album Steve? I believe the song, Wind In Your Hair features the legendary Joe Bonamassa on guitar. Awesome, who else plays on the album with you? Where was the album recorded?

S: We recorded in Nashville with a great band that Kevin put together. Greg Morrow on drums, Alison Prestwood on bass, Rob McNelley on guitar, and Kevin McKendree on Keyboards

E: Are you going to have a South African launch for the new album or at least a few shows in Cape Town? I know a lot of people would like to see you perform live in Cape Town again… 

S: I would love to, it just depends on how things pan out.

E: Well, I think we have pretty much covered your career and recordings but if there is anything we left out please tell us about that. What would you say has been the highlight of your career, the defining moment that you will never forget? Also, any funny incidents during recordings or live shows that still make you smile?

S: I think meeting Stevie van Zandt in 1984 was a career defining moment for me.

E: Any last words for all the people who have followed your career? What do you still hope to achieve musically and do you have any future plans after this latest album has been released?

S: Keep looking forward to the next ten good songs.

E: Thanks so much Steve and I wish you everything of the best for your future endeavours.  Check out Steve Louw’s website here….  http://www.stevelouw.com/ Soundcloud…  https://soundcloud.com/stevelouw Twitter @stevelouwmusic  Thanks everybody. It is always a humbling experience interviewing someone as good as Steve Louw because he is just as good as any international musician out there. I can not stress how important it is to support our artists like Steve because the music was made by a South African and mostly recorded in South Africa for the South African people which means you and me.

Ernesto Garcia Marques, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, 9th April 2021

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: