Interview: Steve Neville
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I grew up in a very musical household and some of my earliest memories involve my Dad playing piano or guitar at home: live music at home really inspired me to become a musician and start writing my own songs from a young age.
I loved reading comic books when I was kid and I wanted to be a visual artist, but I quickly discovered that I didn’t have the right skill set! I’m a lousy drawer, so thankfully I pursued music instead.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I read a lot of non-fiction and I also love graphic novels. I’m always inspired by what I read especially in how I write my lyrics because I try my best to write songs that aren’t just a personal form of storytelling but also connect to broader themes and problems in the world and in life. I also deeply value spending time in nature, especially just walking and going on hikes: I find that time outdoors is incredibly important to disconnect from the stress of life and to be in the right headspace to stay creative.
How long has your band been around?
As a solo artist, I’ve only been doing this for about a year now when I started writing my current batch of songs while in the hospital in Spring 2021.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m spread out in a few different places in southern Ontario: I’m from Ottawa originally, I work in Toronto (and used to live there), but now I live in Guelph. I spend a good amount of time commuting between places in my car, so I feel like that’s had somewhat of an influence on my songwriting. I’ve always been drawn to highway driving music that you can turn up loud! I feel like my song, “Going Home” is a contribution to that genre.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
My artist name is just my full name, Steve Neville, so I don’t have a unique answer for that!
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
My most memorable was playing with The Balconies during North by North East in Toronto at the top of the CN tower: today it’s the third tallest building in the world, at about 550 meters high. It was pretty surreal looking down at the city while performing and having a big crowd partying in such a strange place.
As a concertgoer, my most memorable show was seeing Leonard Cohen play in Kingston, Ontario about ten years ago. He didn’t have an opener and he performed for over 3 hours! His endurance was incredible and hearing him play live with so much passion was very inspiring for me.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto is probably my favorite place to play and there are many places I’d like still like to travel to perform: Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Australia; the list could go on!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Tanya Tagaq. The Beaches.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
When I was younger I played in a lot of talent shows and battle of the bands. It was good experience playing these kinds of shows but I think it gave me the wrong impression about the music industry when I was at a very impressionable age. These kinds of events are all about competing with other artists and bands and that’s not the way music scenes really work or should work, at least. When I started playing more seriously in the Canadian music scene, I realized that there were so many incredibly talented musicians who are open to collaborating, sharing the stage, working together in the studio, or just supporting each by attending each other’s concerts and so forth. So my biggest advice to others, which I would share with my hypothetical younger self, is that you shouldn’t think of other artists and bands as your competition but as potential collaborators and friends who you can learn from and share in the spoils of being part of a bigger music scene.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Collaborate with as many people as possible but don’t forget to work on your own craft.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
A recent B-side I released called, “summer hair”. The song is about losing my long hair during chemotherapy which I relate to a bigger reflection on how my life has changed by fighting for survival.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
“The Waiting Room”.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I always start writing my songs on acoustic guitar and write the lyrics and song structure first. I often end up revising this quite a bit by rewriting lyrics and sometimes completely reworking the chorus or verses. Usually the last thing I write is the bridge to a song, but there has been a few exceptions to this. Once I feel really happy with the lyrics, melody and song structure, I usually am ready to start thinking about the arrangements. On this album, producer, Liam Jaeger, has been writing and recording the band arrangements and that collaboration with him has been incredible fruitful on this project!
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to get across honest persona; messages about my emotions and experiences that speak to bigger themes or problems that people can connect with.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
As a solo artist it’s pretty hard to have any disagreements! However, a challenge I do have face a lot is having doubts about my artistic voice and in making different decisions that are required throughout the creative process.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I want to put a spotlight on the release of my upcoming LP, Off Track. I’m also hard at work on writing the songs for a follow up EP which is well underway!