March 5, 2008 by User 0 Comments

Interview: March 5, 2008 Classic Rock:

I'm curious about why "Dirty City" was chosen as the first single release from the upcoming album.

Steve Winwood:
They don't even call it a single anymore ... I think they call it the 'focus track.' Really, for me, when I've finished a record, I'm happy for whichever one to be the focus track. I think if there's any great significance for me, it would be that Eric Clapton is on there and I have just finished the shows with him, and if the decision was made for the right reasons it was because it was considered to be the best track rather than I had just finished the shows with Eric. Classic Rock:
The album is titled Nine Lives. Interestingly, there isn't a song with that title on the album, and several of the songs have distinctly spiritual themes. Would you call this a concept album?

Steve Winwood:
There is a concept to it, certainly, but I'm not sure that it's a concept album in the traditional sense of the word. The concept, for me, is that it has nine songs and it's my ninth album, and it's recorded live in the studio [rather than laying down individual parts separately] the old-fashioned way, everybody playing together. Although that sounds fairly obvious it's just that records aren't really done like that anymore.

Originally I intended it to be a continuation of my last album, About Time ... but as soon as I started to work on it I realized that many of the songs on Nine Lives were actually inspired, and came out of, many of the songs that the band had played in jams and sound checks. It turned out quite differently because it was inspired by what the guys in the band had been playing anyway. And I think that gave a more organic feel to the whole album, and the fact that it was recorded live by the same band that would be going out and playing it. Classic Rock:
Would you characterize Nine Lives musically as being more like what we might think of as "traditional Steve Winwood" or would it be more in the vein of the more esoteric things that I believe your late Traffic colleague, Jim Capaldi once referred to as your "headless horseman music"?

Steve Winwood:
(laugh) Yeah, I would like to think that the two are not too far away from each other, actually. Obviously, I did go through a period in the 80s when I was identified a bit more with the pop world, but I'd like to think that I've kept contact with my Traffic roots and combining different elements of music together, you know, folk, rock, jazz, ethnic music. Classic Rock:
Our reviewer who was at your opening night MSG concert with Clapton, described the interaction between the two of you as "confident, grateful smiles and nods of mutual acknowledgment, kinship and respect."

Steve Winwood:
I'd say that's very well put. Classic Rock:
You guys go back a long way.

Steve Winwood:
We do, yeah, but actually there's been a long period when we didn't play together. We got back together [when] Eric very kindly invited me to play at the Crossroads Festival in Chicago [in July 2007] and that was the first time in a while that we'd played in America. We had done one show earlier [in 2007] in England ... at a benefit which was to bring awareness to rural issues. And then, fortunately, Eric called and wanted me to come and play, me and my band [at Madison Square Garden] and that really rocked. Classic Rock:
You've played the dates with Clapton, the new album comes out at the end of April, you're going out on tour this summer with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Does this mean you're going to keep the engine running in high gear over here in the States for a while?

Steve Winwood:
Interestingly enough, [the tour with Petty] is taking the place of some shows we were going to do in Europe. Since About Time it's opened up a market to me in Europe because we wove in some jazz elements and that seems to go over very well in Europe. So we haven't been doing as much in America because we usually spend the summer playing Europe, but I guess we can do that another time! Classic Rock:
Everything about you and your career suggests that, for you, it's more about the music than the money.

Steve Winwood:
Over the decades, the music industry got very corporate, and I've had concerns about the financial end of the music industry. Even now it's going through a lot of changes, not all of them bad, I don't think. There are some good elements to what's happening in music. Actually, the music will benefit and, to me, it's about making music, yeah. Classic Rock:
I always ask this question because even though it's really dumb, it seems to always get interesting responses. If you could go back and change anything in your career, choose one thing you could do over, is there one, and, if so, what would it be?

Steve Winwood:
There are two answers to that, I suppose. On the one hand, I've been very lucky and very blessed to be able to play with so many people and to play to so many people, and that I have a vocation that I really love to do, so I actually have no complaints at all.

But then on the other hand, I suppose there can always be improvements, so I can't say that I've done everything as perfectly as it could have been done. I'm sure there are things I could have done a little better at the time. I can't think of a specific one right offhand, but as it happened, I did what I did and what I live with now is what I've done in the past and I can't complain.

Interview date: March 5, 2008