A Conversation With Steve Winwood

A Conversation With Steve Winwood recently held a contest, giving fans the chance to "win" a phone conversation with Steve. Werner Wingen was our winner, and he kindly sent us an article about the experience.


Steve Winwood Interview - Friday, May 9, 2008, 11:30 a.m. EST
Interview by Werner Wingen of Atlanta, GA

(Steve is interviewed by phone during his stay in Boston, I believe at the 4 Seasons Hotel)

Columbia/Sony Records Marketing (NYC) called me on May 7 to tell me that I won the "Conversation with Steve" contest which I entered when I saw him with Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28, 2008. We set up a time for 11:30 am EST on Friday, May 9. I called the AT&T conference line at the time specified and a minute later Steve's manager picked up and said "Yes, hi Werner, let me pass you over to Steve" and that was that. For the next 15 minutes it was me and one of my musical heroes Steve Winwood having a nice little chat, just between the two of us. What a treat! Obviously I was well aware that Steve was on a 2-week U.S. promotional blitz that started with the release of his album and includes appearances on both Letterman and The View and a live show in Boston the night before my talk with him. I'm sure Steve had to do countless interviews with the media in advance of his 3-month long Tom Petty U.S. tour, so 15 minutes with a humble fan (me!) who's been listening to his music since his early SDG/Traffic days in the late 60's were greatly appreciated.

The first thing - after him congratulating me on winning the contest and me saying what pleasure it is to talk to him- Steve asked me a question: "Where are you from Werner?" So I told him that originally I'm from Munich, Germany, but moved to the U.S. (Atlanta) about 25 years ago. I told him that I saw Traffic (for the first and only time) at the museum hall (the old Kongress-saal that sadly no longer exists) in Munich in 1974. Steve slowly repeated the words Munich and "museum halle" as if (perhaps?) reflecting on times and events almost 35 years ago when he was only 25.

So let me briefly run down to the main Q&A we went through in our 15 minutes. The wording is not exactly as he spoke them (I didn't tape it), but I try to state what Steve said as accurately as possible.

Q: Steve, congratulations on Nine Lives. My favorite song on the album is "Raging Sea" but there are many other great songs on it like "Dirty City," "At Times We Do Forget" - there really isn't a bad song on the album, I listen to it all the time.

A: Thank you very much Werner.

Q: How did you and Eric go about picking songs from the 3 MSG (Madison Square Garden) shows in February?

A: We really focused on "simple" songs because it can be difficult to get the more complicated songs right with only 3 shows. When you have a longer tour you can experiment and fine tune the songs a lot better.

Q: So we can expect a wider variety of songs from your 200-song catalog on the Tom Petty tour?

A: Absolutely, I will probably play some different songs on different nights. I have 60 to 75 minutes when playing on the Tom Petty tour and can go deeper into my catalog, not just Traffic and the new album Nine Lives but also some of my 70's, 80's, and 90's material.

Q: Do you agree with me that the audience on the TP tour may be on average almost 10 years younger than on the MSG dates with Eric Clapton? What does that mean for what you'll be playing on the TP tour?

A: Well, I don't think the age difference will be 10 years but, yes, I'll play not just Traffic songs but also more songs from the 70's all the way to the new album. When I played MSG, the new album wasn't even out yet, so I really couldn't play anything from it.

Q: How did you pick your (Traffic/solo) songs on the MSG dates? Excluding Blind Faith material, you only really were able to pick 6 songs from your own back catalogue. (WW note: the songs were "Pearly Queen," "No Face No Name No Number," "Glad," "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "Split Decision," "Georgia on My Mind")

A: It's mostly Eric who picked some of his favorite songs of mine, and I picked some of Eric's songs.

Q: Congratulations on the honorary doctorate degree you received.

A: I'll actually get it tomorrow Saturday (May 10) at Berklee in Boston. This is pretty exciting for someone who left school at age 15.

Q: Will you meet Al Kooper?

A: I know Al Kooper teaches at Berklee but I don't know if I'll meet him.

Q: (At this time I told Steve a short story of me seeing his ex-Traffic band mate Jim Capaldi in Atlanta with Dave Mason in 1998 and Dave didn't show up until midnight so Jim proceeded to play a long solo set which was highly enjoyable.)

A: (Steve laughed at my story) Yes, Jim is sadly missed.

Q: Do you ever see Spencer Davis these days?

A: No, not much really. Do you know that Spencer Davis was a German professor? He now lives out in California. (WW: Yes, I knew that)

Q: The first album of yours that I purchased was The Best of Spencer Davis Group, on Fontana, back in 1968.

A: Yes, some of the songs weren't hits in the U.S., for example "Somebody Help Me" and "Keep On Running," but "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" became huge hits here in the U.S.

Q: When will you be going back to the U.K.? Will you be back home on your 60th birthday (Monday, May 12)

A: Yes, I'll fly back to the U.K. on Sunday (May 11). I've been living in Gloucestershire for almost 40 years.

Q: Congratulations on a fantastic new album Steve and looking forward to see you in Atlanta on July 9.

A: Yes, thank you very much Werner and congratulations on winning the contest. I'll see you in Atlanta soon.

Throughout the interview Steve was in a very friendly and personable mood and even as I approached the 15 minute cut-off, he didn't try to push me off quickly so he can do undoubtedly the next interview. Thanks Steve for a fun 15 minutes and best of luck with the tour and album! And also thanks to the nice folks at Columbia Marketing for picking me as a winner!