Show and Tell #26 - Steve Page
Best know as front man for the Open Secrets, Steve Page is a performer and songwriter who draws heavily on the Americana, bluegrass, blues and Appalachian traditions for inspiration. His solo and band recordings have won plaudits on both sids of the Atlantic.
At our Live Lunch event on Saturday 24 February Steve will performing many of the songs from his new show “Moonshine and Dust”.
In 1914 Steve’s Great Great Uncle Bert set sail from for America in search of work. Two years earlier his Great Great Aunt Agnes made the same journey hoping for a new start in a new land, leaving behind the daughter she had out of wedlock. Moonshine and Dust is their story told through classic Americana songs and songs inspired by their adventures. It is a story of heartbreak and war, of life on a southern plantation, bootleggers and gangsters. It is the story of how Bert and Agnes were saved by their love for each other.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting on the stoop with a cold beer, playing old-time mountain songs on my banjo with my best girl and my faithful hounds by my side. If only I had a stoop.
What lies at the heart of your own desire to do your creative work?
The same as everyone else: there is a very basic human need to tell stories so as to make sense of the world.
What are the first things you do in developing an idea in response to a subject?
I’m a lyric songwriter, so I usually work on the words to start with and let them dictate how tune develops - though I have plenty of songs that have morphed from slow to high tempo over the years and vice versa.
What’s your favourite film and why?
The Unforgiven. I love modern Westerns, the remake of True Grit runs Unforgiven a close second. If Shakespeare had been screenwriter in the 20th Century this is definitely what his tragedies would have looked like.
Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks.
1. Lilly Rosemary and the Jack of Heart by Bob Dylan on Blood on the Tracks.
2. The Last Time I Saw Richard by Joni Mitchell on Blue
3. This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
TS Eliot, The Four Quartets
If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
Tricky one. Probably not as a pigeon, definitely not a cat (being a dog person). A timber wolf would be a good shout.
What is your greatest extravagance?
It is just possible that I own more guitars than I need. On the other hand I have exactly right number of tattoos… for now.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Spiritually: nothing, I am a confirmed atheist
Creatively and emotionally: any and all mountain environments and the people I love.
Which artwork/film/book has most inspired you?
Richard’s Bicycle Book. I am a passionate cyclist. I love cycling and I love bikes. They are surely the closest we will ever get to a perfect piece of engineering. Back in the day, when I got my first decent bike, I was given Richard’s Bicycle Book as a present. Half the book was the go-to manual for looking after your bike. The other half of the book was a love poem to bikes and cycling that was, and is, without peer.
A bit niche, but lately I have discovered this thing called Facebook. Now I can while away hours on end reading the views of some very shouty people. Also it turns out that cats do the craziest things. Who’d have thought?
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Piece of equipment you can’t live without?
Despite the surfeit of guitars (and then there’s the banjo, the melodeon and many harmonicas), I think I would find it hardest to live without at least one of my bikes.
Best recent read?
For the past two years I have been working my way through Robert Caro’s biography of former POTUS Lyndon B Johnson - four volumes and more than 3,000 pages, with more to come apparently. It may sound like a dry subject, it is anything but. This is a study in the history of 20th Century America. We tend to remember LBJ for his role in the Vietnam War, but he was so much more. Without this scheming, corrupt, bullying, narcissistic, unfathomable man the great Civil Rights and anti-Poverty Legislation would never have happened. Caro’s biography is a gripping read and a study of how, the very best and the very worst of America came to be personified by the same man.
What is your final word?
The darkest hour comes right before the dawn. Despite everything in these difficult times, I remain hopeful.