Steve Overland had everything he needed, but to be true to himself he had to make the hardest decision - to throw it all away.
"I had ten years in a very successful band," he reflects, "but then I realised I wasn't making the music I really loved to sing." Now he is.
The undeniable strength of the songs Steve has written for the
debut album from SO! is the proof that he made the right decision. "I realised that singing isn't about how many vocal licks you can get into the first verse," he says. "It's about the song having a melody so powerful that, whoever sings it, it's going to be a great song. I knew I had to get back to writing and singing well-structured songs that don't need a ten minute guitar solo to make them hip."
For Steve, that meant a journey back to the well, back to his roots and a relationship with music that has always sustained him.
Growing up besotted by pop and rock in Norfolk, Steve was a kid who pinched his big brother Chris's guitar one night in 1973 and
discovered that, even without lessons, he had no difficulty in quickly learning the chords of chart hits.
Amazingly, rather than demanding the guitar back, Chris
encouraged Steve and, within weeks, invited him to join his band, Bones. Not much further down the line, at a village hall gig, Steve opened his mouth and added an off-mike improvised backing vocal to the tune they were knocking out. Again, Chris noticed and,
instead of telling the precocious thirteen-year-old to can it, offered him his own microphone. "They fired the lead singer the next day," laughs Steve, "and I took over." Tired of performing other people's songs Steve and Chris decided to try their hand at writing their own material.
Within weeks of starting their next project, Wildlife, Steve had
written a song called Sunlight which caught the ear of Chris
Andrews, who had enjoyed success in the sixties as a writer of hits in his own right as well as for Sandie Shaw and others. Suitably
Andrews knew how to help the gifted seventeen-year-old. "We were doing a gig at the Regis Rooms in Kings Lynn," grins Steve, "when this Rolls Royce arrives outside with Adam Faith in it. We couldn't believe it. This legendary guy had come to see us." Not only had he come to see them, but he was so impressed that he took them back to London, installed them in a house and signed them up to
Chrysalis Records. Although Wildlife's albums were beautifully crafted and well received, the band didn't set the world alight, largely because of frequent line-up changes. The final Wildlife incarnation, which included legendary Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, was making significant in roads into America when their record company folded, leaving them without a deal.
In 1986, growing wise to the vagaries of life as rock musicians, Steve and Chris along with drummer Pete Jupp, attempted the
impossible. "We decided to demo four tracks, do a few showcase gigs and, if we didn't have a deal in three months, we'd call it a day." After just two showcases, the offers rolled in and Wildlife was
re-born as FM.
"FM went for ten years," says Steve with justifiable pride in their achievement, "We did nine albums and toured with people like Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, Meatloaf. I had the chance to co-write songs with Desmond Child and even got one song on the soundtrack to the movie Iron Eagle II." Inevitably, though, even highly successful bands have limited life spans, and once more Steve found himself out-growing the lucrative niche they had carved for themselves.
"Towards the end," he acknowledges, "I was writing songs, like Baby Blue, that I knew weren't right for that band, but they were what I felt I wanted to do." In March 1996, Steve bit the bullet and along with Pete decided to bring down the curtain on FM.
Still partnered by Pete Jupp, Steve set about recording the debut
album of So! at The Chapel, in rural Lincolnshire. "As much as I love the singing and the playing, I also enjoy the craft of songwriting. I like finding the right mood for the melody, working out harmonies and chord progressions, searching for exactly the right word that sings well and sounds good in the context of the song."
Nothing is excluded from the creative process, not even mistakes. "On one track, Follow in Your Footsteps, I played a duff chord in the chorus, an F that didn't fit into the sequence. But when I listened back to it, it was such an unusual change that I knew I had to keep it."
At heart, through all the changes, Steve Overland has never lost the sense of wonder he had as a kid in Norfolk, when that passion for music first stirred him to nick his brother's guitar, and he's always found renewal in the timeless values of classic pop and rock. "I'm not a political songwriter," he points out. "All of the songs on this
album are about relationships. That's something you can explore as a writer forever and still not run out of new ideas. It's also something we all understand, because we all go through them. I won't write about things I haven't experienced personally."
That's why every song on Brass Monkey rings true - because Steve Overland has lived every one of them. And now it's your turn.
The Voice of So!
There's a slice of fun for everyone!!!
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