Coming into his fortieth year in the music industry you have to acknowledge that Jon Stevens has proven he is a stayer and not really planning to go away any time soon. He just finished his tour for his latest album Starlight which he worked on with rock royalty, Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics and Ringo Starr from…….well do I even need to say The Beatles? Coming back to Adelaide on February 15, 2019 to perform at The Gov for his Best Of Tour so yeah you could say that’s he’s pretty much here to stay.
Jon had a chat with us at Hi-Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles to talk all things music especially about his song Rain Down on Me where all proceeds go towards helping the plight of the drought stricken farmers in rural areas of Australia.
When you look back on 2018 can you believe how much you have been able to cram in?
I know right! Its been pretty hectic and I’m relieved its over actually to tell you the truth. I get to relax now. I’ve been doing so many gigs and now I get to relax for five weeks. I don’t know what to do with myself today! (laughs)
Were you quietly chuffed with what you have achieved with Starlight?
Yeah of course. I was just chuffed to work with Dave Stewart. A songwriter, producer with legendary status you know, a talent and it was a boost of confidence to work with him. I mean especially after all these years being in the business writing songs and running around doing shows you kinda just wonder “should I just give it up or something” you know what I mean? You get to the point where you go “nobody gives a shit anyway so why bother”. And so, it certainly just gave a bit more faith in myself and made me think that I was still on the right path. People believe in you. You know?
Yeah, I suppose you need something to inspire you. Being a creative person, you will have those moments.
Yeah. We well before I worked with Dave Stewart, I made an album called Woman which I made in Sydney and I’d written and produced everything and to me its still my best album. It’s my best album for me. But nobody heard it you know what I mean so with this album it was just like make songs and put them out.
Well the music industry has changed so much now especially radio they seem to play the same kind of formulated sound.
Formulated is the right word for sure.
There doesn’t seem to be much that’s organic being played on radio now.
Yeah! It’s interesting when you do hear real musicians on records that have spent a lot of time on them its quite a novelty now (laughs) Real singing and real playing? (laughs) But there’s something for everyone out there now. There’re different generations out there now being brought up with different things but there’s still something to be said for the organic. Something real that you can touch.
You mentioned working with Dave Stewart but you also worked with Ringo Starr and Vanessa Amorosi so what was that like?
Yeah, Vanessa and I have been friends for many, many years. I’ve known her since she first started and I always look out for her. Being in a crazy music business from a young age she was thrust into it. I knew what it was because I started when I was sixteen year old so I just always took her under my wing and feel like a protective big brother I suppose! (laughs) I love Vanessa and she’s one of the most amazingly talented people on the planet. She has an incredible voice but more than that she is an incredible songwriter and producer. She’s awesome!
And with Ringo we got to hang out and we asked him to play on the track and he was so kind and said “I love the song, I’d loved to play on it. So, it was one of those moments in your life where you go “Oh my God I’ve got a Beatle playing on my record.” He doesn’t need to do it. He did it because he wanted to. So yeah that restored my faith a lot as well. Just to meet people in music and they just do things because they want to because like to. I do that a lot of the time myself. It was good to see at that level they do things that they want to do.
Ringo Starr is in that position that he doesn’t have to do it but obviously loves it still.
Yes, he does. He is a wonderful man. He’s just brilliant.
Your single Rain Down on Me, how rewarding an experience was that to write?
Well the thing is I wrote it back in January with a bunch of other different songs for the new record. So, when I was asked to do the Hay Mate concert, I found all about the drought how it was the worst drought in Australia’s history. And I was like ‘How doesn’t anyone know about this?” The city is so insulated you know? We just live our lives in the city. The news is so bad all of the time you just get used to stuff that goes on around the world let alone in your own back yard. So, you know it was a bit of a shock to find out about the hardship and the problems that are going on out there. Even though I’ve been travelling a lot in the country doing gigs and having done the Drought Relief concert in 1994 and nothings changed. In all these years it’s still the same.
Do you think that people in Australia don’t realise how dire it is?
Yes, I do. I really do. I think the government needs to step in and make some serious long term plans. There needs to be some serious long term plans put in place. Its diabolical really. We need keep our lands moist to be able to grow our crops and feed our animals. All I can do is bring people together and try to keep the spot light on the plight of the farmers so that what the song is about. If the song gets some traction then the farmers gets some traction. Even that’s hard. Radio don’t play it. I really don’t know what you need to do to get played on the radio nowadays. You know what I mean? I must say that Triple M have helped out a lot in the country areas.
Maybe write it and get Justin Bieber to sing it. I’m sure radio will play it then!
That’s probably it (laughs).
You’ve been touring the regional areas of late so how was that?
Oh look its great. We play and put smiles on people’s faces and get them to forget what they’re going through in their lives through music and a few drinks. I bring happiness to people. That’s my job. With the farming thing, the rural aid and the farmers and the song Rain Down on Me I just thought I would help them out you know? Every cent goes to rural aid. So, if they buy it its all goes to the aid the farmers. Everyone is listening to streaming services which means they aren’t buying music. It’s only $1.69. Come on people buy it!
Did you find the writing process easy or challenging for Rain Down On Me?
No because I had already written the song. The song was about struggle and hope and I rewrote the third verse. I did the song in January. I’m on the opinion when I write songs anyway it all comes from some sub-conscious or somewhere else. I don’t even know how its done. I don’t. It just comes out. Like channelling and you get into a zone and it just falls out. I had that song sitting there and then once the drought thing come I knew what the song was for. “Oh, that’s what that’s for. Ok. You can have that!” It was a gift to me so I gifted it back. That’s how I feel about it. The song is called Rain Down On Me so that’s what it seems its for. I really re-wrote the third verse “This land the sacred life let it breathe again. There’s a rainbow coming down to wash away our sins” that’s thinking of the farmers. It’s applicable, it’s very applicable to the farmers. Its very applicable to anybody that’s going through struggles in their life. You gotta keep your head up and be the optimist. Be optimistic and stay in this scheme called life. Too many people are just dropping off the planet for no good reason.
As a musician do you feel this is the most satisfying time in your life?
I think it’s the most satisfying time as a person. Yeah because I have two grandchildren now so I’m kinda like “How did that happen? When did that happen?” I thank my lucky stars I’m alive. You know what I mean? To enjoy them and to know them. I hope I’m around until there adults because my parents didn’t know my kids as they had already passed away. I very grateful to be doing what I love and to still do it. I love what I do. I fuckin’ love it! And I’m still doing it so there you go!
So what kind of moments stand out for you in your career?
(laughs) Oh way too many! Of course, working with Ringo, working with Dave. I mean you know I’ve worked with the guys from the Eurythmics, from The Beatles, from The Rolling Stones, from Guns and Roses so I’ve worked with a lot of the greatest musicians in the word. You know, little old me from Australia! This will be my fortieth year next year in the rock n Roll industry. I started when I was a little sixteen year old.
Some people haven’t survived it so you’ve done well!
Well I almost didn’t survive it a couple of times so I’m so grateful to be here.
Are you working on a new album.
Yeah yeah I’m always working on an album. Always writing noise and doing stuff. Collecting I call it. Collecting and when I’m ready to make an album I go to that and go “Oh that ones good and that one’s good.” So yeah there will be one.
Interview by Anastasia Lambis
Catch Jon Stevens at The Gov on Friday 15 February, 2019. Tickets from www.thegov.com.au.