The Heart & Soul of Liverpool Rolls the Dice: Steve O’Connor
“All of my songs are written from the heart” confesses singer, songwriter, recording artist and poet Steve O’Connor. “Some from pure experience…others from keen observation.”
In a musical landscape thoroughly fractured by way of multiple streaming outlets, massive media libraries such as iTunes, the proliferation of video sharing domains including YouTube and Vimeo, the limited resurgence of vinyl, the dwindling appeal of compact discs, and the loss of brick-and-mortar music retail outlets, to cite a few present-day dilemmas a recording artist in any genre must encounter on a daily basis: a gem of an album can slip by sans the mass attention it so richly deserves. Witness Steve O’Connor’s timeless Roll The Dice which garnered accolades aplenty in the UK and Scotland upon its release in late 2008. If you didn’t get to hear it then, be advised to add it to your playlist in 2014.
Akin to such classics as Blood on the Tracks, Mona Bone Jakon, Nether Lands, and For Everyman (albums by artists who have deeply inspired O’Connor) Roll the Dice is an ageless, organic collection of folk rock tracks brimming with literate word-play, unforgettable melodies, and straightforward arrangements skillfully supported by bass, drums, keys, and occasional strings. “I try to keep my songs simple in their structure yet meaningful in their lyrical content…”
A million or two in sales? Not quite. Not that it matters – artistically speaking that is – as troubadours do need to eat and pay the rent! Fact is, O’Connor could put this album out every year and it will still sound as fresh, passionate and contemporary as those rendered by tunesmiths half his age, along with those marquee names who fill stadiums who are Steve’s age, and a select few legends who are his senior. Sure, O’Connor is ambitious; meet the artist in a Liverpool pub (preferably The Grapes on Matthew Street) and Steve will dazzle (and confuse) you with true torrid tales of publishing deals and similar gone awry –mostly when he was asked to compromise his artistic integrity – and honesty. Apparently the suites in Nashville and New York just don’t get Liverpool. And you wonder why the music business is such a mess?
Though he was born and raised in a bustling metropolis that continues to percolate with musical activity and innovation long after the Fab Four brought the enigmatic port city international renown, O’Connor discovered his muse in the highlands of Scotland. “I lived in Scotland for many years…it was there that I first picked up the guitar. After being taught a few basic chords, I began to develop more by learning to play along with the songs of my favorite artists – Dan Fogelberg, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Bob Dylan… I then found I could learn a lot quicker by composing my own tunes and the words slowly began to follow. The songwriter in me was born!”
Local radio stations in Scotland latched on to O’Connor’s brilliant single from Roll The Dice “Hail Caledonia.” Proclaims Steve “every word in that song is true – it’s the things I’ve seen and experienced! Scotland to me is a very inspirational and spiritual place…I composed the song as a tribute to its culture and people. Scotland gave me the gift of music…and ‘Hail Caledonia’ is my gift in return.”
O’Connor was invited to perform his paean to Scotland in the Big Apple as a headline act for The Art and Music of Scotland event hosted by the St. George’s Society of New York, and for Tartan Week which was sponsored by the New York Caledonia Club. Several gigs in the United States ensued. “I have never performed anyone else’s songs live but my own” stresses O’Connor, “from small clubs and venues all over the UK to New York City and Nashville’s Blue Bird Café. In all the places I’ve played, I’ve always enjoyed the warmth, support, and appreciation of my audiences.”
And be sure to check out the all-too- truthful “The Needs of the Many” – recalls Steve “my record company chairman asked me to write a song about the greed, selfishness, and imbalances of the world today. It didn’t take long to write and I think it reflects the truth and is powerful in its message.”
The Needs of the Many (MP3)
Perhaps the song which reveals O’Connor’s universal stance as a composer the most is “Fallen City” a riveting ballad that speaks to the human condition regardless of the time and place of the calamity, heartbreak, and misfortune. “I wrote and recorded ‘Fallen City’ for the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989. It’s a very poignant and emotional song. Another adaptation of the song is ‘Fallen City NYC’ for the 9/11 tragedy. I performed in New York City before, but to be invited back to sing this song at the 9/11 Memorial Concert was an honor and a privilege for me…from its humble beginnings when I first played it in a small folk club in Liverpool all the way to New York City years later…the song shows its true and enduring sentiment.”
Fallen City NYC (MP3)
O’Connor, who has been co-writing in Nashville, collaborating with various songwriters, and, as always, composing on his own, promises a new record in 2014. Until then, keep rolling the dice….