Interview for MPM by Andy Houghton
Always eager for a new challenge, Steve Steinman is gearing up for the debut public performance of his newly-released album, ‘Take A Leap Of Faith’, at Whittles Live Music Venue in Oldham on 2nd September.
Although this is the first album of his own music, Steve’s already a familiar face on the classic rock scene because of his hugely popular touring shows ‘Anything For Love’ and ‘Vampires Rock’. Shortly after he finished recording the album, Andy Houghton caught up with him at his Nottinghamshire home to chat about the new release. However, the conversation began with his origins near Oldham, Manchester.
In his early twenties, Steve started out in the restaurant business in Saddleworth. “I used to own this restaurant. I used to book acts for the function suite. That became a love of music, and I started to learn guitar. I’d get up and do the odd song. I had a lot of musician friends in the area and they’d come and we’d do little gigs in the pub. I’d been playing about six weeks and we did a show – it was packed out! I used to do a lot of Elvis and rock and roll, and that’s how I started to perform.”
It was a recording of one of his performances that led to Steve’s first big break. “While I was doing that, somebody had recorded me singing. I got a call from ITV saying, “Do you want to come for an audition? We’ve got your tape”. I thought, I’ve not sent you a tape – what are you on about? I didn’t know who’d done it; it was my old keyboard player, apparently. So I just went down, really not expecting to get on, and I got through. I was on as Meat Loaf.”
Thirty years ago, the economy was in a mess and interest rates were skyrocketing. Steve found that the restaurant was becoming unsustainable, so turned instead towards music to make a living. “Everything was going pear-shaped. I’d got a little band, a garage band, and I thought, “We’re going to have to go on the road with this”. So I did seven nights a week doing the circuit for Bass Brewery pubs.”
At that stage, Steve’s focus was on the Meat Loaf tribute act rather than recording his own material. “I’d never been interested in it. To do your own music, you’re not going to make a living at it. At the time, it was all Take That and these manufactured bands, and they had massive money behind them. I was probably too old then to start with that boy band thing – I never really had that look anyway. I just concentrated on making a living. I set up my own office, and I pretended it wasn’t me on the phone, trying to sell the band. I’d even call myself Dave or whoever!”
Steadily, the show’s audience grew, from filling clubs to selling out theatres and, ultimately, playing to packed arenas. “I pounded the backstreets and all the clubs for years, building and building and building,” says Steve. “Then we decided: let’s do a theatre. That was the big step. It was very scary times. Then I came up with the idea for Vampires Rock. Rather than being a tribute to one person, let’s make it about all the bands: AC/DC, Whitesnake, all of them. That was a big gamble. To do a brand new show.”
Despite being best known for his Meat Loaf tribute, Steve has always been keen to ensure that his own personality is intertwined with that act. “I’ve never pretended to be American. I’ve never pretended to be Meat Loaf – I’ve always spoken in my northern accent, which has got a laugh. I still wore the wig, and did the Meat Loaf thing. That was my next big step – moving away from that into Steve Steinman. Walking out for the first time without a wig on – it was a big moment.”
This transition from performing as a tribute to being a musician in his own right led to him recording, ‘Take A Leap Of Faith’, his first album as Steve Steinman. “I’m not ashamed of where I came from because that’s where I’ve come from, it’s brilliant. But I want to be a singer who can sing those songs, and be known for it. To have your own album – that’s the change.”
The album’s title is apt: “I’ve always taken a leap of faith in everything I’ve done. We’ve done some big things – I’ve been skint, been on my arse. People don’t realise how you put your neck on the line, you have to borrow big. With a hundred grand loan to start you off. You’re gambling all the time, gambling on your own gut feeling.”
That gamble became particularly acute with the arrival of Covid-19 in 2020, which led to the postponement of Steve’s shows “Just before lockdown it was going to be the biggest year ever, back in the arenas: Nottingham Arena, Manchester Arena, Liverpool Arena.”
However, lockdown brought with it an opportunity, as it finally gave Steve time to work on ‘Take A Leap Of Faith’. The album was created in collaboration with Steve Etherington and Greg Morton, and has an expansive sound that’s characteristic of the songs of the late Jim Steinman, whose work Steve admires. “I like the way he writes, it’s very orchestrated. I love all that massiveness. Strings and brass sections, the bigger the better. But then he brings it down to nothing with the piano. That’s what I’ve tried to do on this album: take it back to those early days.”
Visuals are also important to Steve, whether it’s in his stage shows or in his music videos. “If we went into a venue, I’d black the walls out with cloth, I’d always put ramps in, put stages in. My band used to hate me! I’d always have props – I’d always have a motorbike on, always put lighting in. I always had this flair for visuals. What I’ve achieved with my videos is exactly what we achieve on stage.”
Steve’s latest video, for the track ‘I Don’t Know About Love’, has a cinematic feel. “It’s like a movie. We went down to the OK Diner and filmed outside there at night. And then I found a dirt road; we wanted it to look like the Midwest. As it happened, the sun came out – you’d think we were in America, like we’re in the cornfields. We got some brilliant shots.”
‘Take A Leap Of Faith’ was released on 2 August, and now Steve is preparing to take the stage at Whittles in Oldham, together with his ten-piece band, for the first live performance of the album. “I’ve done it there because it’s like going home. It’s where it started. They love live music in Oldham. The pubs have always done good gigs, there’s always been good music on.”
It’s evident that Steve Steinman has a clear vision for his music: bringing his songs and his videos to life with story-telling, an element that’s been missing from rock in recent years. And whether you buy his album or attend one of his shows, you’re guaranteed to have one hell of a good time.
Tickets for Steve Steinman’s album launch show at Whittles can be obtained from: https://whittlesoldham.com/events/steve-steinman/