Stephen Langstaff tour and interview

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Academy Live has helped launch the careers of some of the most exciting acts on today’s new music scene. Stephen Langstaff, Viva City, The Dukes Jetty and Murray James are all geared up to play O2 Academy stages across the UK with each artist headlining their hometown venue.

And this Tuesday 29th September the tour rolls into Liverpool, with Stephen Langstaff headlining in front of a home crowd.

Doors open at 7pm, and tickets are only £5 available from ticketweb.

More info available from stephenlangstaff.co.uk

Stephen Langstaff interview – September 2009

Ahead of the O2 Academy gig on Tuesday we thought it would be good to get a little closer to Stephen, and with a little help from our friends over at Liverpool Student Media we’ve done just that.

This article by Ian D. Hall is syndicated from LiverpoolStudentMedia.com, the University of Liverpool’s student run newspaper, magazine, TV and radio station website. Many thanks to Ian and his team for allowing their content to be reproduced on the Liverpool Acoustic news and reviews page.

In eighteen short months the life and career of musician Stephen Langstaff has taken on almost sky rocket proportions, for a young man he was already well known as a decent support act in his own right and was able to open for the Bangles at the Academy on their tour in the summer of 2008. Stephen then got the call to support the Lightning Seeds at the Liverpool Philharmonic and then a coveted opening spot for Deacon Blue at this years Liverpool Summer Pops at the Echo Arena.

His music has been compared to the late Jeff Buckley and Tori Amos and has a legion of fans and that number is ever growing.

I was able to catch up with Stephen in Bold Street for a while and over a cup of tea discussed how much life had changed for him, his love of certain bands and how noisy it can be in a city centre coffee shop.

Hi Stephen, how are you doing today?

Hi, Noisy isn’t it, (points to Dictaphone and laughs) shall I talk directly in to that ?

If you can, not sure I picked the right place but hey! First off how did it feel being in front of such a huge crowd at the Echo during the summer and what led to you doing the gig?

A lady called, I was at the Philharmonic Hall with the Lightning Seeds and it was from that performance I think that led to the Echo Arena Show. So, it’s just been brilliant and the kind of performances that I think I have been waiting for a while and building up to, because I have been doing really well since the show at the Academy and the audiences have been getting bigger and bigger at my shows.

No you are quite right, the audiences have been building up nicely and honestly it’s the old fashioned way and I quite like that!

Don’t get me wrong, I mean, two years ago, If you were opening every door for me, I wouldn’t’ have said no. I suppose on some level I’ve always known that my songs would go through some sort of organic process. Certainly for me the good thing about how I’m doing it if you go quite early on from one level to another its a big jump and if there are any setbacks, your fall can be quite great.

Its good, I’ve seen all sides of everything. I have a good understanding about the business and I‘m not flustered by it. I don’t mean to make it sound like bravado when I say that but I’m not. I know my musical limits more than two years ago, I think my confidence as a performer is a lot higher now and that just comes through consistently working and through the audiences and I’m leaning from making mistakes as well. Not every gig over the last two years has been good. Even where you’re not enjoying it, you learn something, I’d be pushing myself to make it work so I need to learn more from those gigs. The gigs where everything goes wrong. I feel I’ve been learning over the past two years to learn how to perform and I feel that I’m at a point where I know I can work out a way of doing things on stage.

The lads who are in the band have been with you a while now and seem to be well versed with your style of music.

Its been two and a half years now, its been good yes. We’re quite tight now and they were impressed with my songs and they appreciate that and just believe in them. I’ve been in different bands across the years that didn’t work and I’ve always felt a bit constrained, which is why I set out on my own and then I’ve kind of built everything around me now and I think that’s where the future lies and the problem I’ve found is that in a lot bands there’s no space and that’s where tensions arise so first of all I wanted to avoid that and I wanted to do exactly what I wanted and that’s what I did.

How did you go about that?

I just jumped in the car and do solo gigs here, there and everywhere. When it came obvious at a certain point when I needed a band to fill out these song, there was no point in asking musicians to collaborate with you and to tell him or her how to play them, I think it’s a bit offensive, as a singer you shouldn’t be telling a bass player or a drummer how to play note for note.

Why not get a session musician in?

Sharing ideas is one thing, sometimes I can hear a beat and an idea, not an exact sort of beat but I can describe how I feel, its full of energy, that’s the level that I work on, if I invite someone into the songs to play, then I can feed into them what I want. If everything is so open and if something does not work, then I’ll say. There’s a lot of mutual respect, I’ve never had one argument with anyone about this, it’s a collaboration, it’s a labour of love. It’s joyous music, I’d hate to take that out of it. I’m quite proud of that actually.

Who inspired you to start playing music?

It was literally Nirvana. I went round to see my best friend who lived two doors away and he had long hair and he put ‘Come as You Are’ and ‘Teen Spirit’ on from Nevermind. I was into pop music before then, like just chart music. I’m a big fan, its just that side of me. There’s room for everything I think. That was Nirvana and I progressed to Pearl Jam and the The Beatles! Its weird, I’ve got this weird mix of rock and pop and I listen to Offspring and Green Day as well. The Beatles came along and they fitted in with my outlook, they are more accessible kind of stuff and from there The Levellers to Oasis.

The atmosphere and that approach by the Levellers makes their gigs feel like one big party!

I try and bring some of that to my gigs but there’s another side to my gigs which comes from other acts like Tracy Chapman and Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley, to see how high we can get spiritually, how much I can reach the audience, I’m interested in that.

We must talk about Tori Amos!

(Laughs out loud) I’m a little bit obsessed by her. One thing I like about Tori Amos is that she’s got an image and I like how much connected she is to her fans, I felt that I just hadn’t just written songs just to share with people, that’s all that matters to me. I’ just couldn’t write anything without trying to create something that’s worth listening to. When you do your job right, you’ve written the song in the way it wants to be written and then that’s going to resonate with people and it was only until I’d discovered Tori Amos that things really started to change for me about six years ago. That’s when I left the band I was in and I kind of realised that I wanted to do.

I realised what I was, a songwriter with good songs and I could sing them rather than joining a band. I remember I was just sat in a bar somewhere and I was talking to my best friend about who satisfied I was about going solo. It was around that time I’d started to get interested in Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman and realising the power that their music generates in each song. I’ve not looked back since then, honest. The most satisfying thing for me at the moment is seeing the reactions from the people at the gigs and the emails I get. I know what I’m putting out there is great and I’m in a really good place.

I just play for everyone, I find it a bit cynical myself, music has become a big business like everything else

though with targeting audiences and everything. It not what I’m about and it never will be I don’t think.

Are you looking forward to the tour?

This will be the first real bit of touring I’ve ever done. Potentially five may be seven dates, I might also come back to Liverpool. Its an Academy tour. I like them, they do a good job. I’ve done some big shows, ~The Bangles show at the Academy show there was 650 at the gig. I can play anywhere now in Liverpool I can bring an audience with me to different venues. I’ve done the Barfly a few times.

Anywhere left in Liverpool you would like to play?

I’d love to play the Stanley Theatre at the University I’ve not done there.

Stephen starts his first of four night on tour on the 28th September in Newcastle and plays the Liverpool 02 Academy on the 29th September.

Ian D. Hall © 2009

See the original article here.

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