Let’s face it. Jon Stevens is Australian music royalty. With his humble beginnings in New Zealand through to his latest tour celebrating hits from INXS and Noiseworks, it seems that Stevens is one of the hardest working musician’s around to date. His current tour has a huge 40+ shows on the current program, with what seems to be increasing daily. With tickets beginning scarce for the majority of the shows, it goes to show that Stevens is still a performer in high demand. But what is life like on the road? It seems that Stevens is more comfortable on the road, than at home these days.
“I’m travelling with a great bunch of lads. We have a good laugh. We all love being on the road and we love the adventure of new places and seeing different things, meeting new people and you have to love a bit of adventure, have an adventurous spirit about you and a bit of a carny attitude I suppose, because otherwise you just don’t last out here on the road. It’s just one of those things. Its a tough place to be if you just want to stay home and watch tele. You know mentally, you go through your ups and downs. but for me at this point my life, I’m just at a great stage in my life where I am pretty sound and settled you know, and within myself. It’s always tough if you are having trouble at home and you are stuck on the road or if somebody dies and you’re stuck on the road, I mean its tough. I have had that happen a few times where you’ve missed a funeral”
Touring constantly can be a struggle with physical and mental health for many performers. Even though Stevens is a seasoned professional that is known for giving his all in every show he performs, it can still take its toll. How does he stay in top condition physically and mentally though?
“The thing is, firstly, you’ve got to show up. That’s the first thing you need. Just show up. How you prepare mentally, it depends on how you’re feeling you know. Everyday, a bit of a new adrenaline kicks in and you’ve got to get fired up and get up for it”
With a spotlight on the industry and the link to poor mental health with so many musicians, Stevens explains why artists are effected more than other industries
“Its the creatives you know. I mean musicians are artists. We are creative people, so we think outside the square and creative people take risks. You are risking your life in a way, cause you are thinking outside the box . You think differently and also we are very susceptible to sex drugs and rock n roll. It’s part of it in a way. When coming through the ranks, it was just the norm. But for the older musicians though, you can’t survive unless you have your shit together. For me, it was always always always about the music and performing. I love that! I love it! I am passionate about it. I enjoy what I do. I really enjoy it. I think you really need to have that in you to survive anything really I suppose”
For those that love music, it is sometimes seen as an addiction. From struggling artists who just keep trying and trying to those in the industry that live and breathe music.
“It is an addiction, but it’s also like breathing too. Like I go on holiday for a couple of weeks, after that I’m done. I need to get back to it. You are always playing or thinking about music. It becomes such a part of you and it’s such a part of me, I don’t want to do anything else. What would I do? It’s been my whole life and I will do it til the day I die and you know, if I sit on the chair and play guitar and fall of the chair, well that’s a happy life for me. I actually vividly remember in 1981, I was lucky enough to go see Muddy Waters and Willy Dixon play. They were these bluesmen extraordinaire, and I just saw them sitting on a stool playing the guitar and singing the blues and there were about 300 people in the audience. I was only a kid and thought “I want to be you when I grow up, I want to be that when I grow up” . To be that comfortable and to be that old and that awesomely cool singing those songs, it just knocked you. You don’t need to prove anything. And that’s when I thought” I want to be that when I grow up.
But when will that be?
“When I am about 80. I always figured that I’m not going to be really good until I am about that age, so if I made 70-75, thats when I will be pretty good at what I do. Every night, I am still getting up there having a crack”,
There would be a lot of Steven’s fans that would suggest that he already is ‘pretty good’. Selling out show after show, and doing tour after tour, Stevens has stayed relevant and present throughout his whole career. With huge changes within the music industry, from technology changes in recording through to even social media, Stevens has remained at the top of his game.
“You stay present by writing what you feel. I always write what I feel. I always say what I want to say. The framework of a song or music, that’s kinda where the satisfaction comes from. I mean, people will say, what’s your favourite song, I always say that one that I haven’t written yet, because I am always trying to write a decent song. Im still trying to write a decent song, so it’s you know though I’ve played songs that people have grown up with and love, and have become part of their lives, It’s not what you set out to do. It just you know. I have been lucky enough to do and be one of those artists that have a few of those songs in his collection, but I’m still trying to write a decent one, and I think you need to have a bit of that about you, you know. Because you can never rest on your laurels and you can never think that you are awesome. I don’t think that of myself at all, cause I still think of myself as a struggling musician, cause it’s the struggle that keeps your feet on the ground and it’s the struggle that keeps you moving forward. Mentally you have got to have that struggle. All artists have got to have that struggle. You know like I said, until I am about 80, I will probably let go of the struggle and go you’ve had a good life if I make it that far. The insecurity that I felt in my youth, I don’t really feel that anymore. Im pretty comfortable with who I am as a human being, so the insecurities are not as prevalent as they were when I was younger.”
Stevens has had huge hits over the years with Noiseworks, Dead Daisies and his solo career. Clearly a songwriter of exceptional calibre with many of his hits appearing in our lives soundtracks, how does he continue to write hit after hit?
“There are no rules. there is only recognition of the spark. It’s trying to capture that spark. Cause you know, once you find something that you go “oh this is great’, everything else becomes parrot-fashion, cause you are really trying to recollect something that really fell out of the sky. If you know what I mean? I will walk past my instruments for days, sometimes weeks and not even touch them, then I will pick it up and play. Instantly something will come and you are not sure what that is and I don’t know how to do it it just happens. People say ” how do you write a song’ and I say “I don’t really know.” I just sit down and play and something just comes out and the trick is, is to capture and find the inspiration which is the important part, So really, that’s how I roll. There is no formal process. It depends on who you are collaborating with also. It defines on where you go to on a particular song or sound.
Stevens often refers to his band as the best band in the country. He is not wrong. His band not only supports his music, but they are his family on the road.
“Ive known them for years. Most of them have been playing off and on for years. Chris has been playing off and on with me for about 22 years, Johnny my drummer who has been with me for about 14 years. It’s all about hanging with your mates. The band is the best band in the country without a doubt. We are a group of mates and we are good mates and we all like hanging around together and more importantly we love getting up together and playing these songs for people that come and we show them a good time.
The music industry is obviously a hard industry to not only crack but even harder to become a premier artist in which Stevens is now classed as. With his experience within the industry, up and coming bands could learn from his expertise. But what words of advice would Stevens give those struggling bands?
“Its worth the struggle. Be creative! Everything stems from that. What makes you unique is you. Stay true to yourself and don’t chase success. Success is fleeting. Whatever that is. Just find yourself cause finding yourself is everything”
So what’s next for Stevens?
“Staying alive. I’ve got kids and two grandchildren now. The whole idea at this stage in the game, I am relatively a young man, but it’s our life. I want to see my grandkids grow up. Ive had a double heart bypass, I really shouldn’t be on the planet but I am and you know I am going to enjoy every second because Ive been to the other side”
With fortune and fame spread out throughout his years in the spotlight, having hits throughout the decades, performing thousands of shows, what is the song he wish he wrote?
“What a wonderful World – My all time favourite song – I have always loved that song. Just amazing”
Stevens is currently touring Australia with his amazing band. Check out venue details below. But get in quick. Tickets are selling fast (if not already sold out)