Interview With Steven Sharpe

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2014-11-13

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Interview I did with Steven Sharpe

“I’ve taken to shouting, ‘I am Beyoncé’ in one of my new songs. I like being dramatic and flamboyant, I miss that in singers. These days everyone is either a hard-man or sensitive sweet-songwriter. Prince, Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant, all unreal rock stars and super flamboyant,” – that is a good a place as anywhere to be introduced to the world of Steven Sharpe, regularly described as one of Galway’s best kept secrets.

The venue he is playing in Cork tonight is one he finds quite striking, “I lived in Cork for 4 years and I met my first boyfriend in what is now ‘The Crane Lane’ 9 years ago when it was called ‘Club One’. Now almost ten years later I’m going be back there to sing about it and him. Life is mad!”

Drawing upon his own life experiences is de rigueur for Steven; “I write songs I wish I could have heard on the radio when I was a teenager. I write about being gay and that being ok but also how it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. I didn’t just wake up and think ‘oh I’m gay now, I want a Kylie album and a cocktail’. It sucked coming out, I felt really bad and unhappy for years about it, but now I don’t and I want to be singing about that feeling too. I want to be singing ‘I love him’ not ‘I love them’. I don’t hide it in clever lyrics instead I like to be upfront.”

That sense of being out-and-proud has also led to Steven tackling the heavier subject of homophobia and gay rights, both international and more locally, “when I hear about Uganda and Russia it really upset me. It really affects me when I hear that whole countries are passing laws and bills that would stop me talking about it being ok to be gay or could jail me for liking lads. Now in Ireland we’ll have a referendum about marriage equality, it upsets me too when the rights of the minority are being voted on by the majority, if it doesn’t pass I’ll feel so sick!”

While Steven’s love of flamboyance and improvisation is best expressed when he is alone on the stage he finds a great alternate to that style when he plays with ‘The Broke Straight Boys’, “playing solo is freeform for me, I can do what I want, I pick which songs I’ll play as I go along and I keep a timer on the ground to keep me on track with how much time I have left. Some songs bleed into other songs and as the mood at the gig changes so do my songs. I could sing a song I just wrote that day and never sing it again. But when playing with the boys its feels more like doing a play; we know which song is coming next and what story I want to tell before. It’s also nice sharing the stage, there is a great sense camaraderie when playing in a band and I really miss that when doing solo gig.”

‘The Broke Straight Boys’ are more than just backing musicians to Stephen as he sees them as a complete foil to his songs, “I’m a lucky man to have meet sure talented musicians. I can say anything to them like ‘this one is Jazz, that one is Country and here’s a Pop or R&B number and they’ll nail it first time. For instance with Shane I’ve said “I’d love an early Michael Jackson style bass line here” and it was no sweat to him, or to Dylan “I want a minute long guitar solo to break the song here, think Led Zeppelin.” and BOOM! Song done. They definitely follow me down different patches and I’ve not lost anyone yet.”

Led Zeppelin are a specific reference point to him, “I love Led Zeppelin, I first heard them when my guitar teacher hated all the bands I was listening to I was 14/15 and put me through a crash course of what’s what in music. Now I’m in a Led Zeppelin cover band called ‘No Stairway’. We actually played in Cork the night Robert Plant was in the marquee, that was a great night”

Ironically Stephen doesn’t consider himself the founder of his own band, ‘Dave Shaughnessy, our drummer, kinda started ‘The Broke Straight Boys’, he really wanted to jam and he joined me on stage one night and after that everyone at the was like ‘you need a drummer in your life at all times!’ but I only have that luxury when I play gigs… for now anyway!”

Steven Sharpe and The Broke Straight Boys play a free gig in the Crane Lane tonight (Thurs 13 Nov) at 11.30pm

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