Steve Orchard is our interview guest today at NewAgeMusicWorld.Com & NewAgeMusic.nu. We welcome our visitors and Steve’s fans to read the recent interview John Olsen has prepared with this outstanding musician from the UK.We would also like to take this opportunity and invite everyone to read more on our pages dedicated to Steve Orchard.
John Olsen : Thank You for sharing a moment of your time with us today Steve. B.T. Fasmer and I appreciate this opportunity and I am certain your fans are excited to have this chance to find out more about you too. Steve, would you provide a description of your music studies beginning with your earliest introduction to the present?
Steve Orchard : Yes, Well I probably go back to piano lessons at 7 years old and then combining guitar lessons at 8. My one fault would be that I have always been an impatient, inquisitive player of various musical instruments always wanting to discover how things worked quickly and then improvise. As my Father would say, “Jack of all trades and master of none”.
I played a pretty mean trumpet in the school band and enjoyed singing in the church choir. My family was very musical. I had an aunt who was a piano teacher. When she regularly visited us, from Birmingham, she would want to hear my progress. She once nearly keeled over when I produced the sheet music for What a Day for a Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful ! Outrageous !!!
One side of the family were very properly trained with piano & violin playing and into classical and show tunes, whereas my other granddad was a pub pianist. He ‘vamped’ and ‘boogiewoogied’ his stuff and played harmonica at Christmas parties…. It was hilarious when I think back. It seemed to me that he was more joyous in his approach to music. It’s a belief I still hold today that made me a little rebellious in my approach to making my own music. At an early age I bent a wire coat hanger so I could play harmonica & guitar at the same time, just like Dylan & Donovan. It only resulted in me nearly losing an eye and breaking a tooth. I was the school ‘show-off’ doing plays & pantomimes and guess I fancied a career in something to do with the performing arts. Like most kids I was influenced by the pop of that generation.
I have made so many friends all around the world with the release of Raindancer. It has been a privilege to be able to share my music with so many enthusiastic people. This is what encourages us composers to continue to ‘up our game play’ to continually raise the standard, stretch, and find the best we can be.
In my teens I enjoyed the diversity of progressive rock, like Yes & The Moody Blues, also the gentle folksy guitar melodies of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, plus the piano troubadours Billy Joel & Elton John & also, the early electronic sounds of Tomita & Mike Oldfield. I was into that ‘Hippy’ thing and meditated, burnt incense and read a lot of Buddhism…. Took myself a bit too seriously! I was a bit of a ‘geek’ and lived for my music writing little tunes with terrible pretentious lyrics from about 15, spotty, years old.
John : You are a member of the Medwyn Goodall circle of friends as a MG Music label artist. Can you tell us some of your experiences as a member and what it is like to be a MG Label artist?
Steve Orchard : I first heard Medwyn Goodall’s Druid in the July of 1991, in an art gallery in St. Ives Cornwall. It just blew me away and couldn’t put it in any category that I recognized. It was more than music… It was an awesome soundscape and I just knew that it fit me like a glove. I bought it instantly from the gallery on cassette, to play on my ‘state of the art’ Walkman!! When I returned from my holiday I bought it again from New World, on CD. And so began a long period of buying up anything to do with Medwyn Goodalls music.
My wife Julie & I started to correspond with Medwyn and he graciously autographed all our CD’s. He was very open and quite funny. I’ve kept everything he ever sent me, every doodle and every ditty, including all the Christmas cards ( worth a fortune on Ebay …. only joking ) In our early letters ( this was before emails ) I never told Medwyn that I was a musician, thinking that he may feel I was “chasing my own ambitions”…. unthinkable I know but musicians have been known to do it !!!
I think I broke the news very humbly, without wanting to sound ‘pushy’ and tarnish this rather lovely correspondence that we were enjoying. He invited me to send anything anytime …. WELL !!! Boy, did I send him some rubbish, poor guy. I hadn’t found my NEW AGE feet yet and although I enjoyed this new genre, I couldn’t quite capture it in my own compositions. He was my mentor, DEFINITELY. He guided me, no doubt, to where I am today. After a few stumbles, falls, and many experimental tracks, I sent song Lull in The Storm from something I was working on called The Consequences of Kisses album. He invited me to produce a new project for MG Music !!!
You can imagine that this was a dream come true. To be working for the man that I had held in such high esteem for so many years. I soon discovered the family at MG Music is a wonderful bunch and all the other artists swap ideas and tips generally between us. The amazing Paul Sills soon became a great friend & Charmaine, his wife & Meina, his daughter, travelled down to spend an enjoyable weekend with us. We had discussions late into the night and played each other’s new or experimental tracks whilst the rest of the world slept.
I realize how unpretentious and genuine all the MG artists are. Chris Green and I talk on the phone regularly ( very clever & funny guy ) then Simon Lovelock & Clifford White have spent ‘time out’ to critique and give ‘sound’ advice, both brilliant technicians of the art. In the past I have found musicians to be very protective and guarded with their work but not here. The wonderful thing is, we are all so different and diverse yet all the same family, producing a vast mix of choices within the same genre, all under the safe and knowledgeable direction of the man himself, Medwyn Goodall. Be warned budding New Age composers, he will not accept second best on his label.
John : In your own words Steve, how would you best describe your music and what are the main components that uniquely sets your music apart from not only MG label artists, but so many other New Age musicians?
Steve Orchard : My music almost always originates from a guitar base and is then transcribed onto keyboards. I find the guitar a comfortable friend that I can embrace quietly without any sense of rushing to ‘lay down’ on paper or in the studio. Sometimes I live with a melody for months before it develops into a workable phrase or shape.
I have a terrible bad habit of not documenting tracks I have recorded. I have folders, in my studio, bursting with hastily scribbled chords and lyrics…. Someday I may return to them for inspiration, that’s if I can decipher them, but I hate going back. I prefer to always look forward with my writing. In the making of Raindancer I did a lot of research into the South American rainforest and I story boarded ideas & concepts onto the walls of my studio. Another strict rule I have is I never ever go into the studio unless I am in a happy, contented mood. I like to think that when you listen to a Steve Orchard album that, my positive optimism shines through. Sundancer was almost entirely written in my garden during the summer of 2009. It’s sunnier than a ripe melon !!! As Medwyn says, it has lots of energy & warmth. I think his buzz word for the album was ENERGY !!
John : During the early years in Bristol your music was played on BBC Radio and utilized in music scores for various media programming. In what ways has your music been featured?
Steve Orchard : It seems like a life time ago now but in the 70′s I was in a very popular duo of the time called Mossy, with musical partner Barry Webb ( he’ll be pleased I mentioned his name. ) We played a residency in the cellar bar, at the notorious Bristol Arts Centre. It was a mixture of folk covers and our own written ‘offerings’. We earned a lot of respect locally and had a loyal following amongst the local artists, musicians & regional TV personalities ( I seem to remember being invited and attending a lot of crazy parties ) We were also good ‘fodder’ for the colleges and festivals. At that time we did 3 half hour shows for BHBS radio which led to a spot on BBC’s Friday Folk Nights. BHBS were still playing the jingle we did for them up until a few years ago ( probably when the tape finally disintegrated ) We had a lot of fun but mutually called it a day in 1980 when we both had growing family’s. We remain great buddies.
Unbelievable now with all this technology, that I sent out my first demos on ‘spool’ tape. Perhaps most ended up in the bin but one hit home and I was invited up to Apple’s old offices in St. James Street London for an interview/audition. They gave me a good look over and I felt optimistic but, sadly nothing ever became of it. I still have the letter though, dated 6th September 1972 and at the bottom are the printed names of the two directors…. Yes, you guessed, J O Lennon & G Harrison. In the ’90′s I was asked to do the incidental music for ‘Star Runners’. It was a short promotional sci-fi film directed by Andrew Dymond who, I believe, went on to produce ‘Star Hyke’ which was sold to American TV. I wrote about an hour’s worth of instrumental music but only half of it finally reached the finished movie….. My son Daniel & I had a lot of fun going on an all night shoot for the film, eating Mars Bars and drinking Coca Cola all night to stay awake!! The studio day was also fun where we recorded my work, with the help of a prehistoric sequencer, onto video tape and mini disc ( very nostalgic ) Later, with the advent of Channel 5′s birth I was asked by an agent to go up to their TV studios in London to perform one of my own compositions for a forth coming daytime TV show, which I did….. The day flew by in a blur and all I can remember is the hideous cost of car parking on the Tottenham Court Road…. Scandalous !!!
I was invited up to Apple’s old offices in St. James Street London for an interview/audition. They gave me a good look over and I felt optimistic but, sadly nothing ever became of it. I still have the letter though, dated 6th September 1972 and at the bottom are the printed names of the two directors. Yes you guessed, John O. Lennon & George Harrison.
John : You were a band member earlier in life and in addition, widely recognized as a soloist in South West & London England during the 1990’s. Could you tell us about this time period of events you experienced and I just imagine there are some good stories you could tell everyone?
Steve Orchard : Blimey… How long have we got ? I worked a lot. Mainly covers for the pubs, clubs, hotels and summer seasons at holiday parks. I also did gigs for Army & Navy bases. If you are into performance then it is an incredible apprenticeship. You learn a lot about audiences. I spent 8 consecutive New Years Eve’s away from my wife & kids entertaining 1000′s of drunken party people. When the nights success relies on only YOU…. that’s quite a responsibility ( oh and the bingo & raffle ) I performed all over the South West with 3 nighters in London gigs sleeping in theatrical digs above a pub (not something I can recommend) It’s like an athlete. You build up muscles. You know when to be funny and when to keep your mouth shut!! ( Did I mention I did stand-up ? Don’t do it if you want to retain your sanity ha ha ha !!! )
I’ve known great musicians who were lousy entertainers and great entertainers who were rubbish musicians. In 2001 I realized that this was not what I wanted to do anymore. I wanted to return to my roots which was writing & recording. It was in my heart and the only way I could ‘look at myself in the mirror’ as a serious musician. Continually gigging, performing other people’s material makes you slightly morose and can leave your creative side sadly lacking. True, I do miss the adrenalin rush of an audience but what I do now feels right for me and hopefully my audience is out there still enjoying my performance.
John : Recently I wrote a review for Raindancer and have made plans to review Sundancer & Moondancer when released. Could you tell us more about your Dancer Trilogy and what each individual album illustrates?
Steve Orchard : Yes, they are companions to each other. I hope my listener/audience hear Raindancer and think, ” Wow! I liked that I’d like to taste some more of that.” Raindancer is very jungle/tribal with some twists and turns in its rhythm’s. I had this picture in my mind of cutting ones way through dense foliage to find a clearing populated by remote civilizations ( does that sound crazy ? ) The indigenous animals and fauna were all playing a part in my composing. Raindancer is where I discovered my New Age capabilities. With the generous direction of Medwyn, I am proud of this album. Sundancer, as I mentioned is all about energy. Islands in the sun and deep tropical seas yet cooling sounds in the midday heat. Rhythms play a big part of this album also and will make people want to move and children dance. My youngest son David is a gifted illustrator having produced many published children’s books has preliminarily designed both, Sundancer & Moondancer album covers. Obviously this is still to be confirmed but his work on all my other albums can be seen on my website.
Moondancer …. Is still under wraps. Suffice to say, this is the cool of the evening. The Moon is out in a cloudless night and a billion stars lead us to imagine what life could lay beyond them. This album is entirely recorded on my new studio and at this date still has to be completed but I have some ‘can’t quite keep still’ ideas in my head. I would just say, “Watch This Space!”
John : There is a lot of great instrumentation on the Raindancer album. In addition to acoustic guitar what are the instruments you play, and you told me about an upgrade to your project studio, so could you tell us the story behind this recent upgrade?
Steve Orchard : Raindancer is a completely ‘live’ album. By that I mean that it is layered onto a hard disc in the same way as working with analogue ‘tape’. That’s not to say it suffers from sound quality but I felt I needed to embrace a tiny bit more technology going forward. My main keyboard friends are my trusty Korg Triton & Roland Sonic Cell, with expansion boards, plus some other concoctions!!! On with a story…
By now Medwyn and his lovely wife Wendy had become my good friends. He invited me down to his home in Helston, in Cornwall, for a visit and to look at his studio with perhaps, an insight into the more sophisticated way he works. WOW !!! I only say that because a lot of your fellow members and readers of this site will be saying WOW !!! He was considering completely re-building his studio and giving me the opportunity to ‘adopt’ & ‘adapt’ his studio. This is ‘THE STUDIO’ which is responsible for selling over 4 million albums. It was January and the worst winter the UK had seen in 30 years. I was doubtful whether I would be able to make the journey as heavy snow had fallen over most of the South West. I travelled the day before our meeting and the journey was a little ‘hairy’ ( that’s a British expression for OMG !! …. another icey patch!!! ) I just had to go and meet this man face to face. He had a reputation for being ‘very private’ and not conceding to personal visits to their beautiful Cornish home.
I have to say, that information could not be more wrong. From the outset he was warm and friendly, and we spent the long day in his studio exchanging much humor and banter. I felt relaxed in his company immediately. To be sat elbow-to-elbow in the studio with him was an unforgettable experience. Such ease of understated talent was remarkable ( no, not me, him…. only joking ). Wendy arrived home from there very busy offices and warehouse in Helston and they were gracious enough to take me out for a memorable meal that evening. Suffice to say, I returned the following day with the ‘HEART’ of Medwyn’s studio and since then have amalgamated it into my own studio I think, really successfully ( you will need to wait for the completion of Moondancer to make that appraisal ) I personally can’t wait… It’s going to be special !!
John : On behalf of our visitors and your fans Thank You again Steve. Before we go is there anything you would like to bring up or tell your fans?
Steve Orchard : I have made so many friends all around the world with the release of Raindancer. It has been a privilege to be able to share my music at last, with so many enthusiastic people. This is what encourages us composers to continue to ‘up our game play’ to continually raise the standard, stretch, and find the best we can be. In the spirit of all MG Music Artists I will always try to answer all emails and help other budding musicians in their quest. Everything is possible. It has been a long journey but I still feel opportunities lay ahead of me. So many friends & family ( my closest love & confidant Julie, my wife of 31 years. She’ll be pleased I mentioned her name again! ) have supported me over the years even when I may have floundered. A good friend told me, ”The thing with you Orchard, is that you are PERSISTANT” Oh Yes!”… & keep smiling!
Sundancer & Moondancer covers by David Orchard. Raindancer cover by Medwyn Goodall. Copyright Steve Orchard.