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Great things come to those who wait
After a chequered and colourful past, Seasick Steve has finally made it to the top - in his sixties.
Anne Sexton, 23 Jan 2009
I’m not trying to stalk Seasick Steve. It just keeps happening. The universe keeps throwing him in my path. I bumped into him – literally – on the way to buy a drink at the Cois Fharraige festival. A while later, I passed him on the street in Dublin. Then Hot Press asked me if I’d like to meet him. It would have seemed rude to the universe to say no.
We meet in his dressing-room at the back of the National Stadium. It isn’t the most luxurious of spaces, but Seasick Steve (aka Steve Wold) doesn’t appear to mind – you can’t imagine him throwing diva strops demanding Jo Malone candles, white lilies and a brand new toilet for his exclusive use. The room is dark but cosy, an electric bar heater casting a warm orange glow in the gloom, plus there’s fruit, Jack Daniel’s and a bottle of red wine that Wold is struggling to open with a cheap corkscrew as I walk in. But he’s a gentleman first and a musician second, so he sets the bottle down, shakes my hand and pulls me up a chair by the fire and offers me a drink.
Having left home at the tender age of thirteen to escape an abusive stepfather and uncaring mother, Wold rode the rails as a hobo searching for seasonal jobs, working, among other things, as a cowboy and a carny. Much has been made of this part of Wold’s life, and in fairness, it does read a bit like a film script. It’s an unlikely rags-to-riches story; even Hollywood would baulk at the idea of a sixty-something bluesman finding fame.
“I don’t romanticise it too much,” he says. “But I guess I’m a little guilty of that in my songs because I don’t look at it too hard. I try to make it a bit light. It was tough, but it wasn’t horrible either.”
If you discount the fact that he’s lived in 59 houses in 27 years, Wold is more conventional than his colourful past would suggest. He’s been married for a long time, raised five children and was your average hard-working class hero for most of his adult life. His later years included a stint near Seattle where he produced music during the grunge years, working with the likes of Modest Mouse.