After a relocation from Brisbane, and a long time honing his singer/songwriter skills through the open mic scene of Melbourne, we spoke to Greg Steps about inspiration, influence and lemon trees in the lead up to the launch of his upcoming EP, ‘The Overland’, accompanied by his band – The Not for Prophets – which is taking place on Friday, February 24th at the esteemed Wesley Anne band room.
Before making the big move from Brisbane to Melbourne, Greg Steps had featured in a number of somewhat noisier, heavier band-type situations without ever really trying to go at it alone. Until the day that he did, and realised that Brisbane was no place for a solo singer/songwriter to develop.
“Brisbane doesn’t have – or at least to my knowledge – doesn’t have much of a folk scene,” reminisces Steps beneath the lemon tree at his Coburg residence, “Whereas down in Melbourne, with open mics and stuff like that, and plenty of like-minded individuals… so it just seemed like a good idea at the time”
Having been in Melbourne for what’s coming up to four years now, you would be quite likely to walk into any of the abundance of open mic nights at any given time and find Greg Steps on the list to play – belting his heart out with his slightly country twang and the storytelling nous of a folk star in the making.
Greg has not only used this scene to build connections in the new place he calls home, but also to reinforce his already clear line of talent, and present a form of his music that he had not always been 100% comfortable with.
“Open mic is kind of a dirty word… especially amongst ‘real musicians’…” says Greg, “But for artists like myself, it’s been really important for my development and pretty much everyone I know in Melbourne is purely through the open mic circuit”
To really appreciate the Greg Steps experience, you need to see the live show. There are a number of singer/songwriters in this town whom you can tell just how much the story they are sharing with the audience means to them, and Steps is no exception, with raw emotion not only shown in what you see from his physicality in front of you, but with the way in which he relaxes deeper into every song, calmly blows away at his impressive collection of harmonicas and speaks of each tune with a memory.
Stylistically, it is difficult to pinpoint Greg’s crossroads. It’s some sort of a coming together of alt-country, folk and a dash of that ‘Australiana’ thing – a Jackson Browne meets Neil Young meets Paul Kelly kind of quality.
“It’s quite bizarre how it came about, because I don’t listen to that much folk music, and country; country is a genre I know nothing about… maybe connections through people like Neil Young, with a bit of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even though they are not strictly country,” he emanates; “It was more songwriting that I was drawn to, and folk and country, I think, is just an excellent format for writing songs”
“It’s like the bare bones of the song,” Greg continues, recounting his adornment for the rawness and openness of the singer/songwriter format; “[The songs are] completely stripped back, and there’s little distraction and I really am drawn to that…”
“When you have a band, there’s a lot of options that can distract how bad a song can be… [but] there’s no tricks to folk and country music. If the songs’s not good, it’s not good! It’s blatantly obvious.”
‘Early Hours of Morning’ was a video release from Greg Steps in 2016 which told a somewhat solitary and dark tale and proved to be a very worthy visual accompaniment to the song itself. This was Greg’s first foray into the world of music videos, and the hardest part of the process, he says, isn’t probably what many people would think.
“Acting was really hard. I never realised that walking, and trying to make it look like you’re walking normally – I’ve never been so self-conscious about walking in my life – they just said ‘walk normally,’ I’ve never walked normally in my life – then I had to think about it…”
“You look like you’re walking and you know you’re being filmed!”
Reflecting back on the production and release of ‘The Overland’, Greg admits that the impending release has been a “long time in the making,” with songs written and being performed over a number of years and an unpaid band “doing it out of the goodness of their heart”, Greg outwardly possesses a gratitude for the kindness and support they have shown to believe in his songs and be an integral part of this project.
Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets release & launch the EP ‘The Overland’ on Friday, February 24th at The Wesley Anne – 250 High St, Northcote. Support from Anna Cordell and Oliver Downes. Tickets $10 at the door with CDs available on the night.