Steve Wynn is a true American rock ‘n’ roll hero. He’s the songwriter’s songwriter.
As the frontman for The Dream Syndicate, he helped shape the burgeoning American indie/college rock scene of the 1980s. In The Baseball Project, a band that features one half of REM, he writes and plays baseball-themed songs. And he has recently played and recorded with John Paul Jones.
He plays at The Oxted United Reformed Church on Friday, October 26 , as part of the Bluehouse Festival.
In a career spanning four decades; about thirty albums; over 300 songs; and 2,000 plus shows in locations from as far afield as The Arctic Circle to downtown Tokyo, Steve has never played Oxted! Now he visits for his only UK date of 2018. But just WHAT is this American indie rock icon doing playing in a town in commuter belt Surrey?
Hi Steve. We know you’ll have played many shows in the UK over the years, but would imagine this is your first visit to Oxted! How did the show come about?
SW: I’m easy to track down – my website, social media, things like that. So, I get offers all the time and I’m especially interested when I’m asked to play someplace that I’ve never played before. That’s one of my favourite things about touring – seeing new places, meeting new people. I was already going to be over in Europe and I got a request to play in Oxted. It sounded like fun, it was logistically possible, I said yes. Sometimes it’s that easy.
For those in the local area who perhaps aren’t familiar with your music, what should they expect from an evening with Steve Wynn?
SW: I just put out a book of my complete lyrics from 1982 until now. I was somewhat shocked and pleased to see that the book was almost 500 pages long, about 300 songs in all. It makes me feel like I’ve kept pretty busy over the years. And I carry most of those songs in my head when I take the stage and that gives me the chance to tailor my history to wherever I am that night. It’s all fair game – Dream Syndicate, Gutterball, solo records, even the Baseball Project! And it’s fun to filter those records through one voice and one guitar. Let’s see what happens!
Your first release with The Dream Syndicate was all the way back in 1982, and we know you still regularly play songs from those early days: ‘Tell Me When It’s Over’ and ‘The Days of Wine and Roses’ to name just two. What does it feel like playing songs that you released over 35 years ago, perhaps to audiences who are hearing them for the first time?
SW: It feels great. I’m happy that almost none of my songs feel dated or irrelevant to me or, hopefully, my audience. I just filter wherever I was back then to where I am now. It’s a psychic journey for me every night.
And after so many years in the music business, how do you stay creative? And still find the energy and motivation to play shows night after night?
SW: I’m lucky. I love my job. And the greatest thrill remains those lucky days where you’re writing a song or playing a show or recording and everything just clicks. Sometimes it can feel like you’re trying to catch a wave and that wave is never gonna come. And then–whoosh!–it’s there. That’s a great feeling. I guess that’s what keeps me going.
Away from The Dream Syndicate, you also co-front the band The Baseball Project, who write songs exclusively about baseball, and which includes such luminaries as Peter Buck and Mike Mills from REM; Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5; and Linda Pitmon, of too many great bands to name! Any aspirations to take this show on the road in Europe? Or are we just not ready for such an overload of baseball references this side of the pond?
SW: I’m dying to get The Baseball Project over to the UK. We’ve played shows in Norway, Holland, Italy, Spain and Croatia and had no problem connecting to audiences that didn’t know or care about baseball. At the end of the day, those songs are all just universal stories about things that affect everyone. Some of the most personal and heartfelt songs I’ve ever written have been for The Baseball Project. That’s it! I’m going to have to play some of them in Oxted!
And, finally, what is the one thing you hope to find time to do while visiting Oxted?
SW: What’s for dinner!?
Full details at bluehousefestival.org.uk and tickets are available at wegottickets.com/BHF2018.