Interview: Steve Wickham

(Photography by Paul Mc Manus)

Steve Wickham is a true Sligo treasure. As a long-serving member of The Waterboys, the Dublin born violinist has travelled the globe collaborating and performing live with the likes of Bob Dylan, U2, REM, Elvis Costello, The Hothouse Flowers and Sinead O’ Conner. Wickham is a resident studio artist at The Model. It isn’t an all too uncommon occurrence to hear the sound Wickham’s soaring violin spilling from the window of his studio whilst passing below. It’s a bit like having Madonna in the attic, really.

Safe to say, we consider ourselves very lucky to have him. Having had such a prolific career, it is no surprise that Wickham is gearing up to release his second solo album, Beekeeper. In preparations for the launch of the album (taking place at 8pm, Fri. 12 May in The Model) Steve Wickham sat down with our marketing assistant, Rebecca Kennedy to discuss Beekeeper, inspiration, and Sligo.

Can you tell a bit about how Beekeeper came about?

I was sitting for a painting for Nick Miller in his studio up in Rathcormac for about a week. I asked Nick was it okay for me to bring my violin because it’s kind of boring to just sit there. He was into it. I brought the fiddle and improvised while he painted me. I brought a recorder to tape all the tunes and in the end I had hours and hours of improvised music. As I was collating the music, I realized I wasn’t ready just yet to make that album yet but it sparked the creative juices to put out a solo album so I did. I recorded some of it in my studio. The creative process was spurred on by being in The Model. I wrote ‘Song of Lost Things’ in The Model and ‘The Hare.’

Your music is such an eclectic mixture of sound. What goes through your head while your writing?

It’s one song at a time. I never think, ‘Oh, I have an album here.’ I had a lot of pieces that were saying to me ‘what are you going to do with me?’ I kind of answer them by saying; ‘I’m going to put you all in an album.’ I had a great producer working with me, a guy called, Joe Chester. He’s actually an old friend of mine. He was in The Waterboys. He’s an Irish producer who worked with Hozier. He has a great aesthetic. When you’re working on things yourself, you’re too close to them. Like a curator in an art gallery, a producer can step back from an artists’ work to actually look at it. So, I’d a lot of help from Joe and some of the guys in The Waterboys. I also had help from Brian Mc Donagh with whom I began the recording process.

How does your experience as a solo artist compare to your experience of being in a band?

When you find yourself in any sort of group, there’s a group dynamic to be aware of. When you are part of a band of musicians, you must find the dynamic. Find your own place within it. That place, where you can give most of your musical self. The lead singer or songwriter is generally the leader of the band. I am primarily a violinist and most of my career has been spent supporting the song and the singer and for the most part this has been completely fulfilling for me. With this record I’ve had to stand up more to the fore which is a bit more daunting but fun too, especially with a great band behind me.

If you could describe Beekeeper in three words, what would they be?

A hive of songs…or a deadly buzz!