Steven Gene Wold (born 1941), commonly known as Seasick Steve, is an American blues musician. He plays mostly personalized guitars, and sings, usually about his early life doing casual work.
Life and career
Childhood and early life
Wold was born in Oakland, California. When he was four years old, his parents split up. His father played boogie-woogie piano and Wold tried to learn when he was five or six, but could not. At the age of eight, he learned to play the guitar from K. C. Douglas, who worked at his grandfather's garage, later realising that he had been taught the blues. Douglas wrote the song "Mercury Blues" and had played with Tommy Johnson in the early 1940s. Wold left home at 13 to avoid abuse at the hands of his stepfather, and lived rough and on the road in Tennessee, Mississippi and elsewhere, until 1973. He would travel long distances by hopping freight trains, looking for work as a farm labourer or in other seasonal jobs, often living as a hobo. At various times, Wold worked as a carnie, a cowboy and a migrant worker. Paraphrasing H. L. Mencken, Wold described this time of his life by saying "Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don't look for work, and bums are people who don't move and don't work. I've been all three."
Adult life and early musical career
In the 1960s, Wold started touring and performing with fellow blues musicians, and had friends in the music scene including Joni Mitchell. Since then, he has worked, on and off, as a session musician and studio engineer. In the late 1980s, while living in Olympia, near Seattle, he worked with many indie label artists. In the 1990s he continued to work as a recording engineer and producer, producing several releases by Modest Mouse including their 1996 debut album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.
At one time, living in Paris, Wold made his living busking, mostly on the metro. After moving to Norway in 2001, Wold released his first album, entitled Cheap, recorded with The Level Devils as his rhythm section, with Jo Husmo on stand-up bass and Kai Christoffersen on drums. His debut solo album, Dog House Music was released by Bronzerat Records on November 26, 2006, after he was championed by an old friend, Joe Cushley, DJ on the Ballin' The Jack blues show on London radio station Resonance FM.
Breakthrough and subsequent career
Wold made his first UK television appearance on Jools Holland's annual Hootenanny BBC TV show on New Year's Eve 2006. He performed a live rendition of "Dog House Boogie" on the "Three String Trance Wonder" and the "Mississippi Drum Machine". After that show his popularity exploded in Britain, as he explained in an interview:
He was well received in the UK, winning the 2007 MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Act and going on to appear at major UK festivals such as Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury. In 2007 he played more UK festivals than any other artist.
Wold toured early in 2008, playing in various venues and festivals in the UK. He was joined on stage by drummer Dan Magnusson. KT Tunstall also dueted with Wold at the London Astoria in January 2008. Wold also played many other festivals throughout the world in 2008, including Fuji Rock in Japan, East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Australia, also in April 2008, and Roskilde in Denmark.
Wold's major-label debut, I Started Out with Nothin and I Still Got Most of It Left was recorded with Dan Magnusson on drums, was released by Warner Music on September 29, 2008, and features Ruby Turner and Nick Cave's Grinderman.
He has toured the UK extensively since 2007 being supported by Duke Garwood, Gemma Ray, The Sugars, Billie the Vision and the Dancers in January 2008, Amy LaVere in October 2008, Melody Nelson at the Brighton Dome on 7 October, and Joe Gideon & The Shark in January 2009. His tours in October 2008 and January 2009 were all sold out and included performances at the Royal Albert Hall, the Edinburgh Queen's Hall, the Grand Opera House in Belfast, the Apollo in Manchester, the City Hall in Newcastle and the London Hammersmith Apollo.
In 2009, Wold was nominated for a Brit Award in the category of International Solo Male Artist, That same year, BBC Four broadcast a documentary of Wold visiting the southern USA entitled Seasick Steve: Bringing It All Back Home. On January 21, Wold hosted "Folk America: Hollerers, Stompers and Old Time Ramblers" at the Barbican in London, a show that was also televised and shown with the documentary on BBC Four as part of a series tracing American roots music.
Wold participated on Australian television show Spicks and Specks in April 2009, wearing a beaten up John Deere cap. Wold admitted to having enough money to finally buy a model 60 John Deere Tractor, and joked that he could now really hold up traffic, a reference to the joke of his 51 Chevy breaking down at a music festival and requiring a push from members of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
In an interview with an Australian magazine, Wold attributes much of his unlikely success to his cheap and weather-beaten guitar, "The Trance Wonder" and reveals the guitar's mojo might come from supernatural sources.
On January 3, 2010, Wold appeared on the popular BBC motoring show Top Gear as the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car. He was the last star to drive in the blue Chevrolet Lacetti.
In February 2010, Wold was nominated for a Brit Award in the category of International Solo Male Artist for the second consecutive year.
In 2010, Wold made numerous festival appearances throughout the summer, including the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, the main stage at V Festival, the main stage at the Hop Farm Festival and many more. Also, he collaborated with Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall on a song called "Golden Frames" for her third album, Tiger Suit.
In February 2011, Wold signed to Play It Again Sam to release his new album with the exception of the US, where it will be released on Third Man Records. Subsequently his new album You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks was released on his new labels and it was announced that former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones had played on the new album, and performed alongside Wold to promote it. This caused some to believe that he will tour with Wold as a part of his backing band, joining his then-current drummer Dan. John Paul Jones did indeed appear onstage to play with Wold at the Isle of Wight 2011 festival and on the main stage of Rock Werchter 2011. In July that year, Wold played on stage with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin at Milton Keynes National Bowl in front of a sold-out audience of 65,000. He later played at the Reading and Leeds festivals, and the Fairport's Cropredy Convention, sharing the stage with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. In August, he finished his European festival season of 2011 with a show on the Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, Netherlands.
In 2012, Wold played on the main-stage of the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands.
In February 2013, Wold unveiled his upcoming album entitled Hubcap Music, and stated it would feature collaborations with John Paul Jones, Jack White and Luther Dickinson. Festivals that year included a one hour set with John Paul Jones and Dan Magnusson at the Glastonbury Festival, a performance at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, playing on the main stage at Ahoy Rotterdam, and sets at the V Festival at Weston Park and Hylands Park, accompanied by John Paul Jones and Dan Magnusson. Prior to his own set at Hylands Park, Wold joined Tom Odell on stage. In August he performed at Car Fest South hosted by Chris Evans and included special guest appearances with Texas; he performed live on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 later that month. In December 2013, Wold appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.
On May 23, 2014 he played a one off sell out benefit concert in support of the Dogs Trust at the Royal Albert Hall, London. He was supported by London based violinist Georgina Leach and Dan Magnussen.
Wold owns and plays several obscure and personalized instruments.
This is a normal guitar that resembles a Fender Coronado or a Teisco EP-7. It has an old Harmony pickup added with duct tape, and is tuned to G, A and B using an E string in the A position, a D in the G position and a G in the B position. At his gigs, he often tells the story that he bought it for $75 in this condition in Como, Mississippi, from a man named Sherman, who later told him he only paid $25 for it the day before. Wold vowed never to add another string, and that he would tour the world telling his story of how Sherman ripped him off. All in good fun as Sherman Cooper is a good buddy, who gave him the guitar having had it nailed to the wall as a decoration. A lot of the time he also adds, while picking up or putting away the guitar, that it is the "...biggest piece of shit in the world, I swear." In a BBC interview Wold claimed that the guitar was found by a friend, just with the three strings on it, and he decided to keep it that way.
This is a one-stringed instrument played with a slide, for which he uses an old screwdriver. It consists of a 2-foot-long (0.61 m) 2x4, with a semi-loose piece of broom wire nailed to it at both ends. It was made especially for him by James "Super Chikan" Johnson. An instrument like this is known as a diddley bow.
When on the TV show Top Gear, presenter Jeremy Clarkson commented that Wold's car history of over 100 cars included a Morris Minor. Wold then presented a four-string guitar that his friend Davey had made out of two old hubcaps from a Minor 1000 joined back-to-back and his wife's broomstick. Wold then played it a little in the episode. Clarkson replied that it was the best use of a Morris Minor he had ever seen.
A similar guitar was made out of Hudson Terraplane hubcaps, one of them given to him by Jack White, referring to "Terraplane Blues" by Robert Johnson.
He can be seen playing a '56 Danelectro/Silvertone single cutaway (modified) on various gigs.
He used a National Triolian on some gigs and studio recordings. It has SEASICK etched on the body.
Often seen using this on gigs.
Unknown make. Has a Harmony pickup placed in sound hole. Often tuned to open D. He uses this often in the studio and on most of his gigs.
A small wooden box that is stomped upon, providing percussion. It is decorated with a Mississippi motorcycle registration plate ("MC33583"), and a small piece of carpet.
A Roland CUBE 30 W amplifier placed on a chair to his left and set to the 'tweed' setting.
A Fender Bassman amplifier, used at the Pinkpop Festival 2012.
When asked about his nickname, Wold has said: "because it's just true: I always get seasick". When he was ill on a ferry from Copenhagen to Norway, later in his life, a friend began playfully using the name and, despite Wold not rising to it for a while, it stuck. When asked about his name on British Sunday morning television show, Something for the Weekend, he replied, "I just get sick on boats." On Top Gear, when asked about his name, Wold replied "Well, I guess I just don't like boats!"
Wold had two children with his first wife: Sevrin and Ivan. Sevrin is the lead singer in a rock band called Peratus. Wold married his second wife, in 1982 and together they have three adult sons. Wold has problems putting down roots in one place, and he and his wife have lived in 59 houses to date. They currently live in Sandefjord, Norway and the UK.
One of Wold's sons, Didrik, is an illustrator who is responsible for designing all of his father's album artwork, merchandise, print ads, and websites. His youngest son, Paul Martin Wold, played drums on Dog House Music and first made a guest appearance with him on percussion at the Astoria in January 2008. He has since performed with Wold frequently, playing washboard, shakers, tambourine, floor tom and occasionally guitar. He also works as Steve's guitar-tech. Paul Martin Wold, aka "Wishful Thinking", released his debut album A Waste of Time Well Spent on November 2, 2009, and showcased a selection from the album whilst touring the UK with his father.
- Current members
- Dan Magnusson - drums, percussion (2008–Present)
- John Paul Jones - bass guitar (2011–present)
- Former members, as "The Level Devils"
- Jo Husmo - bass guitar (2001–?)
- Kai Christoffersen - drums, percussion (2001-2004)
- Dan Magnusson - drums, percussion (2004–06)
- Official website
- Seasick Steve on Facebook
- Seasick Steve's channel on YouTube
- Seasick Steve on Myspace
- Seasick Steve interview at musicOMH
- Seasick Steve interview at Blues In London
- Record Label — Bronzerat recordings
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Image from Discogs