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 (he later found out that it was blues) from K. C. Douglas, who worked at his grandfather's garage. Douglas wrote the song "Mercury Blues" and used to play with Tommy Johnson. 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.
Of this time he once said:
Adult life and early musical career
In the 1960s, he started touring and performing with fellow blues musicians, and had friends in the music scene including Janis Joplin and 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. Kurt Cobain was a friend. In the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf of May 31, 2011 Steve denied this, saying (in translation): "Just like everybody else I saw him pass by in the street and said hello to him. That doesn't make us friends, does it?". Regarding his 'friendship' with Janis Joplin (same source): "We both lived in San Francisco in the sixties. Period." 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 (Jo Husmo on stand-up bass and Kai Christoffersen on drums) as his rhythm section. 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 (broadcast on New Year's Eve 2006) where he performed a live rendition of "Dog House Boogie" on the "Three String Trance Wonder" and the "Mississippi Drum Machine" (see below). 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 one concert (Astoria, London, January 24, 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.
Seasick Steve 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, Seasick Steve 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, Seasick Steve 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, Seasick Steve was nominated for a Brit Award in the category of International Solo Male Artist for the second consecutive year.
In 2010, Seasick Steve 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, Seasick Steve 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 Seasick Steve to promote it. This has caused some to believe that he will tour with Steve as a part of his backing band, joining his current drummer Dan. John Paul Jones did indeed appear onstage to play with Steve at the Isle of Wight 2011 festival and on the main stage of Rock Werchter 2011.
In July 2011, Seasick Steve played on stage with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (both of whom are members of the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures) at Milton Keynes National Bowl in front of a sold-out audience of 65,000.
In August 2011, Seasick Steve played at Reading and Leeds Festival, and the Fairport's Cropredy Convention, sharing the stage with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
On August 20, 2011, Seasick Steve finished his European festival season of 2011 with a show on the Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, Netherlands.
On May 28, 2012, Seasick Steve played on the main-stage of the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands.
On December 29, 2012, Seasick Steve played at the Mangawhai Tavern in New Zealand. While performing there, he revealed that he would be releasing a new album in 2013, previously unplanned, as the follow up to his 2011 album You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks. He also performed a new song, part of his second and final encore, from the forthcoming album. He mentioned that it was the first time he would be playing a new song live, as yet untitled.
On February 28, 2013, Seasick Steve unveiled his upcoming album entitled Hubcap Music, and stated it would feature collaborations with John Paul Jones, Jack White and Luther Dickinson.
On June 28, 2013, he performed a one hour set with John Paul Jones and Dan Magnusson at the Glastonbury Festival.
On July 12, 2013, Seasick Steve performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, playing on the main stage at Ahoy Rotterdam.
On August 17 and 18, 2013, he performed sets on the 4Music Stage 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, Seasick Steve joined Tom Odell on stage.
On August 23, 2013, he performed live on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2.
On August 24, 2013, he performed at Car Fest South hosted by Chris Evans and included special guest appearances with Texas.
Wold owns (and plays) several obscure and personalised 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." On a BBC interview Steve claims that the guitar was found by a friend, just with the three strings on it. So he decided to keep it that way.
This is a one-stringed instrument played with a slide (he uses an old screwdriver for this purpose). 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 Steve's car history of over 100 cars included a Morris Minor. Steve 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. Steve 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 get sick on boats, that's it!" On Top Gear, when asked about his name, Wold replied "Well, I guess I just don't like boats!"
Wold married his second wife, Elisabeth, 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 Steve'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/drums at the Astoria in January 2008 and has since performed with Seasick Steve 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 Seasick Steve.
- 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