Steve Louw Weathers Thunder and Rain
South African artist Steve Louw recently released his second solo album, Thunder and Rain, building on his 2021 collection, Headlight Dreams. For Louw these are both new ventures and a return to very familiar territory since he’s a lifelong songwriter and musician. He made two records with his band, All Night Radio, in the 1980s, and became more well known as the leader of the band Big Sky, releasing five albums and becoming a major fixture in South African Rock music. Louw released his final album of that era in 2008 and returned to music in 2021 taking a singer/songwriter approach and teaming up with friends old and new in the process.
On Thunder and Rain, Louw recorded in Nashville with Grammy-nominated keyboardist Kevin McKendree, guitarist Rob McNelley, bassist Alison Prestwood, and drummer Greg Morrow, with Doug Lancio serving multi-instrumentalist. Joe Bonamassa also joined in. It was producer and old friend Kevin Shirley who had convinced Louw to record again, and he brought his magic to this latest effort as well. While Headlight Dreams explored themes surrounding life’s journey, Thunder and Rain is comprised of songs written almost entirely during the pandemic period, so handle some more emotionally raw content. However, the core of the album is clearly about human beings and the storms that we weather in relationships and in society.
I spoke with Steve Louw, in what turned out to be his first interview about his solo work for American readers, about returning to recording, his approach to capturing songs, and the themes that caught his attention for Thunder and Rain.
Americana Highways: It hasn’t been that long since your first solo album came out. Were you already working on this collection by the time it was released?
Steve Louw: Yes, a lot of these songs were written during the lockdown period, when things were pretty severe. This album was then recorded in early 2022, this year. I wrote all the songs in that period between March 2020 and March 2022. I had plenty of time! It was great. My wife and I have quite a remote cabin in nature, and we were there for months at a time. It was a good place for songwriting.
AH: What sort of natural surroundings did you have?
SL: It’s on the sea. It looks very similar to Big Sur, with cliffs plunging to the sea and then a mountain range very close to the sea, so it has high rainfall and a lot of trees. There’s a lot of bird life and animals. I found myself talking to the animals. [Laughs]
AH: I heard that for Headlight Dreams, some of it was recorded in Nashville, just like this album.
SL: Yes, it was recorded in the same studio, and with pretty much the same band. With Headlight Dreams, there’s another guitar player. But there’s the same crew, producer, engineer, and the same room. We managed to do them both in three days each. As long as everyone knows what they are doing, it’s basically a performance.