- Interview: Steve Louw Weathers “Thunder And Rain” | Americana Highways
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.
Read the full interview on Americana Highways
- Steve Louw Shares his Creative Process | 15 Questions
From 15 Questions
“Songwriting? It’s like being a sounding board for spirits.“
Name: Steve Louw
Nationality: South African
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Current release: Steve Louw’s Thunder and Rain is out via BFD / The Orchard.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration, like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc., play?
It’s what I love to do; it’s the beauty of creating something out of nothing. It’s an unconscious process, channelling what you’ve seen, heard, and felt and reflecting it back to others differently.
It’s like being a sounding board for spirits.
For you to start, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a ‘visualization’ of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I always try to let the song find me rather than looking for the song, so no, I am down on the chance side of the scale.
If something good comes in, a riff or a phrase, I will zone in on that and try to build it.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way? For example, do you need to do research or create early versions?
I like to be around my own space, with a couple of instruments lying around, maybe different guitars with different tunings. Fretting and playing around in a new tuning or a different key using a capo can create strange chords which can get you to another place or lead you onto a new path. It can make a song take on a whole new feel.
On the song “Train Don’t Run”, off my last album, Headlight Dreams, that happened.
I was in Vancouver without a guitar, so I bought a small travel-size guitar with a unique voice. When I returned to my hotel room, I put a capo on it and played high up on the neck; it led me to the riff and chorus of that song.
Read full article at 15 Questions
- Steve Louw is Back!
Cape Town, 11 November 2022 – Ramping up after the release of the singles “Thunder and Rain” and “Mother, Don’t Go” (Feat. Joe Bonamassa), today sees the announcement of Steve Louw’s latest album, Thunder and Rain and a third stellar single, “I’ll Be Back”, lifted from this powerful 10-track, Kevin Shirley-produced album.
The interplay on Thunder and Rain is often subtle, yet it’s undeniably soulful, the songs benefiting from the easy turns of phrases and chord changes. Steve conveys these emotions through strength on “I’ll Be Back”, a song where acoustic guitars give the track a steady, windblown propulsion, one that muscles through on the chorus – he’s a man on a mission, one dedicated to the task at hand.
As with 2021’s Headlight Dreams album, 2022’s Thunder and Rain, besides Steve and Joe, is flush with talent. From Greg Morrow on drums, Rob McNelley on guitar and Slide Dobro, Doug Lancio on guitar and mandolin, Kenny Greenburg on guitar, Alison Prestwood on bass guitar and Kevin McKendree on keyboards, amongst others, Thunder and Rain is as impressive in lyrics and compositions as it is in heavyweight genii, all adding multiple layers of arresting accompaniment.
Recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, “I’ll Be Back” is a mantra and an equally powerful promise. While the next chapter preps and fine-tunes, enjoy embracing and sharing the brand-new album’s nine remaining bolts of lightning that brighten and charge a body of work world worthy.
Listen to “I’ll Be Back” from Thunder and Rain, here
Out now via BFD/The Orchard.
Publisher – Slosongs/Sony Music Pub.
Composer – Steve Louw
Thunder and Rain, the album, is out now.
Watch the official video for “I’ll Be Back”
Follow and share Steve Louw’s journey via:
Jason Curtis – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Steve Louw | Interview | New Album, ‘Thunder and Rain’ | It’s Psychedelic Baby
South African rocker Steve Louw will release sophomore album, ‘Thunder and Rain,’ November 11th, 2022 via BFD / The Orchard.
The album was produced by Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Robert Cray Band, the Black Crowes) and features contributions from guitar wizards Joe Bonamassa, and Doug Lancio. Bonamassa is featured on the second single ‘Mother Don’t Go.’
‘Thunder and Rain’ follows hot on the heels of ‘Headlight Dreams’ the 2021 album that found Steve Louw returning to active duty after a thirteen-year absence. After this prolonged period away from the spotlight, Louw discovered an audience who was eager to hear new music from the singer/songwriter.
Read the full article at It’s Psychedelic Baby
- Bonamassa’s Back On New Steve Louw Track!
Cape Town, 28 October 2022 – Hot on the heels of “Thunder and Rain”, the title track from Steve Louw’s brand new 10-track album dropping on 11 November, comes “Mother, Don’t Go”, a track that welcomes guitar legend Joe Bonamassa back to the fold.
On this latest single, Steve celebrates the restorative, nourishing love on “Mother, Don’t Go”. This insightful, insistent tune, graced by guitar wizard Joe Bonamassa brings out the song’s incandescent spirit as he intertwines his playing with that of Doug Lancio, the recently inducted guitarist into Louw’s orbit of abundantly talented players.
Recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, under the watchful eye of long-time friend and award-winning producer Kevin Shirley, “Mother, Don’t Go” hits emotional chords in its subject, supported by a group of well-seasoned and respected heavyweights playing out the songs infectious melodies and pleading chorus.
Out now via BFD/The Orchard.
Publisher – Slosongs/Sony Music Pub.
Composer – Steve Louw
Thunder and Rain, the album, will be released on 11 November 2022.
Follow and share Steve Louw’s journey via:
- STEVE LOUW, MAKES YOU AWARE WITH THE CLIP AND WORDS OF THUNDER AND RAIN | ROADIE MUSIC
AFChagas, from Roadie Music
Under a rain of protests and storms in the heart, this sound builds itself, in images and tones, to show its point of view and its emotions, struggling to raise awareness in its important message.
The guitar and the vigor of the vocals will convince you to listen to the end, to decide whether to take sides or not.
- SOUTH AFRICAN ROCKER STEVE LOUW ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM THUNDER AND RAIN AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 11
PRODUCED BY KEVIN SHIRLEY FEATURING JOE BONAMASSA AND DOUG LANCIO
“Thunder and Rain” single
NEW YORK, NY – Veteran South African rocker Steve Louw announces his sophomore solo release Thunder and Rain, available November 11, 2022 through BFD / The Orchard, with the release of the first single and title track today. The album was produced by Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Robert Cray Band, the Black Crowes) and features contributions from guitar wizards Joe Bonamassa, and Doug Lancio.
Thunder and Rain follows hot on the heels of Headlight Dreams the 2021 album that found Steve Louw returning to active duty after a thirteen-year absence. After this prolonged period away from the spotlight, Louw discovered an audience who was eager to hear new music from the singer/songwriter: Headlight Dreams received strong reviews and earned a nomination for Best Rock Album from the South African Music Awards in 2022.
On the album’s opening title track, “Thunder and Rain,” it’s possible to hear and feel bad weather creep in over the horizon. “The world is navigating through a fraught time, economically and politically,” explains Louw. “The geography of where I was coming from crept into the music; fire, wind and rain.” Those elements also creep into the video created by Jacqui van Staden.
While it’s an ominous beginning to the album, waiting for light to emerge after darkness is a thematic undercurrent on Thunder and Rain, a record where Louw balances these opposing impulses with strength and compassion. He may open the record with a sense of foreboding—a feeling that resonates strongly in 2022, as the world picks up the pieces left after a global pandemic—yet he doesn’t dwell in the darkness.
“It’s about love,” Louw explains of the album, “we’re born with love, we’ll leave with love, and it heals along the way.”
Louw celebrates the restorative, nourishing love on “Mother, Don’t Go,” an insightful, insistent tune graced by guitar wizard Joe Banamassa, who brings out the song’s incandescent spirit as he intertwines his playing with that of Doug Lancio, a guitarist who has just entered Louw’s orbit. The album winds its way through “The Road Fades from Sight,” a ballad built upon the soul-sustaining power of longtime love, then reaches the finish line with “I’m Coming Home,” an invigorating conclusion that leaves no doubt there’s room for optimism in these troubled times. By finding space for this full range of emotion, Thunder and Rain operates on a refreshingly human scale, emphasizing deep emotions and interpersonal interactions—it’s music that’s meant to be felt as much as heard.
ABOUT STEVE LOUW: South African musician Steve Louw’s career began with his first band All Night Radio who released two records including 1986’s The Killing Floor, the album where he first collaborated with Kevin Shirley. Louw came to stardom as the leader of Big Sky, a group who put out their first album, Waiting for the Dawn, in 1990. During their time together, Big Sky released five albums, a discography highlighted by 1995’s acclaimed Horizon. The band earned accolades from the industry, including winning the FNB Music Award for Best SA Rock Act in 1996. At the end of their run as a band, Big Sky was the opening act for Rodriguez on his valedictory tour of South Africa, a journey captured in the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The tour raised Louw’s international profile, leading to his collaboration with Queen’s Brian May and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on “Amandla,” a song on 2003’s Nelson Mandela-inspired AIDS awareness project 46664.
Following the release of Big Sky’s Trancas Canyon in 2008, Louw retreated from the spotlight. He broke his silence with his solo debut Headlight Dreams, a rousing comeback delivered in 2021. Thunder and Rain, his sophomore release, will be available November 11, 2022.
KEEP UP WITH STEVE LOUW
- Steve Louw is SAMA NOMINATED for Headlight Dreams
Steve Louw shines on Headlight Dreams
It’s hard to believe the last new music we heard from Steve Louw arrived seven long years ago. With the wait now finally over, fans right around the world are already embracing the pop/ rock icon’s return with arms wide open.
This is the lovely Back story to the album which has been SAMA nominated for Best Rock Album. The SAMAS are held on the weekend of 28th August at Sun City.
The past year has been a rich and hugely rewarding one for Steve. Not only did Steve record his brand-new album, Headlight Dreams, in Nashville, along with his long-time friend and producer extraordinaire, Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes), but Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and genius guitarist, Joe Bonamassa also pitched up and added his magic to the record. To boot, SONY ATV, upon hearing the finished album, offered Steve an international deal.
The album now out and with two singles already on high rotation, “Crazy River” and “Wind in your Hair”, the latter is the one that’s quite literally blowing up all around the world. In its first week of release in the US, the track landed at the highly coveted Number Two position on the Billboard ACC Folk Chart, ahead of the likes of the equally commendable Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.
Along with its spellbinding video, “Wind in your Hair” is the track that sports Joe Bonamassa guitar fills and outstanding middle-eight. What makes this song all the more special for its maker is the fact that Kevin sent it to a friend to master, thereby adding the final piece of magic to this blinding brilliant musical statement.
Steve’s wedding anniversary was coming up two days after the album wrapped and, unbeknownst to Steve at the time, Kevin had sent the track to mastering legend, Bob Ludwig and within a day he’d mastered it and sent it on to Steve on the day as a gift to celebrate his nuptials. “When I got it, I played it on my little Bose speaker out into New York. It was one of the greatest moments ever!” Steve recalls. To top it off, Bob sent an email with the final mastered track saying, “What a wonderful song, what a wonderful vocal performance, I loved working on this”. “I practically did a giddy summersault,” he recalls.
As to the creation of the track, Steve points to how, lyrically, he sings of love changing and building between two people as life throws up detours and bridges. “It’s a love story exploring how two people, who love each other but have different needs and desires, travel through their life and love. The chorus kicks back to the joy of love, while the verses take you on a journey of rough and smooth roads and winding passes, ending at the place they set out for.”
With ten tracks captured in an arresting three-day recording sprint, producer Kevin Shirley channelled each one of Headlight Dreams’ songs through a vintage Neve console inside of a converted church. “From the first moment I loved the acoustics of the studio and the vibe created by the wonderful Nashville musicians with their great feel and playing, drawing you into a world shimmering in the half-light, just out of reach…,” Steve shares.
With the promise of future live shows in support of the album’s release, fans can look forward to sharing what is the greatest ride of Steve Louw’s life. A consummate storyteller, a supremely gifted guitarist and a genuinely wonderful human being, Steve’s Headlight Dreams is a beautiful statement, endorsed and applauded by everyone it touches.
Headlight Dreams is out now
For more information and interview opportunities, contact:
083 448 4475
- Steve Louw: Headlight Dreams | Graffiti. Punctuated
Steve Louw is a storyteller. From the slow train of 1990’s ‘Waiting On The Dawn’ that “takes us back to the dreams and hopes we had when we were young”, to the restless wanderer of 2008’s ‘The Wind Blows’, the singer-songwriter has created imagery as vivid as the music that accompanies it.
‘Headlight Dreams’, Louw’s first international solo release, is no different.
Inspired by such adventures as an 8000-km motorbike jaunt around Southern Africa, a canoe trip through the Grand Canyon, and a two-month Greyhound bus trek across the United States, its 10 tracks are the soundtrack to a 1974 National Geographic photo-essay on the US heartland. There are winding rivers, dusty roads, sweeping plains, muddy waters, railway tracks, one-horse towns, and rocky mountains, populated by renegades, broken gamblers, dreamers, loners, and an outlaw couple.
Theirs are stories of hope, despair, loss, and redemption, amplified not only by the beauty and desolation of their settings, but by how they’re conveyed. Louw’s voice and acoustic guitar are intentionally front and centre of the landscapes created by four A-grade Nashville session musicians and Kevin Shirley’s warm, earthy production.
So, no matter how uplifting the kwela-style guitars and jaunty keys of album opener ‘Crazy River’, they’re almost no match for the joy in Louw’s voice as he sings of campfires, full moons, and senoritas.
On the title track, Kev McHendry’s rich organ swells, Rob McNelley’s nimble guitar licks, and the swaggering groove of drummer Greg Morrow and bass player Alison Prestwood are the perfect backdrop to an impassioned vocal about lovers on the run.
Summer-in-a-song ‘Wind In Your Hair’ joins the pantheon of top-down, foot-down highway anthems with McHendry’s glistening keys, McNelley’s perfectly placed runs, sizzling Joe Bonamassa solo, and lines like “I look down the road/ I see you standing there/ With the sunlight on your face/ And the wind in your hair”.
No-nonsense honky-tonk rocker ‘The Lost And Found’ kicks up some real dirt as it gallops along to images of too much red wine, deals with the devil, and hearts left layin’ around town, while the steamin’ ‘Heavy Weather’ makes the inspired pairing of vintage blues and climate change.
But it’s seven-minute ‘Train Don’t Run’ that best sums up the combined genius of Louw and Shirley, friends since the 1980s. Lyrics that are both personal – the singer-songwriter’s grandfather was a railroad man – and global – the idea that railways symbolise humans’ misguided attempts to tame nature – are paired with slow-building music that can best be described as cinematic.
The producer, using his years of experience with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, Australian superstar Jimmy Barnes, Bonamassa, and especially the triple lead guitars of Iron Maiden, knows just how to create enough space to let each individual musician shine, while maintaining the right tension needed to hold together an epic masterpiece that, in turn, anchors Louw’s first album in seven years.
- Steve Louw’s backstory to realising ‘Headlight Dreams’ | The South African
From The South African
Headlight Dreams is the first international solo release by Steve Louw. The South African chatted to the South African singer-songwriter and his dog, Ringo.
by Jason Curtis
Steve Louw is something of a rare South African treasure. This naturally gifted singer-songwriter is responsible for some of the past four decades’ finest pop and rock airtime, thanks to a disarming humbleness that’s afforded him the ears and respect of some of the music industry’s true heavyweights.
Headlight Dreams was released globally by SONY ATV on 7 May, testament that this one-time All Night Radio lead singer and celebrated solo artist in his own right, is still achieving extraordinary feats, in part due to his rich network of fans — many of whom are world-renowned producers, mastering legends and multi-platinum selling musicians.
STEVE LOUW’S ‘HEADLIGHT DREAMS’ JOURNEY
Chatting with him from his little slice of heaven in the Tsitsikamma, along with his dog, Ringo, Steve unpacked his Headlight Dreams journey.
SEVEN YEARS OF PERCOLATING AND THREE DAYS IN NASHVILLE
It took seven years to realise his latest body of work, which was recorded in Nashville along with his long-time friend and producer Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes). Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and genius guitarist Joe Bonamassa also pitched in.
“It’s really about the songs,” Steve defends the delay. “Having something to say, so yes, it took a little longer, but strangely enough, since making this album and working with Kevin (Shirley) again, it’s made it so much easier for me.”
“I’ve since written a whole batch of songs and, in writing those songs, I now know the band I’m going to play with, and I can imagine what they’ll do with them, so the Highlight Dreams journey has been such a great experience. Kevin did such a great job and we managed to make a good album in only three days!”
Having the confidence to leave the house and present the songs to the group of musicians Kevin had corralled, was equally disarming for the respected veteran.
“When I wrote these songs, I was too close to be objective as to each one’s merits. Especially after seven years.”
These songs had been percolating for an extended period.
“That’s the thing,” Steve agrees. “That’s the thing. Can I still do it? And right up to the time that I got on the plane to fly to Nashville, Kevin just wouldn’t listen to the songs. I said I’ll send you 15 songs, and he said, no. Just come to the studio with your 10 best songs; and when we walked into the studio on the first day, he said right, what’s your first song?”
SEIZE THE MOMENT
On that day, Steve played and sang his first pick to the band. “I was well prepared,” he recalls. “Upon listening to it, they said ‘cool!’. I mean, these guys score it down as you play it. They write themselves notes and 15 minutes later, there’s a recorded track. It’s mind-blowing!”
Working with that level of expertise is sobering, but one needs to remember Steve and Kevin have been working together since 1986’s second All Night Radio album, The Killing Floor, so this was common ground for both titans.
KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR
To record Headlight Dreams, Kevin chose a converted church that offered a classic analogue Neve console which saw Steve recording his latest album as he would have captured his earlier albums in the 1980s.
“Kevin likes that studio,” Steve says of the decision to record in God’s house.
“He said to me, a year before, when are we going to make an album again? At the time I kind of shrugged and said that I didn’t know,” he continues.
“Kevin then reminded me that he’s booked up a year in advance, so best I commit to a date if Headlight Dreams was ever going to see the light of day. He then said he was due to be in Nashville on the 28th of February 2020, to produce Joe Bonamassa’s next album, now remember this was in late February 2019.”
That was that. The dates went into the calendar and Steve bought his ticket to fly.
At that stage, Steve already had 10 or 12 songs ready, while three more were written in the build-up to flying out to the US. “I was concerned that the tracks might not be strong enough. Kevin had to remind me that I could write great songs because he’d produced so many of them in the past,” he recalls.
With lingering self-doubt, even after a nearly 40-year career in music, Steve’s quick to point out just why that was for him. “It’s such magic or ephemeral process that you think to yourself that I was lucky then, it’ll surely never happen again?
“People go to law school and become lawyers, they know what that is and what it means, but because music is such a magical thing; you’re taking something out of the air and turning it into something other people can hear, there’s nothing that guarantees a positive outcome.
I kept thinking, I know I did it before, but that was just luck,” he recalls.
LADY LUCK AND STEVE LOUW
That said, four decades in luck has never left Steve’s side.
Fast-forward to February 2020, pre-lockdown: Steve arrives in Nashville and heads into a studio where the only person he knows is Kevin. The rest of the band brought together to record are strangers to him.
“I felt like I was exposing myself and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of people who are at the top of their game,” he remembers. “You don’t want to be “that guy”, seen as a hack who’s only there because he’s Kevin’s friend from way back when. You just don’t.”
GOING FOR BROKE
“I always knew they’d play their part, and it would be a good sounding record,” Steve adds. “People will always be polite and kind, but you can see in their eyes whether they’re getting off on it, or merely going through the motions. Fortunately for me, when we all walked away, the consensus was we can’t wait to do the next one. Getting that kind of affirmation from your peers is worth its weight in gold.”
“Kevin is the kindest, most loyal, greatest friend you could ever have,” Steve asserts. “He’s busy, everybody wants to work with him and yet he’s so invested and committed to everyone and everything he touches.
“So, after we’d said our goodbyes, I headed to the terminal with my guitar and backpack when suddenly, over the PA, I heard my name being called because I’d forgotten my carry-on luggage. And when I got to it, Kevin was wearing a big smile because he had convinced the airport staff to break protocol to alert me.”
I flew to New York on the 3rd of March, en route back to South Africa, and Kevin headed to LA to film with Trevor Rabin who was scoring Joe Bonamassa songs with a full orchestra for a live concert film they were going to film last August at Red Rock in Colorado.
Steve’s wedding anniversary was coming up two days later and unbeknownst to him at the time, Kevin sent “Wind In Your Hair”, the track Joe Bonamassa played on, to mastering legend, Bob Ludwig and within a day Bob had mastered the track and Kevin sent it on to Steve on the day of his anniversary.
“When I got it, I played it on my little Bose speaker out into New York. It was one of the greatest moments ever!” To top it off Bob sent an e-mail with the final mastered track saying, “What a wonderful song, what a wonderful vocal performance, I loved working on this”. “I practically did a summersault,” Steve recalls.
What Headlight Dreams confirms, at every step of the journey for Steve, is that his work is worthy, even before it’s released to the world. If anything, the calibre of not only the players, its producer and mastering engineer, all endorsed Headlight Dreams as the extraordinary body of work that it is, and soon you’ll get to applaud it too.