Al Stewart: Interview

Al Stewart: Interview


Posted 2022-10-13 by Tony Collinsfollow

Tue 18 Oct 2022

He has been forced to end a winning sequence, but veteran folk singer-songwriter Al Stewart is back on tour in the UK with favourite songs from his outstanding deep catalogue stretching back almost 60 years. Al, who was born in Glasgow before finding success during the heady English folk scene of the 60s, has regularly toured the UK from his longstanding home in Los Angeles. But the sequence that saw recent multi-date visits in 2013, '15, '17 and '19 was broken by Covid which forced the cancellation of his tour last year. But, 12 months on, Al, who also regularly tours in the States, will be back in Britain alongside Chicago backing band The Empty Pockets for a 16-date visit that includes Birmingham Town Hall on October 18. He said after arriving in the UK: "Every couple of years is about right for coming here, but everything had to be rescheduled last year because of Covid. So, maybe we have gone on to even years now." Al will be performing old favourites from some 20 albums he has released since becoming a reluctant folk singer in 1965, as well as newer material. They will include tracks from his platinum-selling albums, Year of The Cat and Time Passages, released in the mid-70s, but may also include offerings from his debut 1967 release Bedsitter Images and iconic follow-up Love Chronicles.

Fate played a huge part in getting Al to where he is now as one of the most-loved folk artists this country has ever produced. He explained: "I didn't set out to be a folk singer. I was playing in rock bands in my hometown of Bournemouth. I was trying to be a lead guitar player, but when I came up to London I heard the likes of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix and realised I wasn't any good." As fate would have it, Al had previously visited his local record store in Bournemouth and been recommended to listen to a folk artist he'd never heard of called Bob Dylan. "I ended up buying his first two albums, becoming one of the first people in Bournemouth to buy Bob Dylan records." His "light-bulb moment" came later, when he was playing with a band during a residency at a local rock club. Al continued: "We played our first set and then, during the 20m minute break, the band went to the pub. I didn't drink at that time, so I picked up my acoustic guitar and started playing Dylan's Masters of War. The whole room just froze and shut up and listened. No-one had ever clapped anything we'd done before but they did after I'd finished playing this. That was the light-bulb moment in becoming a folk singer."

But the cards were going to come good one more time for Al after moving to London. "I auditioned for a couple of bands, including The Paramounts, who became Procul Harum, but it wasn't really going very well. Then, one day, I walked into a coffee bar with my guitar case and was asked if I was a folk guitar player. I wasn't, but I smelled a gig, so I said 'yes' and started on the Friday. I did all the songs off the first two Bob Dylan albums because they were the only folk songs I knew, but I ended up playing there every week." Not long afterwards, Al went to see Dylan perform at the Royal Albert Hall and was blown away during his two-hour set. Bizarrely, he also found himself living in a flat next door to Paul Simon, who would play Al his latest songs before anyone else. "All that completely changed my life," he acknowledges.

Al said he has always been able to write lyrics but confessed that his early songs were "terrible". However, that changed when he met up with fellow aspiring folk artists such as Roy Harper, Sandy Denny and Ralph McTell. "We all listened to and influenced each other and that definitely improved my song-writing. The bar kept going higher so I knew I had better pull my socks up. We were all competing with each other but also learning from each other." Sadly, Al has not released an album since 2009. He concedes: "There isn't a great deal of demand for a septuagenarian folk singer, but I started out as one in 1965 and it's been incessant ever since. There aren't many people who are still doing the same job after 60 years. It's too late to take up professional basketball now."

Al Stewart will be at Birmingham Town Hall on Tuesday 18 October. Tickets priced £45.50 are available by visiting or call the box office on 0121 289 6343.

!date 18/10/2022 -- 18/10/2022
70772 - 2023-01-26 01:49:17


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