Unamerican – Interview with Steve McEwan


So they’ve got you in New York doing some prerelease press?

Yeah. We’ve been doing it for a couple of days nonstop.

Getting a chance to enjoy the city?

It’s great. We’ll be going out the next couple of nights. We’ve got a couple of days off. We’ll have a bit of a party for the next few nights. (laughs) We’ll be living it up.

Is everyone kissing your ass because the album is so good?

Yeah. I get a lot of (in his best New York accent) ‘You guys are awesome.’ It’s been good because it feels like they sincerely like it.

How long has the album been in the making?

We started last July in Memphis. We actually started demoing six months before that because we had a little studio in the Talbert church where we rehearsed and recorded, so we demoed for like six months and recorded for like three months.

You recorded the whole album in Memphis?

Yeah. And we spent a week in Nashville as well because we were going a bit mad in Memphis. Then after that week we went to LA to do a string thing with David Campbell (Beck’s dad). He was brilliant to work with.

Were you like in the middle of nowhere when you were in Memphis?

It felt like that. I mean, we did Graceland and Sun Studios. By the end of the first week, we had done everything. It was like, ‘Where do we go now?’ And they’d be like (in a Southern drawl), “Sorry guys, we’re closed now.’

How many tracks did you record and have to leave off?

We did about twenty-five demos and we recorded fifteen in the studio. We finished with twelve.

Was it tough picking?

Yeah. Our A&R guy was great. He was with us the whole time, and it was a battle to choose because they all came out really well, but now we’ve got some for the next album.

Were any of the songs done before you formed Unamerican?

Really, just the song “Spiritual” came about before. The rest were written as I was meeting the guys.

Are you the kind of writer that does it on your own?

Well, I kind of write the basic song on acoustic guitar. We’d meet at the studio and I’d play it for them once or twice and we’d record as soon as possible. They’d just play off the top of their heads, and most of the time it worked out great.

Are a lot of the songs from experiences?

I’d say like ninety percent of the songs have some sort of experience or something that moves me. I can’t just write from anything. Everything has some sort of trigger.

How long have you been chasing the rock ‘n’ roll dream?

As far as this band, we got signed on the seventh gig. It happened really quickly. It took a while to get the band together because I knew what I was going for. I wanted to find the kind of guys that had the same kind of vision, as well as being the kind of guys I could get on with and be good musicians. Once the band came together, it happened really quick. We started rehearsing and it was really good. I told them we’d have a deal within ten gigs and laughed, but luckily we were signed off the seventh gig.

Was that just you being cocky and trying to keep them motivated?

Yeah. When you start off, you want to start really positive.

Before Unamerican what were you up to?

I was in a band called World Party for a while. We did a lot of touring in America, but World Party was basically one guy and he just gets musicians around him. So, I was doing that for quite a while.

So you’ve already experienced the road.


You were on the bus for that tour?


Are you looking forward to that again?

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never really gone across America. The other three never really toured America at all. With World Party, we only really played the high level places and flew to some of them. It’ll be great to get on this little humble bus and just ride across America.

How will you stay sane on the road for a long time?

I think because America is so new to us that it’ll be such a great experience. It’ll be a real novelty. Five years down the line, we’ll have to start thinking of ways to keep ourselves sane. (laughs) It’ll just be great fun and there is no real pressure.

Do any of you have families, like a wife and kids?

No. No kids for a while yet, well, not that I know of. (laughs)

Do you think fans have this cloudy vision of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?

I hate those bands that go on about how hard it is. I mean, it is hard, but it’s such a privilege to play music and earn a living while you do it. I’ve been playing for a while now and I haven’t gotten cynical yet. There is no reason to get on like ‘Oh, it’s such hard work.’ I mean, it’s crap. If you put the work in and enjoy it, then it’s a real pleasure, isn’t it?

You know it. I mean, how many of us dream of doing what you are doing?


Was the groupie scene as good as you expected?

The groupie scene? (laughs) Well, check with me next month.

Will this be like Bush, where America knows about you before your own home country of England?

Yeah. We are going to start in America and we’ll be here for a while. The only ones that know about us back home are our family and friends.

What’s going to be the first single?

The first track.

“She’s A Bomb”?

Yep. They like that because it’s more immediate. I don’t know what they are on about. (laughs)

It’s weird because your album is good as a whole. It’s weird to try to look at songs as singles.

That’s how I am. I’m kind of uncomfortable with releasing that song. I don’t dislike it, but it’s one of my least favorite on the album. I guess it’s just about hits these days.

Radio shouldn’t be the make or break thing that it is.

I know. I hope people just start buying the album and enjoying it as a whole. I’m not into this one big massive hit thing.

When I tell friends about the album, it isn’t as one song. I tell them it’s just a great album.

That is brilliant because that is what I wanted to accomplish with this album.

How do you feel about the industry buzz?

It feels good, but when someone says, ‘You guys are awesome,’ you don’t know how much of it is real and how much is just business speak. We do what we do and hope it will eventually get to the people. I don’t get too excited about industry buzz, but I would if it was in the top ten of Billboard. Until it really takes off, you can’t get excited.

Did you have to sit around with the album done?

It was finished in August and then was mixed and mastered. I think it was mastered like four times. (laughs) Then I did a re-mix of the single with Andy Johns. He is an amazing character. He produced a lot of the old Led Zepplin stuff. He also did a lot of Rolling Stone stuff, but then he had a bad spell with heroin, so he dropped out. Now he’s getting back again. Anyhow, the album got mastered a lot. Andy did just a great job.

You also had some guests who were on the album.

Yeah, keyboardist Jim Dickinson (whose CV includes the Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie, and Aretha Franklin) and Barry Beckett (whose track record includes Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Bobby Womack, and Bob Dylan).

Were they brought in or were they just around the area?

They were from the area.

Why didn’t you bring in Kenny Rogers since you were in Nashville? (laughs)

Kenny Rogers? (laughs)

Yeah. You were in good old country music USA.

Nope, no Kenny Rogers. (laughs)

Lastly, there is a question I’ve always wondered. Why do you think the British accent never comes through? Because I thought you guys were from America even with the band name.

It’s weird because rock ‘n’ roll started in America, so you kind of emulate them. The only British bands you hear the accents with are the have-a-cup-of-tea kind of bands. I was into Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Buffalo Springfield. The only British bands I was ever into were Led Zepplin and the Rolling Stones, and they all sing with American accents. You don’t really hear British accents come through really. It’s weird.

+ charlie craine

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