A Song on a Wing and a Prayer

ABC Southern Queensland
April 2nd, 2015, 1:09pm
© 2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
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Steve Taylor says rock and roll is both a sound and a state
of mind,"you know it when you see it," he said. (Norvin
Coblentz - used with permission)

Easter is often a time of travel and celebration in Australia. For international musicians attending one of many music festivals staged this time of year, the travel time is amplified, and so are the celebrations.

Music fans in Australia are spoiled at Easter with a wide variety of to attend on the long weekend, as well as eating chocolate eggs.

There's the Folk Festival in Canberra, Bluesfest in Byron Bay, and southern Queensland's largest annual music event, Easterfest in Toowoomba.

For Nashville-based Steve Taylor, it has been more than 20 years since he played in Australia. It took him more than 20 hours to arrive in the garden city, and he spends a mere one hour on stage.

"It's terrifying," the frontman of Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil laughed.

"We've got 60 minutes. So I guess we better be good.

"We have actually spent a lot of time talking about song selection.

"You have to throw in enough of the 'catalogue songs' to keep people interested, and yet the new album is what is most exciting to all of us.

"I'm fortunate to have a drummer that is an expert in Australian audiences [band member Peter Furler grew up on the Sunshine Coast]. So pretty much anything that he says about which songs we should play takes the vote."

In the world of faith-fuelled music, Steve was a household name in the 1980s. His music straddled post-punk and pop and his lyrics tackled many issues of social justice.

He took a break from music to direct a number of feature films, but was lured back into music because of its immediacy.

"Honestly, it was sheer boredom," he said.

"Music was like fantastic therapy. The process of making a movie is really excruciating. The last one I made took seven years. The ability to go to a friend's home and press record and make something instantly was like instant gratification. Very enjoyable," he said of making music.

His friends, and current bandmates, read like a 'who's who' for fans of gospel music.

Drummer Peter Furler plays drums and had sold millions of albums in his former band Newsboys. Bass player John Mark Painter has played on many albums as a session musician and song arranger, and guitarist Jimmy Abegg was part of the Ragamuffin group led by the legendary Rich Mullins.

They have just released Steve's first music in two decades.

"It's a musical collaboration from all four of us," he said.

"That certainly makes for a different sounding album. As far as lyrics go I wasn't interested in making songs that were easily identifiable as a polemic about something specific. I wanted to take more time crafting the lyrics and if someone could figure the lyric out on the first listen I probably wasn't doing my job."

At festivals Steve shares the stage with bands half his age, and admits rock and roll is sometimes seen as a 'young man's game'.

"But we are going to give them a run for their money," he laughed.

"I think it was Randy Newman who said the goal as a recording artist is not to get better, it is just not to get way worse.

"That tends to be the case with most of my favourite artists. And in my band we're all really happy with the music we are making right now."

He also says it is interesting to notice a change in the audience make-up as the years have gone by.

"It is odd to be introduced to kids who grew up on your music, and I still don't have my head wrapped around it, especially because I took such a long break between the last album and this one," he said.

But he has a plan to win over a crowd of people who may not be familiar with his work.

"Our plan is to fan out into the audience before we play and pass out candy, or maybe Easter eggs," he laughed.

Steve adds Easter is a meaningful season for him personally.

"We are finishing up the season of Lent," he said.

"And my band plays Easterfest the night before Easter Sunday.

"Easter really is one of my favourite days to celebrate. We adopted our daughter and brought her home on Easter Sunday 10 years ago this year, so I have a lot to celebrate."