Finding Inspiration in Kitchener
An exclusive interview with JUNO Award winner Steve Strongman
The very bluesy song, “Old School,” which is on Steve Strongman’s new release, No Time Like Now, opens with a reference to Kitchener: “I used to sneak in the back door, just to see how it’s done./I knew that if I want to find the truth, I had to go straight to the roots.”
The inspiration for “Old School” was indeed the night Strongman snuck into the Pop the Gator: “It’s a direct relation; that’s exactly where it happened,” he says. “Drawing inspiration from my roots was the idea of the song.”
Pop the Gator was a licensed blues establishment operated by Ethel’s Lounge owner Glenn Smith. Strongman, then 16 and therefore underage, took matters into his own hands and, well, snuck in.
Strongman lived in K-W until he was 21, and the only reason he left was a very bluesy reason: for the love of a woman. In more practical terms, though, Strongman was already touring and performing as a professional musician. His wife, a graduate from the University of Waterloo, was from Hamilton, so it just made sense to move to her hometown, since he was almost never home.
Even though he’s lived in Hamilton longer than Kitchener now, Kitchener is still and always will be his hometown, he says.
Strongman is thrilled to be headlining his own show at the Centre: “Back years and years and years ago, when my mother worked at the KPL, for her whole life I always remember I’d say, ‘One day, I’m going to be playing at the Centre In The Square.’ So, to have my name on the ticket is pretty special itself.”
He credits the strength of the music community, and especially the local blues scene, with his ability to earn a living here as a professional musician. He also tips his hat to the folks at the Blues Festival.
“And just look at the growth of the Kitchener Blues Festival,” he said. “That’s a testament itself, you know, starting from the first years with Mel Brown playing in front of city hall to what it’s grown to now. It’s unbelievable. And that’s something everybody in the community should be incredibly proud of.”
For his show as part of the Centre’s OnStage series, the audience can expect a few surprises, which he didn’t divulge to us on the phone.
“I want it to be a little bit different,” he said. “But I also want it to be a sort of a history of my career to this point. So they can expect some solo acoustic stuff, and some acoustic stuff with the band. Definitely a bunch of songs from my new release and from my previous releases. There might be a couple of surprises. I’m working on it, it’s all coming together.”
Click here to see Strongman performing “Old School” on Global TV’s The Morning Show.
Strongman will be at The Centre on Thursday, May 4th. Get your tickets now.