If there was ever a musician who epitomises the role of the troubadour, Steve Folk would be used as a prime modern day example. This boat-dwelling songsmith and artist spends weeks on end touring solo around the European mainland playing house concerts, bars, gigs, basically anywhere he can bring his songs to the world. Folk exists outside the usual parameters set by the day-to-day music business, instead he charts his own path with only his guitar and trusty music player for company. Americana-UK chats to the uncompromising musician about life on the road and, more importantly what music keeps his spirits up on those tough days.
Steve, I read avidly your social media posts when you are out on the road. It doesn’t always sound like a bunch of roses. How bad is it?
A good friend of mine once suggested to me that touring is “character building”. My reply to this comment was that my character was built.Touring as a band, duo or even with your parter is a whole different ball game then touring alone. Touring alone is like a prison sentence, except the warden quite often lets you out to have a fucking great time. I play house shows and I love them, so please, take the prison metaphor with a pinch of salt, but when your train is delayed for the third time in a row or when you’re had yet another show with the promise of an attentive and large audience yet the host says “I’m not sure many people will come tonight” as you get driven to their home, it can feel pretty wearing on the spirit, particularly as many of these shows are paid by donation from guests, simply put, no guests means no money.
When it’s great it’s really great, its actually unbelievable, when you turn up to a small village to play in a barn and everyone comes to see you, when they buy your stuff, have you sign it and then want to get drunk with you, when you get 3 encores and get your own apartment to stay in, fed and watered and make 1000 euros in that one night, then fuck yeah, its great. To conclude, It’s truly a roller coaster, but not many people go to the fair on there own?
Music however, is a great company, here are 7 albums I rely on.
Red House Painters – Red House Painters
Its with some relevance that the image on this album is a Roller coaster and also track eight on the album. I love this album and if I want to wallow in the melancholy, which is often, then this is the first album I go for.
Radiohead – The Bends
Second choice on the misery train, this album got me through some rough times when it was released and continues to do so, as unfashionable as it might be to listen to Radiohead.
Ivor Game – Happy Face
A contemporary of mine, Ivor Game is undeservedly a little known Singer/Songwriter form London who brightens my mornings with his wonderful personal, insightful songs, I could pick any of his albums but this one has a lot of my favourites on it.
Sun Kil Moon – Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood
Super descriptive and random Songwriting from ex-red house painter, love the way the vibe switches between songs in a way that most writers would not dare to.
Kevin Coyne – Sign of the Times
The first record I got of Kevin Coyne, more of a best of the an album in itself, it has a great varied mix of Kevin’s eccentricity and always raises a smile on the train, light relief but also a few dark ones on here to muddle the mood.
Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
Was turned onto this album after hearing the song NYC, is there actually a bad song about New York? Doesn’t seem so, anyway, I got hooked on the album years ago and it has a tempo and vibe that fits very well with a seven hour trip from Hamburg to Stuttgart.
Robert Wyatt – EPS
Robert Wyatt’s cover of Ship Building got me onto this oddball of an album. I toured Spain a few years ago and I had it on repeat for days, it became a good friend.