Bring together the person and the performer. Steve Reed was an up-and-coming musician. The brief was to write a feature explaining to the readers of gay men's lifestyle magazine reFRESH why he's someone they should seek out - either online or at a venue near them for the full live experience.
Hull – the quiet Yorkshire town – has produced only a few big name bands but what it lacks in number it more than makes up for in talent. Joining the likes of The Beautiful South is Steve Reed, who counts his fellow Humberside folk among his many inspirations, an up-and-coming acoustic guitarist who is quickly building a name for himself.
Flicking through Steve Reed's CD collection is like looking at a who's who of great acoustic music with Clapton, Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson (he names Suede as his biggest influence), Crowded House, Nina Simone and Simon and Garfunkel making up the mainstay. The influences, both lyrically and musically, are clear in Steve's songs but that's not to say he's a carbon copy – his voice is just as good as his guitar playing and that gives him a sound all of his own.
A youthful 29, Steve has been playing guitar for around ten years and writing almost since the moment he picked up the instrument.
“My dad used to have this battered old thing knocking around”, says Steve. “It had a warped neck, bits missing and cigar stains but I used to tinkle about on it. My parents bought me a new guitar that Christmas and I thought right, I'd better knuckle down now and learn it properly.”
Months of practise followed while he listened to Eric Clapton's Unplugged album and followed the former Cream guitarist's finger picking style. He also shares a similarly relaxed demeanour to the legendary musician. In his own words, Steve Reed is:
“Too laid back for his own good and difficult to argue with – although that's probably because I'm so chilled out. If people argue with me I just sit back and let them get it out of their system.” he explains. “I'm a reasonably nice guy – just like anybody.”
He is also a man of surprises. Reasonably fluent in Italian, Steve can also ride a 6ft high unicycle with one leg while juggling three flaming torches. Having spent the odd few Saturdays working in his uncle's juggling supply shop, the family trade rubbed off.
Aside from Clapton, Suede and Krusty, Steve's other influences are a little more surprising. A keen football fan, he names David Beckham among his inspirations.
“The way he has a lot of press and pressure to deal with but can turn things around – I like that. My family have always been there for me as well and my dad, who's worked his way up in whatever he's chosen to do, is also a big inspiration.”
The media in his home town love him, with the Hull Daily Mail describing him as "...a natural...beautiful and passionate,” and thisishull.com going as far as to place his song-writing ability up there with Paul McCartney's. They aren't far wrong – but does Steve share the media's confidence?
“I'm not one to blow my own trumpet but, as a guitarist, I like to think I'm pretty good,” he says. “When you look at the whole scale of guitarists – with the absolute beginner being zero and the greatest guitarist in the world being a ten, I'm probably only going to be a four – but I think that's good enough for what I want to do and up there with those that are doing it full-time at the moment.
“I haven't got a career yet though; it's still a matter of playing gigs for a beer or two and trying to get the right people to come down and watch,” he adds. “But I realised after my first year or so of gigging acoustic that maybe I could make a career of this. You only get one life so you might as well do what you want to do.”
Steve is still a confident showman and a great live performer. It was this ability, combined with his natural talent, that saw him chosen by Channel 4, in 2002, to work with Arts Stra and fresh faced video director Aurora Fearnley to create one of 20 music videos for the channel. The end results, for his flamenco-flavoured '52 cards', is available to view on Steve's myspace page.
Sadly not all everything has gone to plan and Steve has already seen more than his fair side of tragedy. His manager, and former manager of 1970s rock group The Babys, Adrian Millar passed away last year after suffering a heart attack.
“That was a big blow on a personal level,” explains Steve. “He was a really good guy and had well scuffed shoes within the industry. I used to speak to him every day and he always had a story– he'll be sadly missed.”
Steve is, however, looking to the future. With 'only' 1,600 myspace friends, he isn't exactly hitting Lily Allen-esque heights at the moment but that's no bad thing. His relative anonymity allows him to walk around his new home in Shoreditch unnoticed, but his natural charisma will come out when it matters – in front of a mic stand. As for the future, Steve is open minded.
“I'd be happy in a band, I'd be happy as Steve Reed and I'd be happy as Steve Reed with a backing band,” he says. “I think the way forward is to slot in somewhere between the solo artists and the bands – it's been a while since we've seen the likes of an Eagles-type band, Simon and Garfunkel or Crowded House. I saw Brett Anderson at Queen Elizabeth Hall in October. It was him, his acoustic guitar, a string section and a pianist. I thought 'yeah' this could be my kind of thing. I think I need more backing to put that together though.”
Steve has no releases planned at present, however, he is continually gigging across London and several of his tracks are available to listen to online. For details please visit www.myspace.com/stevereedmusic.
This feature was published in Issue 48 of reFRESH magazine (January/February 2008).