We’re pleased to bring you another one of our Covid Times interviews on Episode 547 of Folk Roots Radio. As you know, the coronavirus pandemic has completely upended the lives of people who make their living through music. This time around we catch up with zany singer-songwriter and humorist Steve Poltz to learn more about his life during these strange, strange times – while checking out a wonderful new lockdown single, appropriately entitled “Quarantine Blues”. As always, it’s a great conversation. We wrap up the episode with new music from Rick Fines, Rube & Rake, Clare Follett, Carmanah, Hamish Napier, Aoife Scott, Terra Lightfoot and Dione Taylor. If you like the music you hear on Folk Roots Radio, don’t just stream the music – BUY the music, and then you’ll really make a difference to artists income during a period when live shows are hard to find. Check out the full playlist below.
Singer-songwriter and humorist Steve Poltz is an absolutely fabulous live performer. There is just no two ways about it. See one show, you’ll become a fan for life – and like everyone else, you’ll be revelling in the power of being in the moment for a performance where anything can happen, and often does.
Steve Poltz was born in Canada (Halifax NS) and raised in San Diego where he spent much of his life before he moved to Nashville in 2016. After a series of well-received albums, the release of “Shine On” in 2019 really started to move Steve’s career up to another level – and then COVID hit. As a touring artist, Steve works exceptionally hard and plays more than 150 dates a year across North America, Europe and Australia. To see all his 2020 plans evaporate almost overnight was disappointing to say the least.
Since that time, Steve and his wife Sharon have been spending time in San Diego close to his ninety year old dad Joe. After shifting his focus to pandemic baking, reading and long walks on the beach, Covid Times inspiration arrived for Steve in the shape of new single – his lockdown song, “Quarantine Blues”, which is basically a fun litany of just about every possible way someone could have been impacted by the pandemic – written as a talking blues in the spirit of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. It’s also probably the best use of a lyric video, ever.
“I don’t mean to sound like I’m not taking coronavirus seriously, but — in times like these — I think people need some irreverence,”
Quarantine Blues was recorded live off the floor in Jason Mraz’s home studio (Jason Mraz plays organ on the track) with local stalwart Jeff Berkley, who produced Steve’s “Folksinger” album (2015).
“This track came out after 57 takes. Jason [Mraz] heard us recording. He liked the song and offered to play on it. I told him I thought organ would work well, because “Quarantine Blues” is like (Bob Dylan’s) “‘Subterranean Homesick Blues” — it doesn’t have a chorus, just verses. I realize, now, that I channeled Jerry Reed a little when I sang the ‘Yeahs,’ because I was playing (Reed’s 1970 song) “Amos Moses” on my guitar a little earlier that week.”
Alongside Quarantine Blues, we also include “Ballin’ On A Wednesday” from the Shine On album.
“I was in Nashville having lunch with a friend. It was a Wednesday. The lady rang up my sandwich and said “that’ll be 7 dollars and 67 cents.” I handed her a crisp hundred dollar bill and she looked at it and said ‘Ooooh… ballin on a Wednesday!’ I said ‘did you just say ‘ballin on a Wednesday?’ She said ‘Uh huh’. She had a beautiful gold tooth. It was awesome. Right at that moment I started writing that song. My pal Anthony Da Costa called me up and said “Whatcha doin?” I said “Writing a song called Ballin’ on a Wednesday.” He said “oh man, I want in on this. I’ll be right over.”
We wrap the interview with “Hey God I’ll Trade You Donald Trump For Leonard Cohen”, a song Steve wrote at the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia in 2016 – just after Donald Trump was surprisingly elected as the President of the United States. The day after the election, Leonard Cohen passed.
“I kept hearing about all these people dying. Heroes of mine. Then I was watching all this political news and my heart was sinking. Everyone was dying and Donald Trump became President. By the time Leonard Cohen died I screamed at the heavens to please send him back. I told God I’d trade him Donald Trump for Leonard Cohen. I was in Australia playing Woodford Folk Festival and this song just poured out of me. I played it on a huge stage and got a standing ovation.”
“Then I arrived back in the US and played it in Florida at 30A Songwriters Festival. I was at a bar and I got booed and a woman flipped me off and walked out of my show with a group of her friends. So I felt that was a good sign and that I should record it. So when I got home I walked over to my neighbor’s house in East Nashville. His name is Scot Sax. I recorded it in his garage and he said, ‘Let’s make a video!’ We filmed it the next morning all over Nashville and just like that we had us a video. Boom! Voila! Sharing is caring.”
Steve Poltz hopes to be back on the road again soon. The bookings are slowly starting to trickle in again and a few socially distanced shows are scheduled towards the end of the year. Hopefully, the festivals he was booked to play this year will return in 2021.
Watch the extended video version of this interview on our sister show the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions HERE.
For more information about the music of Steve Poltz visit poltz.com.
Stay safe and well! We will get through this.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Below The Surface
Solar Powered Too (2020, Self) CDN
Rube & Rake
Leaving With Nothing (2020, Self) CDN
I Can’t Have You
Reclamation (2020, Citadel House) CDN
Iris (2020, Self) CDN
The Woods (2020, Strathspey Records)
(single) (2020, 98 Pounder Records / Compass Records)
Interview: Steve Poltz discussing his new single “Quarantine Blues” and his life in Covid Times.
Ballin’ On A Wednesday
Shine On (2019, 98 Pounder Records / Red House Records)
Hey God I’ll Trade You Donald Trump For Leonard Cohen
(single) (2017, 98 Pounder Records)
(single) (2020, Self)
Consider The Speed (2020, Sonic Unyon Records) CDN
Spirits In The Water (2020, Matay Records) CDN