About the author
Whether you went out last weekend to check out an uber-geeky beat magician or a depressingly awesome indie rock band, we all know there’s always some serious musical talents rocking around the Dam. You might not recognize them all yet, but don’t worry, you will soon. In this series of interviews we talk to remarkable artists about their music and their inspirations.
Steffen Morrison is one of those artists who takes your breath away whenever they start singing. His voice drips soul and has a vibrato and warm rawness that reminds me of Otis Redding, Seal or John Legend. The fact that he’s Dutch makes me a little proud, because his voice is timeless and it sounds as if he’s an old soul. He keeps the ‘old sounds’ alive with a new twist that’ll seduce music connoisseurs like me and you. On Saturday morning, after a windy bike ride, I meet Steffen for breakfast to chat about his musical past and future.
You started focusing on music full time in 2009. What were you doing before that?
“I was an account manager in corporate business sales and marketing and did some coaching. I was taking singing lessons ever since I was 17 and did some gigs here and there. My first single in 2008 created some buzz and when my company had to let people go I couldn’t imagine a better moment to go for it. In the corporate world you always set up contacts before working together, but in the music industry creativity is most important and you work with trust before you figure out those practical details. That’s the beautiful thing about this world, but also the tricky part.”
In 2012 you were the opening act for Joss Stone. How was that?
“Fucking nice man! Joss Stone was a really big name back then. She’s really pure and always performs barefoot on stage, whether it’s on television or in Paradiso. She doesn’t worry about exterior at all, it’s all about the art of music. She’s inspiring.”
Is it all about the music for you as well?
“Of course quality music is the most important but because of my background I know there’s a lot more to it. My music is a product and a brand and there’s marketing involved. I like thinking about this stuff.”
In 2013 you were a contestant at The Voice of Holland. Why did you decide to enter such a show?
“It’s scary to enter a contest like that. People judge you on something that you put your soul into. That held me back for a while and I was busy promoting my album. Then I figured I could gain more than I could lose. I decided to sing A Song For You because I wanted to stay true to myself. I was brought up in Suriname by my grandmother, and when she died I could’t be there because I was stuck here. When I sing this song I always sing it for her. Of course all the cameras are nerve-wracking, but when I walked on stage I realized it was just like every other gig, so I sang like I always sing in the bathroom. Normally people perform hits but I decided not to, and after my performance my rendition of the song went to the top position of the iTunes top 300 within the hour.”
In an interview you say that you had to return to the roots of soul. Did you lose that along the way?
“I had the intention to make a raw first album but it turned out different than I expected. It was a little overproduced and it became a more of an album with songs. It got me an Edison nomination which I’m very proud of, and I learned a lot, but I wanted to go back to the basic. I want to tell people about the good times that they can have in between all the hassle. I want people to leave my show with their shoes in their right hand, their coat over their left shoulder, leaving the venue barefoot, sweating and enjoying themselves. Even when it’s freezing outside.”
In your new single you sing ‘It hurts but I would do it all again’. Personal experience?
“Not literally, nobody took my car, haha. It’s about life in general. When something’s good it’s automatically bad for you, because it can hurt and break you, whether it’s a relationship or something else.”
After De Grote Prijs van NL, an Edison Jazz Award nomination and The Voice, what’s up next?
“Going back to the basics of good music. I want to make something that I’ll still be proud of 20 years later. I just finished a new EP with Tjeerd Oosterhuis and got to work some amazing people like Harry Rutherford, Luke Juby and Andy Platts in the Genesis studio, which was out of this world. We’re talking to a few labels now so it will be released soon. I’m playing at De Nieuwe Wereld on Christmas Eve as well and have a gig at Noorderlicht on the 18th with The Amsterdam Funk Orchestra, which is going to be fun!”
What’s your opinion on the Amsterdam and Dutch live scene?
“It’s inspiring! There are so many talented people. The Dutch industry if flourishing. There are Dutch acts that are able to sell out Ziggo Dome and Heineken Music Hall! Maybe not Dutch soul artists yet but I hope I can contribute to that.”
You’re playing at Je Veux Flâner this Saturday. Are you excited?
“Madness! Je Veux is always crazy, that’s why people come back. I’m going to play my new single and the rest will be a surprise…”
Je veux Flâner – Seizième edition
When: December 12, 19:30
Where: North Sea Jazz Club, Pazzanistraat 1
More info: Facebook event
Feature image: Marijn Sieben.
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