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The mysterious disappearance (and return) of Steve Smyth

It’s been a while between drinks for blues troubadour Steve Smyth. 

Having spent the better part of a decade gracing every stage he could find across Australia, he was a presence that was hard to ignore around the traps. The release of his last album, 2014’s wildly eclectic Exits, saw Smyth touring relentlessly across the nation for the rest of that year, his fanbase exploding along with his hard-earned notoriety for a monstrous live show.

Then it seemed that things had fallen quiet on the Steve Smyth front, having suddenly stopped appearing on both the festival and touring circuits in Australia, and some people were left wondering “whatever happened to that dashing young fellow with the voice of a gutter-bent angel?”

“I’ve been in Barcelona,” Smyth exclaims like a giddy child. “I’ve been spending a bit of time in Berlin as well. It’s been good to keep a base over there, and just to be free to say, head off and play a show in Amsterdam. Play whatever shows that come up. It’s so much easier to be able to just say ‘right on, let’s do it’ from here. It’s like getting a show interstate in Australia, it’s practically the same distance.”

Smyth has been living overseas since the touring cycle for his last album wrapped up, and for anybody who has been on tour themselves, you’ll be able to sympathise with the sensation of suffering from a well-earned dose of burn-out. “I smashed out a lot of Australian touring off the back of Exits, and I just needed to tap out for a touch, just to start writing the next record. Barcelona was the only place on earth that I just felt like I could be myself. So I got a place there, and it was nice to be able to put some trinkets on a table again, and get the typewriter out again and get to work.” 

Despite the desperately needed exile that Barcelona has afforded him, Smyth sheepishly admits that it was never the plan to stay so long. “Thank god the last album is called Exits,” he jokingly muses. “I’ve been here for a minute. I keep on saying it’s been two years, but I think now it’s about four. It was something that was definitely needed, but I think I might have just gotten a bit stuck there, enjoying it too much; being able to be in one place.”

Even though we haven’t seen his face as much as we’d like to Down Under, for most fans his absence will come with a welcome trade off; Smyth says that absorbing the culture in Barcelona has affected his music in ways he never expected, and that there is most definitely new music on the horizon. “It was a nice energy in that city, that helped me get into that zone. It’s been an interesting, transitional time musically, and I’ve done a lot of recording.” 

“The biggest thing that I’ve been working on for a couple of years has been this group of songs that are quite a bombastic venture, and I couldn’t see any other option than to get a symphony orchestra to play it.” When pressed about the logistics regarding pulling off such a feat, Smyth just laughs. “I tried to find a conductor to pull an orchestra together but when I’d ask about availability, they’d be like ‘Oh, we have an opening in... 2020?’ I was like ‘Welp – thank you, but I’ll pass. There’s an urgency to bring these songs to life”.

“I think I created something that I wasn’t really expecting,” Smyth confides, “and afterwards I was like, ‘I’m not sure what to do with this’. So I’ve been holding on to it for a couple of years. It’s still evolving at the moment. I guess I’ve been waiting for the right time for that energy to make sense. But soon there will be a lot of music released.”

Steve Smyth supports Magpie Diaries at the Northcote Social Club on Sunday February 10. Magpie Diaries also perform at The Old Bar on Thursday February 7. Head to the respective venue websites for tickets.