Edition #9 – The Great Outdoors
An introduction by Matt Witt
I met Steve Folk about 8 years ago while gigging in London. Back then, he was known as Blabbermouth. He had a no-nonsense, don’t mess with me attitude that I quite admired, plus he lived on a canal boat. His songs were like him, full of character and a little bit grumpy.
Over the past few years, I have followed Steve’s endeavours as he has embarked on an incredible journey into the Great Outdoors, transforming himself and his reality as he goes. From my perspective, it’s been a hero’s journey, one of reinvention, ordeal and self-overcoming. His songs have developed too, they are more about the places he visits and love, as well as being influenced by living almost off grid and surrounded by nature.
Steve regularly tours the living rooms of Germany with his acoustic guitar, a repertoire of folk songs and a portfolio of impressionist paintings of England. Living room gigs are a trend that has hit Mainland Europe, but not yet advanced across the channel in any notable form. It’s a niche that Steve has been exploiting to his benefit, on a trial and error basis.
It feels so romantic, the man dedicating his life to his art, moving way out of his comfort zone and sharing his experiences with his family, friends and fans in a kind of public diary. But at times it read like an ordeal, stories about gigs falling through at the last minute, far from ideal sleeping situations, paintings left at train stations, airlines charging for extra seats for equipment. It was battle after battle, and It baffled me how Steve managed to break even let alone turn a profit and make it a sustainable lifestyle.
On one dark night, I read one of Steve’s honest facebook outpourings explaining how he was fed up tired, run down and on the verge of quitting. Steve was suffering. Nevertheless, despite the setbacks, Steve carried faithfully on to the next gig on his tour. With his guitar on his back, his paintings underarm, he faced himself down, forced himself through and out the other side. That night Steve played to a full house and sold his whole stack of paintings.
I think that was the night that everything changed, that was the realisation of Steve’s potential. All that had been picked out of Steve’s guitars and troweled onto his canvases over these years finally solidified. The link between the facets of Steve’s creativity merged in a moment that would make it all worthwhile and provide the motivation to move on to more of the same.
I am repeatedly impressed by this man’s devotion to his arts, to his knack for combining all he has to offer as a human into a coherent outward presentation that people can relate to. I admire his commitment to getting the job done and his readiness to share it with the world when it all goes wrong. This openness to failure might well be the road to success, especially when it’s accompanied by an uncanny ability to get back on the horse.
A chat with Steve Folk
Who are you?
I’m Steve Folk aka Steve Thompson aka Blabbermouth
What are you doing?
I’m a professional singer/songwriter and painter, that doesn’t mean I take myself too seriously because I cannot stand that overtly Ernest vibe, it means that I earn my money from these pursuits and I am highly motivated and extremely courteous when warranted.
Why do you do it?
I’ve forgotten how to do anything else and thanks to the support and patience of my wife I’ve been able to stick at music and painting for a very long time, now I feel I have a kind of career, I like to think that I bring some poetry into the world that gives meaning to others but also I believe true artists have no choice to be creative, the consequences of trying to shut that part of your brain off to work in an office or other establishment is catastrophic, I mean madness ensues surely.
How does your work relate to The Great Outdoors?
I’m inspired by it fully. I live by it, the boat I live on moves continuously, as do I when I tour. The images I see when travelling repeat themselves through my painting and in my words. I am part of it, I don’t need to visit because I live there.
How does your music inform your songwriting and vice versa?
The songs come, the words come, I don’t think about it really.
What is happening internally when you write and play songs?
When I write there is a hunger for language and when I play there is a feeling of control, there is so much time to waste on tour, there is so much of the unknown yet the performance is the part I can rely on, it is in my control.
Please tell us about your adventures in Germany.
How many words do you want me to write?
I can go on for an entire book (which will come one day). Germany has been the lifeblood of my career, the respect that the Germans hold for music is greater than all of Europe combined (in my opinion), there are so many welcoming people in Germany who will have me come play in their homes, venues, gardens etc.
They have an insatiable thirst for poetry and a deep respect for those who attempt to make a career from art, they are not hung up or concerned about image or age, in fact they celebrate experience over “fresh talent” and they have a deep trust and spiritual obligation to travellers. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that because of historical events they have allowed themselves to evolve into exceptionally kind human beings.
Why aren’t living room gigs common in the UK?
Read the above and imagine the British allowing strangers into their homes? Our government backtracked on giving refuge to 5000 children, and yes that’s not the story of all the people that live here but that is our elected government. Germany took in a million refugees. That’s a pretty good metaphor right there.
What is your favourite thing about The Great Outdoors?
The wonder of it all. I’m pretty keen on the wildlife aspect, though the Canadian geese and coots tend to wake me up a lot, better that than a neighbour with marital issues.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the chat x