Critical Questions: Belle and Sebastian's Stevie Jackson
Belle and Sebastian guitar man talks solo ventures and more
Stevie Jackson, the Belle and Sebastian guitar man who contributed such songs as "Seymour Stein," "Chickfactor," "The Wrong Girl," and "I Believe In Travelin' Light" (among many others) to the band has busted out for a brief bout of solo activity. His solo debut, the impishly titled (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson, certainly won't alienate any B&S fans; in fact it might help underline just how much he brings to the band. We caught up with solo Stevie so he could share a few thoughts on writing, reading, and the boring lives of rock stars.
Are there any songs on Can't Get No that you've had kicking around for a long time?
There is one from the archives...There's one song on there called "Telephone Song," I think that one predates Belle and Sebastian, that's the only one.
Are these songs that you wouldn't have brought to Belle and Sebastian?
When the band are getting a record together anything's fair game. It wasn't a case of "I'll save this for myself and I won't give it to the band" or anything like that. The band has a process. It used to be Stuart [Murdoch] would bring in a song or I'd bring in a song or Isobel [Campbell, former cellist/keyboardist] would bring in a song, or whoever. And then it became more collaborative -- people would bring in ideas for songs and maybe Stuart would write lyrics for that or whatever. If you took a song to the group they would help you write it or they'd help you finish it, or it would become something else. When you're working on your own, you just finish it yourself.
You've mentioned being inspired by David Bowie's non-autobiographical songwriting, but "Richie Now" feels like a story from your real life.
[Richie's] Totally a real person. I was talking about the kind of Bowie-esque idea of making stuff up, but that song's completely autobiographical. He [Richie] was my best friend at school, and he was handsome and cool, all the girls would follow him home and all the bad boys would leave him alone [laughs]. It's all historical fact.
You've got members of practically every band in Scotland playing on this album, don't you?
It's a galaxy of stars. My main man is Bob Kildea, the other guitar player in Belle and Sebastian. There was Katrina Mitchell from the Pastels, she drums on a few of them, Bill Wells, he's a local legend, he works with Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap, he plays bass on quite a lot of it. Dave from Teenage Fanclub plays a bit of pedal steel guitar. Most of the group [Belle and Sebastian] are on it: Sarah Martin plays a bit of organ, Chris Geddes plays a bit of piano. Also Mick Cooke from the group, he and I had done the string arrangements together and he plays a bit of trumpet. The Trembling Bells' Alex Nielson, he's the main man of that group, he played some drums.
You wrote the Belle and Sebastian song "I Took a Long, Hard Look" partly about your fascination with reading rock biographies. But one day, people will probably pore over your band's biography the same way.
It's like in a parallel life, sometimes I wake up and go, "Wait a minute, I've been doing this for years and making a living out of it," and go, "Where have I been? Oh my god, yeah!" I have been living the dream, so I'm happy. But when you're actually in the middle of something, it's not like reading someone's [story]. The thing about rock biographies is they're concise but they're not like real life, they just take interesting chunks of people's lives and fit them together in a narrative and it's quite interesting. Life itself is more mundane. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the great artists are always fascinating, but then again, maybe not so much anymore. I read Keith Richards autobiography, Life, that was okay; when he was talking about his early life, that was the most fascinating, but by the time he's talking about rock stars it's kind of boring. I think I'm more interested in reading about painters or poets, I think I'm a bit tired of reading about rock stars, because most of them are actually just boring people.
|Stevie Jackson - "Try Me"|