Shakin’ Stevens is about to embark on his biggest ever UK tour visiting 33 towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales.
The Echoes Of Our Times Tour will see one of the UK’s biggest-selling artists of all-time hit the road from Easter with the opening night on Saturday 15 April in Carlisle. Shaky will then travel the length and breadth of the country, including London’s Shepherds Bush Empire on 2 May before ending the tour on 28 May.
The tour will see Shaky unveil another side to his talents, as an artist, songwriter and storyteller.
Echoes Of Our Times blends blues, roots, Americana and classic rock. Detailing stories from his intriguing family history, Shakin’ Stevens has created a remarkable musical tribute to his once mysterious past.
Uncovering his family’s history back hundreds of years in the Cornish mining village of Gwennap, once the richest copper mining district in the world, the album is a remarkably frank and honest piece of work that has been widely acclaimed.
Here Shaky talks about his journey of discovery and change from his heyday back in the 80s to the now.
So, you’re going out on tour with the album and it’s a huge tour. What can people expect?
I am looking forward to getting out on tour, we’re going to do all the tracks on the album. There will be the old hits too but it isn’t possible to do them all.
In the early days I did practically all the hits but I couldn’t actually do full songs from start to finish, I had to cut them down to get them in. But there will be some album tracks, songs that people haven’t heard me sing before and the hits I do will be slightly different.
You will know the songs, but it will be with new arrangements, or a new way of performing them.
Can we expect double denim and white dancing shoes?
I wouldn’t want to do that, ‘cos that was a long time ago. Every artist needs to be allowed to move on, and develop in their own way, and at their own pace. My stage performance has changed over the years, and it would be boring if artists didn’t move on in their careers.
A few years ago, I asked one of the fans if they liked a new arrangement of one of the hits that I had performed. The answer was that he liked the original when it first came out, but he had moved on with his taste in music since then, and he preferred the new arrangement. It’s good for artists and their fan base to keep pace with each other – and I think that’s why they have reacted so well to the new album.
Hopefully there will be a lot of familiar faces with the fans who have been there since the early days but I’m also looking forward to seeing people who have never been to one of my concerts before.
How have you put the band together?
There’s nine in the band – two female singers, a guitarist, a drummer, piano player, trumpet, tenor sax, bass guitar and keyboards but we’ve also got harmonica, mandolin, banjo, slide guitar. They are all very talented so it’s a great live band.
I’ve worked with most of them over quite a long time and we all get on really well together so I know we’re all going to get out on that stage every night and have a great time.
You’ve been on an almost “Who Do You Think You Are?” journey to write Echoes of our Times. Is that what you planned or were you inspired to write the album after you made the discoveries about your family’s history?
You get to a stage in your life and you don’t know what went on with your family. We started researching before we started recording the album and that just led us to go down a rootsy feel. The stories were just so strong so we started writing songs.
There were a lot of sad stories, hence the darkness of the album but it has been such a fantastic experience.
Nobody used to talk, that’s what I’ve really discovered. I’ve found out so much about my family history, things that I never would have known. There are such amazing stories about people going down the mines, women and children, and it is just times that are very hard to imagine now.
I didn’t even know my grandmother was in the Salvation Army until I started this search and I’ve discovered I’ve still got family members in it now. Money raised through Echoes Of Merry Christmas Everyone and three charity gigs that I recently performed in, have been for the Salvation Army and I’m very glad we did that. It’s a charity that does such a fantastic job.
It’s taken years and years to build this information and to be able to translate it into an album has been great.
The album has certainly enjoyed tremendous success and a lot of prime-time radio air play. Did you expect this?
I enjoyed great success in the 80s, but I had such a strong image from this time that it has been difficult to break through and present my music in its current form. Surprisingly, the album that has seemed to have been the easiest to put together has been the best tool to break that cycle: perhaps because it is so personal.
This is very much my ‘move on’ album. As you grow up and grow older you change and want something different. In the very early days I was naïve, I knew I had to change but it was difficult. I did bring an album out Now Listen in 2007, I would say that was my ‘bridge’ album but unfortunately the guy who signed me, the guy who wanted to put the album out, went to America and nothing happened with it in the UK, although it was a top 10 album in Scandinavia.
Now with this album I’ve come back with something very different. When it was first revealed to the media our publicist made a point of not saying who it was as we wanted to get the reaction first without anyone having any preconceived perceptions.
The reaction was, and still is, fantastic because people just didn’t expect this sound to come from the Shakin’ Stevens they remember and I can honestly say I haven’t heard one negative about it.
It has also kick-started a lot more ideas so we will be working on them in the near future.
Do you have favourite track on the album?
I don’t have a particular favourite track on the album, as I really like them all for different reasons.
What’s your favourite track from your early days?
Turning Away (a single from the 1986 album Lipstick, Powder and Paint) and Radio (a single from the 1992 album The Epic Years), featuring Roger Taylor, from Queen, on drums and Rod Argent on keyboards.
What do you listen to when you want to relax?
I like radio, we listen to quite a mixture of stations. Radio 2, Radio 4, 6 Music but then I love to listen to my records too. I like listening to songs and albums I haven’t heard before, basically anything that takes my fancy. I like a story and a lyric together. Mostly rootsy type of stuff.
Who were your main influences when you were starting out?
People say to me you’re rock and roll, but that’s an umbrella with many styles of music resting under it.
Growing up with my family, there was music from the back end of the 30s, the 40s, 50s and 60s as there were so many of us and the age range was so big so everyone wanted to listen to something different.
There were all types of music being played and listened to and always with a bit of skiffle thrown in.
What do you think of music today?
There is a lot of choice out there today and so much variety to listen to so it’s really hard to pinpoint particular artists because I really do like listening to pretty much anything and if I like the lyrics I’ll keep listening.
It’s such a hard market to get noticed in today and that’s why the artists we’ve selected to be guest support on the tour are people who are trying to make it in the business. We want to give them a chance to get noticed.
If Shaky was bursting onto the scene for the first time in 2017 who would he be?
I would definitely be more rootsy like this. If you look at Johnny Cash, in the early days he had this really strong beat but he moved on and moved on and his music was much darker towards the end but that suited him.
It’s all about growing up and the fact that I absolutely love the music I’m doing now. I liked it back in the early days but I feel that this is well and truly the real me with the new album and the music I’m working on now.
Shakin’ Stevens will be touring on the following dates:
15 April – The Sands, Carlisle
16 April – The Lowry, Salford
18 April – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
19 April – The Orchard, Dartford
20 April – The Coliseum, Watford
21 April – The Pavilion, Worthing
23 April – The Opera House, Buxton
24 April – St David’s, Cardiff
25 April – The Forum, Bath
27 April – The Churchill, Bromley
28 April – The Hexagon, Reading
29 April – Regent Theatre, Ipswich
30 April – Assembly Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
2 May – Shepherds Bush Empire, London
4 May – Venue Cymru, Llandudno
5 May – The Opera House, Blackpool
6 May – Baths Hall, Scunthorpe
7 May – Theatre Royal, Norwich
10 May – Hall For Cornwall, Truro
11 May – The Pavilions, Plymouth
12 May – Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay
14 May – Guildhall, Portsmouth
15 May – Alban Arena, St Albans
16 May – City Hall, Salisbury
18 May – The Barbican, York
19 May – Parr Hall, Warrington
21 May – Grand Theatre, Leeds
22 May – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
23 May – Eden Court, Inverness
25 May – City Hall, Newcastle
26 May – Town Hall, Birmingham
27 May – Corn Exchange, Cambridge
28 May – Whiterock Theatre, Hastings
Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.