In The Press
2 Dec 2012 - Wales on Sunday (Nathan Bevan) - Purple Legend's Artistry To Live On In Album Of Balsamo Songs
4 Aug 2012 - Western Mail (Nathan Bevan) - After Jesus And A Rock Star, What's Next For Steve Balsamo?
He found fame as the Son of God, had a second coming as a rock star and has now shaved off all his hair to play a prisoner on death row. But, despite facing the electric chair in the video for his new single, Steve Balsamo thinks it's the best thing he's ever done. He talks to Nathan Bevan.
It's always struck me as odd that a song like The Green Green Grass of Home should have become like Wales' unofficial national anthem over the years. Not that it isn't a great tune, it's just that in belting it out with patriotic pride at successive international rugby matches we've come to overlook one tiny fact. Namely that, behind all the homecoming hiraeth of the first few verses, it's actually the final reverie of a prisoner en route to his own death in the electric chair - an irony that's not lost on Steve Balsamo.
"I love that twist though, it's such a sucker punch to the listener," says the Swansea-based singer, the video for whose latest single shares a similarly powerful last minute reveal.
In it we see Balsamo in the barber's chair getting his trademarked long hair and beard completely shaved off by his long-term writing partner Rosalie Deighton while the pair duet a tender cover version of US artist Shawn Colvin's hit I Don't Know Why.
However, what seems like an intimate moment between two lovers is transformed in the final frames of the film as Balsamo runs a pair of cuffed hands over his new bald pate and Deighton takes off her apron to reveal a prison officer uniform underneath, making us realise that we've just been watching a man being prepared for his own execution.
"I've been waiting to make this video for 10 long years," laughs Balsamo, his tresses only just starting to recover from the brutal clipping. "Ever since I first recorded a version of Shawn's song for my first solo record (All I Am) back in 2002."
"I was, and still am, such a huge fan of hers and the plan was always to release it as a single, but I never got the chance because I got dropped by the record label not long after the album came out."
The idea for the video though was powerful enough to stay with Balsamo all this time, and clearly he wasn't the only one.
"I've known Rosalie for years because she supported my previous band (The Storys) on tour quite a bit - in fact, when Dai (Smith, guitar) left the group in 2008 we ended up asking her to join us."
"So, when I mentioned to her how I wanted to revisit that song and the long-gestating idea I'd been mulling over for the video, she just said, 'My God, I was only thinking about that the other day'," he smiles.
And the finished article has been receiving the kind of rave reviews that make the wait Balsamo had to endure more than worthwhile.
"Oh man, the feedback has been amazing - we've actually had radio stations coming to us to ask if they can play it, rather than the other way around," says the 41-year-old.
"Okay, so shaving my head was a big step, after all I've not had short hair since I was 10. But seeing as the whole song is kind of about sacrifice and transformation then it felt like the right thing to do, not to mention how liberating it felt to lose the old mullet after so long."
"Not that my six-year-old daughter Issy would agree, mind you. She said I looked like an idiot. Now it's growing back and I've got a bit of a beard again I think I more resemble a '70s Action Man figure."
"What is more, when I went to a recent music function, no one - not even Radio Two DJ Bob Harris, who I know very well - had a clue who I was. I should have capitalised on that really and got up to all kinds of trouble."
Born of a Venetian chef given to belting out Mario Lanza standards and a Welsh mother who'd sing him to sleep with country and western songs, music was in Balsamo's blood from an early age.
As a teenager and prompted by jealousy over his then-girlfriend's teenage crush on Jon Bon Jovi, he'd trawl the rough and tumble South Wales pub circuit in various bands, belting out classic rock covers to disinterested regulars more concerned with why their bingo night was being disrupted.
"I remember at one place in Bridgend someone tried to strangle me as I was singing, which, as criticism goes, seemed a bit harsh," laughs Balsamo. "The bouncer - this big, hard, black guy with white tattoos - stepped in and really saved my bacon."
But at 21 he swapped the spit and sawdust of workingmen's locals for the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd, his impressive three-and-a-half octave vocal range having landed him a role in a touring production of Les Miserables - or The Glums as it's known in Swansea.
"That came as a hell of a culture shock," says the self-confessed pints-not-tights man. "I was surrounded by people who'd been to theatre school and all I could do was watch them and pick things up quickly. Luckily, I'm a fast learner."
Not that seemed to have any bearing on the people behind Jesus Christ Superstar - the Andrew Lloyd Webber West End smash that would make Balsamo's name - because they invited him back to audition a whopping 14 times over the space of a year before finally giving him the lead role.
"When I originally turned up I looked like Jesus himself and I think the casting director probably thought, 'Oh please be able to sing'. And, after the sixth or so call-back, it started to get a bit surreal, no more so than the time I found myself at Abbey Road studios singing for Lloyd Webber - he was playing piano - while Jim (Bat Out of Hell) Steinman, sat watching me through the glass booth. I'm a huge fan of his and he's something of a crazy cat, so it was a bit intimidating to say the least."
However, Balsamo's take on Gethsemane, the production's lung-bursting show-stopper, must have suitably impressed as he ended up with the coveted part, shooting him to fame and plastering his face across billboards and bus shelters nationwide.
It seems a world away from the 'get famous quick' cache of reality shows to which Lord Lloyd Webber has recently lent his name - the most recent of which, to find a new lead in Superstar, was a ratings flop.
"I don't watch any of those 'looking for Maria, could you be the new Joseph?' type programmes, although I do tend to get sent a lot of tweets talking about them. Would I have gone on them myself back when I was 24 or 25 years old? Perhaps, but people simply didn't get jobs that way in those days."
Regardless of how he got there though, there's no disputing the stir Balsamo caused upon arriving - it's said that just one televised performance by him caused ticket sales for the show to go stratospheric, selling more than £160,000 worth in 30 minutes.
But the desire to be a singer-songwriter was still as strong as ever.
"I'm never happier than when I've got a guitar and creating music with someone else, that strange alchemy you get when you've two or more people in sync with each other."
"I could have stuck with the West End thing and earned myself a flaming fortune, but I only went into Superstar to get a recording contract out of it, and five months into the run thats exactly what happened."
However, after a brief, doomed sojourn with Sony, during which he was forced a little too hard into fitting the mould of pop star, Balsamo hooked up with five other like-minded souls with a love for bands like The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac and decamped to an old cinema-turned-social club in Glyncorrwg, near Neath, called The Hall.
There The Storys were born - their sunny West Coast rock winning the patronage of the starry likes of Elton John and producing three well received albums.
Despite that though the band called it a day in 2010, leaving Balsamo to ponder his next step, which, serendipitously, turned out to be performing around the world with one of his childhood idols, Deep Purple keyboard maestro Jon Lord.
"God, I was huge Purple fan growing up and loved their singer Ian Gillan's turn as the Messiah on the album version of Jesus Christ Superstar," he adds. "In fact, if I'm honest, I pinched most of his techniques for my own rendition."
Sadly, after collaborating closely together for several years the 70-year-old heavy rock legend succumbed to cancer last month, leaving Balsamo crushed.
"I sang at his funeral in Henley-on-Thames just the other day," he sighs. "That was a really tough day, possibly one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was a rendition of an old Purple song Jon really loved called Soldier of Fortune, the lyrics of which are very poignant in the way they talk about getting older and the need to reflect on one's life."
"I was only with him a few weeks ago and I've got this lovely film of him on my phone playing one of last pieces he'd probably ever play, a beautiful Celtic melody we'd written - I'd love to get someone like Bryn Terfel to sing that one day, to really do it justice," adds Balsamo, who remains as philosophical as ever about the up and downs of the road that's led him this far.
"My solo career may not have panned out but I'd had a big record deal, met a lot of great people and travelled the world - to me that's success," says the former Swansea Institute art student who recently became a dad-of-two after his partner Tracy gave birth to their new baby boy Frankie.
"I like to paint, draw and just create things, and I've even become very interested in acting again all of a sudden. Thinking about it now, and hindsight's always a brilliant thing, but I think going on stage was just another attempt at expressing myself via different means."
But his current output as part of Balsamo/Deighton - "I know, sounds like a firm of solicitors doesn't it" - is exactly the kind of thing he wants to be doing.
"We call it Celtic Americana and it's got that Robert Plant/Alison Krauss vibe about it," he says.
"I suppose you could be hippy-dippy about it and say that everything we do in life leads up to this present moment, but I honestly don't think that five or six years ago I could have come up with the songs I'm writing now."
And with 15 fully formed songs in the bag and lots more "kicking about," Balsamo says an full album isn't too far off.
"Me and Rosie have been working with Jon Kelly, who's produced everyone from Kate Bush to Paul McCartney, but for now I Don't Know Why is out as a download on my own little Ghost Horse record label - just to tweak people's interest."
Even without all this though he admits he'd still be compulsively making music.
"I'd have to, or else I'd burst. Either that or join a branch of Musicians Anonymous."
"Hello, my name is Steve and I'm a song-a-holic."
2 Aug 2012 - BBC Wales Music Blogs (James McLaren) - Steve Balsamo on Balsamo And Deighton
You might know Steve Balsamo from The Storys, or from his solo work, or you might know him from his turn as the titular character of Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1990s, but the Swansea man has turned his hand to another interesting role. This time, he's been writing with sometime Storys member and solo artist Rosalie Deighton for a forthcoming album of "folk/country/Americana" songs.
Balsamo And Deighton have their debut single out this week (29 July) on his own Ghost Horse Records, with the album following in 2013.
"Rosalie and I met over 10 years ago at Swedish producer Martin Terefe's studio in Kensal Road in London," says Steve. "Martin went on to work with Jason Mraz and James Morrison and won a Grammy with Train. He co-produced Rosie's debut album Truth Drug and co-produced my solo album All I Am."
"I loved her voice and she mine, and we said we'd make an album down the line. When The Storys were touring a lot, we asked Rosalie to come support us, and when Dai Smith decided to leave, we asked her to join the band. Dai is such a great player, writer and personality we thought a woman who is all those things would bring a different angle to the band. Rosalie joined us writing and recording Luck, The Storys' third album."
Rosalie's folk background took her into a career with her own family, aptly named The Deighton Family. They toured worldwide and, solo, had a deal with Independiente Records around a decade ago for Truth Drug. Her second set, 21 Days, came out in 2007. She is also a member of Danny And The Champions Of The World.
How do Steve and Rosalie regard their duets project? "We're both very excited with the project! Our voices blend beautifully and we've been quietly writing for a couple of years."
"We started writing and making demos with Julian Wilson of Grand Drive and have started the album with John Reynolds (Sinead O'Connor, Indigo Girls, U2). We have a few co-writes with some tasty people, inculding Boo Hewedine, Andy Collins (ex-Storys) and hit songwriter Steve Booker who wrote Mercy with Duffy. We have a bunch of great songs that we're working through for the album and are both loving the results so far."
The pair's long careers have meant they can call on some respected musicians. For example, there's a guitarist working with them called Robbie McIntosh. "He's played with Paul McCartney, John Mayer and Norah Jones," says Steve. "He has played some stunning guitar... and Steve White - ex of Paul Weller's band - came played on the single. I met Steve while touring with the late, very great Jon Lord."
Steve believes Balsamo And Deighton's sound won't come as a surprise to fans of their previous work, and sees it as a development rather than a revolution: "I think the sound is a lovely complement to The Storys' sound," he says. "We both adore country and folk and the 'West Coast' sound that we were making with The Storys. But this time we're (soul) mining and taking cues from Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand and other songwriters we love like Jackson Browne and Ron Sexsmith."
"We have, in fact, tried out a few covers by them that sound beautiful. It's similar territory to before but also looking at bluegrass dude Ricky Skaggs and the new bluegrass dudes on the block/prairie/porch The Punch Brothers."
"All of this, however, is through the filter of Barnsley and Swansea! I think there's an interesting story to tell of both these cities, both steeped in music albeit one rock and the other folk... but that's for later."
There is even talk of ex-Led Zeppelin man Robert Plant joining the duo on a track, plus his Band Of Joy partner Patty Griffin too.
I Don't Know Why, originally by Shawn Colvin, "has been haunting both of us for years" says Steve. "We've both encountered her and the tune on many occasions. The video - filmed by brilliant director/film writer Kamma Pastoll - has been in the works for 10 years and seemed that now was the time to realise it."
"It has turned out better that we all could have imagined and really has focused us to finish the album and get out and tour. Making a video first may seem like a backward way of doing things, but I really think these days songs/films have a life of their own online and we wanted to test if that theory is right."
"Social networking provides the modern artist with a way of getting to a large audience, as long as what you make is good!"
Concluding our chat, he says: "The album will, I think, be beautiful, sad (for the most part) with some reflective songs. We have been trying to write a little faster, but at the moment what's occurring is something between Emmylou's Wrecking Ball album, Plant/Krauss' Raising Sand with a little Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty thrown in. Big shoes then!"
5 Dec 2011 - Western Mail (Nathan Bevan) - Steve Balsamo on Going From Son of God to Father-of-Two and Giving Robert Plant Singing Lessons
He's gone from Son of God to father-of-two, but becoming a dad again hasn't slowed Steve Balsamo down. Here the West End star-turned-rocker tells Nathan Bevan about cosmic co-incidence, performing with his childhood musical hero and giving Robert Plant singing lessons.
Steve Balsamo is a big believer in serendipity. The former West End star-turned-rocker recently became a dad for a second time to a bouncing baby boy born at 2.22pm on Friday, November 11. And 2.22, 11/11/11, as he's keen to tell me, is quite significant chain of digits in numerologist circles.
"Some friends of mine who are into that sort of thing have informed me that those numbers together have a very auspicious meaning," says the Swansea-born singer.
"So we've named him Frankie Balsamo, and with a name like that he'll either end up a boxer, a rock star or a gangster - or all three. Personally, I've always been more into psychic phenomena and, without being too hippy-dippy about it, usually take note of the significant events that occur in my life and see if they correlate with other things further down the line," adds the 40-year-old.
Talking of which, I tell Balsamo that next summer my sister (who's a big fan) is holding her wedding reception in the same Swansea hotel where I first interviewed him back in 2006.
"See! There you go, spooky," he laughs, adding that since his Elton John-approved West Coast-style rock outfit The Storys broke up a few years back he's been gigging around the world with one of his childhood heroes - Deep Purple's keyboard maestro Jon Lord.
"God, I was huge Purple fan growing up and loved their singer Ian Gillan's turn as the Messiah on the album version of Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar," he adds - a part which, co-incidentally, Balsamo would later go on to make his own when it became an acclaimed London stage production. "In fact, if I'm honest, I pinched most of his chops for my own rendition."
And it was performing at a cancer charity event organised by Lord's wife that turned the 70-year-old legend onto Balsamo's impressive three and a half octave range voice.
"Next thing I know I was part of his band and performing a show halfway up a mountain in Switzerland," says the singer, who was first prompted to perform in his teens as a means of competing with a then-girlfriend's crush on Jon Bon Jovi.
"Ever since then me and Jon have been writing songs, largely classical crossover numbers that we've thought about getting Bryn Terfel to sing, really beautiful stuff. Unfortunately though Jon is battling cancer himself and isn't well at the moment, so we've had to put a few things on hold," adds Balsamo - although he later emails to say that, serendipity again perhaps, Lord had phoned him shortly after our chat to say he's feeling much better.
So that means the pair's recent re-recording of part of Purple's groundbreaking 1969 Concerto For Group And Orchestra, also featuring Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, should get to see the light of day soon.
"Proper rock royalty that lot, it was a thrill to be asked," says Balsamo.
Until then though the Italian-blooded dad-of-two has got his "Celtic Americana" musical project with winsome Anglo-Dutch-Indonesian folk singer Rosalie Deighton to occupy most of his time.
"I love Rosie, I've known her for ages and she ended up joining The Storys in 2008 when Dai (Smith, guitar) left - she's fabulous, got a voice just like Emmylou Harris," he smiles.
"At the moment the group's called Balsamo/Deighton, which sounds a bit like a firm of solicitors, but I quite like that though. It's quite an eclectic sound, with a bit of cajun in there - a bit like that Grammy-winning bluegrass/country album Robert Plant did with Alison Krauss a while back."
And while we're on the subject of certain ex-Led Zeppelin front men...
"The Storys played at Radio Two DJ Bob Harris 60th birthday and Robert had seen us and liked our harmonies," recalls Balsamo. "So when he rang me up asking if I knew anything about Appalachian mountain music I automatically found myself saying, 'Yeah, sure', when what I really meant was, 'No, haven't a clue'," he laughs. "In any case, what on Earth can I tell Robert Plant that he doesn't already know - he's sold a gazillion albums for God's sake! But that still didn't stop me finding myself in a recording studio with him going, 'Mmm, that sounds great Robert, but what if you try it like this'?" he smiles. You can't help but love it though when someone of his stature still has such great love and enthusiasm for music - I mean, he could just be out playing golf or something."
And would he ever consider rekindling his love for the stage, having originally found such great acclaim there back in 1996?
"Never say never, that's my motto," says Balsamo. "I keep getting asked and occasionally I'll go along and sing something just for the craic. I've not done that sort of performance in a long time but I take my voice very seriously and have a great vocal coach in London whom I go and see all the time. The voice is like a muscle, a tool that needs a constant workout," he adds. "But people's ranges generally change over time and they tend to get lower the older you get, so I'd have to see. Then again, everything starts to drop when you hit 40, so it might be nice to be told I have a lovely bottom end," Balsamo laughs.
5 Jul 2011 - South Wales Evening Post - Balsamo In Jam With Rock Stars
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo is mixing with rock royalty at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, on Friday.
The former Storys frontman is due to perform at The Sunflower Jam charity event with former Deep Purple band member Jon Lord. Steve will sing Pictured Within, from Lord's solo album of the same name.
The Sunflower Jam raises funds for alternative cancer therapies and was set up by Jacky Paice, the wife of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice.
Steve has been touring with Lord, and has taken part in The Sunflower Jam for the last few years.
Also appearing on Friday are Rick Wakeman, Newton Faulkner, plus the UK's number one dance team from Pineapple Dance Studios. Actor Jeremy Irons will host the evening.
The Storys, who once supported Elton John and Tom Jones, played their final gig last year.
2 Jul 2011 - Western Mail (Nathan Bevan) - Steve Balsamo - Just What Makes For A Truly Classic Pop Song?
A new television series starts tonight looking at just what special qualities go into making a truly timeless pop song. But Swansea singer-songwriter Steve Balsamo tells Nathan Bevan that he believes one Welsh band captured that magic more than 40 years ago and are yet to be bettered.
Whether it's London Calling by The Clash or Agadoo by Black Lace, the mark of a good pop song is one that will sink its hooks into the listener's brain and refuse to let go. And, be it the work of punk upstarts railing against the socio-political mores of modern Britain or a Eurovision-begetting novelty act given to dressing up as giant pineapples, all those songs started life in exactly the same way - as scribbled ideas on a notepad, the back of a cigarette packet or a cocktail napkin.
It's precisely that journey that will be explored on the BBC from tonight as the network launches a two-month long celebration of and investigation into the craft of songwriting. Called Secrets Of The Pop Song, the three-part series sees Guy Chambers - the man whose starry CV includes the co-writing credit on Robbie Williams' mega-hits - dissect the art of penning perfect pop by collaborating with different artists to write a new song each week, while we at home track its progress from the written page to being performed live.
The series, featuring contributions from musical heavy-hitters like Sting and Brian May, will also see Chambers attempt to create a radio-friendly anthem with soul-rockers The Noisettes and team up with celebrated record producer Mark Ronson to score that elusive breakthrough single.
In the first episode though, Chambers will collaborate with American singer Rufus Wainwright to produce a timeless ballad, a skill that would appear to require an ingredient best referred to as 'The Ex Factor' - the ability to tap into one's own heartbreak and channel it to pen a bona fide tear-jerker. It's something a lot of Welsh acts are more than acquainted with.
When his relationship with actress and society girl Sienna Miller went into very public free fall, Ruthin-raised actor Rhys Ifans threw himself into working with his rock band Y Peth, whose debut LP The Golden Mile included a tortured confessional called Stonefinger.
"Every little thing you said would break me. All of it came true. Every bit of love I give. You mock it, yes you do," sang Ifans, before subsequently denying it was about Miller and adding that the lyrics had been penned before they'd even met.
Meanwhile, Stereophonics' Kelly Jones, more used to singing about the minutiae of Valleys life, turned the spotlight on his own private affairs come album number four, You Gotta Go There To Come Back - the gravel-throated Cwmaman vocalist writing Rainbows And Pots Of Gold about his split from a childhood sweetheart.
But surely the peerless pop yardstick by which all else should be measured is Without You, the seminal effort from ill-fated Swansea band Badfinger. Their 1970 chart-topping smash has since been recorded by more than 180 artists including Shirley Bassey, Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey and was once described by The Beatles' Paul McCartney as "the killer song of all time".
Fellow Swansea star Steve Balsamo, for one, couldn't agree more with the former Fab Four legend's accolade. "I suppose Macca's more than a little qualified to comment as to what makes a good tune," laughs the former West End Stage star-turned rocker. "Without You is one of my favourite tracks of all time and a prime case of someone using a terrible heartache they'd suffered to inspire a musical moment that connects with everyone who hears it - which is what every songwriter worth their salt tries to achieve."
Adding that its poignancy was only compounded by the group's own tragic story - financial and legal woes led to two members of the group committing suicide tragically young - Balsamo says that the old adage of writing about what you know was crucial in creating something memorable. "You have to pour yourself, good experiences and bad, into your work because all of us have the same feelings, wants, fears and needs; that stuff's universal," he smiles, recalling how he also took tips from another master of the trade.
"When my last band The Storys supported Elton John we'd all stand at the side of the stage watching him every night with our jaws on the floor. It was incredible just how many brilliant tunes that man has, from ballads like I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues to out-and-out pop numbers like I'm Still Standing - it was like being given a free pass to the best songwriting school in the world."
So where do his songs find life? "Like every other lyricist I used to jot ideas down whenever they came to me, so my house would be crammed with bits of paper with ideas written on them," reveals Balsamo. "Now it all goes into my Blackberry so my wife shouts at me less, and if I get inspired on the train or something I'll lock myself in the toilet and quietly sing melodies into my voice recorder."
He adds: "But that's the beauty of it - you go into a room with nothing and, hopefully, you come out with something that'll move people - alchemy, basically. True, you can be scientific about it, and a lot of jobbing songwriters watch the current trends and learn how to craft tunes to order for various different artists, and Guy Chambers is a great example of that."
But Balsamo believes serendipity could have a role to play in what makes a song special."A mate of mine called Steve Booker had a huge success writing with Duffy on her first album and that only happened because he put his London flat on the market and she came round to view it and they got chatting," he says. "So perhaps it's destiny that great tracks like Mercy are born, but maybe that's just the old romantic in me."
10 May 2011 - South Wales Evening Post - Swansea Singer Wins A Place At Pan Celtic Festival
Swansea singer and guitarist Steve Balsamo has again won success for one of his songs. Mr Balsamo, who composed Rhywun yn Rhywle alongside Ynyr Roberts from Caernarfon, not only saw it win at S4C's 2011 Can i Gymru competition - but the song has also been successful at this year's Pan Celtic Festival.
The pair represented Wales in the annual festival as part of the prize for winning Can i Gymru, and Ynyr's band Brigyn performed the song at the event. The 2011 Pan Celtic Festival was held in Dingle, Ireland, in its 40th anniversary year.
Song Rhywun yn Rhywle managed to beat off competition from the four other Celtic nations and regions, including the Isle of Man, Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall. Mr Roberts said: "It was an honour to be given the opportunity to represent Wales in the competition. Winning is an added bonus. In fact, this was the first time for Brigyn to take part in a musical competition and it went down to the wire between the Isle of Man and Wales."
5 Mar 2011 - South Wales Evening Post - Balsamo Eyes TV Crown
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo will be hitting the television screens on Sunday in an attempt to win S4C's 2011 song-writing competition, Can i Gymru.
Best known for his lead role in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Steve was also lead singer with Swansea band The Storys.
This year he has teamed up with Brigyn singer Ynyr Gruffydd Roberts, and will perform their song live on the show, in an attempt to win the £7,500 cash prize and the chance to represent Wales in the Pan Celtic Festival.
"Our song Rhywun yn Rhywle basically translates to Someone Somewhere and is an upbeat classy pop tune in the vein of Coldplay or The Script," he said.
23 Feb 2011 - Singer's High Hopes For Success At Contest
Swansea singer and performer Steve Balsamo is hoping to win S4C's 2011 song-writing competition, Can i Gymru - one of the highlights of the channel's spring programme schedule.
Steve, best known for his lead role in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and a runner-up in the song-writing competition in 1994, has teamed up with Brigyn singer Ynyr Gruffydd Roberts. Their composition is called Rhywun yn Rhywle.
Their song is one of eight battling for the 2011 Can i Gymru title and will be performed live on S4C from Pontrhydfendigaid Pavilion on Sunday, March 6, at 7.30pm.
All eight songs are also battling for the £7,500 cash prize and the honour of representing Wales in the Pan Celtic Festival in Ireland.
A record number of entries were recorded for this year's competition, varying from established Welsh artists and bands to students at the start of their music careers.
17 Dec 2010 - South Wales Evening Post - Steve Is Helping Out Star
Former Storys frontman Steve Balsamo said he has been kept busy since his band's split by writing material for the next Katherine Jenkins.
Balsamo has been working with top producer Ben Robbins on material for Welsh songstress Annelies over the past few weeks. The 16-year-old, who has performed alongside Charlotte Church and Russell Watson, has attracted attention from several major labels - and former West End favourite Balsamo hopes he can help propel the Cardiff teen to stardom.
He said: "As well as working on new solo stuff, as well as material for Jon Lord and Rosalie, I've been writing tunes for a great young crossover singer Annelies."
Balsamo, 39, added that since The Storys called it quits this earlier year he has also been brushing up on his painting skills. He added: "I have been a busy creative so and so."
12 Dec 2010 - Wales On Sunday (Rachel Mainwaring) - Singer Songwriter Steve Balsamo Says Working With One Of Deep Purple's Founders Could Be One Of His Brightest Ideas Yet
The Swansea-born musician has teamed up with the rock legends' keyboard player Jon Lord for a new track called The Light That Shines. The track is expected to appear on Balsamo's new solo record, which is tentatively entitled Songbook, and which he has been working on following The Storys' hiatus.
Balsamo, 39, said: "I've written a very beautiful song with Jon Lord called The Light That Shines. It's not a rocker, but a very uplifting crossover type song."
4 Nov 2010 - South Wales Echo (Nathan Bevan) - Elton's Making A Comeback
Music legend Sir Elton John is to kick off a UK tour next summer with his first gig in the capital for more than five years.
The low-key show at Cardiff's CIA on Wednesday, June 8 will act as a warm-up for the flamboyant piano-playing superstar's planned stadium jaunt to showcase The Union, his latest critically-acclaimed new album with American singer-songwriter Leon Russell.
And it's exciting news for the Rocketman's Welsh fans who may have missed out on tickets for their idol's recent appearance at the BBC Electric Proms at London's historic Roundhouse venue, where the star cherry-picked tunes from his glittering 40-year career.
One fan who'll be first in the queue for tickets when they go on sale tomorrow is Steve Balsamo, former lead singer with South Wales rockers The Storys, of whom Elton was a big admirer.
"We heard that somehow Elton had stumbled across our first record and loved it," said Balsamo, a former West End Stage star famed for his lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar. "We were always big fans of his and I think our sound reminded him of the West Coast pop that he was making back in the '70s on albums like Madman Across The Water and Honky Chateau. Then suddenly the phone rings one night as I'm bathing my little girl and it's him on the line from Las Vegas where he's gigging, asking if we'd like to go on the road with him."
Famously, that culminated in the band going on before Elton in front of 25,000 at Swansea's Liberty Stadium in 2008. "It was just the most amazing time for us and everyone on that tour treated us so well," said Balsamo. "One of the most enduring memories I have is of running through our sound-check at one of the shows and looking out to see Elton sitting there with his dogs listening in every note we were playing. There aren't many megastars who would bother taking the time to do that and I think it just goes to show what a hardcore music lover the guy is, not to mention an incredible talent. Me and the lads would stand and watch his set from the wings every night and we never failed to be in awe of him."
He added: "I happened to be in London when he played at the Electric Proms last Sunday but couldn't go because I was bed-ridden with the flu. So there's no way I'm not going to miss out this time round."
29 Sep 2010 - South Wales Evening Post - Uplifting New Song
Singer songwriter Steve Balsamo says working with one of Deep Purple's founders could prove to be one of his brightest ideas yet.
The Swansea-born musician has teamed up with the rock legends' keyboard player Jon Lord for a new track called The Light That Shines.
The track is expected to appear on Balsamo's new solo record, which is tentatively entitled Songbook, and which he has been working on following The Storys' hiatus.
Balsamo, 39, said: "I've written a very beautiful song with Jon Lord called The Light That Shines. It's not a rocker, but a very uplifting crossover type song."
12 Jul 2010 - Western Mail (Nathan Bevan) - Charlotte Is Inspired To Write By 'The Ex Factor'
Call it "The Ex Factor". It's the ingredient that's helped everyone from The Rolling Stones to Leonard Cohen and Elvis to Eric Clapton to pen some of the best-known break-up songs of all time. And now Charlotte Church has joined those rock'n'roll ranks by apparently channelling the heartbreak from her own split from rugby ace Gavin Henson to compose a tune about their split.
Swansea singer-songwriter and former West End star Steve Balsamo said there was an easy answer why so many stars exposed their most personal, innermost thoughts - catharsis.
"It's the most popular song subject isn't it? Boy meets girl, boy leaves girl and vice versa," said the 39-year-old vocalist of The Storys. "The feelings that result from a break-up can be so deep and visceral that they spark a tremendous creativity and make you write something you really connect with emotionally - which is what every songwriter worth their salt tries to achieve."
The one-time Jesus Christ Superstar lead added that such songs' popularity came from the fact that everyone, at some point in their life, experiences the same thing.
"We are all interconnected emotionally and spiritually, all have the same feelings, wants, fears and needs," said Balsamo. "There'll always be countless people out there who need to hear what you're singing, just as much as you needed to get it off your chest."
17 Jun 2010 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Close Book With City Gig
The Storys write their closing chapter this weekend, playing a farewell gig at Swansea Grand Theatre on Saturday.
The harmony-led pop band notched up three albums in their time together as well as some prestigious dates, including support slots for Elton John, Katie Melua and Celine Dion.
Dai Smith, who left the band two years ago, will join the line-up this weekend, with a smaller concert going ahead tomorrow in the theatre's arts wing. The sextet will also include Dai's replacement, Rosalie Deighton.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "We've had a great seven years together and have memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives. However, we all think the time's right to try something new. We all have our own projects to take forward and we're eager to support each other - there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. We thank our fans from the bottom of our hearts for all their support; we look forward to giving them a fantastic final live show."
Their third album is out on the independent Angel Air label.
22 May 2010 - Western Mail (Kathryn Williams) - Welsh Teenager Has Secure Showbiz Future
She might not be crowned as Dorothy tonight - but Sophie Evans is guaranteed a successful West End career. That's the verdict of Welsh stage legend Peter Karrie, who believes that, win or lose in tonight's Over The Rainbow final, the 17-year-old schoolgirl from Rhondda has all the necessary attributes for a long and successful career in musicals.
Steve Balsamo, who starred in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End, said the gruelling process of getting to the final of Over The Rainbow will have moulded all three finalists into future leading ladies. He said: "I don't watch reality shows so I can't say if Sophie should win, but I can say from my own experience that if it's your ambition or intention to get into theatre or anything like that then any route to get there is a good route. The whole industry is so competitive.
"I think the experience of going on TV and doing what these kids are put through is far more intensive than actually going through the normal audition process. Being at the mercy of not only the casting director, but also the audience and viewers at home week in week out, must be the most intense and scary situation, so any kid that can perform in that situation has to get my thumbs up and I'd say to them, 'Go for it!'."
20 May 2010 - South Wales Evening Post - Story Of Luck In The Frame
Unique works of art with a brushstroke of Welsh musical genius are to go on sale. Each of the nine pieces is an item of original artwork from the forthcoming final album of Swansea band The Storys.
All crafted by lead singer Steve Balsamo, a former Swansea Institute art student, the lino-cuts are inspired by the album's title, Luck.
Featured elements include a dice, a star, a black cat, an eight-ball and a pair of crossed fingers. The framed A3 one-offs will be exhibited from June 1 in the city's Grand Theatre until the Americana sextet's two farewell shows there on June 18 and 19.
Framing has just been completed at Swansea city centre bespoke picture framer Ocean Gallery.
Balsamo said: "The album's artwork was a real pleasure to do - the band wanted me to reflect that we'd had so much great luck in our time together. When a few fans saw it they suggested we allow them and others to have this little piece of this work to remember us by."
"I did the cuts when we were recording Luck in Llanelli and everyone was really pleased with the look. The texture and the browns, reds and golds give them a lovely vibe full of warmth and soul."
The lino-cuts, in their gold frames and signed by Balsamo, are to go on sale soon on the band's website.
May 2010 - Plugged-In Magazine (Gary Bolsom) - The Storys - Exclusive Interview
On a surprisingly sunny day in March, I sat outside a coffee shop in Swansea Marina waiting apprehensively for the vocalist/guitarist Steve Balsamo and vocalist/bass player Andy Collins of Swansea-based American country/rock-influenced band by the name of The Storys. This was only my second interview, but the boys made me feel comfortable after a pre-interview chat over a cappuccino.
The main reason for this meeting was The Storys are calling it a day... for now, and have a third and possibly last album out soon called Luck. They are due to perform a few farewell gigs for their fans, and Steve told me the reason for this move: "We write tons of song non-stop, both as individuals and as a band, almost like we've got some sort of strange songwriting disorder. We're all also trying to become better songwriters by collaborating with lots of different people. In truth, we've made two albums and are finishing a third and we want a little break. To get away from it so we can come back to it."
Steve goes on to say that this might not be the end of The Storys. "Being in the back of a van for seven years wears you out. Although we say it's the end of the road, it'll never be the end of the road. Who knows, Leona Lewis might cover I Believe In Love - the music business is incredibly mad!" Andy adds: "It costs a lot both physically and emotionally, a hell of a lot, which people don't see. All people see are the 45 minutes to an hour and a half on stage, all singing and dancing. But there is a lot of travelling and a lot of misunderstandings with people you like. At some point you need to take stock and think how do we get over this. I believe we get over it by taking a break, recharging and coming back with a fresh perspective on life."
Being an aspiring journalist I was interested in why there was bad grammar in the band's name. This gave the boys a bit of a laugh and Andy explained: "Bands famously do that! It's a bit like The Beatles, it's just a bit of wordplay that we came upon and it stuck." I then realised that this wasn't as uncommon as I had first thought, thinking of other bands who have done this are Megadeth, The Black Crowes and The Monkees among many others.
Many of the band members are songwriters in their own right which is an uncommon thing in today's music industry, so I decided to dig deeper into the songwriting of The Storys and ask what it's like to work together as a bunch of talented writers.
Steve told me: "How we did it originally was by getting around a table with a couple of bottles of wine and started writing tunes. Very quickly we'd written loads. It's all about chemistry. Like with any collaboration, whether you're a chef sourcing the right ingredients, the ingredients of The Storys was right for that period of time. Andy is my favourite songwriter in The Storys, he is the most commercially minded with all the songs that he has written becoming our single releases, but we all bring stuff to the table and kick ideas around to see what happens." Andy adds: "It's been a large learning curve, though it's great because we've never really trampled on each other's egos, and God knows we've got them. We just shut the door, sit round the table and say 'Right! I've got this thing. Take it, change it, listen to it, destroy it, do whatever you want to do with it to make it better!' You can hear whether it comes from Dai, Rob, Steve or myself, but we just put it to everybody and by doing that the blend comes into it."
The band were probably way ahead of the recent music scene like The Magic Numbers and The Fleet Foxes with their harmonies and song structure and what Steve finds interesting is "If you're American you're allowed to make the kind of music that we gravitate towards. But if you're British, you're not supposed to make that sound. It's very strange. It's like entering a cul-de-sac of a world of Americana that was generated in the United Kingdom, which, no matter how good it is, doesn't seem to connect. So, yes, it's a learning curve about ourselves and our songwriting ability, which I believe is a true craft."
With the band about to release their final album, I asked them why they wanted to release an album when they are about to split. "What happened along the way was that Dai, who was one of the founder members, decided to leave and do his own thing, which was a real blow to the rest of us. We had to re-group and had lots of debates on if we were going to replace him. Do we carry on as a five-piece rather than the six members? Although Rosalie Deighton had been touring with the band for a couple of years we thought that if we get another guy in the band we would be going 'It's not as good as Dai' or 'It's better than Dai' and we didn't want to enter into that conversation with anybody. So enter Rosalie with some obvious advantages. One, she is gorgeous which helps with the image; while, two, her voice is beautiful (her parents were folk singers). She's added a different dimension to the band, a lot of beauty and a lot of poise.
"At the time we started the album, I was doing other stuff, the rest of the boys were doing their thing, but we went back into the studio to listen to a coule of the tracks and realised that it sounded fantastic. We had planned to pass the songs out with Andy taking some, Rob some and me, but we thought we couldn't do that because the strength of is in the sum of the parts. So we are going to release it and pray that something beautiful will happen like a song taking off because there are some good songs on there. You know how many bands release a record and immediately split up. It's a bit of a quirky thing to do."
So if the album really took off, would they still consider calling it a day? Andy jokingly replied: "We will eat our words! But we would seriously have to take stock. If the record was to go ridiculously major it could be the payback for everything that hasn't gone the way we'd hoped before." Steve adds: "We'd have to take a look at the whole thing, where the band stands, where we personally stand and if there is the energy there to carry on. I'm into this idea that when you put a lot of hard work into something the energy has to go somewhere and eventually it's going to come back. It's the Einstein theory: all the energy is transformed not destroyed. And who is to argue with Einstein!"
Making music that's not been commercially successful in the UK, the chances are, dear reader, that you would not have heard of The Storys - though their music has also been featured in many American TV shows, such as One Tree Hill, and British gangster film The Bank Job, in which they also appeared as themselves! But not gaining commercial success in the UK hasn't hindered the band, and just looking at the artists they have supported is mind-blowing: Elton John, Celine Dion, Katie Melua, Joe Cocker!
"We've had amazing success getting to play with our peers and heroes. We played Radio 2 DJ and fan of the band Bob Harris' 60th birthday party. Not long before Jim Capaldi, who was the drummer with Traffic, died. Jim's wife asked us if we would play at a memorial concert to him which we of course agreed to do. When we turned up it was like a who's who of the music world. Pete Townshend, Paul Weller, Joe Walsh, Simon Kirk from Bad Company, Gary Moore and... us! What was good was the respect these guys, our heroes, showed us. We came off stage and Pete and Gary said, 'That was great!' Everything in life happens for a reason. That's why we're calling this album Luck, because we've had loads of good luck. Everyone we've had the pleasure to meet has been incredibly generous to us and incredibly humble, including Elton John. He was a massive help and without him a lot of the other doors would not have opened. We will always be eternally grateful to Sir Elton of John."
Soon it will be on to pastures new for the band, and Andy and Steve are already looking to the future. So I asked the boys about their new project Oystermouth, which they were surprised I knew about - I'm getting the hang of this journalism thingy I thought happily to myself, but being mentored by PLUGGED IN's Gail and Darren I knew before an interview it's essential to do some research on your subject before meeting them!
"Oystermouth is where we had other songs that maybe didn't fit the criteria of The Storys," explained Andy. "It goes back to what we said earlier about us being different songwriters. When we got together a song would manifest in a different direction, while with Oystermouth or any of our other projects they are more of what we personally are. God help us when I release my stuff as it'll be so damned morose!" Steve adds: "A mate of mine has this little group, a kind of songwriters anonymous - like, 'My name's Steve and I write songs.' We love the process of it. I love the name Oystermouth and it's just this little side thing. We're going to put out an Oystermouth EP and let it go and have its own life. Songs are like strange little children, you give birth to them and some go off and earn their keep whilst others stay at home."
New member Rosalie Deighton is also doing other stuff outside of The Storys. Having previously released her own material she too has a new album out of the acoustic folk/pop kind. Judging from her tracks on myspace it's definitely something I'm interested in listening to. Other band members too have something in the pipeline, with bands called Eaglesbush and ChimpanA - with the latter's future a well-kept secret, though I learned that an album had been released back in 2006 and hopefully there's more to come.
So with the end in sight for The Storys, I asked Steve to tell me his most memorable thing about being in the band. "The process. Firstly we were sitting round a table writing a couple of songs, next we're recording them. One of our songs, I Believe In Love, has this big stomp on it that we recorded by stamping on the studio floor. Two years later and we're touring stadiums throughout Europe and that stomp opens up our show, echoing around the stadium walls. As songwriters you want your music to touch people and move people. If you can put money in the bank that helps."
I know that the band are looking forward to playing to their fans for the final time and also performing with former member Dai Smith who left in 2008. The gig will be in Swansea's Grand Theatre on 19th June with a warm-up acoustic gig lined up for the day before at the same venue. I'd advise you to get tickets for the gig... if there are any left! If not then you can check The Storys out on myspace or purchase their album from iTunes or any online music store.
So are these last gigs going to be a happy ever after for The Storys or just an end to another chapter? Only the band can answer that question. For now I will call this period in their lives their Unfinished Symphony - and lads, feel free to steal that name for, hopefully, your fourth album!
8 Mar 2010 - Western Mail (Robin Turner) - New Album To End Final Chapter For The Storys
One of Wales' most admired rock bands will release a new album before they split up this summer, they revealed yesterday.
The Storys have toured with Sir Elton John and Celine Dion and supported the likes of Tom Jones, Van Morrison, Santana and Katie Melua.
Lead singer and former West End star Steve Balsamo said: "This album has come as a big surprise to us. We started work on it last summer then decided to split - so we never thought we'd finish it. However, we listened to the recordings again over the New Year, started trialling new tracks and some real magic started happening."
The working title of the Swansea sextet's third album is Luck. It will have between 10 and 12 new tracks and is being finalised this month at the Sonic-One studios in Llangennech, near Llanelli.
Balsamo added: "It might seem quirky to release an album before going our separate ways, but that's just like us. The new songs are good, they could only be tracks by The Storys and we fully expect them to take on a life of their own once the album's out."
The album will be released on the independent Angel Air label this summer, after previous albums The Storys and Town Beyond The Trees.
Formed in 2003, the Americana-influenced group has built up a large and devoted following around the world.
They found fame by being highly praised by veteran Radio 2 DJ Bob Harris, whose father hails from Pontardawe.
Then Sir Elton John heard the band's first album and signed them up for his British tour.
Luck will be the first Storys album to feature singer-songwriter guitarist Rosalie Deighton, who replaced original member Dai Smith in 2008.
The band's farewell concert will take place at Swansea's Grand Theatre on June 19.
Balsamo said: "We've had a great seven years together and have memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives. However, we all think the time's right to try something new. We all have our own projects to take forward and we're eager to support each other - there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. Our big hometown gig in the summer will be an end to The Storys at this stage but we'll leave the door open to possibly getting back together in future years," he added.
"We thank our fans from the bottom of our hearts for all their support; we look forward to giving them a fantastic final live show."
3 Mar 2010 - Wales Online (Nathan Bevan) - How Wales Helped The Beatles Make It Big
The Beatles' influence still proliferates through the Welsh music scene today, said The Storys' Steve Balsamo.
"We're all massive, massive fans and Andy our bass player has based his entire style on McCartney's - he's his hero," said the Swansea singer and one-time West End star.
"For me, Paul is one of the best pop singers who's ever lived, never mind his song-writing which, of course, is genius. He's often overlooked in the that field, but he's such a fearless performer and that type of person comes around very seldom. If I could attain just half of that quality in what I do I'd die happy."
Balsamo said echoes of Liverpool's finest can be heard in other homegrown artists' work.
"Without a doubt it's there in albums by bands like Super Furry Animals - their singer Gruff [Rhys] is clearly an absolute Beatles nut. You can smell it a mile off," he said. "And, as far as I'm concerned, modern music is all the better for that."
24 Jan 2010 - Wales on Sunday (Rachel Mainwaring) - Storys Come To An End
Sir Elton John's favourite Welsh band The Storys may be splitting up but they plan to go out with a bang in an emotional June 19 farewell gig.
Formed in 2003, they released two albums, played headline gigs and supported Van Morrison, Santana and Katie Melua. Lead singer and former West End star Steve Balsamo said the time had come to call it a day.
"We've had a great six years together and have memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives. However, we all think the time's right to try something new. We all have our own projects to take forward and we're eager to support each other. Our big hometown gig in the summer will be an end to The Storys at this stage but we'll leave the door open to possibly getting back together in future years. We thank our fans from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to a fantastic final live show."
The Storys at Swansea Grand, June 19. Tickets £17.50, on sale now, from 01792 475715.
23 Dec 2009 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Over As Band Members Call It A Day
Popular Swansea band The Storys have left fans shocked by announcing they are to split.
The city sextet, who have supported big names including Elton John, will bow out at an emotional farewell gig in the Grand Theatre next summer. But they have not ruled out a reunion further down the line.
Singer and guitarist Steve Balsamo said: "We've had a great six years together and have memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives. However, we all think the time's right to try something new. We all have our own projects to take forward and we're eager to support each other — there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. Our big hometown gig in the summer will be an end to The Storys at this stage but we'll leave the door open to possibly getting back together in future years."
The Storys were formed in 2003 by Balsamo, Andy Collins (vocals and bass), Dai Smith (vocals and guitar), Alan Thomas (keyboards, mandolin and banjo), Brian Thomas (drums and percussion) and Rob Thompson (vocals and guitar). Smith departed in summer 2008 and was replaced by Rosalie Deighton (vocals and guitar).
They recorded their first album, The Storys, in 2004 and played their first gig before more than 70,000 music fans at the Olympic Torch Concert outside Buckingham Palace. It was soon followed by a support slot with Tom Jones, a busy gigging schedule and singles releases. A second album, Town Beyond the Trees, was released in 2008.
The Storys have supported Elton John, Celine Dione, Van Morrison, Santana and Katie Melua, and appeared in the Jason Statham movie The Bank Job. They have a large and devoted following across Wales, the UK and as far afield as Holland and Germany. The Swansea- based outfit specialise in strong 1970s-style West Coast-influenced songs.
The Storys have been big supporters of worthy causes, including the rebuilding of Neath's fire-destroyed Gwyn Hall, the RNLI, Macmillan Nurses and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Side projects, which will continue, have seen Balsamo work with Deep Purple's Jon Lord and with Rob Thompson in new band Oystermouth, and Alan and Brian Thomas work together as duo Eaglesbush.
Collins, Deighton and Thompson all have solo recording projects on the go. Tickets are now on sale for the farewell concert in Swansea's Grand Theatre on June 19.
"We thank our fans from the bottom of our hearts for all their support," said Balsamo. "We look forward to giving them a fantastic final live show."
24 Jul 2009 - Matt Merritt - The Storys, The Cellars, Eastney
The Storys have visited the Cellars at Eastney a few times before, but this is the first chance Portsmouth audiences have had to check out their new line up. When guitarist/vocalist Dai Smith quit the band last year it left a void in their sound, one that the band chose not to replace like-for-like. Instead they drafted in close friend (and well known folk singer/songwriter) Rosalie Deighton. It's a move that seems to have given the band new life. When The Storys take to the stage I'm shocked to see them open with Cinnamon, one of their most popular songs, but it seems to jumpstart them straight into an energetic and entertaining set. They have a new face but their soaring harmonies and laid back banter between numbers remains much the same. It's a strong set all round, but the highlight for these ears was a haunting rendition of the title track from their second album Town Beyond The Trees, highlighting everything that's good about the band, but centred around lead singer Steve Balsamo's stunning vocals, this was without doubt the peak of a uniformly impressive evenings entertainment!
15 Jul 2009 - - South Wales Evening Post (John Davies) - The Storys, Princess Royal Theatre, Port Talbot
If you like live music, then you will love The Storys. They certainly have the X-Factor when performing on stage and their gig at the Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot was no exception. They dropped straight into the groove with the wistful All We Really Need. This was followed by a flawless ride down the West Coast sound of Long Hard Road.
Every band needs a strong lead vocalist and Steve Balsamo is that for certain. Town Beyond the Trees featured Steve at his wide-ranging best and this song sounds better every time he sings it. But this is a democratic six piece band. Lead guitarist Rob Thompson, bassist Andy Collins and the delightful Rosalie Deighton all demanded attention in their lead solo spots. The whole set was underpinned by seamless four part harmonies reminiscent of the Eagles at their best. The Storys impeccable timing and magnificent musicianship was held together by the awesome drumming of Brian Thomas, and is there a more versatile musician than Alan Thomas? He played guitar, mandolin, harmonica, keyboard and grand piano with equal aplomb. There were some less than convincing live performances at Glastonbury, but every song in this Storys set was a perfectly polished gem. Is it possible to sound better live than on record? The Storys weave a magic spell on stage which makes this happen. Go and see them soon!
Mar 2009 - Big Issue Cymru (Jenny White) - The Storys, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
"This song's called Long Hard Road," says Steve Balsamo. "It's certainly been one." Tonight's big, demographic-defying crowd is proof that six years of gigging and recording is leading somewhere. The band's sound has crystallised into wistful West-Coast romanticism. A landmark number comes early in the set: big-haired bassist Andy Collins sings the refrain Wide Eyed Troubadour and summons the dreamy beauty of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Further influences (The Eagles; Fleetwood Mac) underpin the delicious harmonies that have arrived along with the band's newest member, singer and guitarist Rosalie Deighton.
Lined up along the stage and taking turns in the limelight, The Storys are clearly a democracy, with song-writing duties divided squarely between them. The result is a clutch of chorus-heavy, guitar-led crowd pleasers, including meaty raw rabble rouser Long Way Up, which wins big cheers, and I Believe In Love, the lighter-waver that made Elton John invite the band to support him. One wimpy number backed by a grand piano sounds like an effort to emulate their benefactor but thankfully it's the darker, more complex sounds that dominate. Trouble Deep is a beautifully bleak little piece that blows along like tumbleweed, while a nameless new song invokes Pink Floyd before rising to a crescendo in which Rob Thompson's guitar screams and sighs to rapturous applause. Stay on that road, boys. (4 stars)
28 Feb 2009 - South Wales Echo (Tim Lewis) - Music Venue The Point Announces Its Closure
The Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo said he hoped a backer could be found to save The Point - which still retains many of its 109-year-old architectural features.
"I'm shocked and gutted by the news," said Balsamo, who was due to play a charity gig at the venue in April.
"The Point was the first place we played as a band when we released our debut album and it's one of our favourite venues not just in Wales but in the world. Why not see if we can get all the bands who have ever played there to do some sort of benefit gig and raise money to try to save it? Cardiff cannot afford to lose The Point because it's one of the places that helps to make it unique."
26 Feb 2009 - Llanelli Star - Harmony In The Ranks For Hometown Gig
The Storys welcome another character to the fold, with folk singer Rosalie Deighton joining the line-up in time for their Brangwyn Hall gig tonight.
The Swansea band have added a touch of feminine charm to the line-up with 31-year-old Rosalie, a singer in the Kate Rusby mould who struck up a friendship with the lads after supporting them on some past gigs.
Frontman Steve Balsamo says she is an asset. "She really adds to our sound. She's a fantastic singer and a signed songwriter, and apart from the glamour, her voice brings great harmony."
A gig on home turf is always something to look forward to," he says. "Since the Liberty Stadium gig, we have been touring all over Ireland, Holland and Germany. We are very excited about doing the Brangwyn Hall gig. It's going to be a great night. We've played the Grand Theatre a couple of times, but the Brangwyn Hall is such a prestigious venue, and most of us are from in and around that area. I grew up around the corner, in King Edward Road. It's just one of those milestones."
The gig will also be a chance for fans to hear some new material. "We are in the studio as we speak and we will be showcasing it at the Brangwyn Hall gig. Whatever songs get the biggest clap on the night will be going on the next record."
20 Feb 2009 - Western Mail (Lydia Whitfield) - From Fan To Storys Member
It's been a great week for Welsh musicians with Duffy scooping three awards in the Brits. Swansea band The Storys are male, mostly bearded and Welsh but their newest member - and biggest fan - is anything but. Lydia Whitfield spoke to singer Rosalie Deighton.
"I won them over initially with my apple crumble," laughs singer-songwriter Rosalie Deighton who, as a long-time fan of Swansea band The Storys, recently bagged herself the spot as their new singer.
"When they were recording their second album at Peter Gabriel's studio with producer Jon Kelly, who is a really good friend of mine, I made an apple crumble and gave it to Jon to pass on. They loved it."
Today, rehearsing with three of the five men from the band - singer and guitarist Steve Balsamo, bass player and singer Andy Collins and singer and guitarist Rob Thompson - in Rob's front room because their planned rehearsal venue fell through at the last minute, Rosalie adds: "I don't bake so much now I'm with the band though!"
Born in Holland to an Indonesian mother and British father, Rosalie's family moved to Barnsley, Yorkshire, when she was just eight and though she's now based in West London, she stays here with Rob and his young family whenever she's in Swansea with the band, who formed in 2003.
"The thing is," she says, "I can't just go walking into someone else's kitchen and start baking, can I?"
"You can," Rob quips, before letting her know there's an apple tree in the garden she can help herself to.
With an infectious and ready laugh, 32-year-old Rosalie gives as good as she gets with the joking and banter and her singing and songwriting talents also match the men's. They wind her up about popping to the pub while she chats with me. Because, though she was never much of a drinker before, Rosalie has stepped up her game with the usual rock and roll drinking associated with being in a band. Though, disappointingly for her, she is currently on antibiotics for an infection she picked up during a recent minor operation, so couldn't partake even if she wasn't with me.
"I had a sip of a friend's alcopop at the weekend and it nearly had me on my knees," she giggles. "And I had been doing so well. I used to be able to only drink one glass of wine with dinner, but now, after three tins of Stella, I'm still standing. I'm having a great time."
"I've been such a big fan of The Storys. I first saw them at the 100 Club in London and had a smile from ear to ear the whole night just listening to them. I think it was their harmonies I loved. I grew up listening to music like Emmylou Harris and the Everly Brothers, so loved The Storys."
"Steve and I knew about each other through friends, so I called him and asked if I could come along to promote my new album and invited myself onto their tour. I grew up in a family band, but hadn't heard harmonies like that before. I went on tour with The Storys and they haven't been able to get rid of me since."
Though she mentions it almost as an aside, The Deighton family in fact toured the world playing folk festivals with their eclectic repertoire of bluegrass, country and folk. Rosalie's family - dad Dave, mum Josie, and siblings Maya, Arthur, Kathleen and Angelina - won awards from the American National Public radio station, including Record of the Year in 1988.
"I spent my summer and Easter holidays touring with the family," says Rosalie. "Though they're retired now, Dad makes guitars - he gives me a very good discount. The others have married and had kids and are still in music and my youngest sister is a paediatric nurse - the only one of us with a proper job!"
Rosalie was playing spoons by the time she was four and soon progressed to mandolin and fiddle, touring with the family until she was 19.
"We moved to Barnsley in the middle of the Miners' Strike and were one of very few non-mining families there. We would do little concerts for the families and Mum would cook up a feast for the whole street - they had never seen anything like it.
"I didn't really fit in at school and the careers people would ask what I was going to do. I would say, 'Don't be silly. I'm going to be a rock star!' I was kicked off my music GCSE because they didn't think I would be good enough. I got a record deal with EMI at 19, so that was two fingers up at my music teachers!"
After EMI, Rosalie was signed for four years to Independiente Records, who have represented artists like Travis and Paul Weller, and she was published by Chrysalis, who she is still with, while Echo Records is now her label.
"I'm having such a blast with the boys, though still do solo gigs," she says. "But since joining this band, I take the boys with me, as well as my own band. It gets the ladies in!"
"I toured with Travis and Roxy Music, so am used to being around blokes and get their jokes and their drinking. Without sounding schmalzy, these Storys guys are so nice. I know it's not very rock and roll! I shouldn't really say this, but with men, what you see is usually what you get. Whereas women are a bit more complicated. I feel sorry for men having to go out with us because women are so complex!"
This doesn't seem to be the case for Rosalie herself, whose boyfriend of six months, Greg Hill, works for Siyan, a company designing lighting and stage shows for bands like the Killers, Feeder and Elbow. They met in Germany, where he was designing for a band she was supporting.
"I've never been very girly or into fashion and wear whatever makes me look as slim as possible!" she says. "But when I was touring with The Storys, the two guys I live with called me to say we had to be out of the house by the end of the month, before I got back from touring. They had to move all my stuff into our new house for me and were saying, 'How many pairs of shoes have you got?' I thought I had about four pairs of trainers for my running and a few for wearing out."
"My housemates thought I was crazy with all the shoes I get given on photo shoots, which they had moved for me. I box them and put them away instead of wearing them. There is an Alexander McQueen pair I was given for shooting for my first album, but they're still in the box. I love handbags too and was given a beautiful woven Mulberry one, but it's a bit too nice."
"I'm not keen on shoots or having my photo taken. If I'm playing, it's fine, but otherwise I've always got my mouth open from laughing, because I laugh quite a lot!"
As such a happy, contented person, it's surprising that Rosalie describes her own lyrics as "melancholy and sad". And her source of inspiration is also unexpected.
"I go to Starbucks and listen in on other people's problems, or watch Jeremy Kyle," she says. "The problem is, I then worry during the day about the people on Jeremy Kyle. I worry if they're OK now and it upsets me! Because my lyrics are all about unrequited love and death, The Storys are trying to bring me out of the darkness a bit."
"There's a lot of hanging around on a tour bus or with supporting Van Morrison, for example. We had to be at the venue for 2pm, but weren't on stage until 7pm, so we write."
Rosalie performed her first official gig with The Storys at the Liberty Stadium at the end of June, when they were supporting Elton John. She says: "That was a weird one. The Storys' singer Dai Smith had to take a bit of time off and I stepped in. There were 26,000 in the audience, which was just surreal. So it only all started coming back to me in snippets afterwards."
While she enjoys being in Swansea songwriting with the boys, she initially had problems understanding the Swansea accent.
"Our tour manager Lawrence and Andy would be chatting and to begin with, I was trying to lip read but when I would go back to London I apparently had a slight Swansea twang.
"The new songs we've been working on are brilliant - the best thing ever, obviously! It's very Fleetwood Mac. Harmonies are definitely back. We were sat here yesterday singing harmonies, and I'm looking at the guys and they're looking here, thinking, 'This sounds great.' I'm still a fan at the end of the day, so am sat here saying, 'That was amazing.' I'm not very cool."
"Greg tells me I'm the uncoolest person in the world. Steve was doing this thing with Ginger Baker and asked if I wanted to go along. I thought it was a gig but got there and it was a nerd fest for drummers with half-hour solos. I was the only girl there and was bored out of my mind."
"I could hear this guy talking to Charlie Watts and recognised the voice, but couldn't think who it was. It was Simon King, one of the Hairy Bikers, and Steve told him I make a better apple crumble than he does. We're having a bit of an apple crumble face-off!"
"I would like to master how to make Battenberg cake. That's my favourite. I was in bed by 9.30pm last night watching a Woody Allen film then dreaming of Battenberg. Very rock and roll!"
Rosalie insists she has a very healthy appetite and her constant food references confirm this. "I'm a big eater so run six miles every day," she says. "I enjoy the running, because it's my chance to have 45 minutes on my own, figuring things out. I don't even run with music. When you're on a tour bus 24/7, though I'm lucky to have my own room with this band, it's a good time to have to myself. And the running is good so I can enjoy my food."
When on tour, Rosalie's rider has now switched from carrots, apples, ginger and a bit of meat to the boys' rider of wine and Stella.
"And," confides Rosalie, "I'm quite partial to a slice of pork pie! I love cooking lots of Indonesian food and Greg cooks lots of Thai food. He came round in the early days and cooked an amazing dish and couldn't believe how much I ate! He makes great cocktails too."
"I was supposed to go to the Folk Awards earlier this month, when we had snow in London. I couldn't get out of the drive at Greg's so we spent the day making snowmen and cocktails. Dad phoned later to ask how James Taylor had been. I couldn't believe it! I would have walked 20 miles in the snow if I had known he was going to be at the awards."
Asked how each member fits into her new band, Rosalie says: "Al is the biggest drinker in the band, definitely. He's some kind of God or Zen-like figure with beer. And Rob is very dark. He's a quiet thinker, or likes to think he is, at least!"
"Andy is just bonkers and Steve is eccentric in his own little way as well as being the woman magnet and heartthrob. Al and Brian keep themselves to themselves really. They're the wise owls."
"My housemate says to me, 'You are the luckiest, jammiest ****** ever. You've got two record deals and joined your favourite band ever.' I guess I am lucky."
31 Jan 2009 - South Wales Evening Post (Geraint Thomas) - West Is Best For Storys' Sound
Forget Abbey Road - Swansea band The Storys have chosen a little-known Llanelli studio to cut their new album.
The six-piece outfit have decamped to the Sonic One Studio in Llangennech for their first stab at laying down material for their third album.
The band was formed in 2003, with Steve Balsamo at the helm, playing a '70s West Coast-influenced country rock style.
They have quietly built up a large fan base, which includes some major stars with Elton John personally calling the band to say how much he loved their debut album. The move saw them support the rocket man at his Liberty Stadium gig last summer.
They have recently returned from touring Europe and headed straight into the studio owned by Tim Hamill, himself a musician of note as part of Mal Pope's band the Jacks.
Steve said: "I've known Tim for almost 20 years, he used to have a studio in Kidwelly, but opened this place in 2005. It's a superb set-up and Tim is a great engineer, producer and a great guitarist. It's very inspiring when you work with someone as fantastic as he is. The ideas just flow and he is so quick to put them down, it makes it an absolute joy - sometimes it can be like pulling teeth when you work with people who don't know what they are doing. I have been all around the world and Tim is as good as anyone I've seen. It's also nice to keep it local."
Although a completion date has yet to be set, the band are likely to try out some of their new material in a special concert in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea on Feb 26.
"We will be showcasing it at the Brangwyn Hall gig - whatever songs get the biggest clap on the night will be going on the next record," the singer joked.
The Swansea gig will give the band's fan base a chance to meet the newest member, who, as Steve says, adds a touch of glamour to the line-up.
"Unfortunately Dai Smith left the band last year, but has been replaced by a fantastic singer songwriter called Rosalie Deighton who has toured as a support act with the band over the last couple of tours," he said. "She really adds to our sound, she's a fantastic singer and a signed songwriter. Apart from the glamour, her fantastic voice brings great harmony. She really enhances the Storys."
Dec 2008 - Maverick Magazine (Laura Bethell) - The Storys
Following the release of Town Beyond The Trees in March of this year, The Storys have continued to go from strength to strength and ultimately shape their career as a long-standing Americana/country-rock band on the UK country music scene. A tricky start regarding the band's beginnings has meant they hae all been ready for unhappy endings and tough times ahead, as Steve Balsamo explains: "We started as songwriters trying to write the best songs we could. We soon had a load of good tunes and Dai and Rob set about producing what became our debut album in an old converted cinema in the Welsh valleys. It sounded great so we borrowed money from local gangsters and set up a label. We released the album and got some lovely reviews. A label in Warners signed it and put some money into the project, which allowed us to tour overseas. We sold quite a few records, and Warners wanted us to make a second album. We went into Real World with Jon Kelly and made the album in 5 weeks, during which time everyone at our label was sacked and the label shut down! A great fan of the band and head of the label, Nick Stewart saved the day, by getting the album back for us. So here we are at the beginning of the journey again!"
From Swansea, the original six-piece band recently suffered a massive blow, when after five years with the band, Dai Smith on vocals and guitar decided to quite The Storys for his own musical endeavours. Announced officially on the website on September 9, Steve Balsamo said: "It's great news that Dai says he is feeling better, but unfortunate and sad that he decided to leave the band last Thursday. We all remain good friends and wish him the best of luck with all his musical endeavours, and of course wish him health and happiness. Steve, on behalf of the band." Obviously a shock for the band and coming at a really bad time, considering the folloiwng night they had a gig supporting Van Morrison, you cannot choose the time for something so cataclysmic, and as it is they are continuing forward with their many upcoming dates and projects.
The band now stays as a five piece for the time being, consisting of Steve Balsamo on vocals and guitars, Andy Collins on vocals and bass, Rob Thompson on guitars and vocals, Brian Thomas on drums and percussion and Alan Thomas on keys, mandolin and banjo. Their style is often described as '70s west-coast influenced sound', but encapsulates deeply organic influential acoustics, crafted with passion, harmony and a masculine rush of adrenaline and compassion that ultimately shines through. With a sound that encompasses the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the songwriting skills and talents that are now offered by three of the five members, the outcome is something quite extraordinary.
Talking with Steve and Rob, a while before the announcement on Dai's departure from The Storys, I was brimming with an excitement that came from this band's enormous entry onto the scene, with an album and sound fresh and captivating, that has created quite a stir. Having played shows in support of Elton John, Santana, Celine Dion, Van Morrison and Sinead O'Connor, they were certainly proving their worth, not only on the UK music scene, but the European scene also, travelling Germany, Holland and Belgium.
When asked how easy it was to keep a six-piece band on the road, Rob answers: "I think the main reason that we have been able to keep this six-piece band on the road financially is that we have a very long term view on what we are doing. Nobody has ever expected massive overnight success or wealth, but we do have huge confidence in our songs and our ability to play them in whatever situation that we may find ourselves in. When you have a lot of people on the road, you need to identify quickly where the money is wasted and try to find solutions, i.e. don't rent a van, buy it with a loan, don't stay at fancy hotels (you're probalby only going to spend six hours in the place if you're lucky)."
Steve adds: "We've played lots of venues big and small around the country and Europe, so we've started to amass a lovely loyal fan base. We are now starting to move up to bigger venues, and therefore the margin to make a little more money is in sight, and will allow us to keep on keeping on, as they say. We've always worked on the ethos that we will do it the old-fashioned way, and play live as much as we can." This is an ode to their success - as a band playing together since spring 2003, they have had much experience now of distributing the costs accordingly and making it financially viable to take such a large band to every gig. However, as mentioned, they have not always played larger venues, and are still not above playing the smaller venues or something independent like the Maverick Festival. With regards to their session at the festival, posted on their discussion forum by The Storys was the following note: "What a great festival it was. Rob got to meet his hero, Mark Olson, who played a blinding set. I discovered some very special artists. William Topping, formerly of the Blessing, an old fave of mine, was there. He was GREAT... what a voice! Long may the festival continue..."
Gigging has been a long running success story for The Storys and in fact they performed for many years before even small successes finally started knocking on their door. In February of this year, nearing the release of the second album, the news arrived that they were appearing in the film the Bank Job as themselves, and that they'd be recording two of their songs for the film and one cover. This was fantastic news for a band who were championing the country music scene throughout the UK and really needed a break. But how did it come about? "When we started gigging, we used to come up to London from Swansea in a little van with no windows in the back and play four songs, for no money at the Bedford in Balham. After a couple of years of doing this we were saying to ourselves: 'we can't go on like this, what are we achieving apart from going broke'. Then we got the call from a girl who had seen us playing there several times and she had just got the job of placing music into the film. Within two days of the call, we were on set and acting in the film. We were lucky enough to get two of our own compositions in the wedding scene and recorded a cover for the end credits!" says Rob. This just shows their affect on the audience - having been championed by many of Maverick's dedicated readers continuously, they really have caused a stir amongst country music listeners. They have created quite a tight knit network of hugely dedicated individuals and fans, whom consistently watch out for the band and personality wise - they are certainly all very much liked and enjoyed by the general public.
Elton John has played a major part in their successes, having them support him on two of his European tours. Not only has this opened their music to a huge dedicated fan base, but has also offered them major artist backing and support, and Elton since has been seen as an advocate of their success. "Elton is a great supporter of new music. He heard our debut. The Storys, and called me at home in Swansea from Vegas and said he loved the album and how much it reminded him of his sound back in the 70s. He said it was a bold record to make in this day and age, and to keep on going as he thought it would break through to a big worldwide market. He then invited us to tour around the football stadiums of Europe with him. Twice! It was amazing. It was like going to school really. He rocks. All his band and crew were lovely, and unless you've seen how much work goes into putting on a show of that size, you can't imagine it. We love and respect him even more after experiencing how cool the guy is. And he knows a thing or three about writing a tune!" says Steve.
So overall, how would they describe the album and their sound? Well taking their influences into account, you can expect much of the following... "I am a big country fan. I love everything from Jimmie Rodgers, Jim Reeves to Vince Gill, and the more pop side of country to the altcountry of Ryan Adams and Steve Earle. The others have such an eclectic mix of influences; Andy loves Neil Young for example and Roy the Jayhawks and Wilco. What we've done with our album is to make something that we love. It has come out as a contemporary country record I suppose. There are Steve Earle moments on the title track, Town Beyond The Trees, as it's a song about a guy on death row writing a letter to his unborn child. There are Eagles moments, and Byrds moments and a little Tom Petty moment. People we love and respect for their writing and the sound of their records. Jon Kelly has produced a very American sounding record, with a quirky British tinge I think."
"I personally like being branded a country band, but I think that my view of what is country is a little open. I think that our sound on the new album has all the country ingredients but with some twists - distorted guitars, a more rock drum sound, unexpected lyrical ideas at times and some bold string arrangemetns more like you might expect from Pink Floyd," concludes Rob.
Although this band has had to deal with a lot of rough and tumble times, they will alwyas pull through and are at the epicentre of longevity. This effectively comes from the sound of their music, relating so closely to the Eagles in both vocal and lyrical content - they will definitely be on the circuit for years to come. Although the departure of Dai, one of the leading members of the band, has inevitably affected its other members, their determination and willpower has already begun to unfold. In fact a note on their site confirms plans for a live album and they are determined to continue to let their musical adventures unfurl. One of the most promising country bands to emerge from the UK music scene, The Storys will have you melting in the palm of their hands after just one song.
9 Sep 2008 - softarchive.net
The Swansea six-piece comprise of no less than four singer/song-writers, adding much versatility to their melodic brand of Americana and drawing comparisons to The Eagles, The Byrds and The Burrito Brothers. Mixing the country rock harmonies of The Eagles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young with the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin and the West coast pop of The Byrds and The Burrito Brothers, The Storys have already won many fans - including Elton John, with whom they played at Swansea Liberty Stadium on 29 June. It sounds like Swansea band The Storys have done some soul searching on this their second album.
Following on from the success of their 2006 debut, they re-emerge with 10 very polished, radio-friendly songs on Town Beyond The Trees. Opening track, Long Hard Road, sets the scene with Steve Balsamo's contemplative, philosophical lyrics and those now trademark, soft Eagles-esque vocal harmonies. Best displayed in the tender title track The Storys now have some tales to tell.
9 Sep 2008 - Your Canterbury (Jane Connolly) - Tia McGraff Concert
Why Zebra Mavericks all have the X Factor - I watched The X Factor on Saturday night and saw Simon Cowell getting excited over a very loud Whitney Houston-alike. If that's his definition of mind-blowing talent, he would have popped his high waistband if he'd been at the Zebra Bar last night. Each and every performer had more talent in their right eyebrow than most of the wannabes that stampede into convention centres every summer, in the hope of winning five minutes of fame. The latest Maverick showcase was opened by Canadian singer/songwriter Tia McGraff, in the company of her guitarist husband Tommy and two members of rising Welsh band The Storys. To begin with her voice seemed fairly average, but it soon turned out she was hiding her light under a bushel.
As the set progressed she gradually showed off her extraordinary range and power, switching from the crystal clarity of the bluegrass hills to the gravelly rasp of the Mississippi sound with apparent ease. The Storys are by no means unknown, having been championed by Elton John and recently supported Van Morrison. But I had not heard them before and I will definitely be seeking out their album. Steve Balsamo on vocals and guitar displayed a stunning voice, while Rob Thompson quietly worked magic on the electric guitar. Their rich and thoughtful tunes, particularly the haunting Town Beyond The Trees, will stay with me for a long time.
7 Sep 2008 - The Times - Why Are British Bands Embracing Alt Country?
Steve Balsamo, front man with the Storys - a Swansea band who have updated the harmonically layered California dreaminess of the Eagles - doesn't deny the influence, or the geographical incongruity. "We did take cues from the Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Fleetwood Mac," he says. "There's a romantic idea about America, always has been. It's so vast, any band wants to go there, get in a van and drive across it. If you talk about Oklahoma or Tulsa, it's going to be more romantic than Swansea or Cardiff, unfortunately."
The full article can be found online at: www.timesonline.co.uk
2 Sep 2008 - South Wales Evening Post (John Davies) - The Storys, Glan Yr Afon Theatre, Neath
Not since the days of Pete Ham and Badfinger has Swansea seen the likes of such a brilliant singer/songwriter as Steve Balsamo. But Steve is only the icing on the cake of a talented set of musicians and singers called The Storys. It seems inevitable that they should be compared to The Eagles. Their acoustic-based sound has strong melodies, rich harmonies and intense lyrics which tell stories. I was privileged to be at the Glan Yr Afon Theatre in Neath College to witness a flawless performance from this superb six piece band. In such a small venue, it would have been tempting to reduce standards. This did not happen. This was a performance worthy of the Royal Variety Show. The musicianship was top notch, the harmonies spot on and in Steve Balsamo they have a first class front man. There was harmony between the band members as well with plenty of playful banter. Some fans were disappointed to hear that Dai Smith, who's contribution was considerable, has left the band. They needn't worry. His replacement, Rosalie Deighton, was simply superb. Check her out on Myspace, she is an excellent singer/songwriter in her own right. On a night of superlatives, it was difficult to pick out the best song. Andy's switch from bass to acoustic guitar with Neil Young-ish vocals was notable. Rosalie's solo spot was super and the range of Steve's voice on Town Beyond the Trees was absolutely amazing. In a tight and professional performance it would be unfair to leave anyone out. Rob was a revelation on lead guitar. Alan was ace on keyboard and acoustic guitar and Brian was brilliant on drums. Afterwards, the six were cheerful and charming as they autographed CDs for their adoring fans. No wonder they're Elton John's favourite band.
Sep 2008 - Swansea Life (Wyn Jenkins) - Steve Balsamo's Road Less Travelled
Swansea's Steve Balsamo, now lead singer of The Storys, turned his back on West End fame to pursue his dream of securing a record contract and making albums. But in a rapidly changing music business he still finds himself on the road less travelled.
Steve Balsamo is drinking coffee in the Swansea Life Offices on Adelaide Street. He has just finished describing the trials and tribulations of having a young daughter (now three) and is commenting on the somewhat patchy and somewhat contradictory information available online documenting his career to date. The idea that complete strangers devote time and energy to writing about his work and covering his life is still a strange one to Balsamo. In spite of everything he has achieved he remains humble and self-deprecating when it comes to the baggage that accompanies success and fame.
But then Balsamo is no ordinary musician. This is obvious from the very varied responses you get from people when you ask if they have heard of him. Some, it is fair to say, have not. Others will suggest: "Isn't he the singer with that band that supported Elton John recently?" Others will recall: "Wasn't he in one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows? The one to do with Jesus Christ?"
The would both be correct. Right now, Steve Balsamo is the front man and driving force behind The Storys, the increasingly successful Swansea rock band whose influences include The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Badfinger. Now on to their second album, success has far from come overnight. They are, however, steadily getting there. And supporting Elton John on his recent tour, which included a gig at the Liberty Stadium, was also a massive step forward for the band.
Steve personally took the call that led to getting that gig, "I answered my phone and a voice just said: 'Hi, it's Elton John here, I love your sound!' He then asked me what the first single from the new album was and started singing it down the phone at me. At that point my mind was just blown apart!"
The Storys' recent success actually represents a kind of second coming for Balsamo. His first forays into the music business also ended in success, of a nature most performers would give their right leg for. But being hand-picked by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber for a lead in a West End musical wasn't ultimately what Balsamo wanted; it wasn't him.
Steve Balsamo was no childhood entertainer. He was 17 when he first joined a band in Swansea and realised he could sing, but that initial brush with live performance was quickly to influence his life choices. He quit Art College in Swansea and aspirations of being a designer for a performing arts course in Neath College.
That led to his first break of sorts within months. He secured a part in a travelling production of Les Miserables following an audition in London. But he was not necessarily prepared for the life of a theatrical company of that nature, especially being so young and with so little experience of the industry.
"I went for an audition and, a couple of weeks later, I was performing live in Ireland." he says. "But I was only in my early 20s. I was more pints than tights to be honest and it was a big culture shock - the psychology of the whole thing was just bizarre. It was like a big dysfunctional family I was stuck with all the time. It wasn't my thing at all. That said, I learned a lot: performing eight times a week gives you tremendous discipline."
That discipline was to come in handy sooner than Steve could have realised. Back in Swansea, he continued performing and "teaching himself the art of songwriting" with a band called Crystal Eyes. Through that, he ended up participating in a week-long course for aspiring musicians organised by the Prince's Trust.
The course came at a time of self doubt for Balsamo but would prove to be a pivotal moment in his life. "It just put a framework around music for me and allowed me to immerse myself in it for a while. I had been close to quitting but it tipped the balance and changed my mind about what I wanted to do."
Crucially, it persuaded him to continue pursuing his musical ambitions both through the band and through auditions in London. But he could not have imagined that success would be realised on both sides of his career so quickly and almost simultaneously.
His dream break from a personal point of view came in the form of landing the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Meanwhile, in recognition of his success and the band's time with the Prince's Trust, Crystal Eyes was also chosen to perform at the Masters of Music concert, a massive gig in Hyde Park, where they performed alongside the likes of The Who, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Alanis Morissette.
"It was a surreal time," Balsamo admits. "Getting the Superstar part was a shock to me because I was a big leap of faith on the part of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I had no experience and simply learned what to do and what not to do on the job. It was a hell of an experience."
The Hyde Park gig coming on top of that made the whole thing more unbelievable again. "I remember seeing a photograph in Hello magazine of Prince Charles with all these huge stars and you can see me in the middle looking like Forrest Gump!"
Balsamo took his chance in the West End, his performance receiving rave reviews and the production going from strength to strength. His three and a half octave voice (a remarkable range for a man) famously reduced Lloyd Webber to tears during one performance.
He had the West End at his feet at this stage in his career. Lloyd Webber wanted him to stay on and the offers were pouring in from elsewhere. He had a ready-made career ahead of him and could probably have retired a rich man. But he had not forgotten his original dream: securing a recording contract and making albums.
He admits it was a tough decision and, although the door is not closed forever, believes he has been true to himself.
His success on the stage also meant he was hot property in the eyes of record labels and he secured a record contract with Sony, fulfilling a long-term dream in the process.
He recorded his first album - All I Am - but his big break also coincided with the start of a major restructuring at Sony, something reflected in the wider music industry. He was dropped shortly after the album was released.
Steve's new venture, The Storys, comprises Balsamo, Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas, The Storys sound and inspiration were there immediately. "We started playing together and the harmonies were there right away," says Balsamo.
He adds that the name reflects the sort of things the band writes about. "We all have our own story and some of us can get stuck in it," he says. "The idea is that our albums also represent many interlinking stories. Many of them are also about characters from Swansea."<>The Storys ended up following what is an increasingly popular route for bands and managed to secure funding from a consortium of local businessmen to fund the band's first album. "We call them the gangsters," jokes Balsamo.
The deal worked. The album was released and its initial success caught the attention of a major label, Korova/Warners. They promoted the album, during which time the band first caught the attention of Elton John. Ultimately, that led to them supporting him on his 2006 UK tour and again on his 2007 arena tour of the UK and Europe.
The band has not had much luck with record labels, however, and Korova/Warners collapsed, just as the band was finishing their second album: Town Beyond The Trees. Some good came out of this, however. The label choose to hand over ownership of the nearly completed album to the band and renowned producer Jon Kelly, who has worked with the likes of Kate Bush, The Beautiful South and Paul McCartney, agreed to stay on and finish it.
The band ended up releasing the album in March this year, on their own Hall Recordings record label. And, thanks to the collapse of their former label, they now also own it 100%. To put the significance of this in context, they now earn 50% from each album sale (the retailer taking the majority of the rest) compared with closer to the 12% bands receive when signed to a big label.
Balsamo likes this arrangement for lots of reasons. "A few years before, that would have been that when the label went under. But they simply gave us the album! It means we are in control of what we do now and that is good," he says.
The Storys are now pursuing a musical path more familiar to bands who made it in the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than having a big backer promoting the sale of albums and pushing the band forward, The Storys are reliant upon their own marketing and the profile they generate as a result of constant gigging and tours.
They have an established relationship with an events company called Marshall Arts, which manages their live performances across the UK and Europe. In parts of Europe they are very popular. "In Germany and Holland, we are on the radio all the time," Balsamo says.
"The UK is a tougher market to crack in some ways because it is so trend-driven and tuned into popular culture. But within that there are pockets where we are very popular. There is Wales, but also Scotland and parts of Ireland and England. Some places just get our music better than others. We keep touring and each time we go back to some towns the crowd is bigger. It is very much the way bands did things in the 1970s."
The Storys have not yet hit the big time in a traditional sense: having a top 10 single, for example, or through major TV appearances. But Balsamo believes the very definition of success is being redefined in what is a rapidly changing music industry.
"The business has fragmented so much now. The old rules are changing and no-one knows where this industry is going. Big marketing budgets do not necessarily work now. Damien Rice did it from his bedroom. Radiohead released their last album for free. The old model is dead and it is becoming much more of a live oriented model again. It is hard to make money from selling records but it is also an incredibly exciting time for music. Anything can happen. There is far more room for niche markets and the level of creativity around is higher than it has been for a long time."
He adds that, despite not having yet made headlines in the traditional sense, many of The Storys' peers regard the band as a huge success. "What is success in this industry now?" he asks. "Selling 10,000 albums? We have done that. Selling 20,000 albums? We have done that as well. We may not have made heaps of money but we have done some massive gigs with the likes of Elton John, Katie Melua and Joe Cocker. And on top of that, we remain in control of our music and our destiny."
This puts The Storys in a unique position going forward. They are in control of their future now in a way few bands ever expect to be. It may not have been by choice but it has been for the betterment of the band.
"We want it to be about music and the band," says Balsamo. "But hard experience has forced us to learn the business side of this industry from scratch. We have had to see what we do as a company and learn everything that goes with that. I don't want to have to be doing accounts and worrying about that stuff but it is a necessity now. We all have a pretty good understanding of it now. Modern musicians have to."
For Steve Balsamo, it has very much been worth it. Despite his own remarkable personal successes and career milestones, he admits he still gets starstruck. He was tongue-tied when he first met Elton John and recalls standing next to Robert Plant at a bar once, "Plant turned to me and said: 'I love your music man'. To me that is everything," says Balsamo. "What more could you want?"
Being Proud of Welsh Talent
Steve Balsamo is frustrated that the remarkable breadth of talent in South Wales is not recognised and appreciated nationally or even locally.
"The amount of talent that has come out of this very small region is just incredible," says Steve Balsamo. "Yet people outside Wales don't necessarily know that the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Catherine Zeta-Jones are from here, and people inside Wales do not always understand just what a rich seam of talent is on the doorstep. It is remarkable for such a tiny speck on the map."
Balsamo describes his frustration at the fact that Welsh talent, in his opinion, is not being given the recognition it deserves outside Wales but also, more worryingly, inside the country.
He notes that for the Welsh to take a talent seriously, they generally have to be successful on a national or international stage first. Contrast this situation with Ireland, where a vibrant and self-confident music industry can allow musicians to flourish and, crucially, make a living in their own country.
That is not possible in Wales and there are several reasons, he argues. One is a lack of confidence in how good we are and an unwillingness to shout about it. Second, he believes the existence of the Welsh language can limit the opportunities available to English language bands and vice versa.
"A frustration to me in Wales is the divide between Welsh and English speaking music," he says. "The two scenes are completely separate and each is weaker for it as a result. I firmly believe they should work together. it is fantastic having the language but it should unite, not divide us. I would like to see a Welsh music festival, for example, where both genres were on show."
"You have to make a stronghold in your own country in terms of the arts and advance from there. People are not willing to embrace our own talent enough in Wales and that needs to change. We have no problem telling people how good we are or about all the good things in Wales. So many bands from South Wales have never reached their true potential. I want to avoid that with The Storys."
Aug 2008 - Swansea Life (Ruth Thomas) - Elton John Rocks Swansea
8 Jul 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys To Support Santana
Rockers The Storys hope to win over more fans after getting another high-profile support slot with a top name artist.
The Swansea six-piece will be sharing the stage with rock legend Carlos Santana during the Mexican guitarist's tour of Switzerland later this month.
It marks a productive past few weeks for the band. Earlier this month they played to 25,000 music fans at Elton John's Liberty Stadium gig, and sales of their album in Holland went through the roof after supporting Celine Dion in Amsterdam.
Frontman Steve Balsamo said: "It's an exciting time for the band. The Carlos Santana support slot is going to be amazing - we're all big fans of his."
2 Jul 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Play For Church Repairs
Church leaders have been singing the praises of Swansea band The Storys for helping them raise thousands of pounds. The group, who supported Elton John at his Liberty Stadium extravaganza, were among local stars who agreed to perform in aid of St Barnabas's Church in Waunarlwydd.
And it really was a case of love thy neighbour, as the charity concert was organised by St Peter's Church in nearby Cockett.
Earlier this year, St Barnabas's launched an appeal to raise more than GBP 75,000 to repair and restore the church and church hall. Members of St Peter's Church were aware of the appeal - and warden Norman Hathaway decided to play his part. Mr Hathaway enlisted the help of West End star and Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo, who in turn arranged for an array of his friends to perform for free of charge.
A capacity audience packed St Peter's for a concert featuring The Storys, Mal Pope, Lorraine King, Mark Rueberry, Scotty, Phil James, Karl Morgan and Petra Morgan, and Kevin Johns acting as compere. It resulted in More than GBP 3,000 being was raised for the cause. Rev Davies described it as an act of Christian kindness.
30 Jun 2008 - South Wales Evening Post (Emma Jones) - Rocket Man Elton John At Full Power For Swansea Date
A Record crowd rocked the Liberty Stadium last night as Sir Elton John blasted out an explosive two-and-a-half hour repertoire of his greatest hits.
Around 25,000 fans packed the stadium to hear the Rocket Man and his band belt out countless classics from a catalogue spanning the past four decades.
Support acts Richard Fleeshman - of Coronation Street fame - and Swansea band The Storys warmed up the masses ahead of Sir Elton's spectacle of old and new favourites.
The Storys' lead singer Steve Balsamo told the audience: "It's an absolute dream come true to be performing at the Liberty Stadium alongside Elton John."
And then the pop world's most flamboyant star took to the stage in what was a breathtaking performance - his first in Swansea and his only Welsh tour date this year.
2 Jun 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys' Titanic Gig Support
Swansea rockers The Storys were today sharing a stage with singing superstar Celine Dion in Amsterdam. The Swansea-based six-piece will be playing to 40,000 fans of the world's best-selling female artist in one of Europe's top venues, the Amsterdam Arena.
The hard-working band, will be making the dash north from Monte Carlo where they have been playing the last five nights. "This is a huge thrill for us," said lead singer Steve Balsamo. "Celine's one of the world's top stars, has an incredible global record, and we're all in awe of her astounding voice. The arena will be packed out and our set will give us a great chance to go direct to the Dutch who are really loving us at the moment. Monte Carlo's been fantastic. We got a brilliant reception in one of the most iconic locations. And the Amsterdam gig will be awesome."
The band's second album, Town Beyond The Trees, was released this year to critical acclaim. It has gained particular favour in Holland.
On June 29 they will be performing on home soil, supporting Elton John at Swansea's Liberty Stadium. On July 10 The Storys support Santana in Locarno, Switzerland, from July 15 to 19 they support Runrig in Germany and on August 3 they feature with Sinead O'Connor at Belgium's Lokerse Feesten.
Jun 2008 - Classic Rock - The Storys - Swansea's Answer To The Eagles
May 2008 - Classic Rock Magazine (Sian Llewellyn)
Swansea's answer to The Eagles. In their short lifespan, The Storys are always namechecked along with the cream of 60's west coast rock. And for very good reason. On this, their second album, the Welsh quartet continue with a set of polished, acoustic guitar heavy, incredibly catchy songs liberally doused with three-part harmonies. Despite the Californian comparisons, on opener Long Hard Road vocalist Steve Balsamo sounds eerily like John Waite, while It's All We Really Need has echoes of an older, wiser, 2008 version of the latter's Missing You. If you're a sucker for a ballad, the title track is for you. It's guitar refrain sits somewhere between The Beatles' Dear Prudence and the opening of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, and is both delicate and hypnotic - a lullaby from the point of view of an absent father. Town Beyond The Trees might not break any new sonic boundaries, but if you liked The Storys' debut album, you'll like this one even more. (7/10)
Apr 2008 - Motorbar.co.uk - The Storys
Following on from the successful release of their new album Town Beyond The Trees on their own label - Hall - The Storys take their classic style of West Coast rock around Europe starting, on 1 May, in Britain...
The Storys hit the road following stand-out live performances at legendary venues King Tuts, 100 Club and, not forgetting, an impromptu gig at the Glasgow Odeon screening of new British blockbuster The Bank Job, a film in which they feature.
The Swansea six-piece comprise of no less than four singer/song-writers, adding much versatility to their melodic brand of Americana and drawing comparisons to The Eagles, The Byrds and The Burrito Brothers.
"Balsamo has a truly spellbinding voice and The Storys' melodic mandolin-backed ballads and jaunty rockers should spark some serious interest" - The Times
"It's the attention to detail that marks The Storys out. Road tested and tight as a bear hug they are cresting a creative peak" - Rock 'n' Reel
"The Storys proved to have terrific personalities and they shine at their live performances" - MotorBar
The Storys visit Monte Carlo, Munich, Hamburg and Dublin on their tour, during which time they take to the stage in their hometown Swansea to support Elton John, on 29th June. With this Euro jaunt, The Storys will surely continue to gain even more plaudits for their brilliant live act.
At The Storys' recent showcase to the Media at the BBC Club in London (March, 2008), MotorBar had the opportunity to listen to the band live - and it was an amazing experience...
Having already reviewed Town Beyond The Trees, an exceptional album with the title track of particular merit, we knew what to expect. They're great musicians and singers and sound fantastic on the album tracks. But live performances can be, if you'll forgive the pun, a different story.
A band performing live is opened up. They are exposed as individuals; not just performers. The Storys proved to have terrific personalities and they shine at their live performances. They interact visibly with each other and with their audience; they are professional, very natural and really do look as if they are enjoying themselves. They are as good to watch as they are to listen to and the rapport between the six musicians who make up The Storys is remarkable.
Lead vocalist Steve Balsamo, told MotorBar: "What you see is what you get. We go back a long way and we get on well. We couldn't work together as closely as we do - on stage and writing songs - if we didn't have that bond."
There is an element of the Seventies about The Storys so it wasn't surprising that when a band from that era was needed for the film The Bank Job - the current Number One box office smash starring Jason Statham - The Storys were invited to take part.
By sheer chance, while in Glasgow for a gig at the legendary King Tuts and staying at the Paisley Road Travel Lodge, The Storys' bassist Andy Collins slipped out for a drink and noticed that the Odeon on Springfield Quay was showing The Bank Job.
Steve explains: "Andy popped in and got chatting with the manager. The conversation turned to the film and the fact that the band were in it - and as a result we set up in the foyer between shows and played six or seven acoustic numbers, with just a vocal PA. We played to one audience coming out and another coming in, so we ended up with quite a crowd. They were lovely people and really enjoyed it. Some of them came to the gig the next day too."
The set included tracks from the film, including I Believe In Love as well as tracks from the band's new album Town Beyond The Trees, which is released on 31 March (2008).
Mixing the country rock harmonies of The Eagles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young with the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin and the West coast pop of The Byrds and The Burrito Brothers, The Storys have already won many fans - including Elton John, with whom they play at Swansea Liberty Stadium on 29 June (2008).
A big band with melodies and vocal harmonies to match, The Storys are: Steve Balsamo (vocals/guitar); Andy Collins (vocals/bass); Dai Smith (vocals/guitar); Rob Thompson (vocals/guitar); Brian Thomas (drums/percussion) and Alan Thomas (keys/mandolin/banjo). Great guys! Great songs!
4 Apr 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Band Help Rock Coffers For Bay Lifeboat Crew
Rising rockers The Storys kick-started the launch of their new album with a special acoustic gig - and helped a lifeboat service in the process. The Swansea six-piece showcased songs at an intimate concert in Mumbles, which was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.
And rather than pocket the cash from the gig, singer Steve Balsamo said the GBP 1,395 would be handed to Mumbles RNLI.
"All six of us are rooted in Swansea Bay. We love the sea, but are also aware how dangerous it can be," he said.
The gig took place at the Ostreme Centre, Newton Road, on Monday. The Storys played stripped-down versions of songs from their latest album Town Beyond The Trees.
Lifeboat crew secretary Garry Tanner was in the crowd. He said: "It was great of the band to think of RNLI volunteers at Mumbles. This gig means a hell of a lot to us."
4 Apr 2008 - Western Mail
It sounds like Swansea band The Storys have done some soul searching on this their second album. Following on from the success of their 2006 debut and high-profile tour support slots with Sir Elton John, they re-emerge with 10 very polished, radio-friendly songs on Town Beyond The Trees. Opening track, Long Hard Road, sets the scene with Steve Balsamo's contemplative, philosophical lyrics and those now trademark, soft Eagles-esque vocal harmonies. Best displayed in the tender title track The Storys now have some tales to tell. Standout Tracks: Long Hard Road, Town Beyond The Trees. (3/5)
4 Apr 2008 - Scottish Daily Record (John Dingwall)
Album Of The Week - The Storys boast a West Coast US sound that has drawn comparisons with The Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash & Young and The Jayhawks. (5 stars)
4 Apr 2008 - Western Mail (Steffan Rhys) - Life With The Storys
The profile of Welsh band The Storys went into orbit after they supported Sir Elton John on his world tour. As they release their second album, Steffan Rhys catches up with lead singer Steve Balsamo who insists their lifestyle is still far from rock 'n' roll.
If The Storys were to pick a soundtrack for the pace of their lives right now, it certainly wouldn't be the mellow 1970s West Coast Americana for which they are swiftly gaining recognition. The momentum of the Swansea sextet is snowballing, having released their second album to great acclaim this week and appearing at their hometown's Liberty Stadium in support of Elton John this summer.
"It is pretty hectic at the moment but it's great," says lead singer Steve Balsamo from a London airport en route to Greece for a one-off solo gig supporting his friend, the Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis. "We released the album this week and we've had some brilliant reviews so far - mostly four stars - including in Uncut, which is a big one. We had a great time making it, put a lot of effort in as you do and we're really excited about getting out there and playing it."
The band will be showcasing the album in Monte Carlo and Germany, among other destinations across Europe, and they released it via a live acoustic show on Alan Thompson's Evening Show on BBC Radio Wales on Monday.
They're also currently appearing in cinemas across the country in new heist film The Bank Job, starring Jason Statham, after director Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Dante's Peak) invited them to make a cameo appearance following a chance meeting at London's Regal Rooms. They also perform three songs for the film's soundtrack.
And they've secured some pretty hefty backing in the shape of promoters Marshall Arts, who also look after Paul McCartney, Prince and Elton John and, coincidentally, started their business looking after another Swansea cult band, Man.
"They've been watching us for the last couple of years and want to showcase us in Europe and they've got some clout," says 36-year-old Balsamo. "But when they heard our accents they said 'Don't tell me they're Welsh - here we go again'."
Tales surrounding Man have them being arrested in Belgium and brawling with an Icelandic audience, among other things.
"The Man band were obviously bonkers, a psychedelic band," says Balsamo, who, despite himself and the whole band living in Swansea, Neath or Port Talbot, says they have eschewed the kind of raucous behaviour you might expect from rising Welsh rock stars. "We're as good as gold, we just want to get out and play, we don't want any nonsense," he says. "We live in Swansea, most of us, my brother was on Wind Street the other night and said it was manic. But we're just hard working. We have a party and a drink and a laugh but we're trying to get on and anyone who wants to get on needs to take things quite seriously. I can't trash my voice for one thing."
The Storys mix the country rock harmonies of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin and the West Coast pop of The Byrds and The Burrito Brothers, a soothing, long-haired Easy Rider vibe with a darker edge - a sound that has already won many fans.
Perhaps their growing popularity is no surprise with the current trend for the return of these musical heavyweights, with Neil Young touring the UK this summer and Zeppelin having created nothing short of hysteria for their reunion O2 Arena gig recently.
Town Beyond The Trees was issued on the band's own Hall label, named after the converted cinema where their self produced debut album was recorded. It was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studio in 2007, with producer Jon Kelly, whose CV includes Kate Bush, The Beautiful South, Paul McCartney, Chris Rea and The Damned.
"I think we're reaching where want to reach. We've come incredibly far and getting the chance to record at Real World was a milestone - that's in the same bracket as Abbey Road," says Balsamo.
But though they have toured with Elton John and Joe Cocker, come of their next gigs also include St David's Church in Neath and the noted St Bonaventure's Club in Bristol.
"The irony is that if we were a covers band we'd probably make five times as much money covering Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs," says Balsamo. "The gigs with Elton and Joe Cocker have been great in raising our profile but along the way there are several tiers and we're still on our way up. You fill those venues then you can start moving on to the Academies. You've got to put those gigs in."
Profits from The Storys' Radio Wales gig at the Ostreme Centre in Mumbles on Monday went to the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat, with the band - Balsamo (vocals, guitar), Andy Collins (vocals, bass), Dai Smith (vocals, guitar), Rob Thompson (vocals, guitar), Brian Thomas (drums, percussion) and Alan Thomas (keys, mandolin, banjo) - saying they were rooted in the area and appreciated the RNLI's work.
So where's the connection between six boys from Swansea and West Coast America's 1970s guitar rock?
"There is a romance in it which we're really into but also an irony in the way that these kind of hippy bands became very wealthy very quickly," says Balsamo. "But look back at bands like Man and Badfinger [another Swansea band, from the 1960s] - they were harmony bands who weren't afraid of melody. Even bands like the Manics, Feeder and Gorky's are melodic so we have carte blanche to be melodic because of the history. Perhaps it's linked to being Welsh. Men singing together is always powerful. The South Wales music scene at the moment is absolutely incredible. There are a load of rock bands. We played South By Southwest [in Texas] last year and we went on after The Automatic, which was a mistake we won't make again. I don't get scared very often but I was shaking in my boots going on after them."
Balsamo was used to professionally belting out songs long before The Storys and made a name for himself as the lead in a West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. But his first love is the band.
"There's more money in the theatre and I still get lucrative offers all the time," he says. "But nothing gets me going more than bands - going into a room with nothing, there's a bit of alchemy and then there's a song. If it's good it will fly and if not it will die. My heart is definitely in the band and songwriting but that's not to say I'll never go back."
The Storys play St David's Church, Neath on April 19 and support Elton John at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea on June 29. New album, Town Beyond The Trees, and new single, Long Hard Road, are out now.
2 Apr 2008 - americana-uk.com (Keith Hargreaves)
Killer tunes hide slight identity crisis on the way to world domination. This is the second album from the South Wales natives of whom great things are expected and it's a fascinating piece of modern pop. Any band with four singers should be able to conjure up a few harmonies and this lot don't disappoint; some of them so lovely the grin springs to the face as you bask in 'the melodic sunshine'. And it's these strengths that open the album Long Hard Road a driving song par excellence that will be at home both on the M4 and Ventura Highway; a Fleetwood Mac c.1976, easy feelin', Smile era Jayhawks sound. A great opening and I note their first single - good choice. If the sun's shining when people hear it - they will buy! The same could be said of Feeling Something and Nobody Loves You particularly the latter track where the simple structure and restrained production really focus on the harmonies which are gorgeous.
However these tracks are also accompanied by a couple of weaker ones Evangelina and It's All We Really Need where the slick production, particularly the strings, overwhelm the songs. There is also a sense of reaching for a formula - they both have a Coldplay feel to the rhythm. Completely underwhelming but the recovery is great. The title track is simple and lovely - unsullied by the previous over production. Trouble Deep is filled with echoes of Crowded House and then the song that will break the US wide open Heaven Holds You Now a straight down the line ballad that will have them weeping in the aisles when it features in a movie - which it surely must. This is the sound of a band about to break big; if they trust their own judgement and songwriting they will deserve it. (8/10)
2 Apr 2008 - RNLI Website - South Wales Band The Storys Perform For RNLI
South Wales band The Storys launched their new album with a special acoustic concert broadcast to the whole of Wales on BBC radio. Profits from the performance - showcasing album Town Beyond The Trees - have gone to the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat. The money raised was £1,395.
The gig took place at the Ostreme Centre in central Mumbles, on March 31. It raised the RNLI's profile as BBC Radio Wales broadcast the concert live on the Evening Show, presented by Alan Thompson.
The Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "All six of us are rooted in the Swansea Bay area; we love the sea here but are also aware how dangerous it can be. We loved the gig in Mumbles and were delighted to help the RNLI."
Mumbles volunteer crew members Dai Thomas, Rob Jenkins, Chris Vaughan and Nigel Garner attended the concert and were delighted with the amount raised from the night. Lifeboat crew secretary Garry Tanner said: "It was great of the band to think of RNLI volunteers at Mumbles as the crew prepare for their busiest time - the summer season".
The concert venue holds only around 120 so tickets sold out quickly. Support acts were Haverfordwest-based acoustic trio The Crook Family and Mumbles-based singer-songwriter Mal Pope - the Evening Show's co-host.
The Storys are currently enjoying UK-wide exposure in new Jason Statham movie The Bank Job in which they star in a wedding scene. They played a live set for national audiences on BBC Radio Two and will support Sir Elton John at his concert this summer at Swansea's Liberty Stadium.
More gigs by The Storys are planned in the coming weeks. New album Town Beyond The Trees was released on CD on March 31 and can be downloaded from iTunes.
1 Apr 2008 - BBC Wales Website - Album Launch Helps Lifeboat Crew
A band with more than a passing interest in the sea has launched their latest album with a special concert for the local lifeboat.
The Swansea-based Storys also performed a set from Town Beyond the Trees live on BBC Radio Wales.
Mumbles RNLI lifeboat said it was great of the band to think of them as they prepared for their busiest period.
The band's lead singer Steve Balsamo said all six members were "rooted" in the area and knew of the sea's dangers. Balsamo said: "We've grown up in the same coastal communities as the lifeboat crews so we have a broad understanding of how important they are. The sea is a brilliant playground to people of all ages who live in south Wales or visit the region, but it can also be dangerous. The simple fact is that the lifeboats are manned by volunteers who save lives; it's difficult to think of a more worthy calling in life."
Mumbles lifeboat crew secretary Gary Tanner said the concert came as the crew were preparing for their busiest time - the summer season. "Last year RNLI lifeboats rescued more than 8,000 people, an average of 22 a day. As a charity, the RNLI is reliant on voluntary contributions and legacies for income."
The gig at the Ostreme Centre, Mumbles, with tickets for only 120 was also broadcast live on Alan Thompson's the Evening Show on BBC Radio Wales between 1930 and 2130 BST on Monday.
The band said live music was integral to the show - in the 1980s the BBC Wales broadcaster was singer and songwriter in the indie guitar band Peppermint Parlour.
The concert also featured Mumbles based singer songwriter Mal Pope, who is co-host of the Evening Show.
The Storys are currently enjoying UK-wide exposure in the recently released Jason Statham film The Bank Job in which they star in a wedding scene.
They played a live set for national audiences on BBC Radio Two and will support Sir Elton John - who they have played supported on tour for the last two years - at his concert in June at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.
Apr 2008 - Flipside Magazine - A Screen Gig
Apr 2008 - Uncut Magazine (Adam Sweeting)
Hotel California opens South Wales Branch. This Swansea-based sextet make no secret of the fact that they've gorged themselves on gargantuan quantities of the Eagles, Jackson Browne, The Byrds etc, but hey! What's not to like? It may be true that their sleek vocal arrangements often sound more Hollies than CSNY, but they've honed their craft with care, and can bang out a Laurel Canyon ballad or freeway-cruisin' harmony-rocker with aplomb. This second album finds them sounding almost insolently self-assured, with standout tracks including the fast-acting Evangelina, the beautifully string-driven Alone, and the moody, subdued Trouble Deep. (4/5)
Apr 2008 - Rock 'n' Reel Magazine (Colin Hall)
Robust and rewarding The Storys serve up soaring harmony rock that suggests a well-spent youth absorbing all things good from the USA's West Coast. Comparisons with The Eagles, CSN&Y and the Byrds are inevitable but The Storys are not mere retro stylists: there's grit in this particular machine, an urgency shaded with persuasive intimacy that gives them their own voice and contemporary edge. Coming from Swansea, as this talented sextet does, it couldn't be any other way. 'Sit up and listen' moments abound throughout Town Beyond The Trees, their superb second album: the anthemic ache of It's All We Really Need, the unnerving darkness of Nobody Loves You, the title track's heart-rending sense of farewell and - possibly most impressive of all - the haunting Trouble Deep which closes the record, bringing into focus all that has gone before: terrific arrangements and ensemble playing, perfectly honed, melodic writing and stunning vocals that never let you down. It's the attention to detail that mark The Storys out. Road tested and tight as a bear hug they are cresting a creative peak. For anyone looking for a band to cherish The Storys come mightily recommended. (4/5)
31 Mar 2008 - Western Mail (Karen Price) - Fresh Chapter Opens For The Storys
One of Elton John's favourite bands - The Storys - will launch their new album with a fundraising acoustic concert tonight, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.
Life-savers from one of Wales' voluntary rescue services are to benefit from the Swansea six-piece's intimate gig.
Profits from the performance - showcasing tracks from album Town Beyond The Trees - will go to the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat.
The gig takes place at the Ostreme Centre in Mumbles and it is due to be broadcast live on BBC Radio Wales' Alan Thompson show.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said, "All six of us are rooted in the Swansea Bay area - we love the sea here but are also aware how dangerous it can be. We're happy to help the RNLI."
The Storys won national exposure after they were chosen by Sir Elton John to join him on a major tour. They will be supporting him again when he plays the Liberty Stadium in Swansea this summer.
The band are currently enjoying UK-wide exposure in the new Jason Statham movie The Bank Job in which they star in a wedding scene.
More gigs by The Storys are planned in the coming weeks in support of Town Beyond The Trees, which is released today.
30 Mar 2008 - Sunday Express (Martin Townsend)
Steve Balsamo is the British Don Henley: his huge, breathy, passionate voice sounding like it originated in California, not South Wales. Evangelina, Alone and Heaven Holds You Now are outstanding examples of the band's shimmering, multi-layered melodic rock. A little Radio 2 airplay and they could have a success story on their hands. (4/5)
28 Mar 2008 - Daily Express
The Storys pick up where the Eagles, Crosby Stills & Nash and Big Star left off - with well-crafted, melodic rock tunes that possess subtle layers. From opener Long Hard Road to Trouble Deep, band leaders Steve Balsamo and Dai Smith maintain an emotional intensity that relies on the quality of the song and nothing else. Great. (4/5)
26 Mar 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Gig To Help Fund Lifeboat Work
Rockers The Storys will use the launch of their second album to help keep a life-saving service afloat. The Swansea six piece will be previewing material from their new album with a special acoustic gig. Profits from the performance will go to Mumbles RNLI lifeboat fund.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "All six of us are rooted in the Swansea Bay area. We love the sea here, but are also aware how dangerous it can be. So, we're happy to help the RNLI."
The gig takes place at the Ostreme Centre, Mumbles, on Monday, where The Storys will be airing songs from new album Town Of Trees for the first time. It will be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales's Evening Show and profits from the £10 entry fee will go towards the Mumbles Lifeboat Fund. Support acts are acoustic trio The Crook Family and singer-songwriter Mal Pope.
Lifeboat crew secretary Garry Tanner said he was taken aback by the offer from the band. "It's great of The Storys to think of RNLI volunteers at Mumbles as the crew prepare for their busiest time - the summer season," he added. "Last year RNLI lifeboats rescued more than 8,000 people, an average of 22 a day. As a charity, the RNLI is reliant on voluntary contributions and legacies for income."
Meanwhile, it's been something of a busy period for The Storys. As well as appearing in the new Jason Statham movie, The Bank Job, they are gearing up to support Sir Elton John at his Liberty Stadium gig in June. "Things are really taking off at the moment," said The Storys vocalist Steve Balsamo.
22 Mar 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Band Set To Play Intimate Radio Gig
Swansea band The Storys are set to create an intimate atmosphere when they play their next live gig in front of just 120 people. But fans will have the chance to catch the gig on BBC Radio Wales on the Evening Show on Monday, March 31, at 7pm.
Presenter Alan Thompson and co-host Mal Pope will be teaming-up to showcase the gig live from the Ostreme Centre in Mumbles, the same day the band's new album, Town Beyond The Trees, is released.
Mal will also be playing, as will Haverfordwest-based acoustic trio the Crook Family.
The Storys, fronted by Swansea's Steve Balsamo, are currently enjoying UK-wide exposure in new Jason Statham movie The Bank Job, in which they star in a wedding scene.
They will also be supporting Elton John when he appears at Swansea's Liberty Stadium in the summer.
18 Mar 2008 - icwales.co.uk (Andy Johnston) - Impromptu Gig From Film's Musical Stars
It's not often that stars of a film entertain the cinema audience between screenings, but that is exactly what happened when South Wales band The Storys delighted Glasgow cinema-goers with an acoustic performance in the foyer between shows of The Bank Job.
The film, which stars Jason Statham, sees the band making a cameo performance as themselves playing two songs on stage and features a version of Money (That's What I Want) playing over the closing credits.
The Storys were in Glasgow for a gig at the legendary King Tuts, and staying in a local hotel, when bassist Andy Collins went out for a drink and noticed that the local cinema was showing the film.
According to lead singer Steve Balsamo, "Andy popped in and got chatting with the manager. The conversation turned to the film and the fact that the band were in it and as a result we set up in the foyer between shows and played six or seven acoustic numbers. We played to one audience coming out and another coming in, so we ended up with quite a crowd. They were lovely people, really enjoyed it, some of them came to the gig the next day too".
The set featured songs from the film, including I Believe In Love, as well as tracks from the band's new album Town Beyond The Trees.
14 Mar 2008 - Birmingham Independent - Band Aiming To Be A Success Story!
With influences from across the musical board, the members of The Storys - Dai Smith, Steve, Balsamo, Andy Collins, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas - admitted to liking music from soul to Motown, which explains their unique album.
Dai said: "The new album is us all over. With the first album it was such a different experience - we recorded it ourselves in a social club in Wales and we had to handle everything ourselves. We are really excited about this one - we worked with a great producer on it, and it meant we could really concentrate on being musicians."
"Making both the albums was a lovely experience," continued Dai. "The first is really raw, and took us a year to complete. The second is much more professional sounding - real high quality - but in fact it only took us five weeks to get it down."
And it appears that music isn't The Storys' only talent, as they recently had a cameo role in Brit-film The Bank Job.
Dai said: "It as pure coincidence we managed to appear in The Bank Job. We had a call from the lady doing the music on the film, and asked if we would do a few covers. We ended up sending her our own stuff, and picked two of our songs instead. We did do a cover of Money though, which was great fun - we got to dress up in 70s gear and got to do some bad acting!"
And it doesn't stop there - so large is The Storys' following, that Elton John personally requested the six-some join him on tour.
"It was so surreal," admitted Dai. "It's a funny one as we got this call from Elton John's people asking us to tour with him, and we just thought it was a joke - we didn't expect that at all. It was amazing to do - all these screaming fans and packed arenas."
"We are not the youngest band out there, and we tend to appreciate what we have. We are enjoying every minute."
13 Mar 2008 - Northampton Herald & Post (Lawrence John) - Never Too Late For Success
There is an orange glow in the musical sky and it is coming from The Storys. The sunshine is being produced by the band's second album called Town Beyond The Trees which is released on Monday, March 31.
The group which come from Swansea are Steve Balsamo (vocals/guitar), Andy Collins (vocals/bass), Dai Smith (vocals/guitar), Rob Thompson (vocals/guitar), Brian Thomas (drums/percussion) and Alan Thomas (keys/mandolin/banjo).
They have become a firm favourite of Elton John. So keen on the band is Sir Elton that they are about to do what Steve calls 'the homecoming of homecomings'. This will be when they support Elton at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea in June.
To find out what makes The Storys the group of the moment music reporter Lawrence John spoke with Steve.
The Storys come from a musical tradition linked to Crowded House, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The songs on this album are about as personal as any singers can get as they open themselves up allowing you to see and feel their pain. This dedication to their musical craft demands the listener listens to the album and not to use it as background music.
Of the title track Town Beyond The Trees, Steve said: "It is based on a picture of a man on death row and he is writing a letter to his son. It is saying he will see him somewhere else like heaven. Without any conscious effort it is saying there is a place if you want there to be. It could be a special place some where beyond the trees."
The group's second album is one which Steve pin-pointed as being an album for grown-ups. The songs cover love, loss, death but in a way which is poignant, soul searching and inspirational. That inspiration is alluded to in the way Steve described the album as being orange in colour. The album has warmth and while there may be sad songs there is a definite feeling of optimism and a bright future ahead. He agreed it would equate well to compare it with Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind when she says 'tomorrow is another day'.
Steve said: "We're in our 30s and 40s and can't write like the Arctic Monkeys, God love 'em I do. The songs are a personal experience and if you read between the lines they are quite personal. There is a lot of pain in the band and we found this a very cathartic experience."
The group has not found out why Elton is a big fan of the group but he rang Steve up at his home in Swansea to ask them to tour the UK with him. Steve said: "He called me at home and even started singing down the phone. It was all I could to do not to say something stupid. We have toured with him and he is a lovely gentle music lover."
12 Mar 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Band Heads for Iconic London Club
Swansea band The Storys will play one of the world's most iconic rock hotspots next week. The six-piece headlines central London's 100 Club on Tuesday. The venue has hosted such global names as, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols and Oasis in the past.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "It's brilliant to play places with a great rock tradition - and the 100 Club's musical heritage is awesome."
11 Mar 2008 - Sonic Dice (John Skibeat)
With their debut rightly acclaimed and subsequent high-profile gigs with the likes of Elton John and Katie Melua behind them, The Storys release their much anticipated second album Town Beyond The Trees. Opening track Long Hard Road is the purest form of easy-listening Americana country rock music. It's Billy Joel, The Eagles, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young all rolled into one with gently-strummed guitar chords ballooning out into resonating solo with slide bar mewing. The soft, comforting slightly-croaked vocal of Steve Balsamo is heavily-accented with Yankee twang and brings to mind Don Henley and to some extent Jon Bon Jovi. It's followed by You Couldn't Make It Up which introduces a slower much-less anachronistic sound with surprising pop sensibilities and only now is it apparent that this lot are actually rooted in South Wales - Swansea, to be precise. It's the mandolin of Alan Thomas that eventually gives it all away along with Balsamo's ability to drop that formulaic accent to something far more complex and fresh. The band continue to switch between upbeat country and downbeat pop throughout the rest of the album with apparent ease. It's a surprising mixture and certainly each number is impeccably structured with plenty of memorable lyrics - spot the Madonna smash-and-grab on Trouble Deep - making them instantly accessible. Whether there is an audience for a sound that's very much rooted in the past will make or break them. Which it will be is unclear but they are certainly compiling quite a catalogue of favourable reviews and if it doesn't happen here in the UK then it doesn't take a genius to imagine them doing well across the pond.
10 Mar 2008 - London Careers - Tell Us A Story
6 Mar 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - New CD Gives The Full Story
Musician Dai Smith, from Burry Port, is looking forward to his best year yet. His Swansea-based band The Storys release their eagerly anticipated second album, Town Beyond the Trees, this month. This follows the acclaimed 2006 eponymous debut and some high-profile live performances, including support slots with Sir Elton John and Katie Melua.
Band member Dai Smith, of Seaview Terrace, said the album reflected the development of the band. "The first album we did we recorded ourselves. This one was recorded for us in a posh studio in Bath - it was an amazing experience," he said. "We were able to let go of the reins a bit and we really enjoyed making it."
The album features a mix of country rock harmonies and acoustic melodies - a sound that has already won many fans.
The Storys are Steve Balsamo on vocals and guitar, Andy Collins on vocals and bass, Dai Smith and on vocals and guitar, Rob Thompson on vocals and guitar, Brian Thomas on drums and Alan Thomas on keyboard and banjo. Described as a big band with melodies and vocal harmonies to match, the band said having four singers and songwriters gives them versatility.
Dai said the group had had a rollercoaster ride over the past five years. "It's been absolutely amazing. Since we got together we have played all over the world and performed with people like Elton John," he said. "We have worked with producers who have made records with Paul McCartney. We've even stared in a film called The Bank Job, where we play a 70s wedding band. It's brilliant and we are really enjoying - we just hope this year will somehow top it all."
5 Mar 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Headline At Soho Hotspot
Swansea band The Storys play one of the world's most iconic nightlife hotspots tomorrow - just days after the death of its most famous owner. The six-piece headline the London venue most famously known as the Raymond Revuebar, the self-styled "world centre of erotic entertainment".
It was once run by multi- millionaire Paul Raymond who died on Sunday aged 82. Now renamed Soho Revue Bar, the club continues to be the epitome of West End glamour, with deep red leather seats, huge chandeliers and dim lighting. It hosted one of London's most celebrated social events of recent years, the pre-wedding party of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "There's an incredibly eager and colourful Soho party crowd and we plan to make a real impression."
5 Mar 2008 - Daily Star (James Cabooter)
Still pining for a bit of emotive musical sensitivity while Snow Patrol take a few months off? Then look no further than this quality Welsh outfit who marry anthemic British songwriting with a more minimal west coast American feel. This elegant second album is packed with instantly likeable FM rock songs, the type designed for holding lighters (or should that be mobile phones nowadays?) aloft. Slow burning delights You Couldn't Make It Up and Eagles-esque Nobody Loves You show off the fine twin vocal talents of Steve Balsamo and Andy Collins. Elsewhere the country flecked title track highlights the band's intricate guitar work and ability to pull on the old heart strings. Perhaps the album's finest moment is Alone, a tender Celtic flavoured ballad about finding love awash with gorgeous, widescreen strings. A very big sounding record, in more ways than one, Town Beyond The Trees is destined to be the making of these Welsh lads.
Mar 2008 - Maverick Magazine
A superb second album that should appeal to lovers of the Eagles, Poco and Buffalo Springfield. It's only February, but The Storys' strong songs and exquisite musicianship mark their second album as an early contender for those contentious year-end best-of lists. The Welsh country-rockers haven't been around that long, but in two short years they've made enormous critical impact, having crafted several catchy, quirky singles that are smartly produced, crisply sung and lyrically sharp. With the likes of Elton John and Bob Harris singing their praises it surely shouldn't be too long before the mass public comes on board and embraces their gorgeous harmony-laced music. What is impressive about this sextet, is that beneath those lush harmonies lies real lyrical depth. Too many groups place layers of harmonies to disguise weak songs. There's ten powerful, well-written songs on offer here. Title track is a dark and brooding song about a guy on death row writing a letter to his unborn son. Not as depressing as it might seem, there's a note of optimism with a stunning, understated musical arrangement. Heaven Holds You Now is an optimistic country-rocker about loss and hope. Brian Thomas' drums are very consistent on this track with great organ and guitar. Feeling Something is a classy power ballad with great dual guitar and piano. The closing Trouble Deep is a string drenched haunting ballad full of foreboding atmosphere with more than a little fuzz on the electric guitar. This is their first album with extensive use of string and takes more ambitious conceptual steps in arrangements, production and tone. This group is really tight, the vocals are superb and the songs are written to last through the ages. What's not to like? (4/5)
18 Feb 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - The Storys To Entertain Pop Royalty
Swansea band The Storys are getting ready for what could be a tricky gig tonight. The group have been hired to play at the post-premier party for the heist movie The Bank Job, starring Jason Statham. And with Guy Ritchie and Madonna expected to turn up, the Storys have planned a special treat for the queen of pop.
Band lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "We've run through Like a Virgin a few times and will give it our own little guitar-based spin. It should be a hoot - I hope Madge likes it."
And, as well as playing at the post-premiere party, the band can be seen in the film. Released at the end of the month, the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais-penned flick tells the story of a notorious London bank robbery in 1971.
Balsamo said: "We had a great time doing our bits for the film; now we can't wait to see who's at the party. I'm told Jason's film buddies like Vinnie Jones, Keeley Hawes, Ian McShane and David Suchet will be there."
17 Feb 2008 - Wales On Sunday (Nick Rippington) - Welsh Band Perform For Madonna
Welsh band The Storys will tomorrow perform a live version of Like a Virgin - especially for Madonna. The Swansea-based six-piece play a post-premiere party for movie The Bank Job starring Jason Statham, a big pal of the pop queen's husband Guy Ritchie. Madonna is expected to be there. Lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "We've run through Like a Virgin a few times and will give it our own little guitar-based spin. It should be a hoot - I hope Madge likes it, along with our own material."
The Storys play the party - in London's exclusive Paper club - because they appear in the film and supply some tracks. Around 500 guests will attend, enabling the band to showcase their second album Town Beyond the Trees, which comes out next month.
Legendary scriptwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais have penned the Brit-flick in which Statham stars alongside Saffron Burrows. It goes on general release at the end of this month. The movie tells the tale of a notorious 1971 London bank robbery. The Storys were called into the film because director Roger Donaldson felt their music fitted the mood he wanted to create for a nightclub scene.
Balsamo said: "We had a great time doing our bits for the film; now we can't wait to see who's at the party. I'm told Jason's film buddies like Vinnie Jones, Keeley Hawes, Ian McShane and David Suchet will be there."
Statham appeared in the Ritchie-directed 1998 Brit hit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
14 Feb 2008 - South Wales Evening Post (Kate Lay)
Sound of a band hitting their stride - Swansea band The Storys have found their stride with a new album, Town Beyond The Trees, out on March 31. A couple of years of heavy gigging with and without Elton have put some muscle on their sound and given Steve Balsamo's fabulous voice - always their ace in the hole - more dark tones and more weight. For those who have struggled a bit with their assertion that they follow in the footsteps of Crosby Stills and Nash, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, this disc is heartening. The sound of The Storys doesn't have the musical ambition or inventiveness of those supergroups, but the days of the trailblazing bands are probably gone. And any of these tracks could slot in happily beside Don Henley and Glen Frey's songs on the latest Eagles album. There is even the simple and effective Joe Walsh-style guitar line on the upcoming single, Long Hard Road. Town Beyond The Trees might not make you want to quit your job, grab a guitar and join a band, but it is winning, tastefully produced and smilesome stuff.
11 Feb 2008 - South Wales Evening Post - Radio Will Be Full Of Storys
A Swansea band is set to record a session for legendary broadcaster Bob Harris. The Storys will take their six-piece act to the BBC London studios to perform live tracks from their forthcoming album. Harris will feature the tracks in his Radio Two Saturday night show on February 23. Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo said: "We're chuffed to be lined up - his show has great listenership on traditional radio and around the world on the web". The band's new album, Town Beyond The Trees, is due for release on March 31. The Storys are due to play the Liberty Stadium in the summer, supporting Elton John.
Feb 2008 - Big Issue Cymru - Q&A
Jan 2008 - getreadytorock.com (Pete Whalley)
The opening track on The Storys second album - Long Hard Road, could so easily be a track on the Long Road Out Of Eden, The Eagles big comeback album release. It has the hallmark West Coast sounds, and even Steve Balsamo's vocals sound uncannily like Don Henley. It's a corker. Who would have predicted it from a band from Swansea, South Wales? With roots clearly deep in the rock harmonies of The Eagles, CSN&Y and The Byrds, this is not what you expect to emerge from the valleys. Recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studio by veteran producer Jon Kelly, there's no doubting this is quality soft rock. But it would be better served with the top down and the sun baking the asphalt rather than on a damp, dreary, British winter day. Nevertheless, for anyone who enjoys their rock Hotel California style, check out The Storys. Despite the similarities in style and delivery to their American cousins, there's more than enough originality here - the stunning closer Trouble Deep, for example - to suggest they're a hell of a lot more than just wannabees. (3.5/5)
Jan 2008 - shakenstir.co.uk
This Welsh band's debut album featured a couple of songs that were quite special and hinted at a band capable of filling the gap left by classic American mid-west rockers like the Eagles. The recent album releases (after an absence of 28 years) from the Eagles and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss suggests that there is a huge untapped demand for this genre of music. It's in this music territory that The Storys have chosen to park their talents. So, the big question is can this band meet and beat the best? Town Beyond The Trees almost passed me by on first listen, but, as is sometimes the case, on the second and subsequent plays its quality hit me, and the answer to my question became clear. The Storys have produced an album that is capable of beating the Yanks at their own special game, and a well publicised Stateside release could see it fly... But there's something else at play here - the ability of four vocalists and song writers to actually work in total harmony to produce such successful results.
Opening mid-paced track Long Hard Road quickly illustrates this unity of purpose. Steve Balsamo's vocal is country rock perfection and full of feeling, while the band's vocal harmonies are also beyond reproach. It's a classic song with superb melody, beautifully judged instrumental arrangement and simple but powerful lyrics. Based on this song alone, the band should figure in this year's USA Country Awards... Next is the beautiful, darker, slower paced You Couldn't Make It Up. The band describes the song as a 'grown-up pop song' but it's a little more than that with its intelligent lyrical message, and emotionally believable delivery. There are love songs aplenty here including the upbeat Evangelina, the haunting and tantalising Alone, and the bittersweet, beautiful Nobody Loves You. Then there's the subject of failed ambition covered brilliantly by It's All We Really Need and dreadful longing in Town Beyond The Trees, that describes the feelings of a man on death row reflected in a letter to his unborn son. This song is masterful in its capture of a desperate, contemplative atmosphere - a killer track if ever there was one. This wonderful album closes on the deeply moving love song Feeling Something and meandering, string-soaked Trouble Deep - one of several album highlights and featuring haunting, ethereal backing vocals from Rosalie Deighton, in addition to the most glorious instrumental conclusion.
I've now listened to this album many times and am of the firm opinion that it is capable of becoming a very major seller over the pond. There's also no doubt in my mind that it does indeed meet and beat the yanks at their own game - a remarkable musical achievement. The album is released in March 2008. (4.5/5)
Dec 2007 - toxicpete.co.uk
The Storys instantly sound like a band on the move-on-up and this stunning album, Town Beyond The Trees, is as good as anything out there - old or new! This six piece from South Wales certainly know how to put down a good song - their combined songwriting is classy, bordering on timeless - their nu-country bent is reminiscent of The Eagles and their pop sensibility is approaching that of The Beatles. Add to that their seemingly natural penchant for the epic overall sound and hey, these dudes are a bit special!! Watch them go! The Storys' story is one of strong melodies, magnificently proportioned instrumentation, precise vocals and crisp harmonies. Although The Storys have one foot firmly in the nu-country camp, the other's planted firmly in soft-rock - the combination is well tried and tested and The Storys excel in their genre of choice. Unlike most bands, The Storys have shied away from the simple 'indie' cliched pop/rock and gambled on the probably less popular nu-country - and I for one am so glad they've gone down that route coz these guys are better than your run-of-the-mill indie outfits and their 'proper' music should stand the test of time much better. The proof of the pudding, as the proverb suggests, is in the eating - well, get your chops round this then coz Town Beyond The Trees is just brilliant!! With six music-hungry members you'd think that The Storys might struggle to achieve much in the way of musical unity but The Storys seem to be solid in their beliefs and focussed on their future as a rock-solid band for the 21st Century. The Storys pitch their craft absolutely spot-on; The Storys are a proper band writing and playing proper music of classy maturity. The Storys bring new light to a tired and often desperate industry - and long may they shine on!! Town Beyond The Trees by The Storys is an exceptional album and I really hope that these guys get the exposure and hence the rewards they so rightly deserve. Awesome!!
16 Dec 2007 - getreadytorock.com (Pete Feenstra) - Joe Cocker/The Storys, Indigo2, London
...whoever manages tonight's support band The Storys made sure that their harmony laden charges would open proceedings for Cocker's baby boomer audience. For in the land of enduring musical values, Radio 2 is the natural home any aspiring west coast sounding melodic outfit like The Storys. And while the impressive west coast influenced melodic rockers are perhaps a shade too sugary to fully embrace the Americana template, their crisp, multi layered harmonies and acoustic sensibilities recall the days of The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash and in their more poppy moments Wet Wet Wet. And despite the fact they were hitting most of the audience cold, The Storys quickly proved that their brand of polished melodic pop was indeed the stuff that Cocker's audience were predisposed to. The crowd's warm reception was fully merited as Wales' own impressed with a handful of well crafted songs from the polished acoustic wash of Journey's End and the rousing sing-along chorus of Save Me, to their best song Cinnamon on which you half expected Jackson Browne to wander in from the wings...
2 Nov 2007 - BBC Website - Elton John's Summer Swansea Date
Sir Elton John is to play Swansea's Liberty Stadium next summer. The pianist-singer, who has sold over 250m records around the world in a career spanning four decades, will perform in the city for the first time. Promoters say the open-air concert on 29 Jun is expected to be a sell-out, with tickets going on sale on Monday. The line-up will also include Swansea-based band The Storys, who have supported Sir Elton on tour for the last two years. It is the second major concert to be held at the stadium since it opened in 2005, following on from The Who earlier this year.
John Hague, acting chairman of the stadium's management company, said they were delighted to have secured "such an iconic and much-loved performer. This is a major coup for us and I'm sure that his many fans in south Wales, young and old, will be excited at the opportunity to watch Elton at such a fantastic venue."
Steve Balsamo, lead singer with The Storys, said: "It's going to be brilliant. We've had the amazing good fortune of supporting him a few times before and to be in our home town is what we've been hoping for. He is just the absolute consummate professional and has been incredibly helpful and full of advice. Playing our home town in that stadium has got to be the highlight of recording as The Storys so far."
2 Nov 2007 - Western Mail (Karen Price) - Another Chapter For The Storys
They've shared the same bill as Paul Weller and next year they will support Sir Elton John for the third time. But, for now, The Storys are focusing on their imminent gig at a small Valleys venue. The Storys are not afraid to take on board advice from some of the biggest names in the music business. After all, the Swansea band have supported superstar Sir Elton John on tour - twice. And today it's revealed that they will join him once again next year - for a concert at the Liberty Stadium in their home city. But they are currently preparing to play a much more intimate gig in the South Wales Valleys next week - and they are pondering words of wisdom from another famous rocker. Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield is urging The Storys to "bring the house down" when they appear in Blackwood - his home town - on Thursday. Bradfield was on the same bill as the Swansea six-piece when they played the city's National Waterfront Museum recently.
"He just told us to go for it at Blackwood and that the crowd would be great - we can't wait," says The Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo. "Our drummer, Brian, might even wear eye make-up as a salute to the Manics."
The two bands share a passion for melodic songwriting. Bradfield's talent was honed in Blackwood, where he formed the Manics along with childhood friends Richey Edwards, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire. Balsamo says, "The Manics' songs are very musical, full of great melodies - we thrive on melodies too. Perhaps it's being Welsh, with our choral heritage, that allows us to be musical and melodic. We should all be proud of our heritage and the quality musicians and songwriters we have down here."
The Storys enjoyed their gig in Swansea with Bradfield. "He wanted to know what we were up to and was very encouraging about us making our way in music," says Balsamo. "One lesson we took away was to keep writing good songs - even though he was playing rock numbers by the Manics on just an acoustic guitar they still sounded incredible. Another lesson was to be fair and decent with everybody you meet. It was good to see that somebody like James who's sold so many records and who's so big was so approachable and chatty. Music's not just about playing gigs, it's about the whole package - meeting people and being good with everyone."
The Blackwood gig will be the last chance for music fans in Wales to catch The Storys live this year. And they will be previewing tracks from their new album, which is due to be released in Feb.
"It will be a great place to road test some of that stuff. I'm sure the audience will let us know exactly what they think."
The Storys were formed almost five years ago and the line-up also includes Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas. The men range in age from their 30s to their 50s. The Storys began recording their debut album in Thompson's kitchen with Smith producing, before the band relocated to a converted cinema, The Hall, in Glyncorrwg in the Welsh valleys. They ended up recording more than 30 songs and 11 were selected for the self-titled album, which was critically acclaimed.
In fact, the album fell into the lap of Sir Elton and he was so impressed with what he heard that he invited the band to support him on his UK stadium and arena tour in 2006. The Rocket Man himself called up Balsamo to offer the Welsh boys the important gig. Suddenly the band - who had previously supported the legendary Tom Jones during his 65th birthday homecoming gig at Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd in May 2005 - were propelled into the limelight. Balsamo - who once played the leading role in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar - admits that arriving at the Manchester MEN Arena for the first night of Sir Elton's tour was a daunting experience for the nervous support act. Just after the tour ended he admitted, "The first night was amazing. Lawrence Davies, who is kind of our tour manager, is a big lump of a man but to see him crying when he was watching us, I thought we are doing something right. That was one of our highlights - to make a grown man cry."
The Storys also ended 2006 on a high when they played European stadium gigs in support of Katie Melua. This year has been just as successful and they found themselves touring with Sir Elton for a second time. Today it's revealed that they will join him next year at the Liberty Stadium. But while the band may now have a national reputation, they continue to enjoy gigging on a local level - even managing to perform at Swansea Museum.
"It was for the Teenage Cancer Trust and coincided with a brilliant exhibition at the museum about the history of Swansea rock," says Balsamo. "It might have seemed an unlikely venue for the two gigs we did in one day but it was great."
The Storys were also delighted this year to appear on a new CD alongside rock giants such as Paul Weller, Steve Winwood and Pete Townsend. A live version of a track by The Storys sits with work by other big names ranging from blues hero Gary Moore to songsmith Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens). Balsamo says, "To be on the same CD as these people is awesome - and it was even more incredible to meet them when the live recording was made. Working with some of the world's top musical talent will, hopefully, have rubbed off on our own new album that's due out in Feb."
The live CD was recorded in Jan as a stellar line-up gathered for charity at London venue The Roundhouse. It salutes the late Jim Capaldi, of British prog-rockers Traffic, who released hit albums such as Mr Fantasy. Capaldi died of stomach cancer in 2005. The performers included Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Jon Lord of Deep Purple and Dennis Locorriere of Dr Hook. The event was hosted by broadcasting legend Whispering Bob Harris. Balsamo says, "Capaldi created some top class music - he was a superb drummer and an articulate lyricist. We were over the moon to be invited to perform at the tribute event. We were bowled over to be rubbing shoulders with heroes like Weller, Winwood and Walsh."
Now they look forward to rubbing shoulders with music fans in Blackwood - and taking Bradfield's advice.
26 Oct 2007 - South Wales Argus - Telling Storys
This year has been an exciting one for The Storys with a date at Glastonbury and now one at Blackwood to end 2007 in some style! Led by Steve Balsamo, the band can turn from tender country-tinged ballad one minute to an as-wide-as-the-ocean stomp the next - in the same category as classic harmony vocal bands such as Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Crosby Still, Nash and Young and The Beatles. As well as their own UK headline tours last year and a critically acclaimed album, The Storys played as special guests on Elton John's UK summer stadium dates and played four arena dates in Dec 06 supporting Katie Melua.
Oct 2007 - ETNow - Sir Elton John's Favourite Storys Tour Soundcraft Vi6
A south Wales band who only recently released their first album on their own label have completed a second successful UK tour supporting Sir Elton John. Playing prominent arenas and sports grounds in the UK, and in Europe, to crowds of up to 30,000, The Storys and their sound engineer Dale Hanson have been travelling with their own front-of-house desk, a Soundcraft Vi6 digital live mixing console. According to Dale Hanson, The Storys' FOH engineer, "the first time I got my hands on a Vi6 was at the O2 Arena's club - Indigo2. That immediately made my mind up - we had to use one on tour!"
The Storys were opening the show, having been invited personally by Sir Elton to return to some of the country's biggest outdoor stages on another UK tour, following success in 2006. "The band went down so well over the course of the shows last summer, I wanted more people to hear about them and so I asked them to play a few more dates with me," said the Rocketman. On the road for six weeks, the highly acclaimed six-piece band played ten venues.
"And the Vi6 has performed perfectly throughout. No matter what conditions we performed in, including the Sor Arena in Norway where all the crews experienced problems with the continuous rain, the Vi6 never hesitated and gave us a perfect show every time," says Dale Hanson. "As the support band, we often have to wait our place in the queue for sound checks, and that can mean limited time to get it all done. The Vi6's simple, fast-to-operate, and easy-to-learn surface was perfectly suited - in fact I only had a short training session at the Soundcraft factory just before we left on tour and never once did I have to look at the manual, everything is laid out logically. meaning minimal searching for functions."
"I particularly like the mic pre-amps, which meant I spent less time EQ'ing - I mainly used Hi- and Lo-pass filters. The auto-gain on the compressors particularly helped me as The Storys are a real vocal harmony band and the desk kept the vocals clear at a controllable level. And the Vistonics control of the Lexicon Fx was perfect, laid out like an analogue unit, great sound and very easy to use, no complicated pages to flick through and I really loved the tap delay."
Since Dale and the Storys toured with the Soundcraft Vi6, Version 2.0 software has been released (for the Vi6 and Vi4) and previewed at the AES in New York, 5th Oct - the new functionality includes comprehensive Copy/Paste, Libraries and Master Linking.
9 Oct 2007 - LSI Online (Jim Evans) - The Storys Support Elton With Soundcraft
UK - Swansea rock band The Storys recently completed their support role on Elton John's tour of the UK and Europe with a Soundcraft Vi6 digital live mixing console.
The tour played notable arenas and sports grounds up and down the UK and out as far as Malmo in Sweden to crowds of up to 30,000. "The Vi6 performed perfectly," said Dale Hanson, The Storys' FOH engineer. "No matter what conditions we performed in, including at the Sor Arena in Norway where all the crews were experiencing problems with the continuous rain, the Vi6 never hesitated and gave us a perfect show every time. The first time I got my hands on a Vi6 was at the O2 Arena's club - Indigo2, that immediately made my mind up - we had to use one on tour."
On the road for six weeks, the band played 10 venues. Hanson adds: "Being the support band, we often have to wait our place in the queue for sound checks and that can mean limited time to get it all done. The Vi6's simple, fast-to-operate, and easy-to-learn surface was perfectly suited - in fact I only had a short training session at the Soundcraft factory just before we left on tour and never once did I have to look at the manual, everything is laid out logically meaning minimal searching for functions."
He continues, "I particularly like the mic pre-amps, which meant I spent less time EQ'ing - I mainly used Hi- and Lo-pass filters. The auto-gain on the compressors particularly helped me as The Storys are a real vocal harmony band and the desk kept the vocals clear at a controllable level. And the Vistonics control of the Lexicon Fx was perfect, laid out like an analogue unit, great sound and very easy to use, no complicated pages to flick through and I really loved the tap delay."
Since the Story's toured with the Soundcraft Vi6, Version 2.0 software has been released (for the Vi6 and Vi4) and previewed at the AES in New York. The new functionality includes comprehensive Copy/Paste, Libraries and Master Linking.
23 Sep 2007 - Wales On Sunday (Andrew Dagnell) - The Storys Have A New Celebrity Fan
Swansea indie band The Storys have found a new fan - ex-supermodel Jerry Hall. The six-piece band were performing at a gig at London's The Roundhouse alongside rockers Paul Weller, Cat Stevens and Steve Winwood. But lead singer Steve Balsamo said that it was Mick Jagger's ex who particularly liked them.
"She looked all glam and beautiful... she took a bit of a shine to one of our lads but I wouldn't like to say who - we'd never hear the end of it." He added: "When we came off stage we saw a line of legends like Pete Townshend, Gary Moore and Joe Walsh. They all said they'd loved what we'd done, with Walsh just saying in his American drawl 'Nice one guys'."
Sep 2007 - NPT Community Spirit - Music Men Alan And Brian Mix It With Elton
From their homes in Neath and Briton Ferry, Alan Thomas and Brian Thomas have been on an incredible two-year odyssey that has seen them brush shoulders with some of modern culture's most high-profile stars.
They've been on tour with Elton John, played gigs in support of Katie Melua and have seen their own band showcased on one of America's top-rated TV shows. Now musicians Alan and Brian have recorded a second album with The Storys, this one helmed by one of Britain's biggest names in rock production.
This summer, the band played the Glastonbury Festival's acoustic stage and were due to play the Cardiff Summer Festival last month. Not bad for a talented pair who are delighted to call Neath Port Talbot home.
Alan, based in Eaglesbush Valley, Neath, said: "My local pub says it all about the area for me, really - The Crown's a good boozer with some great characters." Originally from Swansea, he moved to Neath about four years ago with partner Andrea. They now have a baby son, Ben.
Brian was born and raised in Aberavon and now lives in Briton Ferry. He said: "Rock and roll kicked in for me at Glan Afan Comp in the 70s. Port Talbot has had a massive influence on my career because of the music I listened to when I was growing up. I sort of got bought up on my sister's record collection which as all 60s, the Beatles and so on. Then I found my own feet with people like Bowie and glam rock. The 70s was a great time - there were loads of local bands and we just went off and did our own thing. I remember going to loads of gig at the Troubadour in Port Talbot, seeing bands like XTC."
Touring with Elton John is a world away from those early days. Brian, Alan and their four colleagues in The Storys twice toured with the Rocket Man, playing to packed houses of up to 30,000.
They have played a series of European capital gigs with songstress Katie Melua and have been filmed for their silver screen debut due for release next year, in a movie with Saffron Burrows and Jason Statham.
TV exposure this year came in the form of a song being aired on one of American TV's top-rated soaps, being heard by three million viewers. Be By Your Side, from Glyncorrwg-recorded debut album The Storys, featured on a recent episode of sexy teen drama One Tree Hill.
The soulful outfit, who specialise in strong 70s-style West Coast-influenced songs, plan to release a second album in the UK soon. A headline UK tour is planned for coming weeks.
10 Aug 2007 - South Wales Evening Post - Local Heroes All Set To Rock At City's Museum
Swansea band The Storys will be the next rockers to perform at the city's museum. Steve Balsamo and his band will be joined on the Aug 24 bill by Swansea singer-songwriter Karl Morgan and Tony Moore, keyboard player with Cutting Crew for the 1986 worldwide smash (I Just) Died in Your Arms.
Their acoustic sets will go on from 8.30pm, with all ticket money and donations going to the Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity benefiting from Tony Moore's Acoustic Airwaves tour. The artists will precede their museum appearance with an early evening free performance at Swansea Airport. Last month home town star Spencer Davis played the museum.
2 Aug 2007 - South Wales Evening Post - Charity Jet Set Stops By
Swansea's high-flying pop performers The Storys will team up with the Cutting Crew's Tony Moore for a quirky, free gig on Friday, Aug 24. Fairwood Common Airfield in Gower, will welcome Tony Moore and The Storys who will plug in to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. This unusual tour will see Tony, a keen pilot, making a pit-stop tour of small airfields in Britain, in his Cessna, playing hangars, airport lounges and cafes. Tony said he can't wait for take-off.
"I've just got my pilot's licence and I want to celebrate by doing something good for my favourite charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT). Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson - now an airline captain himself - is one of those who encouraged me to try flying in the first place."
The former Iron Maiden member says the tour gives him the chance to play with friends.
"I love The Storys and they're one of the main reasons I'm coming to Swansea. The other reason is that the TCT are building their first Welsh unit at the University Hospital of Wales Cardiff."
The Storys are gearing up for their own headline tour in the autumn and they have just come off the road from their latest jaunt with Elton John. Frontman Steve Balsamo said the group is happy to come down to earth to help raise money for youngsters who are coping with cancer.
"It's going to be such a one-off that we can't wait to play it. It'll be great to have an event like this in Swansea Airport, on Fairwood Common."
Aug 2007 - Swansea Life (Andy Pearson) - Storys In Venice
Venice: home to canals, bridges, narrow alleyways and ageing architecture. When Swansea band The Storys agreed to be the subject of a photo exhibition at the city's Grand Theatre, Venice would prove to be the ideal backdrop.
Three finely tailored cotton shirts hang cuffs down from a washing line strung high and diagonally across the alley. They're in businesslike light blues and whites. Beside them hang a towel and a bed sheet. Like everything native Venetians seem to do, they're perfectly coordinated with the flat-dweller's clothes.
Beneath the drip-drying garments lurk six fellas from South Wales. The tallest appears to be the closest thing to a city gent, a dark open neck shirt largely hidden by a dark pinstripe suite that could well have once appeared on a lead character in a 70s blaxpoilation movie. The clobber of his acquaintances includes a paisley shirt, much denim, an open waistcoat and a peaked cap that has the look of a US railman or cavalryman. A man with a heavy Belstaff motorcycle jacket has a pair of baseball pumps strung casually around his neck. There are three full beards, a goatee, a white-man afro, aviator shades and a pair of Ray-Bans.
The location is to the north of Venice's snaking Grand Canal. The fellas are South Wales band The Storys, and they're here to be photographed for an exhibition due to hang in Swansea before their second album is released.
The photographer asking them to walk back and fore beneath the washing lines is Terry Morris, the man behind an exhibition, book and TV show that brought together celebs such as Stereophonics Kelly Jones and Stuart Cable, singers Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Tom Jones and Katherine Jenkins, sports stars and movie icons under the Cool Cymru Collection banner.
Other locations are a narrow canalside back street a mile or so away, and St Mark's Square, famous for its cafes, pigeons, the Basilica, the Doge's Palace and the Basilica's campanile. Some choices of location by Morris ooze the shabby chic for which Venice is know, as the waters eat away at its Romeo-and-Juliet-style palazzos.
Morris says: "The Storys are such a great bunch of people to work with - they're serious about their music but light-hearted in all the right ways. I've dragged them all around Venice for a whole day and, despite one or two of them being a little under the weather after the few beers we had last night, they've been brilliant. There's been none of the rock 'n' roll shenanigans you hear about from some stars - at one point today I even saw two of them helping a woman up some tricky steps with her pram."
Back at base - the modest Hotel Adriatico - singer, songwriter and guitar man Dai Smith is eager to see the results of the day's shoot. "Venice is amazing," he says. "The streets with all the water going through them, the boats going through the streets, it's just breathtaking. I loved St Mark's Square which was great and the Rialto Bridge was lovely. We were really looking forward to the photo shoot because the last one we did with Terry - for Swansea Life in Llanelli - was so good. He's a good guy, he really gets you going, and he gets you doing things in a split hair, things like climbing up walls in Venetian alleyways. He's just a lovely guy. Our expectations were getting some really good photos of the six of us, which we really haven't got a lot of. We just can't wait to see the pictures."
"The backdrops are very vivid," said Dai. "There was one picture where we were at the edge of a canal and the light was just filtering through the archways. We were all just sat down looking at the camera. I think that's going to be good. As regards some of the pictures being used in an exhibition at the Grand Theatre, I think that might be pretty embarrassing to be honest! I'm looking forward to seeing the band there but not myself."
Drummer Brian Thomas said: "It was great to be able to be in Venice. We were supposed to be here to support Elton John but his gig was postponed and we'd bought our flight tickets so there was no point wasting them. The photo shoot was a good idea to get something creative done. We'd never dreamt about doing a photo shoot in Veniece but Terry had the chance of this exhibition so he was happy to come out with us. We enjoyed doing the shoot with him in Llanelli when it was cold and rainy so this is a good contrast. I must admit, we're not a bunch of pretty boys - but Terry can play well on our individual characters, almost in a caricature sort of way.
"One great thing about Venice was that Terry prepared well. He went out before breakfast to scout for possible locations. St Mark's Square would've been the obvious choice - and, yes, I was pleased we did a few pictures there late on - but the great thing was finding those little alleyways. The one with the sheets and clothes hanging down was fantastic."
The album launch will put the seal on an astonishing year for the band. It has included the unleashing of their debut album in America, the use of a Storys track in top-rated global teen soap One Tree Hill, touring with Elton John, working on a movie due out next year with Saffron Burrows and Jason Statham, attending a "secret" Paul McCartney gig in London, meeting stars such as Kate Moss, Nell McAndrew, Jeff Beck and Paul Weller and playing Glastonbury for the first time.
There has been a busy gigging scheduled, TV and radio appearances up and down the country - and now studio time with Jon Kelly who has worked with big names such as Chris Rea, The Damned and The Levellers.
The hope is that the new album will continue the band's ascent and take them places where they will fly the flag for Wales and Swansea. Smith: "If there's one message we've got for the people in Swansea who've supported us it's simple: Thank-you."
Singer, songwriter and guitar man Steve Balsamo said: "We're looking forward to the photo exhibition at the Grand. One of the most amazing experiences we've had so far was playing there. It was so emotional because all our friends were there, our families, fans and it was a tremendous night - even after playing in front of 30,000 people with Elton it really was so moving."
14 Jul 2007 - Western Mail (Robin Turner) - Museum Tribute To Welsh Rock Scene
Who played guitar on Rick Wakeman's second solo album, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth? The answer to this, and a myriad other questions of interest to music anoraks, can be found at a new exhibition focusing on the history of the Welsh rock scene.
Memorabilia from the careers of household names, like Bonnie Tyler and Dire Straits, to lesser well-known ones, like The Storys, Badfinger and Man, will be on display in Swansea Museum until Oct. Organisers hope the material included in the Rock to Rhapsody exhibition will shed light on the musical pedigree of a city they describe as one of the most "eventful" in rock history. It will be opened on Monday by former Dire Straits drummer Terry Williams, who runs a blues bar in the city, and 1960s star Spencer Davis, who had major hits in the 1960s with singles such as Keep on Runnin' and Gimme Some Lovin'.
Exhibits include a platinum disc representing a million sales presented to Bonnie Tyler by her record company for her fifth and most successful album Faster Than the Speed of Night, featuring her most famous single, Total Eclipse of the Heart. Also on show is a silver disc for the album Lost in France, while Tyler has also donated a Variety Club "Best Female Artist" award that she won in 1983, at the height of her popularity.
Ex-Dire Straits drummer Williams has donated two MTV awards the band picked up for the video accompanying the 1985 single Money for Nothing from the Brothers in Arms album, which became the first video to be aired on MTV Europe when the network started on Aug 1, 1987.
Visitors can also see the gold disc presented to guitarist Gary Pickford-Hopkins for playing on Rick Wakeman's second solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, from 1974, and also a guitar used by Ray "Taff" Williams who performed with Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa and Bonnie Tyler among others.
Memorabilia from the short career of up-and-coming Swansea Bay band The Storys - who have already completed a world tour supporting Elton John - is also on display in the museum, more commonly known for its Egyptian artefacts, Dylan Thomas displays, and the more geological type of rock.
A large section of the exhibition, which runs until Oct, is devoted to the tragic story of Swansea rock band Badfinger, including photos and album sleeves from the band's career. The band achieved critical acclaim in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but eventually collapsed amid contractual wrangles. In the face of mounting legal problems, the band's founder Pete Ham killed himself in 1975, while guitarist Tom Evans also committed suicide in 1983. Both men hanged themselves.
Swansea Museum exhibitions officer Roger Gale said, "The exhibition will feature stories, photographs and instruments that made the city such an eventful one in the world of music."
The section of the museum now dedicated to rock music will also stage live performances from bands including The Storys and the Promise Theory Band.
Mr Gale added, "I've had great help from the Swansea music world in organising this exhibition. Spencer Davis has been particularly helpful. He has great affection for the attraction and will be flying in from California especially for the opening night to mark the start of the exhibition. Musician Gary Pickford-Hopkins is also a friend of mine since our schooldays and he's been instrumental in putting together the mouth-watering line-up for July 23. The presence of legendary drummer Terry Williams will make it an occasion to behold and the exhibition will be filled with interesting stories and features from the development of music in Swansea."
14 Jul 2007 - Highland News (Margaret Chrystall) - Elton Is Storys' Happier Ending!
When Steve Balsamo of The Storys heard Sir Elton John's voice on the phone, full of compliments for the band's music, it was a turning point for the band. The Storys from Wales - who will support Elton at his Inverness Caledonian Thistle Stadium gig on Sunday - had gone through the mill to hang on to their belief in music and the music industry. Not only did Elton ring Steve personally to tell him how much he had enjoyed listening to The Storys' self-titled debut album. He also invited the six-piece to join him on tour last year as his support band.
Steve said: "Our manager had got a copy of the album to him. But then he rang me at home and said 'Elton loves the album and he will give you a call himself in 10 minutes'. I put the phone down and had a nervous breakdown for the next 10 minutes! But he did ring and spoke to me because he said he wanted to tell me himself how much he had enjoyed the album. And that call made all the hard work, graft and grief we had had make sense. He even started singing one of the songs!"
Steve revealed that he and fellow band member, Dai Smith had had their fingers burned badly in a previous line-up which hadn't worked out. "I had had a major deal before and so had Dai and we had got very disappointed with the industry, and the way it can chew you up and spit you out."
But, disillusioned, they had still picked themselves up. And just over three years ago, Steve and Dai got together with fellow band member Rob Thompson to do some writing. "We spent three weeks in Rob's kitchen and came up with about 30 songs," Steve revealed.
They then headed to a converted old cinema to record the album, revelling in the freedom to do it how THEY wanted, without interference from anyone. From the 30 songs, they selected 11 to go on the debut album they first released on their own label, Hall Recordings. Record label Warners picked it up, and the summery West Coast American sound proved an instant hit with first single I Believe In Love becoming a radio favourite.
So what was it Elton said he liked so much about The Storys' sound? Steve said: "He loved the music and the harmony-laden stuff we do, but he also said he liked the fact that we had a total disregard for what is going on that is 'cool' or 'fashionable'!"
The Storys have been getting about a bit so far this year, as they are just back from doing a photo shoot against the romantic and dramatic backdrop of Venice. But Steve is looking forward to the Inverness gig and as it is the last night of the tour, perhaps a dram or two after the show is over. He said: "We are always treated so well on tour with Elton. And I'm hoping to get the chance to enjoy a single malt or two!"
Jul 2007 - Llanelli Life (Andy Pearson) - Telling Storys
He's been on tour with Elton John, played gigs in support of Katie Melua and seen his own band showcased on one of America's top-rated TV shows. Now musician Dai Smith has recorded a second album with The Storys, this one helmed - you guessed it - by one of Britain's biggest names in rock production.
Last month the band played the Glastonbury Festival's acoustic stage. This month they were billed on the main stage at Swansea's Fflam Festival. On 5 August they're due to play the Cardiff Summer Festival in Bute Park. Not bad for a fella who's delighted to call Burry Port home.
"One great thing about being in The Storys is the type of experience we get along the road," says Dai over tea and coffee at the Millennium Coastal Park. "We've been on the back of Harley Davidsons in the mountains of Austria, we've been filmed for a British movie due out next year and we've had blowouts on the autobahn in Germany, waiting for the recovery people to come. But it's always good to get back home - it's the place that helps keep us grounded."
He talks fondly of Burry Port, especially its people: "It's a town full of characters. They're all very genuine, very nice people and they don't suffer fools. I'm actually hoping they don't redevelop it too much because it's still nice and quiet. There's a similar kind of vibe to that of the Valleys - the people are very talkative and thrive on being part of a strong community. My house is an old place: my mother's lived there, my auntie's lived there and it's always been a place people have gone when they've needed a place to go. It's also near the harbour, which is great."
The family of Dai's mother, Joan, hails from Burry Port although she now lives in Gorseinon, where the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter lived until four years ago. He says: "I was brought up in Gorseinon but really wanted to move to Burry Port when my brother bought mother's auntie's house when she died. I helped him renovate it. Now I enjoy donig all my food shopping in the town and love going to Ann's chip shop. I know Ann, she's brilliant, and they do really good chips there. I'm vegetarian, so it's curry sauce and chips for me."
Now that all his living is done in the town. He says: "I have lots of friends in Swansea so we go out either there or in Llanelli - to places like Tom Peppers. That's a crazy place where everyone's up for a laugh. Everyone seems up for a laugh in Llanelli."
Dai and his five colleagues in The Storys have also had a few laughs as a band in the past few years as their star has risen in the world of pop and rock. Formed in 2003, they have twice been on tour with Elton John, playing to packed huoses of up to 30,000. They have played a series of European capital gigs with songstress Katie Melua and have been filmed for their silver screen debut due for release next year, in a movie with Saffron Burrows and Jason Statham.
Band colleague Steve Balsamo says: "Elton's intelligent, humorous, mischievous, always up for having a good laugh and also hard working - and to see how hard he works for his Aids charity is a revelation. We never saw any of his so-called tantrum tendencies - I suspect that's very much a persona for the press." Dai adds: "I remember his sense of humour shining through in one concert in Germany. He guessed that not many people would have a brilliant grasp of English so started making up filthy names for his band members - as he was introducing the band like that we were laughing our heads off."
The Katie Melua experience was also memorable. The Storys drummer Brian Thomas says: "When I look back at what we've done and what we've experienced it's easy to see that we've been wonderfully privileged. What a treat the Katie dates were last December, for example. We did a few concerts with her in France, Germany and the UK. She came across as lovely; very gracious and receptive. She invited us to her dressing room at the end of the night which helped us relax and play really well. There are always going to be obstacles in life but if you're relaxed you'll combat them and get over them - that was the lovely thing about Katie and her crew."
TV exposure this year came in the form of a song being aired on one of American TV's top-rated soaps, being heard by three million viewers. Be By Your Side, from debut album The Storys, featured on an episode of sexy teen drama One Tree Hill.
This April that album was released in the States, just after the band had played five shows at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The soulful outfit, who specialise in strong 70s-style West Coast-influenced songs, plan to release a second album in the UK.
The new sessions took place at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios near Bath, under the expert eye of producer Jon Kelly, a man whose track record includes The Beautiful South, Tori Amos, Paul McCartney, Deacon Blue, Prefab Sprout and Kate Bush.
There's no release date for the album yet but he's taken The Storys in a direction that's a little bit edgier, a little more rocky than their first long player. Dai say: "The main difference from the first album is that we're more together as a band. Working with a really good producer like Jon helped bring out really good performances in everybody. We've still got some finishing touches to put to it and the overall result will be a strong sounding album. Jon's a genius and a lovely guy as well - and we loved every minute of it. It was very easy recording as well. The first album took six months to a year but this one took four weeks.
Jon really brings out the best in you. He's not confrontational and he just seems to know the right moments to ask you to sing or play guitar or whatever. He knows where to put you in the studio, which room to put you in to get the best out of you... if you're quite shy he'll put you in the smaller room out of the way, but if you're a bit of a natural performer he'll put you right in front of the huge desk and he'll just go for it then. He's a very clever, experience guy.
He got me to sing in a big studio which is something I've never really like doing and was very nervous about - but he's very gentle and he just leads you through it nicely.
30 May 2007 - The Aquarian (Ken Shane)
Given that there's not much new under the pop music sun, it appears that every once-popular genre is a target for revival. Based on this British band's debut album, the time has come for an updating of the folk/country rock sound popularized by Poco, and later The Eagles, in the 1970s. This is a tricky style to pull off. It demands catchy, melodic songwriting with great hooks, and strong vocal harmonies. The Storys have all that, but even when it's done well, as it is here, it doesn't always meet with great success. The great Scottish band Del Amitri can attest to that. There are a number of really listenable songs here, and it's easy to understand how Elton John became a fan. The standouts include Cinnamon, Roll Like A Stone and Journey's End.
5 May 2007 - amazon.com (M R Warren)
Following in the tradition of the Cosmic Rough Riders, Teenage Fanclub and the Thrills, yet another band from Europe gets Sunshine fever. A six man band with four lead singers, tho it must be said frontman Steve Balsamo has the greatest range, ample harmonies abound. What sets this group apart from the above mentioned is the diversity of style here. The CD kicks off with I Believe in Love, owing a lot to the country rock sound of the seventies. Save Me is straight ahead blues, while Journey's End could be off of a Don Henley solo CD. Heck there is even a little Backstreet Boys in You're Taking My Heart away! A little bit for everybody on what is an impressive first effort. Kinda like what the Eagles would sound like if they had started in the 21st century.
May 2007 - CD Universe
On their self-titled debut album, the Storys offer up a confident set of acoustic-driven pop/rock. Boasting four (yes, four) singer-songwriters, this UK-based act succeeds in making Coldplay seem edgy with its effortlessly catchy choruses and sensitive lyrics, as best revealed on the uplifting sing-along I Believe in Love and the thoughtful ballad Be By Your Side.
5 Apr 2007 - amazon.com (Don Morrison)
These guys are from England and they are some what of a new group, they are not the "Stories" from the seventies. I have a friend who likes to club in England and she told me about them, I went to Amazon and bought their CD. They have an English urban pop sound that you just have to listen to. As far as I know, they have not came to the States yet and are not well known here, be the first on your block to get The Storys.
Apr 2007 - Lefsetz.com Newsletter - The Storys, Cinnamon
We didn't buy Sweetheart Of The Radio. By that time, the Byrds were done. Our first exposure to country rock was Crosby, Stills & Nash. Not that we knew that's what they called it. We just knew Suite: Judy Blue Eyes sounded so GOOD!
I remember being at my buddy Marc Goloff's house when he dropped the needle on Gimme Shelter. Back when music was precious, when you couldn't possess all you wanted, and you discovered new music at your friends' houses. Maybe after school, on a weekend, you'd go into a classmate's bedroom and they'd spin a record that you'd often heard of, but couldn't afford. Sometimes it was Johnny Winter, something interesting, but an album you had no need to own yourself. Other times what came out of the speakers was so infectious that you would have forked over all the money in your wallet to own it IMMEDIATELY!
Marc didn't turn out the lamps for effect. There was ambient light from the front porch emerging through the windows of his room. And when I heard that eerie intro to the Stones opus I was shocked, how did they come up with something this ethereal, this GOOD!
Although he turned me on to Rock and Roll Woman from the Buffalo Springfield's Retrospective, Marc didn't introduce me to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. I can't remember who did that. Seemed that every party you went to that fall you heard the song. Eventually, I bought the album and fell in love with Long Time Gone, which had some of the same feel as Gimme Shelter. And I had to buy Deja Vu the day it came out. I played Carry On every morning for a month.
Suddenly, country rock was everywhere. The Dead released Workingman's Dead with Uncle John's Band. Reviewers considered Poco's debut a masterpiece. This homey, often acoustic music was the new soundtrack. With the Beatles gone, kids switched from playing the Merseybeat at parties to the California sound.
And then came Take It Easy. The reason Take It Easy sticks is that second verse...
"Well I'm standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It's a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me"
Sure, the guitar sound of the intro enraptured the listener just like Gimme Shelter, but what makes Take It Easy so memorable is the personalization. Within this one verse is a whole movie. And hope. No matter how depressed, how lonely you were, you could listen to Take It Easy and believe you were just one chance encounter from having your life work.
Maybe the Eagles were too good. Their voices were too mellifluous. Don Henley's lyrics too poignant. But the band's success gave country rock a bad name. Suddenly, soft, acoustic music was for wimps. The focus shifted from the west coast back to the east. Suddenly, it was all about punk.
Of course, disco had its place too. But after that died, we had MTV, dominated initially by the English acts, and then the video extravaganzas of Michael Jackson and his disciples. Country rock is seen as a relic akin to hair band music. And boy band music. An historical curio.
But if this is so, why does it sound so damn good? Why do the Eagles outgross not only the punks, but ANYBODY who came thereafter? Why do they own the best selling album of all time?
Maybe there's a little bit of magic in that country rock music they're playing. Not that anybody will acknowledge this in the States.
Funny thing about the U.K. They always seem to be picking up on overlooked U.S. sounds, and capitalizing on them. Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page... they were huge fans of delta blues, which had little mainstream traction in the U.S. And now we've got an English band trying to recapture this California sound.
I can't ignore e-mail from J.B. Brenner. He sent me a copy of Willis Alan Ramsey's album. Do you know Satin Sheets? Never a hit, but a classic to those who've heard it, whether it be the original take, or remakes by the likes of Waylon Jennings and Shawn Colvin. It fell through my cracks, but J.B. was a huge fan, back when there could be pockets of fans, when something could truly be a regional underground hit.
So, when J.B. sent me a track today, I listened.
Now if I lived in England, and was in the music business, maybe I'd know The Storys story, and might hate them on principle. Based on their backstory, how they were signed, how they were marketed, how they were hyped. But I do my best to ignore the hype today. It barely reaches me. If it's so loud that I am aware of it, I'm predisposed to dislike the act involved. I'm waiting to discover music from alternative sources, from friends I trust, like J.B.
At first I wasn't impressed. The Storys' Cinnamon sounded a bit too generic. But then there was an ENTHUSIASM in the chorus, and the song broke down and came back deep in. And suddenly I was hooked.
I've given up on hipness. It gets you nowhere. There's a circle jerk of music business insiders and hard core music fans who are so deep into it that they're not interested in what's ear-pleasing, what sounds good. And The Storys' Cinnamon sounds good! It's about singing and playing. The members of the act listened to the California sound of yore. And they might not have taken it one step beyond, but they managed to capture the essence.
Tell me it's second-rate like America. Tell me the rest of the songs don't sound as good. All I can ask is WHAT POSSESSED THESE PEOPLE TO MAKE THIS MUSIC? What possessed The Feeling to record Sewn? Didn't they get the message this music isn't hip? That it's all about beats?
As the U.S. business dies, there's a vibrancy in the U.K. Because people are more open, they're less catholic in their tastes, the first criterion is that something be good.
Then again, The Storys don't own the chart in the U.K. either.
Our values are all fucked up. We're so busy moving forward that we've left the essence behind. The fundamentals always play. Good vocals and good changes are the building blocks of success. They're not the ONLY way to success, but why are they denigrated to such a degree today?
The take of Cinnamon on MySpace is not the same one I've got, it's missing a middle section, which contains a bit of the track's magic. And don't even bother to listen if you're a hip-hopper or metalhead, this music isn't for you. But if you remember sitting in your dorm back in the seventies, breaking the shrinkwrap on earthy records, this is going to resonate with you. This will remind you when sweet didn't mean shit. When if you could raise your head in the air and sing along it was seen as a GOOD THING!
Now that the mainstream has collapsed, there's an opportunity for all the music lambasted by those in control of the media to come back. Musicians can go straight to the public, which is the new gatekeeper.
Cinnamon doesn't have the lyrics of Take It Easy. It verges on forgettable. But it gives me hope. That someone out there still CARES about this music, this sound!
30 Mar 2007 - Western Mail (Claire Hill) - Swansea Band Go On Tour Across Europe With Elton John
Welsh band The Storys have been asked to go on tour with singing legend Elton John for a second time. The award-winning singer was so impressed with the Swansea band after they joined him on last year's arena tour.
Lead singer Steve Balsamo said the band were excited to be heading out with Elton again, this time across Europe. He said, "We will be playing all over the UK and will be heading to places like Venice as part of the European tour."
As part of the famous singer's Red Piano tour the band will also be playing the Versailles Gardens, Paris, the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, and in Moscow.
The Storys, who self-produced their debut album before being signed by Warners, are set to go into the studio to record their second album.
Balsamo said they were feeling upbeat about it and looking forward to recording new tunes. He said, "We are ready to make the new record and we will hopefully be able to release a single by the time we go on tour."
The band will soon decamp to Peter Gabriel's Real World studio for a month to record the new work.
27 Mar 2007 - Philadelphia Daily New (Jonathan Takiff)
On The Storys (Ryko/Korovo), the group of the same name neatly evokes (without totally aping) the '70s West Coast aura of Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Eagles. A little John Lennon and Wild Horses-era Rolling Stones is also stirred into this pot.
19 Mar 2007 - Country Music Television (Craig Shelburne) - Yes, You Can Find Country At South By South West
Austin, Texas - Without fail, every year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference, somebody inevitably asks, "You're here for CMT? Are there country artists here?" True, few mainstream country artists come to Austin for the famously overwhelming conference, although it really isn't hard to find music here with its roots in country. With the proper advance planning (listening to unfamiliar bands online before you go, scribbling a schedule of where you need to be at the top of every hour), you can then answer the second-most popular inquiry: "What good stuff have you seen so far?"
Eager to discover new music, Thursday night began with the Storys, who hail from South Wales, yet their lush harmonies and arrangements recall the California singer-songwriter vibe from the 1970s. In other words, songs like I Believe in Love are not that far from contemporary country. When they get back to Europe, they're opening a tour for Elton John.
16 Mar 2007 - South Wales Evening Post - The Playlist With Huw Stephens
Once again this year I'm lucky enough to be spending a week in the heart of Austin, Texas. The South by South West music industry festival continues to be the largest and widely regarded as the best event of its kind in the world. As well as being a meeting point for people from different areas of the music industry, it's where every band who aims to make it big wants to play - from every country on the planet. And that's a lot of bands.
With such an international line-up of mostly new and soon-to-be-discovered names, it's good news that Wales has, for the first time this year, its own showcase. This means that this afternoon four bands from Wales will play on the bustling, chaotic Sixth Street, a street about the same size as St Mary Street in Cardiff, but with every building pretty much a bar or club that puts on live music. Literally thousands of bands, singers, songwriters, rappers and electronic players will be playing, and at times it can be too much to take in.
The Storys, Steve Balsamo's band, bring an FM-sheen to proceedings with a more adult sound which Elton John has admired in the past.
14 Mar 2007 - South Wales Evening Post (Claire Hill) - Welsh Bands Head For Texas
Welsh bands begin an onslaught on the American music scene today at one of the world's biggest festivals. For the first time a dedicated Welsh stage will be set up to promote talent from home at the influential South By South West festival in Texas.
Chart-toppers The Automatic, Gruff Rhys and The Storys will play alongside newer bands hoping to catch the eye of record labels and the worldwide media.
Twenty years ago the event in Austin, Texas, showcased a handful of bands to industry insiders. But after breaking White Stripes, The Strokes and Norah Jones, it has become the most important date in the music industry calendar. The festival, known as SXSW, has the potential to open doors for bands, with lucrative record deals, country-wide tours, radio and press attention on offer. It could enable them to crack the ultimate market, in terms of profile and money - America.
Officially eight Welsh bands will be playing at a special event during the festival, while a number of other bands, promoters, record labels and managers will be hitting the town of Austin to make contacts and broker music deals. For four days each bar and street of the town will be filled with music, as official gigs and impromptu singing sessions attempt to grab people's attention.
The Storys: When Swansea singer Steve Balsamo and friends started up their band they had to put up most of the capital themselves. However, after being adopted by Elton John as a support act, they plan to fit right into the US music scene with their Americana-style.
23 Feb 2007 - South Wales Evening Post - Battling It Out For Song Honours
The best in Welsh songwriting will be on display in South West Wales next week as Port Talbot's Afan Lido hosts the S4C competition Can i Gymru. Wales's answer to the Eurovision Song Contest will feature this year's top nine Welsh songs fighting it out for the title of this year's Song for Wales. And there will be plenty for local audiences to cheer for.
Steve Balsamo has joined forces with fellow Swansea musician Karl Morgan and Cardiff-based Ynyr Roberts to compose and perform Modrwy Werdd (Green Ring) during the live final next Friday.
Another Swansea musician, Michael Phillips, has also reached the final nine, in the category for members of the public. Michael has reached the final once before, when Connie Fisher sung his composition Curiad Calon (Heartbeat).
This year his song Dawnsio yn yr Heulwen (Dancing in the Sunshine) will be performed by Iestyn Thomas from Llandysul.
9 Feb 2007 - South Wales Evening Post - On The Road Again
The Storys have revealed exclusively to the Post that they are set to hit the road again with Sir Elton John in the summer. The Swansea six-piece with the pristine power-harmonies made such an impact on Sir Elton that he invited them back to share his stage, for some of the biggest audiences in the UK.
He says he's pleased to have them back on board: "The band went down so well over the course of the shows last summer, I wanted more people to hear about them, and so I asked them to play a few more dates with me this summer."
This year is set to be a scorcher for the band, with a trip to Austin, Texas to play the SXSW music festival, on the cards. The Stooges and Emmylou Harris are also set to plug in at the mega music bash.
Local fans though have the chance to catch the lads on their doorstep in the Grand Theatre on Thursday, Mar 1.
Frontman Steve Balsamo says: "The Grand Theatre is our first show this year, so Swansea will be the first to hear the new songs, before we fly to Texas for the SXSW music festival on the very day Rykodisc release our album Stateside. It's all very exciting, and for Sir Elton to invite us out again for some more big UK shows is just fantastic."
Support at the Grand will come from Karl Morgan.
7 Dec 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Support For Katie
Swansea band The Storys are supporting Katie Melua on part of her British and European tour. The band, led by former West End singer Steve Balsamo, play Paris tonight and Friday and Germany on Monday after their first supporting appearance with Katie Melua at Wembley Arena last Sunday.
The band, who also supported Elton John on his tour last summer, are currently working on their second album, which is due for release next spring. It will coincide with a gig at Swansea's Grand Theatre on Mar 1.
6 Oct 2006 - South Wales Evening Post (Kay Byrne) - Just For The Sheer Beauty Of It
Swansea has it all as a tourist destination, as anyone who lives here already knows. But with so many delights crammed into such a small area, how is a visitor to make sure they don't miss out?
Steve Balsamo, former West End star and now lead singer with band The Storys, has moved back to Swansea after living in London for 10 years, and he says he is very glad to be home.
"I haven't missed London one little bit," he said. "Swansea is a gorgeous place and it's a really exciting time to be here with so much redevelopment going on," said Steve, who has just returned from a tour with The Storys.
"We've got lovely parks in Swansea which are well worth a visit - Victoria, Singleton, Brynmill, Clyne. I take my daughter Isabella and we always start by picking up a Joe's ice cream on St Helen's Road. "I went to Brynmill Park the other day. I hadn't been there for about 10 or 15 years and I'd forgotten how lovely it was. It brought back so many memories."
3 Oct 2006 - The Times (David Sinclair) - The Storys, Shepherds Bush Empire
On paper this was a landmark gig in the onward march of The Storys. A personal endorsement from Elton John - who declared their self-titled debut album to be "fantastic" - had led to the six-man group from Swansea supporting him on a string of stadium dates during the summer. Now they were back to play the biggest concert yet in their own right: a showcase event as part of the month-long On Song Festival, which was being recorded for a broadcast in two weeks' time on Radio 2. The Storys are a group whose appeal depends on an old-fashioned concept of musical elegance and harmonic nuance. With a front line comprised of four distinct singers and songwriters, they harked back to the classic era of American West Coast bands such as the Eagles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, an impression reinforced by their fashion sense. Their set was a masterclass in the art of slow, melodic, acoustic harmony-rock, beautifully played and sung with an attention to detail that left little room for any showmanship. Despite the collegiate nature of the group, with each of the songwriters taking the lead on their own songs, it was Steve Balsamo who clearly emerged as the best singer and natural focus of attention. His performances were spine-tingling throughout, especially the soaring bursts of falsetto in Save Me and his sad, haunting delivery of The King of Broken Dreams. And despite one or two comparatively uptempo numbers, the bias in favour of slow, soft material was slightly enervating. But it will sound absolutely beautiful on the radio. (3/5 stars)
12 Sep 2006 - classicrocksociety.co.uk (Martin Hudson) - The Storys, The Boardwalk, Sheffield
I did not have to wrestle with myself over whether or not to get along to this gig. For one, the headline band is outstanding, and two, one of the CRS' fave band's was opening. It proved to be another one of those very special evenings that the average punter would only "um and ah" over. Silly really since airwave luminaries such as Bob Harris and Janice Long are waxing lyrical, not only over The Storys, but also over the little Irishman Brian Houston. Having said that, gig attendances is not a new subject for myself and not surprisingly it was a sparsely filled Boardwalk on arrival. The Storys have star of the West End stage, Steve Balsamo, as lead singer/guitarist and this guy can sing. Having said that the vocal harmonies are superbly rich giving The Storys a CSN or Eagles tang! The band is a six-piece with four equally amazing vocalists that spreads the vocal work load around. The eponymous debut album is stuffed full of quality songs that provides for all the family. In fact Steve announced on a couple occasions to an oblivious crowd, "Here's a proggy one for Martin!" Thanks Steve, but every song was performed with aplomb and built upon some beautiful musicianship. Indeed, each of the four front men could have performed a full solo set (had they the material) and transfixed the now fuller hall. I Believe In Love, the album opener, became the evenings opener, (High Enough - a ballad - was track of the evening for me), and that CSN parallel was instantly apparent. The Storys have recently opened for Elton John and performed at Bob Harris' 60th birthday bash and so are rated highly by those that know. All that is needed now is for the band to become less of a secret to the general public and they will be massive. They are simply brilliant! PS - Watch out for Story boys Steve Balsamo and Rob Thompson along with Magenta's Rob Reed on the ChimpanA project!
Sep 2006 - Quayside Exchange, Sunderland (Sam)
Wow... There wasn't anyone in the whole building that didn't love it! The Storys made a fantastic impression on this place. They spent the day chilling and soundchecking and I have to say it was one of the best soundtracks I've had to my 9-5! They Kicked off at about 9.30 after Brian - now, he's a legend in his own right. Brian Houston - double wow... You must check him out! Anyhoo - got seriously distracted... The night was just fab - having annoyed the majority of staff here at the Quayside with the tracks off myspace they were almost sick of the 4 songs they'd heard repeatedly and I was worried they wouldn't enjoy it - but instead they sat there singing along (yes - I'd played it that much even the staff knew some of the words!). I'd just like to thank the band for all that they did for us here at the Quayside - by the way Steve... Holly still goes all crossed eyed everytime we mention your name! Highlights of the night were definitely Cinnamon, playing pool with Andy, watching the staff get star struck over the nicest and most down to earth band! Getting the full album for the staff (even the customers have asked who's singing now it's blasting out in the bar!) Giant Twister!!!! (Andy and Dai can really bend!) Rob's Birthday!!!! So after having one of the best nights ever here at the Quayside I'd really like to thank The Storys... From me, Dave and Richard and all the staff (working and not) - THANKS!!!! We'd love you to come back (even if it's just for lil' Holly!). Well, on to the next... but can the next band live up to these guys!!?
Sep 2006 - Americana UK (Morag Haberdashery) - Interview
The Storys are a 6 piece 70s West Coast influenced band from South Wales. They've just started their first headline tour having previously played stadiums supporting Elton John. Steve Balsamo (vocals/guitar) talked to us about aubergines and their pet ghost Carter...
How would you describe the sound of the band?
We've got all kinds of influences, I guess there's a lot of Americana in there, some favourites would be The Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash, I'm a big Wilco fan, not sure everyone would agree but really we love all kinds of music. On the bus we've been listening to Brian Houston who is fantastic, he's supporting us and he's great. Prince always goes down well, and The Who. We love Springsteen of course! And I really like this ambient record John Hopkins has made. The sound of the band as a whole comes very naturally, our philosophy as a band has always been to leave the ego at the door and make the song the king, There's not been any trouble between us - when we're rich and famous there's bound to be an acrimonious split, but for now...
Is there a big Welsh/ Americana retro scene going on?
There's definitely a scene in Wales, we harmonise together all the time and it does come naturally. If someone brings an idea to the table everyone joins in. I think its down to the male choral tradition here, its part of our heritage. Various members of the band have known each other for a long time, for example Dave and I both had deals with Sony, a couple of the others had been trying to get some songs together. The scene in South Wales is quite incestuous, bands are supportive of each other and all play with each other but the media is not so supportive. Its hard to get on local TV if you don't speak Welsh. There's a movement going on, with real songs coming back and there's a very healthy scene now, lots of new bands. I think it's a reaction to pop idol and things like that, it's the nature of pop to react against what's going on outside I think.
The record is unashamedly retro sounding, how did you manage that?
Recording it was very romantic, in an old converted cinema, now it's a miners welfare club. We wanted a sound like an old dusty record. We recorded it in big rooms with lots of reverb. Dai collects old gear so we used old compressors and the type of equipment they used back in the 70s, we're very proud that the record sounds so old and creaky! We want to do everything ourselves, we wrote and recorded and produced the record ourselves. Its been a natural process for us. We borrowed money off a local gangster to set up the label, because we needed to set something up and didn't want to lose control. Luckily, we got some good reviews and Warners came on board. We wanted to get on with the music so we took the plunge and they facilitate a lot but Nick Stewart signed us to Korova and he has given us a lot of autonomy, we're still in control. We've been very, very lucky with the deal.
How's the tour going?
The tour has been lovely so far, we've just played Penzance. We've never been so far west before! We're at our best live, all we want to do is write good songs and play to as many people as possible, we just want to get out there and show our chops and its very different from the record, and its great to be out on our own. Its very different to the shows with Elton. We've been knuckling down on the tour and writing new songs, we use the time as constructively as possible. We've got a stockpile of new songs.
How did those shows come about?
Elton John was doing his residency in Las Vegas and somebody passed him a copy of our record, He has a voracious appetite for new music, its not hype, he really does. He called me at home, to be honest it was a real shock, when I realised it wasn't a joke I nearly had a nervous breakdown. He said he thought the production on the record was lovely and he asked what the next single was going to be. I told him it was I Believe in Love and he started singing it to me! He's really very charming. I knew he'd been a patron to Ryan Adams, who I'm a big fan of, and well, we're very very privileged to be able to work with him. It was a real thrill.
Who's Carter the Ghost?
We knew there were lots of stories about The Hall being haunted, these tales were coming from hard fellas who don't mess around, but they were freaked out. There were lots of creepy goings on. Every morning we'd find faders moved, switches clicked, this was in an area that was cordoned off so no one could have done it. We had an eight piece string section in one day, and one of them kept complaining that she was very, very cold and there was something breathing on her neck. We took a photo of everyone and when it was developed there was a ghost standing behind her! It was very, very strange, but his work on the faders was all good. He's our lucky mascot now, we gave him a credit on the album but I think in future he may want a production credit.
Anything else we should know?
Most of us are veggies and we're all really into cooking, we can get very competitive about it. We've been talking about a Storys' cookery book - its probably the opposite of rock n roll but we love it. My favourite recipe would be... mmmm... probably something Moroccan and spicy, probably an aubergine tangine with savoury rice and couscous. The trick is to put salt on the aubergines first and then compress them to get all the bitterness out.
1 Sep 2006 - Worcester News - Quite A Story For This Welsh Quartet
What a difference a year makes - certainly so for a band who, in 12 months, have gone from being on the bill at a concert outside Buckingham Palace to being snapped up by a major record label and supporting Elton John.
The Storys, whose sound is led by four singer-songwriters, formed in 2003 and, last summer, played in front of 90,000 people outside Buckingham Palace alongside Rod Stewart and James Brown. The event was last year's Olympic Torch extravaganza to celebrate London getting the 2012 Olympics and since then the group has not looked back, having been signed to Warner last Christmas, which released their debut album earlier this year, winning over many fans. One such fan was musical legend Elton John who approached the country-tinged classic rock group to ask them to join him on a major tour of the country's cricket grounds. It was only a couple of months ago when that dream came true for the band as they took off on the tour - which included a massive sell-out gig at Worcestershire County Cricket Club in Worcester's New Road.
Storys' guitarist and vocalist Steve Balsamo said: "He was just such a lovely guy and so down-to-earth, very funny and wonderful. We had a fantastic experience and it was thoroughly enjoyable - although it was quite scary because we knew we had to come up with the goods. However, we really loved it."
Now the six-piece West Coast influenced Welsh group - who released their latest single I Believe In Love at the end of last month - are set to return to Worcester on Monday night as part of a 26-date tour. They will be playing the city's Marr's Bar in Pierpoint Street. Steve said: "Worcester is a gorgeous city and we had a lovely time there."
30 Aug 2006 - Metro (John Stevens) - Five Questions For Steve Balsamo
A sextet from the valleys, The Storys have just toured the UK with Elton John after he announced himself as a fan of the classic, harmony-laden song writing style. Now it's back to the real world with a 22-date jaunt for leader singer Steve Balsamo and his band.
How was touring with Sir Elton?
The highlight was when he called us initially and said he loved the record. But being invited on the tour was amazing; he was delightful, and we had the best possible experience we could have had.
He had a hand in selecting your most recent single. Is he something of mentor?
Elton loved that song, and told us it would make a great single, He's been a patron for acts like Scissor Sisters and Ryan Adams, too: he just has a huge passion for music, and has gone above and beyond with the help he has given us.
Now you're touring small venues. Is it down to Earth with a bump? Or are you relishing a deferent challenge?
A bit of both really but, ultimately, we'll play in front of 25,000 people or 25. As soon as the Elton tour finished we played a hometown gig in an 80-capacity venue, which was lovely. We prefer to do it the old-fashioned way: good songs and hard graft.
Is you multi-harmony vocal style, following example of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash enjoying a renaissance?
There's a huge history of multiple singer bands - The Beatles did it, too, of course. It's great the cycle seems to be coming around with bands like The Feeling and The Magic Numbers doing similar things vocally. We love all that stuff.
What about the ghost that was spotted in the social club where you were recording?
We got a female string octet in to record some parts, and one of them complained of feeling uncomfortable. We took pictures of the session for posterity and in one of the photos there's this aft wisp-shaped like a person behind her. It's all a bit weird.
25 Aug 2006 - Daily Mirror - Gigs
24 Aug 2006 - Bristol Evening Post (Keith Clark) - Maximum Exposure
Supporting Elton John is a big deal for any artist. Just ask the then almost unknown Scissor Sisters who supported Sir Elton on the tour that came to Bristol and became overnight successes. Eighteen months ago James Blunt supported him on his UK tour and look what happened to him.
The latest act to have joined him on tour were Swansea six-piece The Storys, about whom the Rocket Man said before they went on the road: "They have made a fantastic debut album and I am really excited that they will be playing with me on tour."
He is not the only famous fan that the Welsh band has collected in recent months. Tom Jones, Gavin Henson, Charlotte Church and former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable are all numbered among their fans, as is Bob Harris, who is using the jingle the band wrote for him (to their tune of Be By Your Side) and invited them to play at his recent 60th birthday party.
That The Storys should be attracting this sort of music industry buzz is unusual, because this is not a band of young wannabes. It is an acoustic band with four singer-songwriters - Steve Balsamo, Andy Collins, Dai Smith and Rob Thompson - with drummer Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas on keyboards, banjo, mandolin and lap steel.
They do not look or sound like your typical hotly-tipped "next big thing" band. They are older, hairier, and their hauntingly beautiful music has a retro West Coast America flavour.
Their interests also reflect another reason why The Storys are so different from the new bands coming out of the record label factories: Balsamo has studied macrobiotic cookery as well as the art of Mongolian throat-singing. Collins is a fan of Pete Sellers and likes reading; Smith is into cycling and old recording equipment; and Thompson is into fine wines, food and cartoons.
The Storys initially got together with the intention of writing classic songs, with great hooks, melodies and lyrics.
They say that right from the start songs were "falling out of the sky, and behind every song is a story containing characters and a soundtrack of their lives".
There was a natural vocal chemistry that meant that their sound is both fragile and intense, underpinned by a dark lyrical edge, that turns from tender country-tinged ballad one minute to sprawling stomps the next.
It is a sound that draws inevitable comparisons with The Eagles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Fleetwood Mac, Wilco and the other classic bands with multiple singers up front.
Balsamo explains: "Everyone would just sing a part and it would fit naturally. Nothing was worked out. We went for a 'if it sounds good, it is good' approach and kept the natural parts even though they might have been musically imperfect."
Their first gig was to more than 70,000 people at The Olympic Torch Concert outside Buckingham Palace, which was soon followed by a support slot with Tom Jones and a series of gigs in venues such as Bush Hall and The Borderline, attracting the critics' attention.
The Times said of them: "Balsamo has a truly spellbinding voice and The Storys' melodic mandolin-backed ballads and jaunty rockers should spark some serious interest when the band's debut album is released."
And that is exactly what happened when The Storys released their eponymous debut album, on the reactivated Korova label, which found itself on both the Radio 1 and Radio 2 playlists.
The album started life in Rob's kitchen with Dai recording some very vibey acoustic tracks before relocating to The Hall, a converted cinema that's now a social club, in Glyncorrwg in the Welsh valleys, described by the band as "one-road-in-one-road-out".
The Hall has its own ghost, Carter, who would change the levels on the mixing desk to his liking and once, during recording of the strings, he was, say the band, even caught on camera.
But that is another story.
18 Aug 2006 - Western Mail (Claire Hill) - On Tour With Elton
The Storys were relatively unknown when Sir Elton John picked them to support him on his arena tour. Now they are back home, lead singer Steve Balsamo tells Claire Hill what it was really like on the road with the legend - and he opens up his photo album too.
You could forgive Welsh band The Storys for feelig just a little bit smug. After all, they recently finished touring with the legendary Sir Elton John after being hand-picked by the Rocket Man himself to support him. And while they were on the massive arena tour, Sir Elton sang their praises, telling the Swansea grooup they have "a brilliant sound".
Today, with feet still firmly on the ground, front man Steve Balsamo lifts the lid on their days on the road with the world famous singer. He reveals: the advice chart-topping Sir Elton gave the Swansea band; how the main man watched them perform from his backstage vantage point; the stars they met while touring; what it's really like inside the dressing room of the flamboyant singer, who is renowned for spending thousands of pounds on flowers.
The story began five months ago as Steve bathed his baby daughter Isabella at home in Wales. The bathtime fun was brought to an abrupt halt by a call from Sir Elton. Prior to the call, Elton had spent a week listening to The Storys' self-titled debut album after it landed in his lap in Las Vegas and he was determined to invite the band to support him on his latest tour.
"I was bathing the baby at the time," says 35-year-old Balsamo, recalling the moment. "I just screamed and she (Isabella) just looked at me like 'What the hell is going on?'"
Balsamo admits he wasn't exactly coherent during the phone call. "My side of the conversation had deteriorated as it was, but when he started singing our first single down the phone it was just bonkers. It's a surreal thing. I had to apologise for being mental down the phone."
The six-piece, who signed to Warner Bros earlier this year after funding the recording of their debut album, had until May 29 to prepare themselves to meet Sir Elton in the flesh. Luckily there was plenty to do to ensure they could successfully follow in the footsteps of his previous proteges, Ryan Adams, James Blunt and Scissor Sisters.
With only a set time available to wow the crowd, the set list was easy to compose. Introspective songs were put aside as the band decided to focus on their big hitters, determined to win over Elton's fans.
But as far as Balsamo and the rest of the band were concerned the songs weren't really the problem - it was the on-stage banter which was causing the biggest headache. "We had to really think about what we were going to say in between the songs," Balsamo explains. "You can't over-egg it but you have to be respectful and you can't say too much."
Once that issue was sorted, the band packed their bags. "We were like Trinny and Susannah on the tour bus," laughs Balsamo. It seems Balsamo and the rest of the band - Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas - were determined to pack as many clothes, from T-shirts to suits, as they could into their hired tour bus.
And while on tour they got a helping hand from Sir Elton's very own costume staff as they were drafted in to help iron their clothes. In fact, everything they could have possibly wanted was provided by the man himself. "On the first day he came to say hello to us, said enjoy it and if there was anything we needed to just ask," says Balsamo. "He gave us two of the best sound guys in the world to use so we knew we were in safe hands."
Arriving for the first gig at the Manchester MEN Arena was daunting for the nervous support act. But whatever feelings they had prior to the concert they were soon assuaged when the 30,000-strong audience cheered their arrival. "The first night was amazing. Laurence Davies, who is kind of our tour manager, is a big lump of a man but to see him crying when he was watching us, I thought we are doing something right. That was one of our highlights - to make a grown man cry."
Ask Balsamo to list the rest of his highlights and he will reel off with dizzying speed that they included going to Germany; seeing Sir Elton at the end of the tour and meeting Chris Eubank.
Plus there was the chance to listen to Sir Elton's seet each night in what Balsamo describes as a "schooling", ingesting songs like Rocket Man, I want Love and Tiny Dancer. And that's not to mention knowing that Sir Elton was side of stage watching them play.
So what was a typical day on the road with Sir Elton really like?
"We would get there (at the arena) about 1pm, eat fantastic food, eat some more and then eat some more, chill out, sound check, eat some more, then eat again, then go on stage. There was a lot of Stella consumed, especially by Alan. He is having a baby and he wanted to call it Stella, but I think he's been banned from doing that. But we didn't end up partying with Elton. He finishes the gig and then goes home, his partying was done in the 70s and he doesn't do that now."
That didn't stop the Welsh band from making friends with the crew and setting fireworks off on Bournemouth beach at 4am to celebrate the last night of the tour. Their good behaviour ensured they didn't get a bad name for themselves during the month-long tour.
"We kept out of everyone's way and were very respectful to people. When we left the tour the stage manager said that we were one of the loveliest bands that has come on tour with them. We pride ourselves on being very respectful."
When it came to spending time with Sir Elton, the band had their chats with him, but they didn't invade his space. "We were invited to have a lovely official photo at the end and we went into his dressing room. It was gorgeous, very tastefully done with lots of drapes, lots of flowers, lovely food. And the dogs were there. One of them tried to attack Rob during the photos so we are all laughing while it was taken."
Amid the conversations about football and music - focusing on a shared love of Ray Lamontagne, Richard Hawley and The Feeling - Sir Elton had encouraging words for the Welsh band he fell in love with in Las Vegas. "He said to keep doing what we are doing. He said 'People will try and put you off, certain journalists won't like your sound but just totally ignore them, it's a brilliant sound.' That was kind of the best advice we could get," says Balsamo.
And he is reciprocal in his compliments of the man himself. "He was the most gentle, lovely encouraging person, he was talking about football and music constantly. It was what we dreamed it would be. He is so respectful of musicians. And it was amazing to discover people that he helped going back into the 70s."
For a band whose upper age is 50, The Storys were never going to be an easy sell but Balsamo thinks the tour proved a lot. "It showed that we could play really well on a massive stage and make a lot of people sit up and take notice. We started writing new songs during the soundcheck in Germany. We finished a couple and now we have about 35 to 40 for the next record."
With the tour over you would expect The Storys to come down to earth with a jolt, playing smaller venues and getting used to dates with a massive technical crew or rigging. "We played The Chattery, Swansea when we came back and it was the first gig we played after the Elton tour. It was so exciting to play for 75 to 80 people who were singing the words of the songs. Every gig has magical moments."
And while they might now have returned to their different worlds, it doesn't mean The Storys have been forgotten by Sir Elton. "He called me again recently to say hello," announces Balsamo. "It's mad."
18 Aug 2006 - Western Mail (Karen Price) - Box Office
We've all heard the unflattering stories about Sir Elton John. If you believe them, then the flamboyant music legend regularly throws hissy fits if his dressing rooms aren't painted in the correct shade of white, berates most other pop stars who dare cross his path, and isn't happy unless he has blown six-figure sums on extravagant bouquets of orchids or lilies. But while we all have our own pre-conceived ideas about what the fabulously-rich Rocket Man is really like as a person, one Welsh band have managed to find out for themselves. Sir Elton chose relatively unknown Swansea group The Storys to accompany him on his UK tour this summer. The band experienced what life is really like living 24/7 with the megastar. So, is he spoilt, bossy and demanding or is he down-to-earth and supportive? Steve Balsamo, lead singer of The Storys, reveals all about life on the road with Sir Elton in this week's Box Office. And he has also opened up his tour photo album especially for you to enjoy.
18 Aug 2006 - South Wales Argus - Take Time To Listen To Storys
17 Aug 2006 - South Wales Evening Post (Nine Williams) - Tune In For Fun At The Festival
The airwaves over Swansea Valley are ready to spark into life with the launch of Pontardawe Festival's very own radio station. Community radio station Afan FM, which is due to launch fully later this year, will deliver the festival's first exclusive broadcasts live from the festival site throughout the weekend. It will provide listeners with broadcasts of performances, interviews and insights into the festival, which is now in its 28th year. Station manager Craig Williams said: "This is the first time that the festival has had its very own dedicated station. Together with Afan FM, it is part of a long-term experiment aimed at establishing a permanent licence for the station to broadcast over the area. It won't be a continual broadcast of performances as we want people to come on down here and join in. But we will give listeners a general flavour of the event."
Festival organisers say they are expecting a busy year, despite some concerns earlier that the festival might not go ahead. This year's Swansea Valley Agricultural Show, which is staged on the same Parc Ynysderw site, was cancelled because of nearby work on the 75-mile gas pipeline between Milford Haven and Neath. But organisers of the Pontardawe Festival were granted a licence last month and say the work will have only a marginal effect on the event, mainly on the number of camping places available.
Festival chairman David Hammond-Williams said: "Preparations are going very well. It may not be the biggest of recent years, but we are certainly aiming to make it the best. We've got more than 130 acts, as well as a youth tent, building on its success last year. It should be a successful weekend."
This year the festival is featuring a number of curtain-raiser events. Fresh from their tour supporting Elton John, The Storys stage an evening gig on the concert field tonight. And the group, which features former West End musical star Steve Balsamo, will also be one of Pontardawe Festival FM's first guests, with an exclusive interview earlier in the day.
13 Aug 2006 - Wales on Sunday (Rachel Mainwaring) - The Storys
Welsh band The Storys, who went down a storm as special guests on the recent Elton John summer stadium shows, have announced their biggest headline tour to date. Steve Balsamo and co will tour round Britain this Sep, with gigs in Cardiff, Manchester and London. Sir Elton himself is a huge fan of the band and has called their debut album and live performances "fantastic".
29 Jul 2006 - Western Mail (Claire Hill) - The Storys Scale Castle Festival
Elton John's favourite band of the moment The Storys will be returning home to Wales to play a new one-day festival. The band, lead by singer Steve Balsamo, will join Mike Peters from The Alarm, Mal Pope and the Jacks, The Poppies and others for the Mumbles music festival. Set in the grounds of Oystermouth Castle, The White Lady Festival is set to be the largest festival ever staged in the castle grounds.
24 Jul 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Thousands Pack Out The Big Buzz
There was a whole lot of shakin' going on in Swansea yesterday, when a host of famous names took to the stage to wow a crowd of thousands. Radio Wales's Big Buzz concert came to the city for the third time, boasting artists including Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, Swansea band The Storys, and Welsh legend Shakin' Stevens.
Thousands turned out for the open-air gig, some in deckchairs or on picnic blankets, others sprawled out on the grass in front of the stage outside the National Waterfront Museum on Oystermouth Road. And the weather was on their side, staying bright and hot throughout.
"It is fantastic to come back to Wales," said Storys frontman Steve Balsamo. "It is always exciting to play back home."
21 Jul 2006 - Red Handed (Michael Took) - Ghost Writers
Guilty pleasures. We all have them, especially when it comes to music. Record collections can be precious commodities where any sight of easy rock or ballad-driven pop is camouflaged with embarrassment. Luckily, music moves in waves and the current crop of groups making no-nonsense saccharine pop are hurtling back towards the mainstream with credibility.
The Storys, a sextet of hairy yet friendly musicians from Swansea, are part of this second-wind of (un)cool music. Although the band boast four accomplished singer-songwriters, the excitable Steve Balsamo is perceived as its official mouthpiece. Balsamo is no stranger to the limelight, his erstwhile solo career was dogged with musical politics and his acting turn in the West End production Jesus Christ Superstar was merely a vehicle to where he feels most comfortable.
Although Balsamo still looks like he's still groomed for the role of Jesus with unkempt shaggy hair and stubble, there's no denying his pretty-boy status. On meeting the band in Neath, Balsamo is getting all the looks from female admirers but all he's concerned about is raising the promotional flagpole for his band.
"We wrote about thirty songs in a month and started recording in [guitarist] Rob's kitchen," Balsamo begins with obvious pride. With a mix of industry disdain and neat harmonies, The Storys took their rough demos up to a converted cinema, The Hall, in Glyncorrwg in the Welsh valleys. "We went to rehearse up there for two weeks but ended up recording the whole album between 6-12 months, the experience was amazing," Dai Smith adds with demure enthusiasm. Smith learnt his trade by writing and producing songs for several short-term bands including Toploader but his mixing skills were put to the test by a ghost called Carter.
Balsamo went on to explain the supernatural recording experience, "When we were on the mixing desk the ghost was turning the knobs. Lawrence [the producer] would be recording on the computer and we'd tell him to stop but it stopped automatically." Balsamo adds, "Then we had eight beautiful ladies come along to do string arrangements. One of the girls was complaining about being cold and having an ill-feeling. We had photographs taken of the day and there's definitely a ghost behind them. So the locals called the ghost Carter - so it was only right he got accreditation on the album sleeve."
As soon as the debut album was complete, it was attracting more than just ghoulish attention. At this point Balsamo is wide-eyed with glee, ready to relay the bands biggest coup to date. In a what was deemed a stealth operation, a friend of the band managed to slip a copy of the eponymous debut album into Elton John's bag. Soon after, Balsamo received a call from the band's manager at his home in Swansea to say Elton John would be calling to say "hi". Balsamo recalls the conversation almost word-for-word, "It was just bonkers and so surreal. He [Elton] said his favourite song was I Believe In Love and he started singing it down the phone. To have Elton John validate the songs, well that's it. We want to sell a million records but in my book that's success as well."
The rubber-stamped approval from the elder-statesman of pop earned the band a support slot on Johns sell-out European tour. When quizzed on the dates, fellow band-member Rob Thompson manages to get a word in before the fervent Balsamo, "There we were onstage, shaking like a town-built Council House, but we've been lucky to not just be perceived as the classic support band, the time where everyone gets their drinks in at the bar and are not paying attention."
Having Elton John champion The Storys' music has brought a new audience to their sound which wavers from inventive country to stomping rock, but it hasn't always been easy to get the recognition they so desperately desired. Balsamo went on to explain, "We knew we had something quite special with the vocal harmonies, but a few years ago I suppose our kind of music wasn't in vogue. Britain is a strange place, there's a guilty pleasures kind of vibe if you own a 10cc or Chicago record. But we love those bands for writing great songs and we don't give a shit if it appeals to the NME or Kate Moss. We're so un-cool we're cool again."
The musical axis has definitely shifted back to The Storys with tunes that are slicker than a Vaseline spillage. Recent single Cinnamon brims with laid-back Americana and hooks so infectious you think they've been lifted from another bunch of care-free hippies. The rest of the album follows the same nostalgic yet buoyant template with lush vocal arrangements that aren't a million miles away from The Eagles or Crosby, Stills and Nash. The aforementioned artists are name-checked in almost every live review The Storys have had printed, but the comparison doesn't bother the group in the slightest.
Smith mused the musical connection with a wry smile, "Its a mould we really aspire to and are comfortable in. There's not a lot of bands with four singer-songwriters so I guess its an easy yet privileged way to be pigeon-holed."
Before the gargantuan Elton John shows, The Storys went one better playing their first ever show in front of 70,000 people at the Olympic Torch Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2004. The bands debut live bow proved to be a star-studded occasion, one which left Balsamo bamboozled, "We'd finished our set and before you knew it we were in the hospitality set with Ozzy Osbourne and Rod Stewart. Sharon Osbourne is a lot better looking than you think in real life and Penny Lancaster was quite gorgeous as well."
After the Elton John dates, the band are set to play a smattering of festivals over the summer months and then follow up the Autumn with a headline tour that concludes at The Coal Exchange in Cardiff. The group ideology is quite clear, have a laugh but aim to shift millions of records in the process. Balsamo already has structured plans for the future, "We've already got 40 songs for the next album and I can't see the process slowing down until at least the difficult tenth record. By then Rob will be in Barbados, I'll be in Nashville and [turning to Dai Smith] Where will you be?" The shy guitarist replies deadpan, "Probably in Glyncorrwg with Carter."
15 Jul 2006 - Western Mail (Darren Devine) - Elton's Generosity On Tour
Elton John's generosity was revealed to Welsh band The Storys when he invited them on tour as a support act.
Fronted by singer Steve Balsamo, the band were given advice, praise and looked after like royalty for the 13 dates with the legendary singer. Balsamo said, "On the first day of the tour he came in and said hello to us. He said to enjoy it and if there was anything we needed to just ask."
Elton, a big fan of the Swansea band, even let them use his dressers. Balsamo said, "They were doing all of our ironing, it was great."
12 Jul 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Musical Birthday Success
A Swansea church celebrated its 150th anniversary in style with a fund-raising musical evening. West End star and lead singer of city-based band The Storys Steve Balsamo topped the bill at St Peter's Church in Cockett. Other performers at the birthday bash included the Uplands Arts Gilbert & Sullivan Society, a trio from the Ystradgynlais Public Band and organist John Davies. The evening raised £1,500 for the Gordon Lee Bursary, which funds the training of theological students in Kenya.
11 Jul 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Big Name Bands For White Lady Festival
Music fans will be heading to Mumbles to take part in the largest festival ever staged in the grounds of Oystermouth Castle. Up to 3,500 tickets are being made available for the White Lady Festival next month. The festival features bands from all over Wales who will perform in a 10-hour music marathon. The event is headlined by The Storys, featuring former West End musical star Steve Balsamo, fresh from their tour with superstar Sir Elton John.
27 Jun 2006 - The Independent - The 5-Minute Interview
26 Jun 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Well Done Local Bands
I Left Swansea in 1974 and moved to Kent with my parents, but keep coming back with my wife Kellie and son Matthew each year for holidays. We went to see Elton John at Canterbury Cricket Ground and found that The Storys, who were supporting that evening were not only from my home town, but are a very accomplished band and in my opinion the best thing to come out of Swansea since Badfinger, formerly The Iveys, in the late 60s. More should be done to recognise the talents of the late Pete Ham et all. No Matter What also features on the forthcoming Def Leppard album. The Storys had great tunes and vocal harmonies, not only from Steve Balsamo who has a great voice, but that evening also displayed the rest of the band's talents. We've bought the CD and have played the track Cinnamon round the clock - it deserves to be a huge summer hit. It would be great to see you in concert again - come and play in Deal at The Astor Theatre - which is not unlike the Brangwyn Hall Swansea - where we get to see a variety of bands from the late 60s/70s. (Steve Grimshaw, Deal, Kent)
18 Jun 2006 - ITV.com - Rocketman FairyTale For Storys
Just one year after winning a talent competition The Storys are to join Elton John on tour. The band which won the 'Unsigned' contest, run by ITV London, last year are billed as "special guests" at 11 stadium and arena dates this summer. The six-piece band will follow in the footsteps of James Blunt, Anastacia and the Scissor Sisters as recent support for one of the biggest names in music. Sir Elton telephoned The Storys' front man Steve Balsamo from Las Vegas to break the news after hearing their album, recorded at Glyncorrwg in Port Talbot's Afan Valley. Balsamo said it could not have been better timed for them as the band had just been signed by Warner Bros.
He said, "Someone had given him a copy of our album while he was in Vegas and he was so positive about it. He just said he wanted us to come on tour in the summer."
Balsamo, who made a name for himself in the West End as the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, formed The Storys with Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas.
8 Jun 2006 - Western Mail (Robin Turner) - Welsh Band On Tour With Sir Elton
A South Wales band which recently released their first album have started a tour with rock superstar Sir Elton John. The Storys are "special guests" at 11 stadium and arena dates this summer including one at the Borussia Monchengladbach Stadium in Germany earlier this week. The six-piece band will follow in the footsteps of James Blunt, Anastacia and the Scissor Sisters as recent support for one of the biggest names in music. Sir Elton telephoned The Storys' front man Steve Balsamo from Las Vegas to break the news after hearing their album, recorded at Glyncorrwg in Port Talbot' s Afan Valley. Balsamo said it could not have been better timed for them as the band had just been signed by Warner Bros.
He said, "Someone had given him a copy of our album while he was in Vegas and he was so positive about it. He just said he wanted us to come on tour in the summer."
Balsamo, who made a name for himself in the West End as the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, formed The Storys with Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas. All are well respected musicians and writers from Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea and have known each other through the South Wales music scene for more than 15 years. They started writing songs and playing together three years ago.
Jun 2006 - clickmusic.com (Andrew Noon)
On Tour With Elton John - it's with these ominous words on the cover of Cinnamon that we're first acquainted with The Storys. Like stumbling through the first few questions at a big job interview, or getting through the awkward talk at the start of a date, you hope things can only get better. Fortunately, they do. Cinnamon sounds like a lost track from Ryan Adams' Gold sessions. A song to soundtrack the moment when you're stood in a field in the summer waiting for your new favourite band to appear on stage, and suddenly you glimpse the guy or girl you've been waiting all your life to meet. Similarly, ace B-side So Long will then soundtrack the last few moments you spend together, promising to meet up although you both know you never will, before going your separate ways, on different shuttle buses back to the station. (3.5/5)
Jun 2006 - Classic Rock Magazine (Jerry Ewing)
Tall takes from the south-west coast of Wales. You'll probably be aware that this mob are to support that Grand Old Pantomime Dame of pop Elton John this summer, but don't let that put you off, for there is much to revel in within the intricate vocal harmonies of this Swansea sextet's sound. True, one doesn't normally associate the West Coast sound of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash with the south-west coast of Wales, but Be By Your Side, Roll Like A Stone and Cinnamon are sweet, soulful songs embellished by the split harmonies that carry each one... it's a cracking start. (8/10)
Jun 2006 - Classic Rock Magazine (Jerry Ewing) - Introducing... The Storys
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young playing with The Eagles? No, a new five-piece from Wales who've landed a tour supporting Elton John.
When The Storys' bearded bassist Andy Collins is asked how he'll feel supporting Elton John on the sequinned piano-meistere's forthcoming UK arena tour, he replies: "I'm bloody terrified." He's joking, but the response puts into perspective how five lads from Swansea come to be sitting in a prestigious London hotel, chatting to Classic Rock about their forthcoming tour with Elton, their new album The Storys, and having just completed another Radio 2 session. Given their sound - sumptuous four-way, CSNY-like harmonies wrapped up in Eagles vibes - the trend-obsessed might express surprise that a band like The Storys exist in modern-day Britain.
"I think it's a natural in-built musical thing the Welsh have," says singer/guitarist Steve Balsamo, of the fact that most people who hear The Storys initially think they're listening to a band from the US West Coast, and not a six-piece from the South West coast of Wales. "I don't know why there hasn't been more bands from the UK that utilise vocal harmonies," he adds. "It's a bit odd."
"I think it's a trend thing," offers the ever-smiling Dai Thomas, another singer-guitarist and the man, along with Rob Thompson (yes, you guessed it, he plays guitar and sings) who produced the band's delightful debut album. "This country has always been more interested in what's trendy over how good the music actually is."
Classic Rocks points out that the times they are a changing, illustrated by some surprising recent music success stories.
"Look at the Magic Numbers," Balsamo says, warming to our theme. "Who would have thought that a young band who sounded a bit like The Mamas & The Papas would be popular in England in this day and age? Things are definitely changing."
And in perfect time for The Storys, it seems. The band (the line-up is completed by drummer Brian Thomas and keyboard player Alan Thomas) have all paid their dues, slogging it in a host of bands, and came together initially as a songwriting project.
"We ended up writing about 30 songs," Balsamo says. "It all happened very naturally, and from the start we all said: 'Let's start a band.' From there we ended up in a social club in Glyncorrwg [in the Valleys, see] recording the album."
Having signed a deal with Warner Bros and with their debut in the can, maybe it's The Storys' time. Which would show that all that hard work of the past has paid off.
With their harmonising, how will they deal with stepping up to the big stage on a vocal level? "Well..." Balsamo begins thoughtfully, "we'll probably have to ease up on the beer."
Jun 2006 - Classic Rock Magazine (Jerry Ewing) - Steve Balsamo - Son Of God - A Superstar Already?
Perhaps the best-known of The Storys, Steve Balsamo sang on Eric Woolfson's post-Alan Parsons Project album Poe, recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios, but his most prominent role was the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar.
"I just thought: 'Why not?'," he explains. "I got the part, and we had a well-received run."
As for the Poe project, Balsamo smiles: "I'd always wanted to perform at Abbey Road."
So what floats his boat more: rock, or smock?
"Well," he smiles, "I've always been more of a pints man than a tights man."
26 May 2006 - Shock Radio, University of Salford - Interview
The Storys are slightly excited. The epic six-piece band from Swansea, South Wales have just recently found out that they are to support Elton John on his forthcoming tour. Steve Balsamo tells of his near pant-wetting moment when Elton John himself rang and said he had heard the album, loved it and wanted The Storys to support his tour. Along with all this excitement they are a regular feature on the BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music Playlists, and were interviewed by Janice Long a few days before.
Steve and Rob join Shock Radio for an interview in a lovely Italian restaurant just off Deansgate, where they are determined to pay for the meal, chat for as long as a piece of string and invite us to their gig. All in a days work...
Shock Radio welcomes The Storys, hello there!! Please introduce yourselves.
Steve: I'm Steve, I sing and play guitar.
Rob: I'm Rob, I also sing and play guitar.
Lovely to meet you. How does it feel being interviewed on Student Radio after being on the likes of Radio 2 and 6 Music?
S: It's brilliant, you know. Just talking about our music is what it's all about. Students hopefully will buy our records so we only see it as a good thing.
R: It's just about getting our music out to as many people as possible.
That's what we like to hear. It's very unusual having a six-piece band like yourselves, was that your intention initially? Normally that shouldn't really work but it does.
R: Originally we had seven!!
S: Yeah we had two drummers in the band!! It was like a seven-piece super-group!! Because the music is quite intricate, or the playing of the music is quite intricate, we need several guitarists and a keyboard player… Our keyboard player can play every instrument under the sun; drums and stuff. It's all about getting the music we do on the record sound good when we play live.
There are four of you who sing, and it could be seen as quite confusing with each song having a different voice!!
S: Well, we are all singer/songwriters in our own right and the four of us initially just got together to write songs; there was never an intention to get a band together. Very quickly we realised that the songs were pretty good and it would be good to make a band to fit around them.
R: It's only unusual for these days. If you head back to the old bands like The Beatles and The Eagles they all have lots of lead singers but even then you still know what band you are listening to.
You are from Swansea, in South West Wales. There have been quite a few successful chart bands that have emerged from Wales, especially in the past decade. Is there a reason for this or is it just random luck?
S: I don't think it's random. I think for years record companies only went as far as Bristol and never crossed the Severn Bridge. When the Bristol scene had been drained of bands such as Massive Attack and Portishead, the record companies thought "Hang on, lets go over the Bridge" and bands like Catatonia and Stereophonics came after that. It was inevitable that they would exploit South Wales in the end!!
Ti'n Siarad Cymraeg?? [Do you speak Welsh??]
S: Oh, Dipyn bach [Very little]. Not if I can help it!!
R: Don't go there!
Do you understand it?
S: Yeah. I love Welsh and all that it stands for, but if you want to make it, you've gotta sing in English.
Do you think your Welsh roots bring something to your music style?
S: For definite. Welsh bands, even The Manics and Stereophonics who are rock bands, are very melodious; being Welsh seems to allow you to be melodic. I think it comes from our history of Male Voice Choirs, the Church, and the Chapel and so on. Although people say we sound very like West Coast America - which we do - we are also very Welsh.
Ah, yes comparisons. People love to do that. Are there any bands that you would NOT like to be compared with?
R: As long as people like it, it doesn't matter.
Do you get frustrated with comparisons to The Beatles, The Eagles, etc?
S: No, not at all. Because that means they are talking about the band and that's the main thing. Also, we love The Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Fleetwood Mac; Both Peter Green and Stevie Nicks. And we love listening to them.
Does anyone ever compare you to Kelly Jones for Stereophonics?
S: Err, no. Voice-wise, no.
S: Are you calling me short??!!
Nothing wrong with him, he is a handsome bloke. So where does this name The Storys come from. Is it because each song is a mini-story of your life?
S: It really is as boring as that answer, yes!
R: Most of the songs are written around a story. We sit down; we decide what the story is for the song; then we write lyrics based around that story.
Steve, you and Dai were signed separately under another label a few years back weren't you? Do you prefer the band thing to being solo?
S: Definitely. This is camaraderie; we all get to make the decisions and it doesn't solely rest on you. Serious decisions have to be made nearly every day now. We have a little democratic debate, but before, I was on my own and if I made the wrong decisions - which I did make a few - you have to live with it.
If it true that you have released this album on your own label?
S: It is, yes.
That could have been risky...
S: Yeah but these days, because of the Internet and so on there are other ways to get your music out there, which is very exciting. MySpace is there and you can do it; people like Damien Rice who has sold 2 million records...
The Arctic Monkeys??
R: Yes, well that's slightly exaggerated that story. What actually happened there was they had a team of lawyers and publicists working with them as well.
S: So it's kind of true. It's just turned into a bit of a myth now.
What is, or are your websites? I have befriended you on MySpace already.
S: Aw, thanks that's great, thank you!! We have www.thestorys.co.uk and www.myspace.com/thestorys.
R: Maybe that's where I recognise you from...
R: Maybe because your picture comes up?
Possibly! You have had lots of press attention and interviews since the amazing news that you will be supporting Elton John. How did that all come about?
S: Elton John called me up at home, from Vegas, and told me that someone had given him the record, and he loved it. He then decided to call me up and invite us on tour; as simple as that. It was amazing, an amazing phone call.
Was that just on the strength of your first single Be By Your Side?
R: No the album.
S: He loved that song though; he sang it down the phone to me!!
It has got a great melody that just hooks you in. I couldn't get it out of my head when I first heard it. Will the next single follow suit?
S: Cinnamon is the next single, released as an up-tempo song for the summer.
Your album hasn't been out for long and it has had great reactions. Is this due to your mature sound? It seems to have a quality that allows it to work across the board.
S: That's what we are hoping. A lot of what we are doing now happened in the 70's; bands like Talking Heads and Television. Bands like the Kaiser Chiefs have gone for a retro sound and we have just gone a decade before.
Do you think other people will follow you?
S: Oh yes definitely. There are a lot of bands breaking through who now have this sound.
From all that has happened, how do you keep yourself grounded, or are you cautious anyway because of your past experiences?
S: No, we just enjoy it. This is our first ever tour and it's very exciting just to get out there. All we want to do is play our songs to as many people as we can.
Do you prefer the intimate gigs as opposed to big gigs, or have you not played to massive crowds yet?
S: Well we have done a couple of big gigs. We played to 80,000 people at Buckingham Palace.
What about festivals? Glastonbury is next year and I think you could fit quite nicely in there.
S: Yeah, that has a great 70's vibe about it.
R: We are paying at Guilfest this year and a couple of other lovely things coming up.
That should definitely be a good gig. Is it true that you played where Oasis were signed?
S: Last night, yeah. King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. The crowd were so lovely there, and the people who ran it were the nicest people ever.
Do the crowds in different locations, such as Glasgow, Manchester and Wales, receive you differently?
S: Yes, Glasgow, or Scottish listeners love our music and are very attentive.
R: The gig at The Point, in Cardiff Bay was incredible. It was packed. The word is spreading now and all the audience were singing the songs back at us. It's not so much about 'spreading the word' now - they already know the tunes.
Do you feel as though in the past few months it has just exploded?
S: It's getting there slowly!! We have known each other for years, but we have only been together as a band a few years.
What are your plans for this time next year?
R: Retire?? [Laughter]
S: Split up?? [Yet more laughter] Nah, make another record as soon as possible, and just carry on doing what we do, playing bigger places.
Do you have an ideal venue?
S: Ooh I don't know - Madison Square Gardens.
R: Anywhere really, we will play anywhere, we love it.
Do you like the idea of playing outdoor venues then?
S: Well we are doing it now so we've got to!!
R: As well as the arenas, we are doing a lot of football grounds and cricket grounds.
Aren't you amazed that this time last year not many people had heard of you and now you are poised to tour with Elton John?
R: Yeah, it's like we have been given a chance and now we are ready to do it.
S: We have all paid our dues; you know, played and played for a long time, so we are ready. It's our time.
Well guys, after the incredible performance you played for us afterwards, you deserve all the luck and success in the world.
14 May 2006 - Wales on Sunday (Rachel Mainwaring) - Fairytale For Storys
Welsh singer Steve Balsamo's bid for solo success was wrecked by Will Young and Gareth Gates - but he's hoping to get a second shot at stardom thanks to pop legend Elton John. Swansea-born Steve and his band The Storys are preparing for the big time when they take to the stage with the Rocket Man at the end of the month. The 34-year-old reckons he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he launched his solo career first time round. At the peak of Pop Idol-mania, Will and Gareth were storming ahead in the charts so Steve's single Sugar For My Soul didn't do as well as he hoped.
He said: "It was such a shame because the album took a long time to plan and the record company had invested a lot of money in it."
Following the disappointment of the album's failure, Steve - who's also appeared in the West End in Jesus Christ Superstar - took some time out.
"It was very difficult but eventually I got together with a couple of friends and we began writing songs. It felt good, there was obviously something going on. The way we harmonised gave a West Coast sound."
The result was the formation of The Storys, a fantastic debut album and a new fan.
"I had a phone call from Elton who said he loved our songs and invited us to support him on his UK tour," Steve said.
The six-piece band will follow in the footsteps of James Blunt, Anastacia and the Scissor Sisters as recent support for one of the biggest names in music. Steve, who says Elton is a personal hero, said it could not have been better timed for them as they had just been signed by Warner Bros.
"I got a call from our manager and he just said, 'Elton John is going to call you in your house'. Ten minutes later, the telephone goes and Sir Elton is giving it, 'How's it going Steve?' on the other end of the phone. More and more surreal! Having Elton John validate the songwriting was too much for my small brain to cope with. I couldn't believe what just happened. But if nothing happens from here on in, Elton John has called and said he thinks our songs are great."
May 2006 - Q Sheet
Locked away deep in the valleys of South Wales, The Storys have been perfecting their west-coast-style harmonies for their debut album, which has received a glowing set of reviews courtesy of aficionados from Bob Harris to Johnnie Walker. But they can now boast the biggest validation of all: from Sir Elton John. QSheet met up with the lads to discuss writing, recording, touring... and a Ghost called Carter!
QS: Starting with a nice general question, how did you all get together in the first place?
SB: It was an idea to just write songs. We're all singer-songwriters in our own right so the idea was to get together and just see what happened. I was working with Rob Thompson, and Andy Collins was working with Dai Smith on different projects, so we decided to come together, see what would happen, and literally in around 30 days we'd written as many songs. That was about two and a half years ago, maybe a bit longer now, and all the songs were written in Rob's kitchen. Then Rob has a friend called Laurence Davies, who has an old converted cinema in a small ex-mining town in Wales called Glyncorrwg, and it's a very typical sort of old Welsh town. It's got one road in and one road out, and the old cinema's been converted into a sort of social club. So Dai Smith and Rob - Dai predominantly produced the record with Rob, took all his 1970s recording gear up the mountain into the old cinema where we stayed for about a year.
We planned on being there for two weeks and we stayed for about a year, had a fantastic time, drunk ourselves into another dimension and met a ghost, and recorded the record.
QS: How did you all know each other to come together in the first place?
RT: That's a tricky one. Me and Andy and the drummer in the band, Brian, had been together in bands for about 17 years and I was playing in Steve's band when he was a solo artist, so the common link is quite hard to put a finger on. As we were doing that Andy and Dai started writing and working together as well.
DS: I would say South Wales is a very incestuous pool of musicians. Everyone's been to bed with everyone else, musically got in bed with each other. South Wales has only come to the fore again in the last few years. In the 1970s it had bands like Badfinger and there was a band called Man that was quite famous, and Badfinger especially. Music in South Wales has carried on but it's just that the A&R people never went past the Severn Bridget. They went to Bristol - the Bristol thing happened in the late 1980s and 1990s - and eventually they went across the bridge and The Stereophonics came out, The Manics of course, who were one of the only bands to break out before that time, and then Catatonia, and now there's a load of stuff coming from South Wales, but it's always gone on down there.
QS: That's a bit of a tough stigma, but then you've got the association with Tom Jones, which is no bad thing...
AC: I think the last couple of years we've had The Lostprophets and all these types of rock bands coming out, so it's broken the mould. What the common link is between all Welsh music is we're allowed to be musical, whether it's because of the choirs, you know, there's like this cliche that everyone in Wales can sing, whether it's because of the accent as it's a sing-song accent, but we're allowed to be quite musical, so bands like The Manics, although they're rock bands they are very musical. So when we came together as a band, it initially wasn't to be a harmony band, it just developed into that. Dai would come with a song, he'd sing it and we'd all harmonise around him and the sound was so good that we instantly carried on writing in that vein.
QS: So, do you guys share a similar taste in your music preference?
AC: There are quite a few similar interests but there's also some diversity a well. Some of the guys here like to rock out.
SB: Dai and myself are massive rock fans as we've been in rock bands. Andy's a bit Beatles fan and Dai likes everything from soul and Motown through to rock and hip hop. That's everything isn't it?
DS: Definitely, we've got similar CD collections so there's a thread going through the whole band. We wouldn't have got on so well otherwise, I don't think!
SB: And it's a very easy writing process as well. We do like 1970s bands: Fleetwood Mac and Creedence Clearwater Revival. We all appreciate that type of music but we like bands like Wilko and Grandaddy, who are the Americana bands out at the moment but are a little bit more left-field, so we've shoved all that in a pot, mixed it up with a little bit of Crowded House and that's it. I think songs are back whether we like it or not - you know, there's loads of bands coming through with great songs. Love him or not, James Blunt had a great tune that has sold trillions of records and all power to him. There's a young band called The Feeling coming through who are not afraid to embrace bands like 10cc and we aren't afraid to do the same. We're kind of an uncool band. We're so uncool we're cool. We've gone round the scale a couple of times. Bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash are still played on the radio all the time, and bands such as The Thrills and The Magic Numbers are paving the way for our music with their vocal harmonies. So it's almost seen as cool again, but really it never went away. It's just that record companies haven't thought it was cool and the press hasn't thought it was cool but those bands are still played on the radio all the time.
QS: Some of your reviews have said that your sound is very much in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Eagles. Although you must be a bit tired of having every review pinning you to that particular sound, at the same time it must be a compliment to be compared to those groups?
SB: Absolutely, because we all own records by those artists and we are definitely influenced by them and, to name-drop like hell, when Elton John called me up and said he loved the record, one of the things he said was that it does sound like that but don't be put off by it - just embrace it. He loved the sound of the album, and all power to Dai and Rob who produced the record, it has got a real charm about it, it's a dusty-sounding record, it's an old-sounding record, but with the reviews have come compliments saying it sounds very fresh, which is slightly ironic because it sounds like 1976 or something!
QS: Has recording where you did had a major influence on your plans - now you've got your record deal with Warner will you be able to keep that same sound on your future work?
AC: Funny you should mention that. We were just talking about that on the way here in the van. I was going by the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy.
RT: But we wouldn't go to a studio to record.
AC: No, we don't know where we'll go, but we're not gong to go into a proper studio and waste thousands of pounds getting the cleanest drum sound or whatever when all we need to do is go to a nice place where the sound is nice when you play it and then mike everything up.
SB: But what was so beautiful about that record, the recording experience, was that the hall has become the record. The place we recorded it, the sound of the place, is in the bones of the record and it's inside it, and that is a magical thing because the place is a magical place and Laurence who owns it is an incredible, mystical being. He's like a spiritual adviser. It sounds very LA, but he's such a lovely, warm guy and that radiates through the record. During the recording experience, when we went up there the locals were all hard men, they're all hard-drinking, tough guys; at the beginning of the recording experience they were like "What's all this?", but a couple of months in they were whistling the tunes and they were in with us as we were recording and then they were part of the record and you can hear them in the record, so it definitely played an incredible part on the record.
RT: I guess it gave us a chance to put our own stamp on it too, rather than, say, a studio stamp.
QS: You've got to explain this thing about the ghost...
DS: We were actually recording the album and certain control knobs were being turned down and it was impossible for any person to be turning them down, and he used to mess around with all our gear and stuff, and he appeared in a photo as well. We had a photo taken of the string players and there was one of Jo Gorst playing, one of the string players, and she was complaining about being cold all day and ill!
RT: You could see this wispy, grey character but it was kind of see-through as well. It's very odd and very strange.
SB: And the ghost is known in the place - they call him Carter so we give him a thank you on the record as well!
QS: Going back to the upcoming Sir Elton John support slots, that must be dead exciting?
SB: It was one of the most surreal things ever. John the manager called up and said, "He's going to call in ten minutes" and I said, "It's obviously a joke?" and he said, "No." Ten minutes later he called up: "Steve, this is Elton John" - just mind-blowing. He was so complimentary about the record: it's a point I've made a couple of times, we've been working in music and on music and writing songs for such a long time, and to have validation from Elton John that the songs are good is an incredible thing. It was an incredible moment for us all.
RT: It's probably the highest compliment so far.
RT: So it was brilliant and then he said, "Do you want to come out on tour?" And we were like "Oh, we'll just see what we're doing on those days." It was brilliant!
QS: We were looking back over Elton's past support artists and he has one hell of a track record for picking out breakthrough artists.
SB: Well, I love Bryan Adams and Dai's a big Rufus Wainwright fan.
QS: But also Anastasia, Scissor Sisters and James Blunt?
SB: You know, we don't want to be presumptuous and think "Christ, we're going to sell a load of records" because, you know, we want to sell records but we don't want to be presumptuous at all. Just having the opportunity to go out and play our songs to 100,000 people who are there to listen to music - they're not there because the fella's got a good haircut. It's not the hippest thing in the world, it's not the new band in Camden playing at the Bar Fly. This is about real punters, real music lovers and they're going to hear our songs whether they like it or not really.
QS: You guys have quite a diverse age range and you all get on and it just seems to work. Is that because you've all been in the industry for quite a long time and you all know what you want?
SB: Both Dai and myself have had major deals before and fell foul of the industry as it was changing, mutating. The last couple of years there's been a huge change in the industry, so we're a little bit wiser now and a bit sharper about what actually goes on and how things work, and how money's spent. It's a very complicated business and a very interesting business, but I don't think record companies really know what's going on right now because of the internet intervention. With bands like Arctic Monkeys coming through and people like Damien Rice, who made a record literally in a bedroom and sold a couple of million of them, things are changing. We've tried to leave the ego at the door and the song is king. We started out trying to write the best songs we possibly can and we're going to carry on trying to do that and play them live to the best of our ability and that is the equation. It's a simple equation. Regarding age: a couple of years ago nobody would have signed a band like us because we're considered the oldest bastards in the world. If you're 25 you're over the hill but James Blunt is 30-odd and KT Tunstall is too, and the record industry is looking towards older artists that cater to the older mass of demographic, as we've seen with James Blunt who sold a couple of million records in this country alone.
QS: When you say you "fell foul" with major deals previously did that experience help you in setting up your own label when you started out with this project?
SB: I'd say definitely. This sounds arrogant but it is the truth - we know how to write song and thanks to Dai and his ability in the studio we know how to produce records, and we borrowed money from some brilliant local investors, some kind of business angels, and we thought we're going to set it up ourselves with any intervention whatsoever. So we made the record, wrote it, produced it and put it out on our own label, and I think it gave us a lot of kudos within the industry and turned people's heads and I think bands have to try and do that now, unless you're 18 like Arctic Monkeys, who I think are brilliant by the way. I think they write some great songs, which again is back to the songs, so I think it was a good idea to do it ourselves.
QS: It was quite surprising to read that you have a five-record deal - that seems quite a lot.
DS: We'll be a hundred by then!
QS: It just seemed that, for a first deal for a band, your label's got quite a lot of belief in you.
SB: It is really exciting and I think it comes down to the songs. The guy who signed us is a song lover and he just really digs what we're doing.
RT: He's been very cool because we were told by a lot of record industry people that you could not sign a band as old as us, and he always says, "I love your songs and would love to do something with you", and when he was in a position to sign us he just came along and did it, no worries, let's have it. So he likes the songs and he wants it to work. We're very grateful for that.
QS: It makes sense because the music industry is so driven by marketing and there is a demographic out there with a high disposable income who will appreciate your sound and style, so commercially it makes great sense.
SB: I think so too. Do you really know what Keane look like, or do you really know Coldplay apart from Chris Martin? I think with the internet and downloading now it's changing and of course image is important, and of course you've got to look good and all this sort of stuff, but I think it's going back to the music, which is great for bands like us.
QS: You seem to have a great rapport with DJs, especially those from Welsh stations. Quite a few of them sound as though they've been talking to you for a few years so that must have been a great help?
DS: One of them has been talking to us for years, he's my brother!
SB: Again it's just about being cool with people and just having a laugh and not taking it too seriously because it's not brain surgery, it's just writing songs and playing them, but we have become a few jocks' favourites. The other day we ended up having tea in Dave Lee Travis' house. He was making us cups of tea and talking about the good old days. It was brilliant, and we also saw Johnnie Walker on the same day. They're just loving what we're doing - I think because it reminds them of bands that came out 20 years ago. And of course there's Bob Harris - he's informed us so much over the years, all of us through "Whistle Test". I listened to him nearly every week. We were playing at his 60th birthday in the middle of our tour, which is a hell of a thing for us.
RT: I think we had more questions for him that he has for us.
QS: Do you think that your stage background actually helps on the performance front?
SB: Discipline-wise it does because if you're doing eight shows a week you've got to be in shape. I don't smoke anyway, but you can't drink and all that sort of thing. I think it's like anything - we can't miss one of these Elton gigs because we got a hangover, do you know what I mean? I know it's an extreme example!
QS: With regard to the importance of keeping yourself healthy, people like Chris Martin, for example, really champion that outlook of "don't smoke, don't drink" and that's almost perceived as quite a good image to have now isn't it?
DS: If you're on a massive American tour of rock & roll lifestyle - I mean, years ago it was hedonistic but these days there is such big money in it you can't afford to be ill or cancel a date because the insurers or the record company will kill you, and I think those days of throwing TVs out of windows are gone. I think we'll throw band members out of windows!
RT: I think you've got to have a certain amount of fun though.
QS: Is it easier with four of you writing the songs or ideas or does it make it more difficult? For example, if one of you has got an idea, do you ever think "I've really got to impress the others with what I have come up with"?
AC: I think we all just come up with ideas as and when we can and we're all very supportive of everybody else's ideas, and that includes the other two guys as well. When they come in to it they listen to things and just play along as well.
SB: It is the easiest thing in the world to write songs with this band we've got too many. I know that sounds like we're trumpet-blowing but it's true - we've got so many songs.
RT: We like to come at a process where we have a lot of respect for each other, so if anyone brings anything, you know, we're going to listen and we try things. We're not afraid to bring ideas to the table. With that we end up with more ideas than we can ever use so we're not worried about running out of songs.
DS: It's album block we have problems with, narrowing it down.
SB: And if songs are obviously sounding good we'll work on them and if they're not as strong they just easily float on the surface. We just know instinctively. For the second batch of songwriting we threw in the ones that were foremost in our minds and we had 19 ideas in the first sit-down, so I don't think there'll be a problem with songs at all.
QS: What are you looking forward to most on the tour and in the next few months?
SB: I think doing our first tour, and seeing how that goes. We're going all over the country so that's very exciting.
DS: Touring with Sir Elton John is going to be amazing. I think we're all really looking forward to meeting him.
QS: One of your earliest show was the Olympic Torch Ceremony in front of 70,000 or so, so these Elton John gigs will be a breeze, surely?
RT: Piece of cake!
25 Apr 2006 - Birmingham101.com - The Storys At The Glee Club
Having apparently abandoned solo career ambitions after his first album stiffed, Welsh pop songster and former Jesus Christ Superstar star Steve Balsamo is now one quarter of the vocal and songwriting power behind this South Wales sextet whose eponymous debut album (Korova) leans heavily towards the rootsy pop flavours of Southern California and such influences as The Eagles, CS&N, the Byrds and Fleetwood Mac.
Originally released last year and now revived for its new major label home, it's lush, sunny soaring pop rich in rippling melodies and radio friendly choruses with songs like the scarf-waving I Believe In Love, country stroller Be By Your Side, power ballad Journey's End and Westlife wannabe Is It True What They Say About Us destined to be saturating Radio 2's airwaves for the foreseeable future.
The show's opened by Barnsley reared Rosalie Deighton, erstwhile member of the Indonesian/Yorkshire string band Deighton Family. It's been a while since the release of her impressive rootsy pop solo debut, Truth Drug, so she'll be reacquainting you with such songs as Crazy World Tomorrow and Ideal Me as well, one would hope, as previewing new material from its long awaited follow-up.
24 Apr 2006 - South Wales Echo (Bob Cypher) - The Storys, The Point, Cardiff
Welsh band The Storys came to Cardiff Bay on Saturday to showcase their eponymous album. The band, featuring erstwhile Jesus Christ Superstar Steve Balsamo, has been making waves with their soft rock music, reminiscent of The Eagles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and The Association. They are due to begin a nationwide stadium tour with Sir Elton John at the end of next month and are using a mini tour of the UK to sharpen their stage act. At The Point, they were obviously among ardent fans who had travelled from the Swansea area where the band originates. Their set was bright, musically excellent with the anthemic I Believe In Love and Roll Like A Stone having the sort of hooks you think you remember from the past but which are totally original. Although the band boasts four singer/songwriters and the harmonies are superb, there is little doubt that Balsamo, looking as though he has just stepped from the Superstar stage, is the frontman. His charming - almost shy - boyish smiles seem to endear him to all ages typical Radio2 - and it seems likely that, with The Storys, he is about to embark on a new chapter.
21 Apr 2006 - Birmingham Mail - Happy Ending For The Storys
Welsh singer Steve Balsamo's bid for solo success was wrecked by Will Young and Gareth Gates - but he's getting a second shot at the big time with his new band The Storys thanks to Sir Elton John. The 34-year-old from Swansea says he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he launched his solo career.
"Timing plays an important part in the record industry and my album came out at the beginning of the Pop Idol phenomenon which just engulfed everything. It was such a shame because the album took a long time to plan and the record company had invested a lot of money in it."
Following the disappointment of the album's failure Steve, who has also appeared in the West End in Jesus Christ Superstar, took some time out.
"It was a very difficult time but eventually I got together with a couple of friends and we began writing songs. It felt good, there was obviously something going on. The way we harmonised gave a West Coast sound."
The result was the formation of The Storys and the recording of a debut album that was heard by Sir Elton John. "I had a phone call from Elton who said he loved our songs and invited us to support him on his UK tour," recalls Steve.
21 Apr 2006 - Nottingham Evening Post - The Storys At The Maze
Swansea phenomena The Storys appear at The Maze shortly before they hit the road opening for none other than Elton John. Elton rang them up in person, said he loved their record and asked if they'd go on tour with him. At first, they thought it was a wind-up, but no, it really was the Man.
They're a classy, alt. country/rock-flavoured six-piece featuring mandolin, acoustic guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. They're influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Fleetwood Mac, and The Eagles, but the similarities apparent in their vocal blend came naturally, and they've enough originality not to appear derivative. They don't do covers, so don't expect a tribute band, it's all original stuff from the four songwriters in the mix, which also features four lead vocalists.
Steve, Rod, Dai, Andy, Brian and Alan got together about three years ago after playing around the South Wales musical community for some 15 years. The songs had been tested in Swansea locals, and their taste is obviously pretty good as the album, which was self-produced, was rapidly taken up by Warners.
Catch 'em before Elton whisks them away to stardom.
Apr 2006 - Venue Mag - Preview The Storys
Complete the following list: James Blunt, Anastacia, Ryan Adams, Scissor Sisters... no? They're all bands who've enjoyed Elton John's patronage, meaning the answer is: The Storys. Recently announced as The Tiara'd One's support for his forthcoming summer tour, they're a 70s West Coast harmonies-recalling Swansea six-piece currently eating up the column inches like Elton arranges flowers. Their eponymously titled debut album was released last month to wide acclaim, such as that delivered by Uncut for their "jaunty, jangling sunshine sound". And if that was a thrill, it was as nothing compared to a call from the Knight of the Realm: "Our manager called and said 'Brace yourself. Elton John is going to call you in 10 minutes'." recalls singer/guitarist Steve Balsamo. "So I spent ten minutes dancing around the room and then he called: 'Hi Steve, it's Elton'. I have met a lot of famous people but I've never been so tripped out as I was speaking to him. It's moving so fast for us at the moment that it's important to sit down after every little achievement and celebrate it because you never know what's going to happen next."
Apr 2006 - Maverick Magazine
Harmonic sunny country-rock from the Welsh hillsides. The west coast comes to South Wales on this debut release by six-piece guitar-pop outfit The Storys. The recording process may have taken place amid the Welsh valleys, but the sound - radio-friendly melodies, uplifting harmony vocals and mandolin and banjo for wholesome country-rock flavouring - is pure 1970s California. Lead vocal duties are shared between the band's four singer-songwriters; Steve Balsamo (vocals/guitar), Andy Collins (vocals/bass), Dai Smith (vocals/guitar) and Rob Thompson (vocals/guitar), and when out of the spotlight, all contribute great tight-but-natural harmonies. Sensitive backing comes from Brian Thomas on drums and percussion, with keys, mandolin and banjo courtesy of Alan Thomas. Happily, the sonic variety elsewhere stays within more plausible bounds, taking in breathy acoustic balladry (High Enough and You're Not Around), the exuberantly huge choruses of Cinnamon, joyous and jangly country-rock on Roll Like A Stone, and string-led narrative track The King of Broken Dreams. The real knock-out, giving away its superiority as the slyly chosen album opener, is I Believe In Love, with bold, sunny layers of sound underpinned by industrial strength bass lines. Throughout, the irresistible voices of Balsamo et al remain smooth, boyish and superb communicators of sometimes unadventurous material. Ultimately though, The Storys' is a winning formula and one sure to be lapped up by wider audiences. Blessed with four voices like these, an intuitive musicality and extremely astute commercial sensibilities, this sextet should soon be winning many more fans with their warm, feel-good glow.
Apr 2006 - dvdfever.co.uk (Elly Roberts)
The Storys are the best band to come out of Wales in a long, long time. It's not only me who seems to rate them. Elton John has recruited them for his 11-date stadium and arena tour this summer: 'Sir Elt' has a knack of spotting real talent: James Blunt, Scissor Sisters and Anastacia have all supported him. "They have made a fantastic debut album, and I am really excited that they will be playing with me on tour", says Elton. Comprising Steve Balsamo vocals/guitar, Andy Collins v/bass, Dai Smith v/g, Rob Thompson v/g, Brian Thomas drums/percussion and Alan Thomas Keys/mandolin/banjo, and on the evidence of this sensational debut they're destined for a big future. Embracing the best of 60s/70s west-coast influences such as Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac (and The Beatles) they've added their own 21st Century twist. Immaculately constructed songs with Californian sunshine, the six-piece combo have delivered a sumptuous debut sure to make most radio playlists. Catchy hooks, golden melodies run amok across the 11 tracks. With four singer-songwriters playing their part and alternating lead vocals then performing backups, they present a formidable sound as the opening track I Believe In Love sets the tone, a classic CSN&Y sound-alike, as is later Roll Like A Stone. Be By Your Side could well be Fleetwood Mac at their most melodic. Elsewhere, there's a slight hint of Pink Floyd on High Enough as the track explodes into a glorious crescendo, highlighting their collective talents. McCartney and Lennon could well be the inspiration for You're Not Around, a gentle strum-lead ballad. There's just enough 'boy-band' vocal appeal on the soaring ballad Journey's End to make it a huge hit. The Daily Telegraph wrote, "Every track is a polished gem", which they are. The band has played many live radio sessions for the BBC including Radio 4's Loose Ends, Radio 2's Janice Long and Bob Harris who said, "Wonderful songs, great playing and instinctively beautiful harmonies. The album is gem". Bob should know. (10/10)
30 Mar 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Are Determined To Keep The Fans Happy
26 Mar 2006 - Sunday Mirror
Album of the Week - this classy six-piece have been tipped as one of the big things of 2006. The folky, rocky feel with just a touch of country is in the tradition of Crosby, Stills and Nash.... even if The Storys come from Swansea! And they know how to pen catchy, cool songs.
23 Mar 2006 - Boyz Mag - What's The Storys?
23 Mar 2006 - The Sun
Some bands would have been put into a quandry by Elton John ringing them up and personally inviting them to support him on his tour. Not so The Storys, who jumped at the chance. Their Californian-tinged folky pop has no problem with heading straight down the middle of the mainstream. Single Be By Your Side is perfectly polished with a guitar solo straight out of the Neil Young songbook. They may have more in common with boyband pop than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but they never miss a melody or a chance for a lovely harmony. At its worst it washes over you without demanding attention. At its best, it's the soft and slow country rock of The Eagles. Destined to be massive, catch them while they're still playing the smaller arenas.
23 Mar 2006 - The Times/T2 (Pete Paphides)
With a former Lloyd Webber lead atop the charts, (Orson's Jason Pebworth), the former Jesus Christ, Steve Balsamo, must fancy his chances. And with reason. Three-part harmonies will flood Crowded House fans with deja vu, while well-deployed Hammond organs and mandolins explain why Elton John has offered the band a support slot. Only the odd failure to distinguish between classicism and cliche hampers a strong debut.
23 Mar 2006 - The Telegraph (Neil McCormick) - Music Is Talking About My Generation
Age has been one of the perennial battlegrounds of pop culture. And I use the phrase "pop culture" advisedly. There was a time when it was widely referred to as "youth culture", but when all three top 10 new entries in last week's albums chart belonged to people nearing retirement age, the question is surely not whether age matters any more but whether, finally, the oldies have seen off the youngsters.
Sixty-year-old David Gilmour went straight in at number one. The other new entries came from Andrea Bocelli (47) and Van Morrison (60), with a top 20 showing for a greatest hits set from David Essex (58).
Two weeks before, the highest new entries were from Neil Diamond (65), Dolly Parton (60) and Ray Davies (61). And if you are still not convinced, last week's top 20 music DVDs consisted almost entirely of the deceased (Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Barry White, Roy Orbison), the middle-aged (Motley Crue, Whitesnake, the Eagles, Paul Weller, Iron Maiden, Metallica), the positively ancient (Johnny Mathis, Rod Stewart) and the retired (ELO, Abba).
The only two who could assert any claim to represent the youth of today are James Blunt (all of 29 and a huge favourite with older listeners) and Westlife (aged between 25 and 28, which surely makes any attempt to describe them as a boy band liable for prosecution by trading standards officers).
In contrast to the triumphs of the sexagenarians, a host of young singers and groups much trumpeted by the music press failed even to make the top 20, including new albums from Shakira, Delays, Morning Runner, Mogwai, and the Mystery Jets. The last are an interesting case, including in their line-up 55-year-old guitarist and lyricist Henry Harrison, father of 20-year-old singer Blaine. They are a rare example in rock (though not in country or folk) of a family band, and they reflect an often unspoken reality of how music is actually consumed. It is not divided by age, it is divided by taste.
The Arctic Monkeys (all under 21) may be the pop phenomenon of the year, but they are not a generation-dividing band. You don't have to be young to appreciate the appeal of a sound whose lineage is strongly connected to the past. Indeed, the new-wave genre inspiring a resurgence of British rock is hugely attractive to music fans of a certain age because its roots lie so unashamedly in the old wave of their youth.
When I was an 18-year-old punk, I never imagined I would be a middle-aged rock critic, but it turns out that it is my contemporaries who are keeping the charts alive. More than half of all CDs are bought by people over 30, less than a fifth by people under 20.
Yet there remains an inbuilt prejudice to age within pop culture. When major labels put out genre records (particularly country, jazz or swing) that might appeal to older listeners, they prefer to find young talent to do it, thus ensuring the widest possible demographic appeal, as we have seen in the careers of Jamie Cullum, Norah Jones and Katie Melua.
The story of Welsh country-rock outfit The Storys is a salutary one. Their demos were shopped around to much excitement - with one big caveat. "Please tell me they are young," was the legendary remark of one label boss. The Storys are aged between 31 and 50. Unable to get a deal, they released their album themselves last Oct.
Elton John (58) heard it and offered to take them on his summer stadium tour of Britain. The music industry took notice, and this year the Storys signed with Warners. The odd thing is, they are not getting any younger. But then none of us are.
BB King embarks on a tour of the UK later this month at the age of 80. We constantly hear about the problems of our ageing society, but surely we shouldn't be worrying about who is going to be paying our pensions, but what we are going to do during our lengthy retirements. Frankly, forming a rock band seems a good option to me.
23 Mar 2006 - Celtic Newspapers (Claire Rees) - Elton's Success Storys
It's not every day a band gets a phone call from Elton John telling them he loves their CD and he wants them on his tour. While it may seem like an overnight break for the six-piece from Swansea and Port Talbot, it's been a long time coming. Claire Rees caught up with Steve and Rob of The Storys backstage at a packed warm-up gig of their own.
"Someone called me Steve Balsamo from The Storys the other day. That was pretty amazing."
The vocalist and musician was more used to being known as Jesus Christ Superstar after he found fame quickly in the West End role.
"I do think I've shifted the tag now," he said as the band, who have now been together three years, write their set list on a paper napkin in the bar of Cardiff's Hard Rock Cafe.
It's a world apart from what the summer will have in store for them as they support the epitome of glamorous excess, Elton John. The Rocket Man himself telephoned Steve at home after hearing their CD in Las Vegas just after they signed to record label Warners. They'd written the tracks in guitars and vocalist Rob Thomas's Swansea kitchen.
"My manager called me 10 minutes before to warn me," said Steve. "So it was 10 minutes to have a nervous breakdown."
All six (Swansea-born, less for Port Talbot's Brian Thomas on drums and percussion) were not only fans of his music but equally aware an endorsement by Elton has previously meant the Midas touch for an act - just ask James Blunt or Scissor Sisters. The veteran artist famously bestows extravagant gifts on his proteges - Blue got inscribed pendants.
"I don't know about that," said Steve. "But asking us to tour with him is a pretty special gift."
For the busy band, the schedule, kicking off in May with stops including Manchester's MEN Arena, will mean yet another hectic few months on top of their own tour which plays Cardiff Bay's The Point next month. Steve and Rob have just become fathers for the first time and say the experience feels even more intense as a result.
"It's weird because you've got this perfect, beautiful thing in your hands at home," said Steve. "And then you're like, oh bye, and you're off again touring."
The self-titled album, funded with the help of small business in their hometown, is a collection of Americana-influenced songs that sound like they should be in a '70s road movie trailing a bunch of hippies in the Nevada Desert. Every one hints at each of their influences - Steve by Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Finn Brothers, Andy's Beatles penchant and Rob's obsession with Wilco. They recorded the album in an old converted cinema in Glyncorrwg through analogue equipment, using acoustic guitars, 'real' pianos and drums. The end result, after a year of work is, according to Steve "baggy and dusty". Both aged 34 - past it in an industry that traditionally plucks acts from the nursery, Steve and Rob reckon The Storys have had to encounter their fair share of ageism.
"People said you'll never get signed at 34," said Steve. "But there's been a huge tidal turn. The age range at our gigs is huge. Record companies are catering for the older demographic now."
For now, they're throwing themselves into a tour that is so jam-packed they don't even need to rehearse.
"We don't want to be presumptuous about the [Elton] tour. We know nothing's guaranteed. It's touring with Elton John. That's enough. We're so used to writing for other people so at the moment it just feels amazing to be doing our own stuff."
20-26 Mar 2006 - Big Issue
If celebrity endorsements count for anything, then South Wales six-piece The Storys have hit pay dirt: Elton John has described their debut album as "fantastic". Presumably Elton is also a fan of The Magic Numbers and 1960s American folk-rock, because The Storys have much in common with both. The vocal harmonies on Cinnamon and first single Be By Your Side practically have flowers in their hair, while The King of Broken Dreams points to a country influence.
20 Mar 2006 - Woman's Own
This band is currently enjoying massive airplay on Radio 2. Best described as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young meets The Eagles, they're tipped to be this year's hottest new group.
18 Mar 2006 - Music Week
In the tradition of acts such as Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Storys possess an ability to pen instantly classic songs which ooze class. Signed by Warner imprint Korova earlier this year, the band are building a strong, loyal fanbase in the UK through their extensive touring and look set to have a successful 2006.
10 Mar 2006 - The Sun
Lovely harmonies and polished melodies have found them a new best friend in Elton John, who they are supporting this summer.
10 Mar 2006 - Daily Mirror
Timing can be everything. Two years ago, US group The Thorns promised big things with their West Coast rock, but sunk without a trace. Now, with Jack Johnson paving the way, the time may be right for Steve Balsamo's similar classy, Sir Elton John-endorsed outfit from Swansea. Peachy harmonies, sun-baked melodies and chiming guitars dominate on this taster for their imminent debut. (**** Must listen to at all costs)
10 Mar 2006 - South Wales Echo (Gavin Allen) - What's The Storys?
His huge shadow hung over the conversation from the second it started. Plain fact: Welsh band The Storys have been handed the coveted support slot on Elton John's UK tour.
"Totally surreal," said singer/guitarist Steve Balsamo. "Our manager called and said, Brace yourself. Elton John is going to call you in 10 minutes. So I spent 10 minutes dancing around the room and then he called, 'Hi Steve, it's Elton'. I have met a lot of famous people but I've never been so tripped out as I was speaking to him."
Elton's backing clearly pays off - just ask James Blunt, Anastacia, Ryan Adams or the Scissors Sisters.
"There's no guarantee it will happen for us, but if nothing else happens with this album, having Elton John validate the songs like that is worthwhile."
Validation is a big but accurate word and there's no hiding the fact that Balsamo is unashamedly parading that validation (who wouldn't?) hoping his career of aborted launches is finally paying off.
"I've been close a few times, yeah. I think we have a lot of respect from artists we have worked with, but we do want commercial success. In medicine, if you put in 12 years work you will be a consultant and we've put in our 12 years, we want our consultancy."
The six-strong Swansea outfit are in the middle of promotional work for the release of their self-titled debut album on Mar 27, the first of a five-album deal with label giant Warners. Their unusual set-up of four singers - Balsamo plus Andy Collins (bass), Dai Smith (guitar) and Rob Thompson (guitar) with Brian Thomas (drums) and Alan Thomas (keyboards) - is bleached with experience and Radio 2 loves their 1970s West Coast influence.
"We were in a pub called the Red Lion in Barnes, London, after recording some Radio 2 sessions to have a celebratory drink and across the room the Gallagher brothers were drinking with Kasabian! It's moving so fast for us at the moment that it's important to sit down after every little achievement and celebrate it because you never know what's going to happen next."
Those words show Balsamo has trodden this road before and knows promises often lead nowhere.
"When I had a deal with Sony it was very much a case of 'Let's throw some money at it all and see what sticks'. But it feels very different this time. I hope it is."
7 Mar 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Sir Elton Sings Band's Praises Before Taking Them On Tour
A Swansea band who only recently released their first album on their own label have been picked by Sir Elton John as the support act on his upcoming tour.
The Storys will be "special guests" at 11 stadium and arena dates this year. The six-piece band will follow in the footsteps of James Blunt, Anastacia and the Scissor Sisters as recent support for one of the biggest names in music. Sir Elton telephoned The Storys' front man Steve Balsamo to break the news after hearing their album in Las Vegas. Balsamo, who said Elton John was a personal hero, said it could not have been better timed for them as they had just been signed by Warner Bros.
"I got a call from our manager and he just said, 'Elton John is going to call you in your house in 10 minutes'. Ten minutes later the telephone goes and Sir Elton is giving it 'how's it going Steve?' on the other end of the phone. Someone had given him a copy of the album while he was in Vegas and he was so positive about it."
4 Mar 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Local Band To Back Elton
A Swansea-based band are set for the big time after being picked as a support act for Sir Elton John. The Storys have only recently been signed to a major record label, after releasing their debut album themselves.
However, camp rocker Sir Elton was so impressed by what he heard that he phoned frontman Steve Balsamo to sign them up for his latest UK tour. The Storys will join Sir Elton on an 11-leg stadium and arena tour, kicking off in front of thousands of fans at the MEN Arena in Manchester.
Lead singer Balsamo said Elton John was a personal hero and he was delighted by his interest. He said: "I got a call from our manager and he just said that Elton John was going to call my house in 10 minutes. Ten minutes later the telephone goes and Sir Elton is giving it: 'how's it going Steve?' on the other end of the phone."
The band have been writing and playing together for three years.
4 Mar 2006 - Western Mail (Karen Price - Welsh Band Get Elton's Helping Hand
A Welsh band chosen by Elton John to support him on his forthcoming UK stadium and arena tour are hoping his 'midas touch' will bring them major stardom. Relatively unknown, The Storys - featuring former West End star Steve Balsamo and five of his friends - set up their own label to release their debut album. But now the Swansea band, formed almost three years ago, is hoping for similar success to New York sensations Scissor Sisters and chart-topper James Blunt, who have both achieved phenomenal success after receiving support from Sir Elton. The superstar has been full of praise for The Storys after hearing a copy of their self-titled debut album.
'They have made a fantastic debut album, and I am really excited that they will be playing with me on tour,' said Sir Elton. About three weeks ago, Balsamo received a call from his manager John Waller telling him to expect a call from The Piano Man himself. "I said, 'Is this a joke?' And then Elton called up," said Balsamo, who shot to fame in the West End playing Jesus Christ Superstar. "He told me he had been given a copy of our album and couldn't stop playing it. He said he absolutely loved it and spent the next 10 minutes telling me how great he thought it was. He then asked if we would like to support him on tour. It's very hard to put into words how I felt. Someone I respect as an amazing artist and songwriter rates what we are doing. Afterwards I thought, 'Did he really call?'"
The Storys also features Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas and they range in age from thirties to fifties. They recently signed a four-album deal with Warners and they describe their music as '70s West Coast-influenced. They are now preparing to perform to hundreds of thousands of music fans as part of Sir Elton's 11-date tour, which opens at MEN Arena, Manchester, on May 29. There will be no performances in Wales.
The Storys initially thought they would only be playing the stadiums. "Elton called me back a week later and asked if we wanted to do the indoor arenas too."
The band now hopes that some of Sir Elton's magic will help them on the road to major stardom. His ability to spot great new musical talent is legendary. He brought Anastacia, Scissor Sisters and James Blunt to the attention of the public over the past few years. The first time he saw the Scissor Sisters perform live he proceeded to purchase a glut of their self-titled debut CDs and share them with all of his friends. Since first gaining Sir Elton's support, they have headlined major festivals, such as the V Festival, played to millions with a storming set at Live 8, and won a clutch of industry awards, including three major prizes at last year's Brit Awards. Sir Elton is now collaborating with them on their new album. He was also an early supporter of James Blunt. He dubbed You're Beautiful a fresh descendant of his 1970 breakthrough, Your Song. Blunt has now topped both the singles and album charts and last month he won two major Brit accolades, including Best British Male, and this week he topped the Billboard chart in America with You're Beautiful.
But Balsamo is not looking too far ahead. "I would not like to be presumptuous at all really," he said. "It's just a great honour to play to a lot of people, which is exactly what we want to do. We are a live band but, of course, the idea of raising our profile and selling lots of records is attractive."
3 Mar 2006 - BBC Wales Website - Elton's Big Break For Support Act
A South Wales band who only recently released their first album on their own label have been picked by Elton John as the support act on his upcoming tour. The Storys will be "special guests" at 11 stadium and arena dates this year. The six-piece band will follow in the footsteps of James Blunt, Anastacia and the Scissor Sisters as recent support for one of the biggest names in music. He telephoned The Storys' front man Steve Balsamo to break the news after hearing their album in Las Vegas. It will see the band perform in front of crowds up to 30,000, starting at the MEN Arena in Manchester in May.
Balsamo, who said Elton John was a personal hero, said it could not have been better timed for them as they had just been signed by Warner Bros.
"I got a call from our manager and he just said, 'Elton John is going to call you in your house in 10 minutes'. Ten minutes later the telephone goes and Sir Elton is giving it 'how's it going Steve?' on the other end of the phone. Someone had given him a copy of the album while he was in Vegas and he was so positive about it. It was becoming more and more surreal and then he just said he wanted us to come on tour in the summer."
Balsamo, who made a name for himself on the West End as the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, added: "I've met a lot of famous people. But having Elton John validate the songwriting was too much for my small brain to cope with. I couldn't believe what just happened. When I telephoned the boys I had to start with, 'This is not a wind-up'."
The Swansea-based band - whose other members are Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas - have known each other through the south Wales music scene for about 15 years. They started writing songs and playing together about three years ago. Last year they persuaded some investors in Swansea to part with enough money to allow them to record and release their debut album on their own label.
"It could not be going any better" added Balsamo. "But if nothing happens from here on in, Elton John has called and said he thinks our songs are great."
Mar 2006 - Cardiff University Magazine (Kerry-Lynne Doyle) - Quench Interview
Steve Balsamo is no stranger to the music industry. After receiving his first taste of fame starring in Jesus Christ Superstar at the West End, Steve stepped away from musicals and signed a record deal in order to make it with his own music.
Enjoying success with the single Sugar for the Soul in 2002, he soon fell foul to the demands of his record company - an event which he is keen to avoid with his latest venture, The Storys. A six-piece band of Swansea musicians, The Storys put Steve's experiences to good use, by deciding to release their album independently earlier this year.
"It's almost a cliche these days that record companies sign you and you get dropped but I'm not bitter about it at all," says Steve. "I survived unscathed but when we were approached by a few record companies, we wanted to put the record out ourselves. There's a lot more kudos if you do it that way."
Formed in 2003, The Storys developed their west coast sound from their mutual love of country rock. Taking the lead from their heroes Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, they share the main vocals between them. Wanting to sound "retro without being ironic", the band recorded their album in The Hall, a renovated cinema in Glyncorrwg, to create the perfect old school record.
"By putting the album out ourselves we could make sure that it sounded the way that we wanted it to," says Rob Thompson, one of the band's vocalists and guitarists. "It does sound old-fashioned and anyone signing this album would want to take that away from it. But that's what its charm is."
Recording in The Hall also brought something quite unexpected to the album - a ghost.
"We brought in eight string players to play on the album and one of them was complaining of being cold all afternoon," explains Steve. "When we had photographs of the session developed there was this eight-foot grey man standing behind her. The faders kept being changed too so it really was bonkers."
Ghostly apparitions aside, The Storys are staying true to their Welsh roots. After supporting Tom Jones at his Pontypridd Park gig this summer, The Storys remain grateful for their homeland's influence on their music.
"I think being Welsh we're allowed to be musical," Steve asserts, "as it is part of our heritage. Music runs through Wales. If you look back to the Manics, the Stereophonics and forward to band such as The Automatic, you can see that their music is very melodic. I think Wales produces melodic music even more so than any other country in the UK because of our musical heritage."
And with a new single and a tour in the pipeline for early 2006, it seems that Wales' influence can only mean yet more great things for The Storys.
Steve reflects: "We feel very lucky and very blessed that we can actually make music as we know how competitive it is. We love it and we're just so bloody lucky to be able to make music and get it out there."
Mar 2006 - Live UK2 Magazine - Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Mar 2006 - Birmingham Mail (Paul Cole)
While The Thrills have re-invented the Beach Boys and The Magic Numbers have re-visited the Mamas & Papas, Steve Balsamo's Welsh wonders have re-written the West Coast songbook of The Eagles and Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, coming up with credible soft-rock packed with warm harmonies, hummable hooks and gorgeous guitar. Songs such as I Believe In Love and Cinnamon have booked in at Hotel California, while High Enough has a Lennonesque keen and Save Me boasts a bluesy guitar crunch that Joe Walsh would admire. Listen, too, for a cheeky pinch of Eagles hallmark Lyin' Eyes during The King Of Broken Dreams.
Mar 2006 - Uncut Magazine - Playlist CD
Hailing from South Wales, The Storys have been around a bit: all six members are in their 30s/40s, and mainman Steve Balsamo once played the lead in a West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. But don't let that put you off, as The Storys' debut album is full of wonderful songs, great playing, big choruses and sweet, sweet harmonies that recall the '70s West Coast heyday of the likes of The Eagles and CSN. Cinnamon is typical of the band's jaunty, jangling sunshine sound, and was released as their first single late last year.
Mar 2006 - Uncut (Nigel Williamson)
Welsh rockers check in to Hotel California - After selling the record at gigs for several months, the debut from Welsh sextet The Storys now gets a full release, and is set to give fellow West Coast revivalists such as The Thrills a race around the canyons. Leader Steve Balsamo sounds uncannily like Don Henley, and they recreate the sound of '70s LA soft-rock so accurately as to almost resemble an Eagles tribute band. As they're all in their 30s and 40s, you also wonder where they've been hiding since Hotel California ruled the airwaves. But four strong songwriters add contrast and character to an otherwise derivative style.
Feb-Mar 2006 - Acoustic Magazine (Brett Callwood)
One listen to The Storys, and 70s bands like Crosby, Stills Nash & Young and The Eagles spring to mind, but in fact, they were formed in South Wales two years ago. With four different singer/songwriters in the band, they take it turns to sing lead vocals, a fact that gives them a wonderfully diverse range of styles and subject matters that they can cover over the course of the album. Opening track I Believe In Love is an honest, if slightly middle of the road, ballad, while the piano led High Enough manages to tug on all the right heartstrings. Having four storytellers is to the benefit of, erm, The Storys, who display a rare charm and delicate sensibilities throughout the course of what is an incredibly accomplished debut album. The highlight of the record is undoubtedly You're Taking My Heart Away, a dark, country-ish ballad. With bands like Snow Patrol and, dare I say it, Coldplay in the charts, there's no reason why The Storys' tortured tales can't take the country and it's radio stations by storm. They certainly have the tunes and the commercial sheen required. And let's face it, anything's better than Will Young.
19 Feb 2006 - Wales on Sunday (Nathan Bevan) - My Story Has A Sting In It's Tail
He's not the Messiah. In fact, he's not even a very naughty boy. Actually, it's hard to imagine former Jesus Christ Superstar, er, superstar Steve Balsamo doing anything as stereotypically rock and roll as trashing a hotel room or sending a TV set sailing into the night from a top floor window. Indeed, I get the impression that if he so much as spilled his camomile tea on the bed-sheets he'd be straight on the phone to reception to ask for a cloth to clean up with.
"It's true, we are the politest men in rock," said the 34-year-old one-time West End board-treader, referring to the equally genial bandmates who make up hotly-tipped West Coast-style rockers The Storys. "You've got to be nice to people all the time," he added, "because it's like Ozzy Osbourne said, the people you meet on your way up are the same ones you'll see on your way back down again."
Relaxing in a plush red leather booth of a swanky Swansea eatery and looking thoroughly rakish and dapper with his shoulder-length hair and black linen suit, the Swansea-born singer certainly knows all about the ups and downs of show business. From his earliest memories of his Italian dad, a chef from Venice, belting out Mario Lanza standards, to the country songs his Welsh mum would sing him to sleep with, music has been in Steve's blood. Aged 17 and prompted by jealousy over his then-girlfriend's teenage crush on Jon Bon Jovi, he would trawl the decidedly unglamorous pub and club circuit of South Wales in various bands, belting out classic rock covers to regulars who'd take umbrage with the fact their bingo night was being disrupted.
"I remember one place in Bridgend years ago someone tried to strangle me as I was singing, which, as criticism goes, seemed a bit harsh," laughed Steve. "The bouncer - this big, hard, black guy with white tattoos - stepped in and really saved my bacon."
At 21 he swapped the spit and sawdust of workingmen's locals for the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd, his impressive three-and-a-half octave vocal range having landed him a role in a touring production of Les Miserables - or The Glums as it's known in Swansea. "That came as a hell of a culture shock," said the self-confessed pints-not-tights man. I was surrounded by people who'd been to theatre school and all I could do was watch them and pick things up quickly. Luckily, I'm a fast learner."
Steve shot to fame, and saw his face plastered across bus shelters nation-wide, when he landed the lead in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical Jesus Christ Superstar. With just one televised performance, it's said Steve caused ticket sales for the show to go stratospheric, selling more than £160,000 worth in 30 minutes.
But the desire to be a pop star was still as strong as ever. "To be honest, I could have stuck with it and earned myself a flaming fortune, but I only went into Superstar to get a recording contract out of it, and five months into the run that's exactly what happened," he said.
So, in 1997, he left behind a lucrative career as Lord Lloyd-Webber's cash cow to go his own way - but his solo career stalled when he was dropped by his record label five years later. "They ploughed a lot of money into making my record but there was all sorts of restructuring going on and people started losing their jobs," said Steve. "I'd waited for years to be signed and put something out there with my name on it, and just as I was on the brink...," he said, his voice trailing off as he drops his head into his hands in mock exasperation. "Ah well, let's just call it a bad case of musicus interruptus!"
But he remains philosophical about the whole episode. "Look, I had a big record deal, met a lot of great people and travelled the world - to me that's success. And if things hadn't happened how they did I would never have met the guys."
Along with 'the guys' - five other like-minded souls with a love for bands like The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac - he decamped to an old cinema-turned-social club in Glyncorrwg, near Neath, called The Hall. "We went for a few weeks to rehearse and ended up staying a year," laughed Steve. Everyone was really nice to us, we'd try the songs out on them, then they'd buy us pints if they liked them."
They also got an inkling they were doing something right when they did a session for seminal Radio Two DJ Whisperin' Bob Harris. "We told him how we wrote most of the material sitting around in our guitarist Rob's kitchen in Sandfields and he said that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had done exactly the same in Joni Mitchell's kitchen in Topanga Canyon in California when they were starting out. We just thought, 'Perfect!'"
Although their self-titled debut album isn't even out until next month, they've already been rubbing shoulders with royalty, both of the rock variety and otherwise. "Our first proper gig was in front of about 70,000 people at the Olympic Torch event in the mall outside Buckingham Palace," said a disbelieving Steve. "We were on with the likes of Rod Stewart and James Brown - not bad company, eh?! Mind you, the organisers did make us clear up afterwards," he laughed.
And, with The Storys snapped up by Warners Records before Christmas, Steve - who recently returned to his West Wales hometown with his long-term partner Tracy after 10 years in London - knows he's a lucky man. "We begged, borrowed and stole to make this record and put our own label together, so even if there's no major label involved, it won't matter. We made it ourselves, it's exactly what we wanted and we're so proud of it. It's real music and people seem to want to have real music again."
Calling up a picture on his mobile phone of his six-month-old baby daughter Isabella, a mop of cute brown curls and bows sitting at his piano, Steve looks up and beams. "Not many get a chance like this for a second shot, and we're gonna go for it."
Feb 2006 - QSheet (Nik Harta)
Heavily tipped by the music press as "ones to watch in 2006", The Storys are a six-piece band from South Wales: Steve Balsamo, Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas. The band's material has a rootsy quality, with flavours of southern California about it, similar to the sumptuous sounds and country-rock harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young/The Eagles and the soft undertones of The Magic Numbers. Aided by a catchy chorus and excellent harmonies there is an instant comfort factor when listening to their debut single Be By Your Side.
13 Jan 2006 - Western Mail (Claire Hill) - First Chapter Of A New Story
When singer Steve Balsamo and the rest of his band The Storys sat down to write the sleeve notes for their debut album, they knew it had to be packed with thank yous. From the people who gave them money, lent them equipment and provided their recording venue, the Swansea band called in a lot of favours. But setting up their own label, Hall Recordings, and making the record their way has really paid off - they've now been signed to music giants Warners for four albums.
"We all worked incredibly hard but there are millions of people to thank," said Balsamo. "Without the help of dozens and dozens of people who went above and beyond what we could even dream of, the album wouldn't have been made. It's quite a hippy 60s thing but a lot of love was put into this record and people are responding to it."
The band is the new incarnation of the former West End star's career. After famously making Andrew Lloyd Webber weep during a performance of his headline-grabbing time in Jesus Christ Superstar, Balsamo signed to Sony to make his solo record, All I Am. But that's all in the past now as the Swansea singer is putting all his passion into the six-piece 70s West Coast-influenced band, The Storys. Joined by Rob Thompson, Dai Smith, Andy Collins, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas, each one of the members has had a great deal of solo success pre-The Storys.
"We were working it out the other day and we've got... well I won't tell you how many years' experience we all have together!" said the singer. Suffice to say, the experience made the creation of the band extremely easy. Bit by bit, they all came together, knowing of each other through the "incestuous South Wales music scene", to start writing music that has been compared to Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Eagles.
With four main singer/songwriters you could be forgiven for expecting the group to be full of warring egos determined for their views, and voices, to be heard. But that's far from the truth.
"The writing process and working out who sings is a very natural thing," explained Balsamo. "We know when it feels right. There's a song that Andy does live which is just him and the guitar and it brings the house down. His voice is so beauteous and fragile."
Last year was taken up with recording the debut album, simply called The Storys, which relied heavily on the kindness of friends and strangers. The band used, heavily, the hospitality of friend and honorary band member Lawrence Davies, who has a studio at his converted cinema, The Hall in Glyncorrwg. And it's fair to say that the arrival of a six-piece band complete with equipment and vintage instruments caused a stir in the ex-mining community as the 'simple songs' were slowly recorded.
"There were all these tough guys there who've seen a lot of life who just did not get what was going on," said Balsamo. "But by the end they were sitting in with us and singing along with the songs. That's really engrained in the record and it's so magical."
The confidence they had in themselves was given its final boost when Warners signed them up for a four-album deal.
"I think the days of big money deals are gone," said Balsamo. "The industry, for the better or worse - and I think it's for the better - has changed. Money is being used much more wisely than when I signed to Sony or when Dai was signed. You don't need to have spent GBP 100,000 on a video."
Citing the current success of KT Tunstall, Arctic Monkeys and Nizlopi as acts who broke through in alternative ways, the former West End star believes the music industry is going through a very good time.
"Take Coldplay, Nizlopi, Crazy Frog or Kubb - none of these were within in the confines of what was the music industry. It's a brilliant time to be making music."
As the established record companies set up their older labels, like Sony Adult and EMI Angel, Balsamo isn't phased that all of his band are aged over 30, and some have pushed the 50 barrier.
"We were standing at the bar after we got signed and Alan, who is 50, said, 'I've been gigging for 30 years, I'm 50 and I've just got a recording deal'. It's brilliant. The record companies know that people aren't being catered for as a market and when something comes up that they love they buy it."
But with age comes the added juggling act of balancing relationships and children with recording and touring. Balsamo is experiencing this more than most after he and partner Tracey Jones welcomed their first child Isabella in September. But it's not going to stop him touring the album.
"We can't wait. A couple of us have just had babies which is very exciting but we don't want to be a flash in the pan, so we'll have to tour. Though being a new dad, there is a bit of me being torn with not wanting to go away. And it's made sure that all the songs I'm writing at the moment are about getting some sleep."
With those prolific songwriting skills of Balsamo added to those of the three other main songwriters in the band, it's not a surprise that the compliments are flooding in. Critics so far have been very favourable - BBC Radio 2 loves them and they have become firm favourites of DJ Bob Harris. A point which makes Balsamo very proud.
"We have a session with him soon, and I think we might cry when we meet him. He loves what we do and that to me is success."
But that's not going to stop the band and the plans to fulfil the Warners deal. Ideas for the next record - a "pacier affair, where the song is still king" - are already in place, but the band is keen not to get ahead of itself. For now the members want to focus on the debut album The Storys, a big gig at the Swansea Grand and the step-by-step plans for this year. It's early days but Balsamo is confident about the content and the quality of the songs - and the future of the band. "But it's also about timing and you've got to have luck. So we'll be praying for good luck because with a good wind I think this record will go far."
5 Jan 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Singer's Intimate Concert
Singer Steve Balsamo is to give an intimate performance at a Gower hotel/restaurant. The former Jesus Christ Superstar performer has been booked to appear at Fairyhill, in Reynoldston.
The 32-year-old lead singer and songwriter, who heads the group The Storys, will sing before just 24 people at the hotel's lounge on February 26.
4 Jan 2006 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Time
The highly acclaimed south Wales band The Storys will appear in Tregaron next week.
With four singer- songwriters, all taking lead vocals on different songs, the sound of this new six-man band is both fragile and intense. Inspired by acts like The Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash and Fleetwood Mac, they have just released their debut album to enormous acclaim. They perform multiple harmonies underpinned by acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and a killer rhythm section.
Frontman Steve Balsamo has had one of his songs covered by Meatloaf and their first-ever gig, before a crowd of over 70,000, was at the Olympic Torch Concert outside Buckingham Palace. It immediately attracted the attention of the critics.
Jan 2006 - altcountry.nl (Wiebren Rijkeboer)
Long hair, pale faces, born in South Wales: the four The Storys guys. Music: more vocal voices, countrified guitarpop, typical West Coast. You can compare the style with Venice, but then a 1000 times better. The 4 band members all can sing, and how! It sounds really great: it makes the CD The Storys (Hall Recordings) a very nice CD. This classical concept has been done a lot, especially by British young ones like Grand Drive, Goldrush and The Vessels, but I don't care: as long as I can enjoy the golden melodies, beautiful singing and guitar oriented countrypop. Then I am satisfied. And I am with this nice debut. The Storys have made a varied pop rock CD, at moments superb and vocally superior. The lead singer is Steve Balsamo, who already made a solo album and played roles in JCS and Edgar Allen Poe musical POE (and has a Dutch fansite). The Storys is an ultimate West Coast country rock band and the combination of guitars and singing is perfect in numbers like Be By Your Side, Cinnamon, Roll Like A Stone, The King Of Broken Dreams and Save Me (with howling guitars). It even calls up great memories of great seventies bands like Starry Eyed Laughing, Blue and Brinsley Schwartz (all to be expected to be forgotten classics). I think it's mighty. Altcountry.nl thinks The Storys deserve compliments! But I don't think they care: more important is that the band signed a record deal in December at a major record company. Well boys, go for it!
30 Dec 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Toast Five-Album Deal Success
The Storys received a bumper Christmas gift this year, signing a five-album deal with the Warner Group record label. The lads headed to London on Wednesday to sign on the dotted line, celebrating with a no-holds-barred gig. The major deal means their recent release, The Storys, will be put out worldwide on Warner's Korova label. Frontman Steve Balsamo says: "We are delighted. Wednesday, Dec 21, was an auspicious day to sign the deal. It was the winter solstice and it was also Dai's birthday. We did a bit of celebrating and played a great gig that night at the Ginglik Club in London."
The Storys are the first band to be signed to the relaunched Korova label. Steve says its rejuvenation is a sign of a positive move in the music industry to recognise diverse and mature tastes that are looking for something more substantial than pre-teen pop. "I think since the success of acts like KT Tunstall and James Blunt, there is a move to meet more adult tastes."
On the back of the deal the band will head off to one of the most important music events in the international calendar, South By South West, out in Austin, Texas, in Mar. Grandaddy of Grunge Neil Young will be there and other acts making the trip include KT Tunstall, Beth Orton, Tom Verlaine, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Death in Vegas. The Storys will head off for mega music-networking shindig Midem, in Cannes in Jan too.
Steve says his previous rocky deal with Sony gave him some invaluable experience. "We are completely positive about this. They are taking the whole album, lock, stock and barrel, so we feel we are steering this one from the beginning. We have all been working so hard at this for so long. And we have put the record out on our own, so we know we can do it ourselves."
The next Storys single, Be By Your Side is set for release on Feb 13 and fans can still get to see the homegrown band locally, with their next date in Swansea going ahead at the Grand Theatre on Friday, Jan 27.
29 Dec 2005 - South Wales Evening Post (Abigail Hart) - Time For A Change in the New Year
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo of The Storys: "My New Year's resolution this year will be no more resolutions. Last year's was to be on time. I tried to stick to it."
28 Nov 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - £1,700 Raised For Ben Fund
A concert held for Swansea schoolboy Ben Bellamy's memorial fund raised more than £1,700, it was announced today. The event held this week was attended by more than 220 people at the Sketty Park Sports and Social Club and sold out within 36 hours. Seventeen-year-old Ben was found dead on a city beach two months ago, following a night out in Mumbles. A fund has been set up to build a lasting memorial to him.
Swansea band The Storys led by Steve Balsamo made a surprise appearance on stage turning up unannounced on the night. Five other bands, including Gary and Taff's Steel Water Band, The Jinx and The VIPs entertained the crowd.
Organiser Gareth "Nags" Watkins said: "It was a great night, but also very touching. Thank you to all the people involved and everyone who turned up."
19 Nov 2005 - South Wales Evening Post (Kathryn Lay) - Unexpected Stillness in this Musical Maelstrom
He achieved fame in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar and is now creating a stir in the music world with his new band The Storys. Swansea's Steve Balsamo talks to Kathryn Lay about the rollercoaster highs and lows of life in the music business.
One of the most striking things about Steve Balsamo is his stillness. The 32-year-old singer and songwriter sits with his Storys bandmates in a flat in Uplands, Swansea, and, instruments in hand, they launch into a version of Roll Like a Stone, from their new album release The Storys. I think I half expected the former lead from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar to lift his head, expand the diaphragm, bounce his voice off the back wall and display a touch of theatrical emoting. Instead he is low-key and motionless while his woodwind voice edges its way around the room like a ribbon of cigarette smoke, snaking up to the ceiling. His is a voice that doesn't jump up and down for your attention. It extends a gracious invitation. And then come the rest of the band, packing in massed harmonies on the chorus. It is a glorious, technicolour moment. A joyful sonic wave.
The band has an accessible country/rock/pop sound that is making its mark on some of the UK's most influential radio shows. The boys are notching up a diary full of gigs to help consolidate their success before that fickle butterfly of media interest alights upon the next big thing. It is an exciting and frenetic time for them all. So stillness is the last thing I expected.
Aside from the demands of the group, Steve's personal life and solo career is pretty full too. His wife Tracy is nursing their three-month-old baby daughter and the young family have pressing plans to escape the frantic streets of London for Swansea.
On the solo career front, one of Steve's compositions has made it to the top 10 of the French pop charts and I get the impression he is cooking up another handful of hits.
When we decamp to a local pub for an interview he launches into a roster of big music ideas, including the possibility of a Wales-based Return to the Summer of Love festival, with some unashamedly retro acts and maybe James Taylor's son on the bill. And then he moves on to the need to open up a new 500-seat music venue in the city and before long he is talking about the idea of writing a children's TV show packed with high-colour pop songs.
Despite this maelstrom of activity, there is not much trace of anxiousness, urgency, trepidation, elation or hard-sell about him. Nor does he have that fevered, terrified air of a performer who is aching for fame. But then, he has been here before. He enjoyed a fanfare-and-drumroll signing to Sony and endured the subsequent divorce when his much-trumpeted album didn't sell.
He achieved virtual overnight success in the Lloyd Webber West End revival of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in 1996, despite being new to the stage (one television performance by Balsamo had Lloyd Webber weeping into his kipper tie and sold £160,000 worth of tickets to the musical in half an hour).
The rollercoaster highs and lows seem to have made Balsamo circumspect, self-reliant and able to roll with the punches without getting too battered. And while he is keen for The Storys and their album to hit the top, his energies aren't centred upon chasing fame.
"Of course I want The Storys to be a success because we have all worked really hard for it," he says. "But my focus is on writing as much as anything. It is writing that brings us together as a band and we all bring something different to it. Andy (Collins) probably knows more songs than any of us. He's a massive Beatles fan and a real encyclopaedia. Rob (Thompson) is a big Pink Floyd fan."
Aside from penning tracks with the band and with The Storys in mind, Steve seems to be a factory of pop hits and potential pop hits for other acts. During his time with record companies, and since then, he has spent weeks holed up in a castle in France, in a retreat in Devon and over in Nashville, learning about the craft from established songwriters.
"I'm obsessed with writers and what they've done, who they have collaborated with," he says. "And I really love the country turn of phrase. Out in Nashville everybody is a songwriter, in the way that in LA everybody is an actor. It is revered there."
One such retreat, run by Miles Copeland in a fairytale French castle, brought together people like the Nu Country/pop writer Keith Urban, Nashvillian Gary Burr, who writes for Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, Cher and Bon Jovi, and other songwriting students keen to sharpen their skills.
"Every day you would write a song with two other people and at the end of the day you would record it and play it at supper that night. It became like Lord of the Flies. You would be paying people to get more studio time."
Steve is finding his own foothold in the pop music charts, with his Per Sempre (For Always) making a mark on the top 10 in the Australian and Australasian charts.
"It has been recorded by Anthony Callea, a Pop Idol kid with an incredible voice," explains Steve.
It is the sweeter side of the music market that Steve leans towards, with one of his favourite tracks being On a Bus To St Cloud, by Gretchen Peters.
"Some of the songs in that commercial country field are great," he says. "But the one I really wish I'd written is Never Saw Blue Like That, covered by Shaun Colvin. It is a brilliant lyric. Poignant, dark and uplifting at the same time. So simple but great. I like that duality. All the stuff on the Storys album is multi-layered. They sound like cute pop songs but they have a darker subtext. And the way Colvin sang it got to me."
The power of the voice is something Steve is locked into and it seems influencing people with his own singing voice is tied in with his still manner. Steve studies with voice coach Jill Purce, who helps students focus on the full spectrum and the harmonics of the natural voice. And she is something of a spiritual and lifestyle guide too.
"I study Mongolian throat singing with Jill, who is also a shaman," says Steve. "She shows you how to use the subtle voice to unlock deeply held emotion. She also incorporates music, movement and drumming. These things can change neurological patterns in the brain. The effect some voices can have upon you is alchemy and it can be a shamanic thing. That's why someone like Tom Waits, who has not got a classically beautiful voice, or Springsteen is so powerful. They have a sound that is so free, so shamanic, with that animal quality."
Steve met another big influence upon his sound, his persona and his behaviour on the production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
"I worked with a director who was a brilliant communicator," he says. "She taught me that the less I did, the bigger the performance became and the more it would affect people. Learning that was a life-changing moment. I didn't have to go into histrionics. I could make my voice the smallest whisper, while everyone else was going bonkers around me. As the production went on, I found I was doing less and less and the audience were responding to me more and more."
Steve still dips into her words of wisdom now, he says, which he has on tape.
"She said so much that is accurate and useful for life, using fables, storytelling and metaphors: Be economical with what you do and say, always listen and sometimes don't do anything, just be still. I often thought she was off her rocker but I listen back and find she was absolutely right."
As well as focusing on his career, Steve says the responsibilities of fatherhood have hit him like a bolt out of the blue.
"I find myself worrying about things that I wouldn't have considered before," he admits. "All of a sudden I'm scared by things like the bird flu pandemic. What the hell is going on with that? You start having apocalyptic nightmares."
He says he worries about London being a target for terrorists.
"We live right beside the M4 in Chiswick and I find myself thinking 'If anything happened and there was an attack on London, we wouldn't get out of the city. Should I get a boat?' It sounds mad, but having a baby changes your whole perception of the world!"
He says his little girl is bound to have an impact on his music too.
"I haven't written a song about her yet," he says. She's a lovely little thing and she will definitely affect my writing. I can see Rob and I writing Tweenies songs before too long. Actually, writing a kids' TV show is the obvious way to get more songs out there."
17 Nov 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Christmas Lights Switch-On Ceremony
Snow machines, spectacular fireworks and Hollywood legend Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on a giant screen have been lined up to entertain the crowds at Swansea's big Christmas Lights switch-on ceremony.
Swansea's own six-piece country rock outfit, The Storys, who have supported Tom Jones and played at Jools Holland's wedding, will perform at the event which kicks off at 4.30pm on Sunday. They are fronted by West End star Steve Balsamo, famous for his appearance as Jesus Christ Superstar.
Celebrities from the Grand Theatre pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarves will be joining the line-up, along with The Crazy Frog, who will perform his new Christmas single Jingle Bells, live on stage.
11 Nov 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Storys Hit TV Screen
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo will be doing his bit for Children in Need later this month. The former star of Jesus Christ Superstar in London's West End will be performing with new band, The Storys, during the television fundraiser. The former Neath College student formed his new band after his solo career with record company Sony failed to take off. The band launched their eponymous debut album in Mumbles last month. The band, which is made up of four singers, has been booked for Children In Need on Friday when they will perform live from Wrexham. They can be heard throughout Wales on BBC TV and radio. The band brings Steve together with Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson and Brian and Alan Thomas.
6 Nov 2005 - Wales on Sunday (Rachel Mainwaring) - Charlotte And Gav Are Story-Eyed!
Stylish Charlotte Church and rugger boyf Gavin Henson joined the very gorgeous Steve Balsamo at the launch of his band's album. Steve, singer with The Storys, launched the band's self-titled album with a one-off gig at The Pier in the Mumbles. And Charlotte, dressed in a green vest which seductively showed off her red satin bra, looked every inch the funky pop star with heavy eye make up and sleek glossy hair. And Gav and new dad Steve didn't look too bad either!
Nov 2005 - melodic.net (Par Winberg)
No frequent reader of The Melodic Net could have missed the hype for the band The Storys the last couple of weeks. This week they're artist of the week here at "the net" and the review a couple of weeks ago gained hopefully a bunch of new fans for them.
And here is a review of a solo album from Steve Balsamo who's the lead singer of the band. He did it back in 2002 and I can just continue to deliver superlatives about this man and his voice. This man has one of the strongest voices I have heard in a very very long time (on this album he sounds like a young and horny John Farnham and that is a HUGE compliment). This album is much "poppier" and less west coast-influenced than The Storys so don't expect that. Musically we're somewhere between Robbie Williams, John Farnham and Westlife (don't be afraid - it's their good parts I mean). The album is filled with great songwriting (from Nik Kershaw, Chas Sandford and Shawn Colvin - a lovely version of her song I Don't Know Why among others) and a fluffy pop-production signed by Peter John Vettese that you all know from his days in Jethro Tull among other stuff (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Go West, The Pet Shop Boys, The Bee Gees, Foreigner, Carly Simon). Just listen to the opening Sugar For The Soul, State Of Grace (what a freekin' bombastic arrangement... phew), the just mentioned Shawn Colvin tune and Next Time I See Her (which sounds like a great modern John Farnham tune).
So, if you like nice and well produced modern pop like Robbie Williams you will have a good friend in this album and if it wasn't for a bunch of too polished tracks (Love Is The Word is one example that is far too wimpy) out of the 13 you could have added another star. Steve proves once again that he's a helluva singer and a guy we will have as a hero for many many years.
Nov 2005 - melodic.net (Par Winberg)
Mon Dieu! That's French for Holy freekin moses or something like that, and that is an understatement for this album. This is a MONSTER release folks. I can make that clear from the start. This album will easily end up TOP 5 of 2005 when we'll sum it all up in December. How high... well... just wait and see. The Storys is a new discovery for me and I just got this album sent to me from the band the other day. I put it on the stereo the same evening while reading a musicmag and I just sat there staring at the stereo and then looked at the sleeve... Out came a perfect hybrid of midwest/acoustic 60s pop/westcoast/modern singer songwriter pop. And the cake is spiced with the absolute best harmony-vocals I have heard since the days when Julius Caesar ruled the world. The Storys is a 6-piece band from South Wales and the guys in the band are more or less all of them fabulous singers with Steve Balsamo's voice as the shining leadsinger-diamond (he sent me a great solo album from 2001 as well - see another review another day...). Just listen to the opening I Believe In Love where the guys set the tone immediately (it smells - take it as a compliment... Mr Big's huge radio hit To Be With You... AND just listen to the harmonies folks... just listen...). The race just continues in second out Be By Your Side. In third out - the first single - Cinnamon I just sat there with an open mouth staring at the stereo once again. WHAT-A-HELLUVA-REFRAIN!!!! This is what The Eagles would sound like if they were young and horny the year 2005. In fourth out High Enough the tempo goes down a little bit and a beautiful piano sets the tone and fifth out You're Taking My Heart Away has a cool modern arrangement in an almost latin sort of flavor which works out fine. In sixth out the tempo goes down even more and the smell of The Beatles sort of sweet 60s pop is quite obvious. In seventh out Like A Rolling Stone the band sits on another killer-hit for the radio. This song is a marvellous piece of work and it sounds like the best song that the Venice-Brothers would die for to have written. The toughest track on the album is eight out Save Me and it's just good without that extra touch. In ninth out The King Of Broken Dreams we're back on track once again and it starts out in a soft way and goes into a bombastic "big" refrain with a ridiculous good show-off from the guys and their voices. At this point all the superlatives are written but what the hell can I write more than another big bravo when I hear tenth out Journey's End and the last one out - Is It True What They Say About Us, is the perfect end on the perfect journey in a west-coast landscape where just big heroes travels.
Nov 2005 - americana-uk.com (Paul Kerr)
West Coast influenced band trading on their harmonies. Hailing from Wales The Storys are a six-piece band led by Steve Balsamo, a veteran of London theatre having played the lead in the 90's production of Jesus Christ Superstar and also appearing in Les Miserables. Aiming for the soft rock comfort zone they have already garnered some plays from the likes of Bob Harris and others of that ilk. With obvious nods in the direction of CSN and more particularly the Eagles they are undoubtedly talented and the album sounds fine, clear and well defined... The best song is You're Not Around, written by bass player Andy Collins which is a plaintive song with a touch of Sparklehorse around it. (5/10)
21 Oct 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - See Storys Start
The word is out about Swansea band The Storys with their single, Cinnamon, sweetening the airwaves. Catch the boys tonight at The Pier, Mumbles, for the official launch of their strapping new album, The Storys. Expect a night of melodious country rock, with four captivating voices - including Steve Balsamo - creating a grand canyon-sized sound in the vein of Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Eagles.
14 Oct 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - The Storys' Opening Chapter Starts Here
Swansea's Steve Balsamo started another chapter in a career that has had more twists and turns than an Elmore Leonard novel, when he joined country rock outfit, The Storys. The band's debut album The Storys is out now and is being plugged by radio stations all over the UK. And the boys will celebrate the release on Steve's home turf when they play The Pier, Mumbles, next Friday (Oct 21).
Cinnamon, the melodious single, has been floating across the airwaves, with Johnny Walker and Bob Harris being partial to its rich harmonies and big choruses, backlit by country-rock banjo, mandolin and lap steel. Their sound is heavily influenced by The Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Fleetwood Mac, with four strong voices creating a grand canyon-sized sound, that was recorded in a converted cinema in Glyncorrwg for the album.
The band brings Steve together with Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian and Alan Thomas. The line-up is already proving to be a best seller, with their first gig going ahead in front of a 70,000 crowd at the Olympic Torch concert. They have also supported Tom Jones and played at Jools Holland's wedding.
14 Oct 2005 - Western Mail - Wales' 50 Sexiest Men and Women
Welcome to WM's annual list of loveliness - the 50 sexiest men and women in Wales.
And as for the men! Ladies, please form an orderly queue to view our list of the 50 altogether most gorgeous men in Wales. They're dreamy, delectable, sexy - and Welsh! No. 39 - Steve Balsamo.
12 Oct 2005 - South Wales Evening Post (Badger from The Wave)
This new, self-titled debut album from a new band is oozing with quality. The Storys consist of Rob, Dai, Andy, Brian, Alan and Steve. They got together last summer and spent three months in an old cinema in the Welsh Valleys and recorded this album, only available to us in South Wales. If you loved the solo stuff Steve Balsamo recorded a couple of years ago, you will love this. The single Cinnamon is getting loads of plays on The Wave at the moment. Many of the tracks have the production style of the new album by Daniel Powter - you feel as if you are actually in the room with the guys.
9 Oct 2005 - Birmingham Sunday Mercury
While The Thrills have re-invented the Beach Boys and The Magic Numbers have re-visited the Mamas and Papas, Steve Balsamo's Welsh wonders have re-written the West Coast songbook of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, coming up with credible soft-rock packed with warm harmonies, hummable hooks and gorgeous guitar. Songs such as I Believe In Love and Cinnamon have booked in at Hotel California, while High Enough has a Lennonesque keen and Save Me boasts a bluesy guitar crunch that Joe Walsh would admire. Listen, too, for a cheeky pinch of Eagles' hallmark Lyin' Eyes during The King of Broken Dreams.
8 Oct 2005 - The Telegraph (Neil McCormick)
The Storys caused a flutter of excitement when their demos did the rounds last year, with every major record company expressing an interest in their sumptuous revival of the country-rock harmonies of CSNY and the Eagles. There was only one problem. "Please tell me that they're young," was the response of the head of one label. With ages ranging from 31 to 50, the six-piece band were never going to pass the teenybopper test, but then it would be hard to imagine spring chickens making '70s-based music with such an air of relaxed finesse. Their blending of complex chord structures with simple melodies adorned with effortless, multi-layered harmonies is almost a perfect distillation of everything appealing about West Coast Americana, albeit that the Cardiff-based outfit hail from the west coast of Britain. Being big in Wales may not carry much pop-cultural cachet, but The Storys are more than a match for such acclaimed Irish revivalists as Hal and The Thrills. Every track is a perfectly polished gem, compensating for its essential derivativeness with an abundance of character and skill. It comes with age, you know.
2 Oct 2005 - Wales On Sunday (Leah Otway) - Come To The Bal
Welsh singing star Steve Balsamo's hot new band The Storys will launch their debut album with a gig in their home town, Swansea. The sextet are performing their 70s west-coast influenced songs at a one-off gig in The Pier, in Mumbles, Swansea, on Friday, Oct 21. A host of celebrities are expected to attend to see the former Jesus Christ Superstar singer and his bandmates, who release their debut single Cinnamon tomorrow, along with their self-titled album.
9 Sep 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Steve's New Story
Backing Joe Walsh on his cautionary tale of excess and isolation Life in the Fast Lane must be a sweet moment for a fledgling country rocker in vintage denims. Swansea's Steve Balsamo has enjoyed a number of peaks in his career and he has stood at the precarious edge of commercial success a few times. He joined the former Eagle at the Strat Pack 50th anniversary celebration of the iconic guitar - a show featuring Dave Gilmour and Gary Moore. He and his cohorts in the Storys enjoyed a debut gig at the Olympic Torch Concert in front of 70,000. Steve has found time to co-write songs for movie soundtracks and as a 21-year-old newcomer, won the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's all-singing-all-dancing reworking of the greatest story ever told, Jesus Christ Superstar. (A casting that prompted the triumphant headline The Son of God is From Wales).
The singer has also hit a few troughs along the way, with a well-hyped two year contract with Sony coming to an abrupt end after his debut release bombed. But a grounding on the musical stage has taught him the importance of 'going on with the show'.
The Storys brings together Steve on vocals/guitar, Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas. Their debut single Cinnamon has been floating across the airwaves, with Johnny Walker and Bob Harris being partial to its rich harmonies and big choruses, backlit by country-rock banjo, mandolin and lap steel.
Steve says: "We are getting great support from the radio. I think we have an appealing sound, with four strong singers so we can all lead or harmonise. Some of the biggest bands in music history had multiple singers - like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac - and it's a sound we love."
The band cut the album in a converted cinema in Glyncorrwg using old valve amps for that authentic sound.
Because of past career hitches, and perhaps because his mind is on the rather bigger issue of adjusting to life with a new baby, Steve is philosophical about commercial success: "The album is my other new baby and it's getting a lot of support so we're excited. But the album and the deal with Sony has made me look at things differently. There was a massive promotions campaign for that record with posters everywhere but it did nothing. At that time Pop Idol was at its peak and the timing was wrong for the material. But as a piece of work I'm proud of it."
This low-key attitude seems to stem from the fact that he is serious about making the kind of durable music that he admires rather than being driven by the sole desire to see his face on the telly. He talks about songwriting heavyweights like Joni Mitchell, Gram Parsons and the Beatles as well as vocal big-hitters like Paul Rogers. And of early memories of his mother singing him to sleep with gentle Jim Reeves numbers: "The emphasis of The Storys is on great songs with strong lyrics and hooks and I have been lucky enough to learn from some amazing writers," he said.
Whether he is single-minded about commercial success or not, the band has got off to an auspicious start, with a support slot with Tom Jones and a run of acclaimed gigs. And Steve does allow himself a little optimism: "If you look at the success of bands like Franz Ferdinand I think it shows people are listening to songs again."
Sep 2005 - playlouder.com (Iain Moffat)
It's tempting to call them the Welsh Eagles because these boys sound uncannily like those 70s country rock megastars in the golden days before they became plodding stadium rockers. They also share the mixed blessing that finally laid The Eagles low - virtually all of the members can sing lead and virtually all of them write songs, so the potential for in-band rivalry is enormous. It's not clear from the promo copy I'm using to review the album who wrote which tracks or who sings on which tracks, but there's plenty of variety in the vocals, from sweet and sensitive to rough and ready. The album's first single, "Cinnamon", starts out with a simple guitar strum which is almost exactly like Jackson Browne's Take It Easy, which was of course recorded by the Eagles, but it quickly takes on its own identity. This is the track which, released on their own Hall Recordings label, has already picked up significant radio airplay, thus justifying the band's confidence in starting off their career without even trying to get signed to a major label. The band was formed back in 2003, and spent six months recording this album in The Hall, a converted cinema in Glyncorrwg, Wales. The results will gladden the hearts of anyone who loves to hear soaring close harmony vocals set against rippling acoustic guitars, although there is absolutely nothing new being added to the basic country-rock mix, except perhaps the speedy Flamenco-rock handclaps in You're Taking Your Heart Away which give the track just enough of a hint of The Gipsy Kings to shift a few hundred thousand copies in Europe and South America. What's more significant though is that, despite all of their Eagles-derived aspects, songs like the delicate You're Not Around and the churning Save Me work more than well enough in their own right to deserve whatever success they might achieve, and certainly well enough to reward your investment of a few pounds.
Sep 2005 - backonthetracks.com
So that's what happened to Steve Balsamo! Aficionados of one-minor-hit-wonders will fondly recall his superb blue-eyed soul nugget from 2002 Sugar For The Soul, and they'll be proper amazed, as we are, to discover that he's only gone and ended up in this here six-piece, hammering out another UK take on that elusive west coastal summery thang. Naturally, the high water-mark in this area is always Teenage Fanclub, and it goes without saying that The Storys aren't quite in that league yet, but this is a promising enough debut, thanks to its intoxicating harmonies, carefree strumminess and mile-wide keyboardy glee. More thrilling than The Thrills, which is undoubtedly the point.
Sep 2005 - Sound NationOnce signed to Sony, Swansea's Steve Balsamo and his smouldering looks couldn't break the charts, so a couple of years down the line, he's back with a new band and a self-constructed label campaign. This is core Radio 2 territory, with a classic Seventies West Coast vibe of FM rock. It's Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Crosby, Stills and Nash. It's harmonised vocals, piano lines, some strings, slowly-strummed guitars and deliberate moves towards one-line, repeated choruses. It's simultaneously simple and complicated, and effective too. The single Cinnamon has a good hook that recalls the likes of Tom Petty. This doesn't push any envelopes of sonic exploration, but Balsamo and his band are pressing the right buttons.
29 Aug 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - A Special Delivery For Steve
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo has a little hit on his hands - a new baby. Proud new dad Steve saw his girlfriend Tracy Jones give birth to a baby girl at London's Chelsea and Westminster hospital last weekend. The 32-year-old former Jesus Christ Superstar showman was at his girlfriend's side for the delivery.
"I was there for the birth, though in the end Tracey needed a Caesarean. It was nerve-wracking and beautiful. It's just great. We haven't decided on a name yet. We can't make up our mind. It's all been such a blur."
The birth has come after a troubled couple of years for the star, who lost his mum and was dropped by Sony as a solo artist in that time. He said: "I had a big deal with Sony as a solo artist and it just didn't work. We were at that time when a lot of artists were getting dropped and the whole industry started to change. It was a really disappointing time. My mum died at the same time so it was a hugely traumatic period. But you know, you grow from those tests."
The star - a former student at Neath College - has now recovered from his music setback and formed a six-piece band called The Storys.
24 Jul 2005 - Wales on Sunday (Marc Baker) - New Stadium Launch Party
What a show stopper! That was the verdict of 12,000 football fans yesterday as they partied with a glittering line up of Welsh stars for the opening of Swansea's new £27m soccer and rugby stadium. The city entered a new sporting era as the curtain was raised on Morfa's new 20,000 seater Swansea FC and Neath Swansea Ospreys RFC stadium.
Despite the stadium being given the low-key title The New Stadium, all the glitz was pulled out to make sure the opening went with a bang. And with a message direct from Hollywood superstar Catherine Zeta Jones, everyone agreed it was a grand day out.
Security was tight as thousands of Swans fans packed the stadium for a party ahead of a friendly against Premiership stars Fulham. And with a stage in the centre of the glistening green pitch, a galaxy of Welsh stars paraded out to get the party started.
Olympic gold champion Colin Jackson whipped the crowd up by declaring the new stadium open. But before he took to the stage, he spoke of his hope that a name could soon be found for the stadium. "It's important that we do not rush to find a name," said the former athlete. Asked if he would like it to be named after him, Colin joked: "I don't think I deserve it. I can't really see The Colin Jackson Stadium - maybe a seat! But it's a splendid venue. It's important that everybody now supports it and does not take it for granted." He also encouraged local children to make use of it, saying the stadium could help create new sporting stars in time for the 2012 London Olympics. In a message to local kids, he said: "This world is full of opportunity. If you put your mind to things you will be successful."
Next on stage was former Pop Idol star Jessica Garlick, who sang her 2003 Eurovision entry Come Back. The mic was then handed to former Steps beauty Lisa Scott Lee who turned heads in a purple gown as she sang her chart hit Lately. It was then the turn of Welsh singer Shan Cothi and West End stars Peter Karrie and Steve Balsamo before BBC Wales presenter Amanda Prothero-Thomas took to the stage. Former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable - a rival Cardiff City fan - was met with comedy boos as he walked out to read a message from Zeta. The film star said: "The possibility of an arena like this was always a dream for us. Now, that dream has become a reality, everyone here will benefit from this. Not just the athletes and performers, but those of us who will cheer them on."
The finale saw Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler launch into her greatest hits, It's a Heartache, Total Eclipse of the Heart and I Need a Hero. By kick-off at 3pm, everyone agreed it had been a day to remember.
20 Jul 2005 - South Wales Evening Post (Nino Williams) - Stars To Shine At City Stadium
Swansea's most famous star, Catherine Zeta Jones, is to lend a hand at the opening of the city's new stadium at Morfa. Bosses have got her to back the £27 million venue. A message from the Hollywood actress will be read out at Saturday's opening ceremony. In it, she will speak of her pride in what has been achieved adding: "The possibility of an arena such as this was always a dream for us. Now that dream has become a reality, everyone here will benefit from this. Not just the athletes and performers, but those of us who will cheer them on."
A line-up of Welsh stars will take part in the showbiz extravaganza to mark the opening of the new stadium. The event, which begins at 12:30pm, will be an exciting mix of pop, dance and West End show songs, and will be followed by the first-ever game at the stadium - the Swans' friendly against Fulham at 3pm. Swansea singer Bonnie Tyler, who has taken time out of her hectic European touring schedule, will headline the event. Another local girl, and former Eurovision contender, Jessica Garlick will perform alongside Lisa Scott Lee (formerly of pop group Steps), singer Shan Cothi and West End singing stars Peter Karrie and Steve Balsamo.
Nigel Jones, special events manager, at Swansea Council said: "We are delighted to have such great performers to launch the new stadium. We are pleased that so many Swansea-based stars were available to take part."
Event hosts include Olympic gold medallist Colin Jackson, ITV weather presenter Sian Lloyd, TV personality Amanda Protheroe-Thomas and Swansea Sound DJ Kevin Johns. Two hundred children from the Mark Jermin Stage School will also perform.
Before the stadium is officially opened, the Neath-Swansea Ospreys, who will share the venue with the Swans as their new home, will parade the Celtic League trophy to the crowd.
25 Jun 2005 - The Times (Lisa Vericco) - Nerina Pallot/The Storys, The Borderline
It's about time Britain had a big-hair band, not least one led by a former son of God. The Storys are a seven-piece, alt-country outfit from South Wales whose four main members share both vocals and a love of striking hairstyles. The lead singer, Steve Balsamo, is best known for playing the lead in such West End theatre productions as Jesus Christ Superstar, but his singer-songwriter sideline might just make him more famous. A pretty boy with long, blond locks, Balsamo has a truly spellbinding voice and the Storys' melodic, mandolin-backed ballads and jaunty rockers should spark some serious interest when the band's debut album is released later this year. (4/5)
18 Jun 2005 - josaka.com (Dave Stevens) - Abbey Music Fest, ReadingThe Storys were next on the main stage. I'm not sure how appropriate their Alt Country tag is, but this was a very polished performance. Songs like Be By Your Side, Hollywood and High Enough featured four vocalists, alternating in taking the lead parts and backed by a mix of two acoustic guitars and one electric - underpinned by a solid rhythm section and a gloriously afro'd bassist. Having travelled up from South Wales, they managed to get the crowd involved and I'm sure they were glad they made the journey. They were certainly well received. Apparently, they recently supported Tom Jones - who'd have thought it. They've completed their self-titled debut album, which is out sometime this year, maybe even now.
Jun 2005 - The Pop Factory - The Storys Supporting Tom Jones, Pontypridd
With the party atmosphere in full swing from the offset, Tom's 65th birthday promised to be a great day. Welsh acts such as Along Came Man, Tesni Jones and The Storys warmed up the crowd to rapturous applause.
30 May 2005 - Western Mail (Tryst Williams) - Celebs Lend Support
As Tom's die-hard fans were happy enough braving the cold and nibbling on burgers while waiting for him to perform at Ponty Park, celebrity guests sipped champagne backstage with his family and friends. Mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, T4 presenter Steve Jones and singer Steve Balsamo were all spotted mingling in the VIP area.
28 May 2005 - South Wales Evening Post (Spencer Feeney) - The Storys Supporting Tom Jones, Pontypridd
A series of warm-up acts culminated in an excellent set by Swansea band The Storys.
13 May 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Silver Celebrations For Unit
Staff at Neath Port Talbot Council's Skills and Training Unit have organised a get-together to celebrate 25 years of helping people into work. More than 240 people attended, including learners, employers and partner organisations such as ELWa, Careers Wales and the Basic Skills Agency. Guests toured the demonstrations and took part in activities organised by the team to find out what skills can be learned. Paralympic athlete John Harris gave an inspiring account of his life and the challenges he faced, while singer and songwriter Steve Balsamo talked about his life and showcased songs from his forthcoming album.
May 2005 - The Telegraph (Neil McCormick)
Big choruses, sweet harmonies, heart, soul and four lead vocalists, The Storys are the hairiest, most melodious band of West Coast rockers this side of the Atlantic.
15 Apr 2005 - South Wales Echo (Sophie Corless) - Musical Youth Stages Big Hits
Student singers from across South Wales are preparing to perform a musical extravaganza as part of the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre. Five schools will take part in a concert at St David's Hall in Cardiff tonight that will pay tribute to some of the great musicals of all time. They will each perform excerpts from hit shows including Carousel, Oliver and Bugsy Malone. More than 250 pupils will take part in the event, which will be hosted by Swansea-born star Steve Balsamo, who played the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar in London's West End...
Steve Balsamo, who is hosting the event, is confident it will be a big success. "It's great to see so many youngsters getting involved in musical theatre," said Steve, 32, who went to Dynevor Comprehensive School, in Swansea. "Judging by how hard they've worked it's going to be a really spectacular show."
4 Apr 2005 - South Wales Evening Post - Winner Karl Set To Rock
Just Up Your Street winner Karl Morgan is set to take to the stage at Swansea's Chicago Rock. The teenager will appear at the venue on Wednesday. Karl, of Bryngelli Road, Treboeth, will be performing his up and coming debut single Don't Take the Best of Me as well as songs from his album 'In Progress'. He has spent the 12 months since winning the Owen Money talent contest co-writing and producing songs with Swansea star Steve Balsamo.
Karl said: "It's taken a while to get the right mix of songs together but I feel now is the time to let everyone hear what I've been up to."
Jan 2005 - The Telegraph (Neil McCormick)
The new British bands who will brighten up 2005: The Storys - unsigned but classy country-flavoured ensemble.
28 Sep 2004 - Hollywood Reporter (Ray Bennett) - Miller Strat Pack Concert, Wembley Arena, 24 Sep 2004 [extract]
[Ronnie] Wood was presumably booked to top off the show with some typical Stones good times, but the rocker perversely came on without a hard-bodied guitar for a lacklustre performance of the Faces' "Ooh La La", on which he was saved by the backup singers.
25 Sep 2004 - Sound Generator - Miller Strat Pack Concert, Wembley Arena, 24 Sep 2004 [extract]
As the night draws to a late close well after 11pm (late for Wembley Arena) the crowd begins to tire. Not of the music but of the enormity of the event. Last to take the stage is former Small Faces man and Rolling Stone the delightful Ronnie Wood. With a great version of 'Oooh La La' the crowd finds more energy to back the performance as Ronnie gives all he has. And that is still quite a lot, as the youngest Rolling Stone seems to be having a lot of fun with the band and with performing. He just likes music. Simple as that. The backing vocalists exude and a great sound fills the cavernous arena."
31 Aug 2004 - Gibraltar Live Music Society (James Martin) - Chiappe to Support VIP's on Thursday
Jamie Chiappe is to support the VIP's performance in next Thursday's final Summer Nights Concert in Casemates. The talented Gibraltarian singer songwriter has been chosen by special request of the VIP's themselves who are big fans of his music. The VIP's - better known as four members of Steve Balsamo's band The Storys - have been invited to perform in what promises to be one of the highlights of the Tercentenary year by the Gibraltar Live Music Society and the Casemates Tenants Association.
The friendship between Jamie and Brian Thomas of the VIP's goes back to the Rock Solid Concert held in May 2002 in Swansea and even before then. James Martin one of the organisers of the Swansea Concert said: "The Gibraltarian artists we took over all made a huge impression in Wales. Unfortunately Chango Mutney are no longer together but they and Jamie went down really well with the Welsh audience. Brian and myself are huge admirers of Jamie's songs. When Steve Balsamo and Rob Thompson came over to support Suzanne Vega earlier this year they were in my apartment so I put on some of Jamie's stuff. They didn't know who he was and Rob was first to ask me about him. He told me he thought he was an excellent songwriter in the mould of Neil Finn of Crowded House."
James continued: "I then had Steve emerge from his room to ask about Jamie and he was well impressed, particularly with his acoustic material. Steve then danced around the flat singing something that resembled Jamie's Rock Solid Song. I think he found it very catchy! It was therefore not surprising when Brian asked if it was possible for Jamie to support them. I passed the request on to Alex at the GLMS who was only too happy to ask Jamie to come along."
The VIP's are performing several other dates in Gibraltar, at the Lord Nelson in Casemates on Friday and Saturday the 3rd and 4th as well as a mid-week gig at the same location on Wednesday 8th September.
26 Aug 2004 - Gibraltar Live Music Society (James Martin) - Members Of Balsamo's Band Confirm Gib Dates
Four members of Steve Balsamo's band The Storys are set to perform a number of concerts in Gibraltar. The visit was inspired by The Gibraltar Live Music Society and Casemates Tenants Association who have invited them to perform at the final Gib Summer Nights taking place on Thursday 2nd September. A GLMS spokesperson said;" We are delighted to be able to finish the musical side of Thursday Summer Nights on a high note. I am sure the band will put on a great performance for us all to enjoy." For this visit the four musicians - Brian Thomas, drums, guitar and vocals, Andy Collins, bass, Dai Smith, guitar and vocals, and Allan Thomas, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, banjo and piano, - will be known as The VIPs and will be playing modern and classic cover versions as well as some original material. Brian and Andy, on drums and bass respectively, are no strangers to the Rock having performed here on three other occasions. They also performed with Steel Water at the Rock Solid Concert held in Swansea, Wales, in May 2002 in support of Gibraltar, which Peter Hain's Labour Council in Neath initially tried to ban.
The visit was confirmed yesterday by James Martin, their Gibraltar friend and representative, who has found the extra sponsorship needed in order to make the trip viable. He said: "Steve Balsamo was really hoping to make it as well but he is tied up with his many projects. His dance music ChimpanA is currently being scheduled for release in the New Year and has already had a rave write up in the Daily Telegraph. He is also working on the final mixes for The Storys debut album, which is sounding fantastic. He asked me to pass on his thanks to everyone for making him always feel so welcome in Gibraltar and he hopes to be back on the Rock soon."
The four Welsh musicians have spent the last twelve months recording with Steve and are, said Mr. Martin, "really looking forward to being back on the Rock again, and seeing some familiar faces. After spending the last year working on the new Storys album it'll be great for them to come to Gib and play some of their favourite music and have a good relax." They performed with Steve at the London Torch concert outside Buckingham Palace, which had an audience of some 70,000 people, and the band had very positive reviews."
Their other performances include three nights at The Lord Nelson, which has come on board as a major sponsor of their visit along with Hambros Bank, AON Insurance Managers, Zenith Insurance Ltd, and Saccone and Speed. The Nelson performances will take place on the 3rd and 4th of September, plus a mid week appearance on Wednesday 8th September. There is also a possibility they will join the line up for the Ministry of Culture backed Rock Solid 3 concert being planned to take place at Governors Parade on National Day between 2pm and 6:30 pm. Full details of this will appear soon in The Chronicle.
The VIP's will include songs in their sets by Radiohead, Starsailor, The Beatles, Travis, Tom Petty, REM and many more leading performers, plus originals.
5 Aug 2004 - The Telegraph (Neil McCormick) - Looking For Talent? It's Simple Simon [extract]
Recently I have been listening to a fabulous album by Welsh chillout merchants ChimpanA, which was turned down by every major label on the grounds that it was uncategorisable (to me, this sounds like a recommendation) before being picked up by tiny independent Mighty Atom (for release next year).
26 Jun 2004 - Record Collector (Tim Jones)
Olympic Torch Concert - The Storys had the crowd of all ages rocking by 3pm...
25 Jun 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Olympic Date for Balsamo
Swansea singing star Steve Balsamo and his band will feature in a massive free concert to mark the Olympic flame's arrival in London tomorrow. The band will launch their official UK tour debut in front of 70,000 music fans during the Olympic Torch Concert in the Mall. The Storys have been asked to perform among music legends including James Brown, Ozzy Osbourne and Rod Stewart. "I think it's great," said Balsamo.
25 Jun 2004 - Daily Post (Alun Pritchard) - Exciting New Chapter in Balsamo's Success Story
Steve Balsamo's friends had to do a double take when a picture of him appeared in a magazine under the headline, The Son of God is Welsh. Balsamo, frustrated by the record industry's fads, had decided to give musicals a go, auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber and landed the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar despite having no previous theatre experience.
"That was a calculated move, at the time nobody was signing male solo artists, they weren't in vogue for some reason, so my idea was if I get this very high profile theatre gig maybe I'd get a bit of interest," says Balsamo in his soft Swansea accent. "I got on TV with a couple of shows and got signed straight away so it actually worked."
What Balsamo neglects to say is that when he did appear on one TV show his performance reduced Lloyd Webber to tears and prompted the sale of £160,000-worth of tickets in half an hour. His popularity as Jesus and the power he brought to the role is down to his all or nothing approach to singing he says.
"I think a rawness and not being afraid to make an a*** of myself and just go for it probably caught the eye a bit, I had no baggage of four years of formal training. And to prepare for the role I read a lot of books, watched a lot of films and sat quietly in the Garden of Gethsemane," he jokes.
He may say he only went into musicals to be noticed and reconciles the move with the fact that it was more rock and roll than most musicals due to Ian Gillan of Deep Purple's involvement in the production. But he does accept that it came easily to him despite being as he says, "a pints man not a tights man".
"Although my entrance into that world was just a springboard to rock and roll, which is what I came from originally, I did it well and I got an award for it and I keep getting asked to do more and I'll never say never because financially it's a good move."
Jesus Christ Superstar did earn him a solo recording contract but when he first signed to play the role he had to turn down an opportunity to team up with a close friend Dave and form a band. "I was like sorry, dude, I've got to go and do this nonsense with a cross for a while, and it was only seven years later that things went full circle and I went back to him to ask if he wanted to form a band."
The "nonsense with the cross" got him a recording contract with Columbia and he released All I Am in Autumn 2002 to critical acclaim. His debut single Sugar For The Soul broke into the UK Top 40, was a frequently requested favourite on satellite music channels and became Ken Bruce's single of the week on Radio 2.
The success came as a surprise to the son of a Welsh mother and a Venetian chef who only took up music out of jealousy when he was 17 because he thought his girlfriend at the time loved Jon Bon Jovi more than him. But almost as soon as he began to make inroads into the business Columbia pulled the plug. "What happened was the record industry changed, my record company and Epic merged into one and a lot of people got left out and I was one of those. It's as simple as that really," he says with no hint of anger or disappointment.
But far from struggling without a contract Steve got back with his friend Dave who had just come out of a contract with Sony and teamed up with two other singer-songwriters to form 1970s west coast influenced band The Storys. The band moved out to a former cinema and miners' welfare club in deepest darkest Rhondda and took up residence there to write and record an album.
While he has been holed up working on new material there has been a swift international trade in songs he has already written. "In the last couple of months I've had about 10 songs covered by other artists, Meatloaf is one, there are some boybands and various country artists and new jazz artists in America. "It's very encouraging and very lucrative and another strand of music that makes a small fortune if you do it right. But the only thing I'm concentrating on at the moment is the band. All four of us are songwriters, so we've got an idea on what makes a good tune and we've all come together. We left the ego at the door and want to write the best songs we can - it's very exciting and very strong you know."
25 Jun 2004 - Western Mail (Karen Price) - Balsamo Helps to Light Olympic Flame
Steve Balsamo and his band will make their official UK debut tomorrow during a massive free concert to mark the Olympic flame's arrival in London. The Storys got together a year ago and have already penned 35 songs. But although they have yet to secure a record deal, the Swansea band have been asked to perform in front of 70,000 music fans during tomorrow's Olympic Torch Concert in The Mall. Among the other acts will be music legends James Brown, who appeared in Cardiff on Wednesday, Ozzy Osbourne and Rod Stewart. They will also be joined by Will Young, McFly, Emma Bunton and Jamelia.
The Storys were invited to be part of the historic celebrations after Balsamo's next-door neighbour, who is producing the concert, heard their music coming from his Chiswick home. "I think it's great," says Balsamo, whose big break came when he won the star role in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which led to rave reviews. "I did a couple of big gigs when I was a solo artist."
Following his stint in the West End, Balsamo signed to the Columbia label, which was once a part of Sony, and launched a pop career. He released two singles, including Sugar for the Soul which reached number 28 in the UK chart, but he was later dropped when changes in the industry meant the Columbia label folded. The singer then decided to put a band together. He had sung in a number of groups in the past.
The Storys is made up of musicians Balsamo has known for years, and includes Rob Thompson, Dave Smith and Andy Collins, who all sing and write songs. They are joined by drummers Brian Thomas and Slack and keyboard players Gareth Thorington and Alan Thomas.
"I'm a big believer in timing," says Balsamo. "As song-writers we came together and in two months we had written 35 songs." He says The Storys are influenced by rock bands from the '70s, including Led Zeppelin and The Eagles. In fact, when they recorded some of their tracks at a club in Glyncorrwg, they used equipment from that era. "The club is an old converted cinema so the acoustics were fantastic," says Balsamo. "And we used vintage amps and vintage equipment so the recordings sound like they are straight from the '70s."
The Storys played their very first gig in Gibraltar not long after forming last summer, as a friend works in the Mediterranean resort as a promoter. And last week, Balsamo and Thompson returned to the British outpost to provide support for Suzanne Vega. "It was great to show off our material in an acoustic form," he said.
But tomorrow's gig will be their first in the UK. Once it is over, they will concentrate on promoting their music through more gigs and securing a recording contract. "We will see what happens in the next couple of months but we are not in any rush whatsoever," says Balsamo.
Although he is concentrating on writing songs with his new band, The Storys, Steve Balsamo will not give up penning tracks for other singers. In fact, he co-wrote the French entry for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. The ballad "A Chaque Pas" - roughly translated as "Each Step" - was performed by France's Pop Idol winner Jonatan Cerrada. Although it didn't win the contest, it has proved to be a big hit in France. "It sold more than 100,000 copies, which is great," says Balsamo. "I will carry on writing for other people, as it's a lovely thing to do, but my main focus is now on the band. So much effort and love has gone into the band that I want to see it through and take it as far as we can."
Jun 2004 - Gibraltar Live Music Society (James Martin) - Suzanne Vega Concert
Make no mistake this concert could be more significant in the long term interests of the Gibraltar live music scene than the far more grander and expensive National Day appearance by Elton John. As much as I welcome the Rock-et Man's appearance in Gibraltar the problem is it is unlikely to be repeated. Artists of the calibre of Suzanne Vega can, with the right kind of support - are you listening in the Government? - be brought to the Rock on a fairly regular basis. Word of Mouth and Owen Smith in particular deserve a huge pat on the back for arranging this concert with only his own resources to combine with those donated by very generous sponsors.
The setting may not have been the biggest venue she has ever performed in but I doubt is she will ever perform in one that possesses such outstanding natural beauty as St Michael's Cave. Primitive ancestors of ours must have marvelled at the acoustics of the Cave in much the same way as we do today. Steve Balsamo said to me when he entered it "I have never performed in such an amazing venue as this in my life. It is absolutely incredible. Everyone will want to perform here."
And so it was that Steve and his guitarist Rob Thompson from the band The Storys were first up on the night. They had prepared a set of ten songs but due to the concert starting late were forced to cut it down considerably. Steve had waived his fee for the night but Zenith Insurance PLC and AON Insurance Managers had agreed to cover his expenses. The guys began with a haunting song called Is It True which they had recorded last September in the Barn Studio in Gibraltar. Their vocal harmonies in particular drew considerable praise from Suzanne's bass player, and their general acoustic sound was almost perfect in the confines of the Cave. In fact they got an invite to go backstage at Suzanne's Cardiff concert on June 29th!
The Storys have just completed recording their new album in Wales and they treated us to several songs from it. A favourite of mine is Journey's End which the full band also performed at last years National Day concert. Rob Thompson also sings in the band and he did a lovely Crosby Stills and Nash influenced song called Be By Your Side. Shawn Colvin has appeared on disc with Suzanne and she also performed a duet with Steve on his Sony album All I Am. The song is called I Don't Know Why and in the Cave it was his best vocal performance, sending shivers down the spine that had nothing to do with the dampness and chilliness of it! Steve and Rob performed a short set but made a big impression: after the show his entire stock of CD's sold out with the first batch of fans to leave - with many more having to trek down to Vijay and Music Corner the next day! At least the copies there are signed!
11 Jun 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Welsh Song Rocks After 30-Year Gap
Swansea singer and songwriter Steve Balsamo is set to become the first Welsh singer to perform in Gibraltar in more than 30 years as part of huge festivities to mark the colony's 300th anniversary. The singer and former West End star has been invited to perform as a special guest of American singer Suzanne Vega in a special anniversary show at St Michael's Cave, Gibraltar, next week. Steve's appearance will make him the first Welsh singer to perform in Gibraltar since Dorothy Squires, the former wife of James Bond star Roger Moore, in 1970.
It comes after Steve's latest band - The Story's All Welsh - visited the Rock in September to perform a few shows which were organised ironically by a promoter who moved there from Briton Ferry.
"I wanted to play in a location where I was unknown because I wanted to try the band out in virgin territory," said Steve. "A friend of the band's called James Martin, who lives in Gibraltar but is originally from Briton Ferry, is a music promoter and magazine contributor there so he fixed us up with a few pub gigs."
James said: "Steve and the boys went down so well they ended up playing to 6,000 people at the Gibraltar National Day concert broadcast live on television. They were the first non-Gibraltarian band to appear at that concert. It was a huge honour."
13 May 2004 - BBC Wales - Eurovision Dilemma for Balsamo
Swansea-born musician Steve Balsamo has a foot in two camps at Eurovision. The former West End star counts fellow Welshman James Fox, who is representing the UK, as a good friend - but he has co-written the French entry. Balsamo has been enjoying the build-up in Turkey all week and having sized-up the competition believes both the UK and France are genuine contenders.
He had been working with up and coming French singer Jonatan Cerrada on the 18-year-old's first album since Christmas. The ballad Cerrada will perform, A Chaque Pas (Every Step), was not originally intended for Eurovision. But Balsamo, who found fame as the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, is enjoying being involved. "It's the craziest thing - it's quite camp to say the least, and the place is full of lots of very excited people getting very drunk," he said. "But it's just great - we have brought a mini-studio along so we are writing a few things while we are here."
Cerrada was a finalist in the French version of Pop Idol last year and Balsamo was drafted in to help write new material for his album, even though his French is limited. "He's a young guy but a really great singer and speaks Spanish. I think the market is there for him and if the Latin American market opens up he could be huge. I love France - I've got a lot of friends in the south. One of my little dreams is to have a small place down by Toulouse because I love that area - there is something very spiritual about it."
After Jemini returned home with no points last year Balsamo believes the Brits are taking it a bit more seriously than usual. "I knew James Fox before coming out here. Fingers crossed he gets in the top five and of course I hope France will be there as well. I think Norway have got a good chance. The Greek song is very kitsch but the guy who sings it is very good and that could do well. The Serbian song is a beautiful song and very classily sung. I should be running book - if I had to pick one I'd say Greece from the crowd's reaction."
When the curtains come down in Istanbul Balsamo will be returning to Wales where he has got together with some friends to form a band. "We've written about 35 songs but we can't settle on name yet. It's very exciting and we are putting together an album. I still love the performing side of it but the thing that has really sparked a fire in me in the last year or two is the writing. I'm hoping to write something with James Fox while we're out here."
27 Apr 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Steve Pens Euro Entry For France
Swansea's Steve Balsamo has penned the French entry for this year's Eurovision song contest. But he will be competing with fellow Welshman, Fame Academy star James Fox who sings the British entry. Former West End star Balsamo co-wrote "A Chaque Pas" which will be sung by the country's Pop Idol winner, 18-year-old Jonatan Cerrada. But the selection of the song came about by chance. Steve happened to be writing songs for the teenager's new album, independently of Eurovision.
"Then suddenly we heard that one of the songs we'd written for him had been picked for the contest. I couldn't believe it," he said.
Steve, who came to fame through the success of his role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar musical, believes his friend James Fox, who comes from Bargoed, and who performs the British entry, could walk off the Eurovision stage with the title.
27 Apr 2004 - Western Mail (Hannah Jones) - France Can Win For Wales
Two Welshmen are taking part in this year's Eurovision Song Contest - but one of them will be secretly hoping that France will win. Bargoed-born James Fox, the former Fame Academy finalist, was picked to represent the UK at the annual event with the Country and Western inspired ballad, Hold On To Our Love. But his biggest competition will be the French entry, sung by France's Pop Idol winner, 18-year-old Jonatan Cerrada. His song, another ballad called A Chaque Pas - roughly translated as Each Step - is tipped as one of the favourites to win - and it was co-written by former West End star Steve Balsamo.
Steve, who comes from Swansea, said its selection came about by chance. "My writing partner and I were doing songs for Jonatan quite independently of the Eurovision, trying to pitch songs for his new album. Then suddenly we heard that one of the songs we'd written for him had been picked for the contest. I couldn't believe it. It happened out of the blue and I'm over the moon one of my songs has been chosen. I think it's a privilege to write for it, never mind which country gets to sing it."
The singer, who shot to fame when he starred as Jesus of Nazareth in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar, is excited about his song being one of the front-runners in the contest. But he insisted that his friend James Fox stood a "really, really good chance" of walking away with top honours on the night.
"Because the UK did so badly last year, what with the band Jemini coming bottom, we've got to get behind James," said Steve. "Of course I'll be rooting for him, his song is great, and when I told him I'd written the French entry he thought it was hilarious. I've had a little flutter and my money's definitely on James."
20 Apr 2004 - Eurovision France 2004 - Un Crochet Par Londres
Jonatan has just spent a few days in London, where he met the two composers of the song he will perform in Istanbul: Ben Robbins and Steve Balsamo. Steve also wrote the English lyrics of the song - I Still Believe - which can be found as second track of the CD single.
9 Mar 2004 - Western Mail (Hannah Jones) - Mal Pope Concert
Radio DJ, TV chat show host and documentary maker, master of ceremonies and raconteur. All of these can be preceded with the name Mal Pope. But to see the heart and soul of Pope in an environment in which he is most comfortable, then you really have to witness him on stage plying his trade as one of the UK's most gifted singer-songwriters.
Pope produced yet another near perfect performance, weaving together a rich tapestry of the up-tempo up-beat with the more softer ballad types, the majority of which were crafted and penned by the performer. He was backed by Ryan Aston on drums, Andrew Couglan on bass, Tim Hamill on electric guitar and Nigel Hopkins on keyboards. Most of these are boyhood friends of Pope and are known collectively to the rest of the world as The Jacks.
Everything had a good airing - from solid oldies like Cover Me and Pope's quirky and yet infectious version of Bread of Heaven to the title track from the Golden Days album.
Pope took time out to introduce the audience to his guests, Ria Jones, Steve Balsamo and Peter Karrie. The fact Pope was able to entice West End Stars of the calibre of Jones, Balsamo and Karrie to perform his songs says an awful lot for the esteem they have for him and his music.
His guests performed his compositions with sensitivity as well as power and although Karrie and Jones were excellent in their delivery, it was the subtlety and shades created by Balsamo's voice that will stay in the mind.
Pope also introduced and performed for the first time a few songs from his new stage musical with the work-in-progress title of Amazing Grace, based on the life of Evan Roberts, one of the central characters in the 1904 Christian revival.
The evening proved that Pope is a rare and precious Welsh talent and I look forward to returning to the Grand in spring 2005 when his musical gets its first airing.
4 Mar 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Mal Greets Guests
South Wales song star Mal Pope embarks on a tour tomorrow (Friday, March 5). He appears with his band, the Jacks, at Swansea's Grand Theatre.
He is also releasing a live double CD recorded at the Grand Theatre last year. The tour features three guest artist - Jesus Christ Superstar hero Steve Balsamo, Phantom of the Opera star Peter Karrie and West End diva Ria Jones. As well as performing songs that have made them famous they will preview work from Pope's new musical based on the events surrounding the 1904 Welsh Revival.
1 Mar 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Mal's Back With A Little Help From His Friends
Swansea singer Mal Pope is about to head back on the road for his latest tour - and this time he's bringing a few friends with him. The Mumbles-based musician will be joined by fellow stars Steve Balsamo, Ria Jones and Peter Karrie on the three-month tour when it starts on Friday.
Mal said: "Steve is an old friend and used to sing on my old records. When he did a recording last year he pinched my band, so I've decided he can repay me by joining me on this tour. I sang with Peter Karrie last year at the Grand. He saw this tour advertised on the brochure and told me he would come and watch. I said he couldn't just come and sit in the audience - he had to take part."
27 Feb 2004 - South Wales Evening Post - Mal's New Musical Preview
Audiences in Swansea will get a sneak preview of a major musical project when the multi-talented Mal Pope is joined by some of Wales's top singers at the Grand Theatre next Friday. Steve Balsamo, Ria Jones and Peter Karrie will be among the special guests of Mal and his band The Jacks as they preview Evan Roberts and the Singers of the Dawn, a new musical to be directed by Michael Bogdanov next year.
30 Jan 2004 - South Wales Argus - Balsamo's Horror Story
Welsh star of the West End Steve Balsamo is back with a new band and lead role in Eric Woolfson's POE - More Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
Steve Balsamo is known to many as Jesus Christ Superstar and the quilted vocalist behind hits such as Sugar for the Soul. Last year he pulled on some tights to star as the horror writer, Edgar Allan Poe, in a lavish new musical. It's been written by Eric Woolfson who, in the 70s rock group The Alan Parsons' Project, recorded an album along the same lines.
The new musical tells Poe's life story and includes dramatisations of some of his tales including Pit and the Pendulum and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The latter was the first detective novel and its sleuth, C Auguste Dupin was Sir Author Conan Doyle's main inspiration for Sherlock Homes 60 years later. Pit and the Pendulum and others such as The Masque of the Red Death are considered some of the earliest and best supernatural stories. When Balsamo came to play the American author he was already a big horror fan.
"I love the films of Dario Argento, the master of Italian horror," he told Mono. "I used to drive my mum mad, staying up late to watch the horror double bills - Lon Chaney, and then Vincent Price in The Fall of the House of Usher. I remember in Porthcawl there was a waxworks museum at the time and once I peered through the window and saw The Pit and the Pendulum. POE is not a horror project but it does have some atmospheric lighting and the music is similarly blessed."
So far it has only been performed three times in Abbey Road's studio one, which Balsamo describes as church-like. "It's an incredibly beautiful place," he says. "In the stage show, by the end I am singing with a live raven sitting on my arm! During the performance I recalled the line in The Walrus, 'Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe,' and for the first time I could really see where John Lennon was coming from."
Balsamo says that the record company is currently in talks with Woolfson to take the show on the road in one of three different ways. "It could either be a rock concert, something halfway from a rock concert and a stage play set in strange buildings, or the full blown musical." An album of the stage play was released this week under the same name.
Later this year Balsamo is also likely to appear fronting his own, as yet unnamed, rock band, playing live dates, with an album in the shops. He's based in London but is working in South Wales with a band of Welsh musicians. The band are Dave Smith (guitar, signed to Sony as a solo artist), Rob Thompson (guitar), Andy Collins (bass), Brian Thomas (drums), and Slack (drums).
They've let the project go where it wants to go, says Balsamo. "It's kind of like the Eagles and a bit Crosby Stills and Nash," he explains. "My heart is more in rock music. I love the genre and there's a big resurgence at the moment which is great. The guys I'm working with I've known for years - we're getting back to where we began."
They are rehearsing now ready to take it on the road. Once the album has been recorded then they will go shopping for a record deal rather than the other way around. "The other way around being when you sign to a record company who keep you hanging around for three years while they decide what direction they want you to go in," says Balsamo.
His first album did not sell as well as had been expected, not least by Balsamo, but as he adds, "the music industry is in a funny old state at the moment". Since that disappointment, however, he has been releasing music through other stars including Meatloaf whose latest album has his song Because Of You.
6 Jan 2004 - Western Mail (Gareth Morgan) - Celebrity Big Brother - With A Twist
A version of Celebrity Big Brother is to hit our screens this year - with a tongue-twisting difference.
A motley selection of our native music and showbiz stars will be thrust together in a remote cottage - but keeping from each other's throats will be just the start of their worries. Welsh celebrities, including pop stars and pin-ups, will be expected to sing to a different tune, as they grapple with learning the Welsh language.
S4C is working on a celebrity version of the award-winning Cariad@Iaith, which was broadcast last summer with "normal" housemates, who were keen to learn the language. Now a host of familiar faces are tipped to take part in an updated version.
Although S4C are keeping tight-lipped about the final line-up, several big names are understood to be involved. Noel Sullivan and Jamie Shaw, once of the ill-fated groups Hearsay and One True Voice, could be united at long last - something all Pop Stars addicts will be savouring with relish. Add Swansea-born West End actor, singer and songwriter, Steve Balsamo, and it's clear that producers will be hoping for some sweet music. But lads' mag favourite, Jan Anderson, will also be thrown into the mix, to add a different edge to proceedings. The Welsh actress is famous for her long-running role in Casualty - and a succession of raunchy photoshoots showing off a sexier image for her male fans.
But a spokesman at S4C said, "We are looking forward to making the programme but cannot release any definite names as yet. It has not even been filmed yet, but it will be a similar format to last year's show - with more celebrities."
Cariad@Iaith won a Bafta last year for Best Light Entertainment. That series featured English, Irish and even Patagonian contestants, along with eight Welsh people. Viewers watched as 12 different personalities in the house enjoyed the usual Big Brother-style blend of romance, tension and drunkenness.
This time, the housemates will come from Wales and a relatively similar showbiz background - but viewers can still expect fireworks. Cabin fever might set in as the housemates live together in Nant Gwrtheyn, a remote Gwynedd house which has become the National Centre for Language and Culture. They will be expected to complete challenges and risk losing tempting rewards like trips to the local pub. But, unlike Big Brother, the show is unlikely to become a popularity contest - the vindictive voting of the English show did not feature in last year's Cariad@Iaith series. The programme will also be filmed over a shorter period than the non-celebrity version, which saw housemates holed up for two months.
"It would be difficult to get them together for two months," said a spokes- woman. "Like with many other celebrity reality TV shows, it will be shorter than normal, but very entertaining."
4 Jan 2004 - Wales on Sunday - This Time It's Love for Shaw! [extract from interview with Jamie Shaw]
And Jamie's new-found happiness has inspired him in his career. He's currently writing and recording songs in a studio in Penarth, with former West End star Steve Balsamo. He said: "I met Steve at the Welsh Awards, and we did a gig together at St David's Hall to raise money for the cancer unit at Llandough Hospital. He's a great guy, and he's helping me write some songs.
"I've written before, but not professionally. It's something I've always wanted to do, but wasn't able to in One True Voice. It's good because when you've got something on your mind, and now I've got Lucie, I can write about it. It's really natural - I thought it was going to be hard. But it's great - the other day Steve was on the guitar and I just started singing to it."
21 Dec 2003 - Wales on Sunday (Wayne Davies) - New Year's Steve
Swansea pin-up Steve Balsamo is limbering up for an exclusive and cosy live gig on New Year's Eve. The sexy singer, who shot to fame in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, ditched the Jesus sandals for a guitar long ago and guests at Cardiff's Da Venditto will be able to sample his latest offerings. Steve said: "Some compadres and I have been writing new material for one of my new projects - a new band. We've done some brilliant songs but haven't named the band yet. It's a mix between The Eagles and Led Zeppelin with a bit of Badfinger. We played at Da Venditto's last New Year's Eve and it was all very impromptu. This year it will be a little bit more formal and we've invited people down, so it's kind of exclusive."
23 Sep 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - Steve Prom Highlight
As one of the lucky 9,000 people who attended the BBC Proms in the Park at Singleton Park, Swansea, on Saturday September 13, I would like to say what a wonderful night it was. The music and atmosphere was great. The highlight of the evening was Swansea-born Steve Balsamo. His singing of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables was beautiful. This was followed by a heartrending and dramatic performance of Gethsemane.
As a singer and singing teacher myself, seldom have I heard such a singer. At the end of Gethsemane, he left us spellbound into a silence, before we all erupted into thunderous applause and a standing ovation for this truly great and talented singer.
Thank you, Steve Balsamo, for making this evening such a memorable one.
Allun Davies, Greenwood Drive, Cimla, Neath
15 Sep 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - 8,000 Fans Make Show a Record
Eight thousand music fans created a record-buster for the BBC's spectacular Proms in the Park event in Swansea on Saturday night. The event, held in Singleton Park, was part of a UK-wide Last Night at the Proms event. Organisers had hoped around 7,500 might attend. But fine weather coupled with an all-star line-up pulled in at least another 500, making it a record.
Some revellers travelled from as far as London to take in the atmosphere and watch international music stars including Aled Jones, Barry-born tenor Robert Tear, Royal harpist Catrin Finch and Swansea's own Steve Balsamo take to the stage. He received a standing ovation for his performance.
The city linked up with similar events in Glasgow, Belfast, London's Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall for the televised event. Hundreds of people brought picnics and sat on blankets and deck-chairs to enjoy the event amidst a sea of flags and balloons.
Music lover John Templeton, from Gowerton, said he came to the event a few years ago but they had been rained out. "We have had the most fantastic weather. The sun is shining, we have had a lovely picnic and the music is exceptional. What an incredible event," he said.
One reveller, Brian Hack, travelled from London saying he preferred the Swansea venue to that in Hyde Park. "There are thousands here at Singleton Park but the atmosphere is incredibly warm and intimate. It's the Welshness that makes it so great."
Briton Ferry Silver band helped warm up the crowd before the official opening by Aled Jones. Band member Norman Holifield said it was an honour to play at the event. "There are so many fantastic musicians at Singleton and we are delighted to be part of it," he said.
Organisers of the joint BBC and Swansea Council show said they were delighted at its success. They added: "This year we have been lucky to have the best of everything, the weather has been incredible and the atmosphere has been fantastic."
12 Sep 2003 - South Wales Evening Post (Geraint Thomas) - Aled's Walking on Air at Park Proms Debut
Aled Jones is walking on the air with excitement at the prospect of performing in Swansea tomorrow. The Welsh wonder chorister turned presenter winged his way to Singleton Park this morning to preview tomorrow night's Proms in the Park event live for BBC's Breakfast television. The show, which Aled is presenting, is part of a nationwide celebration of classical music involving five other cities across the country and London's Royal Albert Hall.
The weathermen are forecasting fine weather and it is hoped the Singleton Park spectacular will be a massive 7,500 capacity sell-out. All the venues will be linked via a big screen and will join together for the traditional performance of Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Jerusalem. It will be the first time that all six BBC orchestras, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, have been involved in the Proms on the same weekend.
Aled, who will also be performing songs from his new album, said: "I can't wait and I'm praying it doesn't rain. It promises to be a fantastic occasion with a live link up to the proms in London and other cities around the country. I haven't been to Singleton Park before but it looks a super venue and a natural amphitheatre, the atmosphere is going to be incredible. There's going to be plenty of flag waving and stirring music. I have been to the proms many times before but never in Swansea. I am excited about presenting it but I will also be singing a few numbers from my new album. It is also nice that I am friends with a lot of the other performers including Steve Balsamo and Royal Harpist Catrin Finch."
Catrin is looking forward to the event so much she has even delayed her honeymoon. The Cardiff-based musician who got married last Saturday cancelled a romantic trip to Rome so that she could take part. She said that despite playing in prestigious concert venues across the world, the invite to play in Swansea was one she simply could not miss. The 24-year-old said: "I am looking forward to my honeymoon but I am excited about Proms in the Park too. My husband Hywel will be there and members of my family too and I am sure it will be a great night."
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "The capacity for the event is 7,500 and we are expecting a lot of people to just turn up on the day, so we should be close to capacity. The gates open at 4.30pm and there will be entertainment up to the main concert at 7.30pm and the night will finish off with a firework show at around 10.30pm. For those not able to make it BBC Radio Wales will be broadcasting it live."
6 Sep 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - Proms Puts Park on TV
Television viewers nationwide will see Swansea's Singleton Park in all its glory as the BBC broadcasts live from the site on the morning of Proms in the Park. Singer Aled Jones and presenter Catrin Finch will broadcast from Singleton from 8.15am on Saturday, September 13, as part of BBC1's Breakfast.
Then that evening Singleton will be transformed into a sea of flag and banner-waving music fans for the Proms in the Park event, part of the UK-wide BBC Last Night of the Proms. It features live music from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and a link up with festivities at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It will be introduced by Aled Jones, who will also sing on the night.
Other performers include Barry-born tenor Robert Tear, Swansea's own Steve Balsamo, harpist to HRH Prince of Wales Catrin Finch and the National Youth Choir of Wales. The musical mix, which is broadcast live on BBC Radio Wales will include classics, musical theatre favourites and orchestral showpieces with a big screen linking up with the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park and other Proms in the Park in Belfast and Glasgow.
3 Sep 2003 - South Wales Evening Post (Ben Evans) - Plenty of Hwyl as Last Night Set For City Airing
Red Dragons and Union Jacks will be waving side by side as the Last Night of the Proms comes to Swansea this year. Proms in the Park, which takes place at Singleton Park on September 13, is one of five concerts playing simultaneously around the UK.
Performances will also take place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England as well as the traditional venue of the Royal Albert Hall. All the venues will be linked via a big screen and will join together for the traditional performance of Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Jerusalem. It will be the first time that all six BBC orchestras, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, have been involved in the Proms on the same weekend.
Organisers have promised the Swansea concert will have a strong Welsh flavour with a mix of well-loved classics and family favourites. Among the line-up on the night are Welsh tenor Robert Tear, who will perform alongside Catrin Finch, harpist to the Prince of Wales, and Swansea singer Steve Balsamo. The National Youth Choir of Wales will be opening the concert and will perform a Welsh selection of sea songs. Hosting the evening is presenter Aled Jones who will also be singing. The evening will end with a spectacular fireworks display.
Proms in the Park has been designed as an informal event with no seating. Instead the audience is being encouraged to bring blankets and picnics. The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales as well as being included in the BBC Two coverage of the night.
3 Sep 2003 - Swansea Leader (Ben Evans) - Plenty of Hwyl as Last Night Set For City Airing
Swansea singing sensation Steve Balsamo will be putting on a super star performance at Proms in the Park next month. In an exclusive interview with The Swansea Leader, the 32-year-old has revealed he can't wait to perform in his home city. The Sandfields-raised musical and pop star will be taking centre stage at the musical extravaganza on Saturday, September 13.
He said, "Swansea is a place where people have a fighting spirit. They are willing to grasp opportunities and have a go and the community gets behind them, willing them to succeed. I am looking forward to coming back and seeing friends and family and going out for a drink. I am really looking forward to the Proms in Swansea. I love singing on home turf, you cannot beat the crowd and Singleton Park is a beautiful setting. I hope people will come and check the event out - it will be a great night out, whoever you are."
For the first time ever, the Proms is being be simultaneously hosted by Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Singleton Park has once again been selected as the venue for the Wales performance. The Swansea concert will feature the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, tenor Robert Tear, and harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales Catrin Finch and it will be part of the BBC's live coverage for the Last Night of the Proms. More than 10,000 people are expected to gather in Singleton Park to picnic, hear great music, and wave their flags and banners in true Proms tradition.
For Steve the BBC could not have chosen a better venue than his home turf. Born at Swansea's Mount Pleasant Hospital in 1971, he was educated at St Helen's Primary School, Dynevor School, and Swansea Institute and originally wanted to be an author or a painter. But at the age of 17, he was bitten by the singing bug and attended a performing arts course at Neath Tertiary College and a Prince's Trust workshop for unemployed musicians. He sang with rock bands After Dark and The Faith and in 1996 he was asked to open the Masters of Music Concert in Hyde Park headlined by The Who, Alanis Morrisette, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. However, his big break came when he won the star role in the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which led to critical and public acclaim and an album deal. In March 2002, he launched a solo career with the release of Sugar for the Soul and debut album All I Am Is You. Now he is part of a new band - yet to be named - which has already attracted interest at several big name record companies. Steve is also busy writing songs and one was recently covered by Meat Loaf.
Proms in the Park will also see Swansea link up with the Royal Albert Hall in London by a big screen to sing the traditional Proms anthems Rule Britannia and Jerusalem. The evening will finish with the National Anthem and a glorious fireworks display.
Sep 2003 - Gibraltar Chronicle (Alice Mascarenhas & Jonathan Sacramento) - From Swansea to Gethsemane, then Gibraltar
Steve Balsamo is not just a two-dimensional singer, he is a student of the voice who has drafted into his repertoire a range of influenced from different cultures, including Western and even Mongolian throat singing. Steve not only has an incredible voice, but is fascinated with the effect of the voice on mood and emotion, and is constantly on the look out for new techniques and new teachers to learn from.
Most famous for his fabulous rendition as Jesus in the 20th anniversary production of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar, Steve's career has already seen him display a range of talents, from rock bands, to musicals, and now his pop record ‘All I Am'. Yet the young man from Swansea is humble enough to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.
You don't describe yourself as a musicals singer/actor despite the fact that you've come across very well in both the musicals you've done. Why is that?
I don't describe myself as anything other than a singer. The route I took back home was firstly to come through Jesus Christ Superstar, that's how I got recognition. I was singing in bands and writing songs before that, but I really got recognised when I got the part of Jesus in 1997. I was able to, luckily, make the leap from that into pop music. Superstar was such a high profile thing I was recognised by record companies.
What was your experience like in Jesus?
Playing Jesus was is hard thing. I did a lot of research, read a lot of books, went to see a lot of plays, watched a lot of films. Probably every culture in the world has some sort of image of the crucifixion scene, so performing that over 400 times and keeping it fresh was not easy. It becomes very tiring, and also takes its toll on the voice- there was no drinking, smoking or partying for a year to keep it fit.
Was it something you'd think of doing again?
I may do, I never ruled anything out. I never set out to be a musicals actor or singer, I set out to be a singer and this is one of the things that was part of a pre-destined route in my career. I am currently involved in a project by Eric Woolfson (the writer in the Alan Parsons Project) who's written a musical based on Edgar Allan Poe. We've recorded a record which will be released in Germany and Holland in September. It's a ‘rock concept' musical kind of like what Superstar was when it came out.
What was your favourite song from JCS?
My favourite songs were probably the Judas songs, I think they are better songs. But of course Gethsemane was the song I was recognised for. I know Andrew Lloyd Weber liked the performance very much, he was there during rehearsals and he was very complimentary and supportive.
How did you get to Notre Dame de Paris from Superstar?
I got asked to do that. It was a huge phenomenon in France, I was working with Sony at the time and Sony records were putting out an English version. I think that having done something as high profile as Superstar people know what I can do, and even though I still have to audition, I am in the position that people are forthcoming in asking me to play parts.
What direction do you want to take now?
I released an album with Sony Records aimed at the pop market, which was great and I had some amazing fun. It was a personal expression of where I was at the time. Now I'm part of a new band comprising four or five different singers who are all fantastic, and four or five writers who are all fantastic. I don't take the lead vocals on some of the songs - there's a lot of harmonising and is really going back to the music I grew up listening to. It's a little rockier than my album, but that's how I started, playing in rock bands in Wales.
You grew up in South Wales, which has become an excellent breeding ground for musicians over the last few years. Why do you think this is?
I tell you something, South Wales has been an amazing breeding ground for musicians for a long time. What the industry didn't do is go down there. 25 years ago Ireland was the butt of British jokes, but they reinvented themselves and put an infrastructure in place to nurture talent. Then you had really amazing bands like U2 come out of there. Around five to seven years ago - in my view - the music industry exhausted talent in England, Ireland and Scotland, and looked to Wales. There is a huge music scene in Wales, and bands like Catatonia and Stereophonics have emerged. 100 years ago, people who used to work underground in mines for six days a week used to come out on Sundays and sing in chapels and churches. This huge choir society grew up from that. I'd love to see a merging of American Gospel music with Welsh male voice choirs.
Gibraltar has been linked with the Southwest of Britain in time for the European Elections. Do you identify any cultural ties between Gibraltar and Wales?
Gibraltar is very much like Wales. Because it's so small, you always know what everyone else is doing, and there's a great in interest in other people. There's also a great music scene here. We've been here a couple of days and we've seen more than twenty bands in concerts and jam sessions. There's a Welsh sort of feeling here, which is very much like Wales, and some of the roads and areas in Gibraltar remind me of Swansea. We were walking down Main Street the other day and I thought we were in Neath.
What sort of reception have you had from the Gibraltarian people?
Very good. It's very exciting. Some of the VIPs are part of my new band and we've written a lot of new songs, so it's been really exciting to have the chance to play some of these songs for the first time. We had a feeling they were good, but we've had the chance to play them for audiences without any pressure because nobody knows us here. It's nice to get a fresh set of ears. When something is new, on a spiritual level it's a good indication of how something is going to carry through ultimately.
During his time in Gibraltar, Steve and the VIPs played in a number of bars and venues, rounding up their gig circuit with a performance at the National Day Minifest at Governor's Parade, and then the National Day Rock Concert at the Coach Park.
30 Aug 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - Charity CD is Sales Hit
A charity record sung by a Neath singer and top Welsh pop stars has been flying off the shelves. Classical singer Katherine Jenkins took time off from recording her first album to sing on the Hafan Gobaith single. The 22-year-old joined forces with Kidwelly's Eurovision star Jessica Garlick, Swansea's Steve Balsamo, who studied at Neath Port Talbot College, and ex-Hear'Say member Noel Sullivan to record the song in English. Welsh bass baritone Bryn Terfel also lent his voice. Since its release a month ago 8,500 copies have been sold in shops across Wales with proceeds going to children's hospices Ty Hafan and Ty Gobaith. It sold so well in its first two weeks another 5,000 records have been ordered to keep up with demand. The CDs are for sale in Welsh bookshops, over the web and in Virgin stores across Britain. There are two versions of the song on the CD, Hafan Gobaith in Welsh and Another Day in English as well as a video of the Welsh version.
9 Aug 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - Cabbies' Full Monty
Swansea cab drivers have completed a very public show of support for troops serving in the Gulf. The Boys from the Black Cabs stripped off at the Cwmfelin Club to raise money for the Sue Thomas Gulf Support Group. Their full monty was performed free of charge and was part of a cabaret evening at the Cwmbwrla club that also featured singers and performers like Steve Balsamo. Sue Thomas said: "It was a real success and we raised over £2,000. This money will go into the fund and help pay for things to send out to the boys and girls still serving in the Gulf. Any money left over will be given to charities to do with the armed forces." Mrs Thomas, who set up the group that sends food and gifts to serving soldiers, said that although the war was over, the troops needed as much support as ever.
10 Jun 2003 - South Wales Evening Post (Emma Hardwick) - On Song For Charity Tune
Kidwelly Pop Idol star Jessica Garlick is joining forces with Swansea singer Steve Balsamo to record a special charity tune. Jessica, who also came third in last year's Eurovision Song Contest and West End star Steve are just two of the famous faces singing on the record for Welsh children's hospices. Former Hear'Say star Noel Sullivan, Jamie Shaw, from One True Voice, and Welsh tenor Bryn Terfel will be joining them to record the song Hafan Gobaith. Written five years ago in Welsh, this is the first English recording of the song and it will raise money for the Ty Hafan and Ty Gobaith hospices.
The song is being recorded by S4C to raise money for the hospices which are the television channel's chosen charities for this year. S4C spokeswoman Eurgain Haf said: "The song, originally composed by Delyth Rees and Eleri Richards, was being recorded at a studio in the Vale of Glamorgan yesterday." She added: "A Welsh-language version also featuring Bryn Terfel, Aled Jones, Dewi Pws and others has already been recorded and a CD will go on sale at selected music stores across Wales and beyond from the middle of this month onwards. Broadcasting royalties and sales profits will go towards supporting the work of Ty Hafan, based in Sully, near Cardiff, and Ty Gobaith, a brand new hospice due to be built in Ty'n y Groes near Conwy in 2004."
14 May 2003 - South Wales Evening Post (Richard Auty) - Park is Stage For Flag-Waving Epic
Swansea's Singleton Park is to become a sea of classical music fans waving banners, and munching on picnics - in true Proms tradition. The city is joining Glasgow, Belfast and London to stage the fabulous Proms in the Park on Saturday, September 13. It is the first time that all four nations have hosted the Proms in the Park on the same night.
The concert at Singleton Park will feature the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Peter Stark; tenor Robert Tear; Catrin Finch, harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales and Swansea's Steve Balsamo, who shot to fame playing the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End.
BBC Proms in the Park is part of the Last Night of the Proms celebration and each Proms in the Parks venue will be filmed by BBC TV. The event is another coup for Swansea, having hosted the BBC Proms in the Park in 1999, and organisers hope for more than 10,000 spectators.
They are being encouraged to bring flags, banners and picnics in the true Proms tradition. Swansea Council culture chiefs say it also gives the city another opportunity to showcase itself to a nationwide audience. All the parks will have a giant video screen enabling them to link up with each other and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council's cabinet member for culture and recreation, said: "Proms in the Park will be a fantastic occasion in Swansea. We will play our full part in the nationwide spectacle to make this a Proms to remember. It is great news for the city and music lovers who can help create a unique atmosphere in the picturesque surroundings of Singleton Park."
The programme includes many concert favourites and also audience participation when all the parks will link up with the Royal Albert Hall to sing the traditional Proms anthems Rule Britannia and Jerusalem. Rule Britannia is the climax to a very special arrangement of Wood and Grainger's Fantasia on British Sea-Songs.
Each park will have their own section in the piece which will take the form of a traditional folk song representing their national identity. The evening will finish with the National Anthem and a fireworks display.
May 2003 - BBC Wales (David Savill) - Interview
"What David Gray did for Bob Dylan, I want to do for the Eagles." Steve Balsamo speaks about record company woes, the power of song and his love of Wales.
After a ruckus with record company Sony, Steve Balsamo's first album, All I Am, faced major distribution problems. But backstage at the BBC Wales talent show Just Up Your Street, the Welsh singer and actor is in surprisingly confident mood as he prepares to judge the contest. He talks to us about the evil that is the music business and why Nashville is really where its at.
Since the fall out with Sony have your ideas changed about why you got into music in the first place?
No, not at all. I got into the business because I love music and that's still it. Music is a constant - that never changes. But what I've learnt about the business over the last few years has really opened my eyes. There's music and there's business. They really shouldn't go together.
So what's happening with All I Am?
I'm promoting it myself now and in the legal business of leaving Sony. There was nothing wrong with the album, just the people trying to manage it. You wouldn't believe the crap. There are some great records made that never get to see the light of day because of the way the industry works. But it feels great to be taking things into my own hands.
Have you managed to keep writing new songs with all this in the way?
Oh I have to, I absolutely have to. I write every day wherever I am, whether its in a studio or just at home with a dictaphone and my guitar. I'm living in Chiswick, just round the corner from Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, so there's a lot of inspiration around. With the album and Jesus Christ Superstar I've been all over the world and it's given me the opportunity to work with some fabulous musicians. The biggest buzz was writing with Tim Schmidt from the Eagles. For me, they've always been the band. The Eagles are it.
It's difficult managing the musical actor/singer tag. Are your new songs taking you in a different direction?
Yeah, definitely. I've had a really, really interesting musical offer but then I'm also putting together a band. I think I had an epiphany in Nashville actually - next to Cardiff that's the place I really love, they really respect musicians there. Anyway, the band's going to be called Grand Canyon. I want five singers on stage and a five piece band that's already coming together. It's going to be the Eagles meets Jackson Browne with a bit of Crosby Stills and Nash - but with loads of fucked up beats. What David Gray did for Bob Dylan I want to do for The Eagles. We could even put together a tour with someone like Wilco.
Wilco and Ryan Adams have really broken into the mainstream. Are you into the alternative country scene?
Ryan Adams is fantastic. I definitely think that good songwriting is getting more recognition this days. I think ironically that's the one good thing that's come out of all this Popstars crap. At least on those shows they talk about the songwriters and when I hear a song on the radio these days the songwriters actually get name checked, Whether it's Cathy Dennis or Don Henley or Tom Waits.
Cardiff, London, Nashville... where next?
I do love living in London at the moment but I've been to a lot of places and Cardiff is simply one of the most vibrant places in the world. It's changed so much - I just don't know where all the money comes from. I've got this theory that they found oil under the bay and they're not telling anyone. Yeah, I love coming back here.
30 Apr 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - City Host to Proms in Park
Swansea is joining Glasgow, Belfast and London to stage the fabulous Proms in the Park on Saturday, September 13. This is the first time that all four nations have hosted the Proms in the Park on the same night.
The concert at Swansea's Singleton Park will feature the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Peter Stark, tenor Robert Tear, Catrin Finch, Harpist to the Prince of Wales and Swansea's Steve Balsamo who shot to fame playing the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End and is now pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter.
BBC Proms in the Park is part of the Last Night of the Proms celebration and each Proms in the Parks venue will be filmed by BBC TV during the concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
The event is another major coup for Swansea, having hosted the BBC Proms in the Park in 1999, and will be a fantastic spectacle with more than 10,000 spectators encouraged to bring flags, banners and picnics in the true Proms tradition.
It also gives the city another opportunity to showcase itself to a nationwide audience. All the parks will have a giant video screen enabling them to link up with each other and the Royal Albert Hall in London and will show Swansea when sections of the concert are broadcast on BBC TV.
Robert Francis Davies, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Culture and Recreation, said, "Proms in the Park will be a fantastic occasion in Swansea. We will play our full part in the nationwide spectacle to make this a Proms to remember.
"It is great news for the city and music lovers who can help create an unique atmosphere in the picturesque surroundings of Singleton Park."
The programme includes many concert favourites, performances from the solo artists and also audience participation when all the Parks will link up with the Royal Albert Hall to sing the traditional Proms anthems Rule Britannia and Jerusalem. Rule Britannia is the climax to a very special arrangement of Wood & Grainger's Fantasia on British Sea-Songs. Each Park will have their own section in the piece which will take the form of a traditional folk song representing their national identity.
The evening will finish with the National Anthem and a fireworks display.
22 Apr 2003 - South Wales Evening Post - Welsh Wonders Make Book Chart
The Big Read, the largest-ever celebration of the written word, is under way in Wales, and throughout the country. The BBC is focusing on the works of top writers in an attempt to tempt the nation's literary tastebuds. In Wales, the top 10 list has some strong Swansea connections.
Outside The House Of Baal, by Emyr Humphreys, tells the story of a man out of time, haunted by his past, and was chosen by Swansea singer Steve Balsamo.
Apr 2003 - BBC Wales - Profile
Actor, singer and songwriter, Steve Balsamo grew up in Swansea but went on to tread the boards in the West End and beyond.
The term 'actor-turned-singer' doesn't always give the best impressions. However, Steve Balsamo is a multi-talented singer-songwriter who has also found great success treading the boards of the West End.
Born to a Venetian father and Welsh mother ("a great recipe for a singing child"), Steve grew up in Swansea. However, his first forays into music weren't a great success - he was kicked out of the school choir after being told he couldn't sing. Instead, he channelled his creative energies, and studied painting at art school. But the desire to sing was rekindled at the age of 17, when he suspected a girlfriend loved Jon Bon Jovi more than she loved him. "It sounds pretty lame," he says, "but I can safely say that jealousy motivated me."
Spending his nights playing in bands in pubs and clubs, Steve joined a local music college during the day. There, he took the lead part in Jesus Christ Superstar, which proved to be a turning point. At the age of 21 he moved to London, and landed a role in Les Miserables. However, it didn't work out: "It was a bit of a culture shock for me," he says. "I'm more of a pints man than a tights man, and couldn't get my head round the whole experience. I came from playing with bands in clubs, and the whole theatrical thing was completely alien to me. But even though I hated it, I now realise I had to go down that route."
Aiming to become a singer-songwriter, Steve began attending a Cardiff workshop for unemployed musicians run by the Prince's Trust. He was noticed, and was asked to open the Masters Of Music Concert in Hyde Park in 1996 - headlined by The Who, Alanis Morrisette, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. With characteristic boldness, Steve then auditioned for the lead in a West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He got the gig, and won critical acclaim. But it led to his real aim - a recording contract. Several labels were interested, but he signed to Columbia and began recording his debut album.
His first single, Sugar For The Soul, was released in March 2002, with a follow-up, All I Am, appearing in September. The debut album All I Am Is You came out in the following month. Sadly, the relationship with Sony turned sour and he was dropped by Sony immediately after its release.
5 Feb 2003 - South Wales Evening Post (Alison Stokes) - Big Names Do Den Proud
A Tribute gig for a Swansea musician who was about to hit the big time has raised £2,000 for charity. Gorseinon singer Andrew Dennis died in the week he was due to be signed to a London record label. Den, as he was known to his friends, died on November 1, aged 35. He left three young children and the cause of his death is not known.
A concert in his memory rocked the Patti Pavilion last week with all funds going to a trust fund set up in his name. Concert organiser and Andrew's best mate Chris Smith said the concert lived up to everyone's expectations. "What an awesome evening!" he said. "Everything went without a hitch and I'm so grateful to everyone who came."
A capacity audience of 550 including Den's mother and children, watched outfits like The Steve Balsamo Band, Martin Ace and the Unidentifiables, The Caves and The Andrew Dennis Tribute Band.
"There were some music promoters in the crowd and they thoroughly enjoyed the evening," said Mr Smith, a DJ and local businessman, who added that it had been a lot of hard work but was well worth it. Steve Balsamo was excellent and did Den proud. It's exactly what he would have wanted."
An inquest into Andrew Dennis's death is due to take place this year.
6 Dec 2002 - Shakenstir - Welsh Music Awards - And The Winners Are!
No surprise to see so many representatives from North Wales on this year's list of winners! NOT! Stereophonics, Lostprophets, Amy Wadge and Steve Balsamo were amongst the winners at a low-key Welsh Music Awards ceremony. Folky Cardiff songwriter Wadge claimed the Best Female award for her earthy tunes - despite hailing from Bristol. Nu-metal act Lostprophets picked up Best Single and Best Album gongs yet managed to place behind the Stereophonics - not even nominated in those categories - in the Best Group section.
West End actor turned singer Steve Balsamo took the Best Male prize - in the year the middle-of-the-road Swansea warbler was dropped by label Sony on the back of disappointing sales. Winners were voted for by about 12,000 website users in 45 categories over the last couple of months, organisers said.
6 Dec 2002 - Western Mail (Hannah Jones) - The Welsh Music Awards 2003
Swansea-born singer Steve Balsamo, the West End star who was recently dropped from his label Sony after a relatively unsuccessful shot at attracting a mainstream audience with his debut album All I Am Is You, picked up the award for Best Solo Male.
Nov 2002 - BBC Wales - Steve Balsamo Dropped By His Record Label
Steve Balsamo has been dropped by his record label Sony. The singer, songwriter and actor from Swansea recently released his debut album All I Am Is You, but it failed to chart. The singer has spoken about the deal going sour, and it's believed that the album's under-performance was the lead factor in the termination of the deal. Steve is the second Welsh act to have been dropped by Sony. In September 3SL also found themselves joining the back of the dole queue.
4 Nov 2002 - Western Mail (Hannah Jones) - Nation's Finest Find Passion and Power For Magical Climax
There could not have been a better finale to the end of the inaugural Festival of Musical Theatre as last night's Music of the Night. It was a magical affair really, a night where song took flight and where musical theatre became almost operatic in its delivery.
Wales's finest singing stars of the genre- and some who have never really sat at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's table - presented a programme of imaginative and soaring musicality that was as once as delicate as a flickering candle in the pews and as steely as the pillars holding up the majestic cathedral.
The voice of the night had to belong to Steve Balsamo, a presence with conviction but one that is neither forced nor contrived. His voice, his passion and power through Empty Chairs and Empty Tables until the rousing standing ovation at the end of his night's performances as he played out, once again, the role of Jesus from Jesus Christ Superstar with a tainted, dark and beautiful Gethsemane.
If this is the best of musical theatre, the best that Wales has to offer, it is better than anything you'd find playing in the West end tonight. Truly magical Music of the Night.
4 Nov 2002 - South Wales Echo (Laura Nicklin) - Festival Stars Raise the Roof on Finale
After a month of festivities, the curtain finally came down in style. And there could have been no better setting for the grand finale of the International Festival of Musical Theatre in Cardiff than Llandaff Cathedral. Its rafters rang with the sound of classic songs from the pen of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber - performed by the angel-voiced Charlotte Church and her compardres for the night.
But while the Cardiff chanteuse was on her usual compelling form, it was Balsamo who stole the show as Cardiff waved goodbye to the Festival after a three-week cavalcade of colour, sound and excitement. He belted out Empty Chairs and Empty Tables with passion and gusto before bringing the whole shebang to a glorious end with a haunting, touching performance of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar. Even so, Steve's co-stars were in no mood to be upstaged.
So, cheers all round, and while it might all be over now, you can't help but feel Cardiff is born to play host to events lie this and will surely get the chance in the future. So, London's West End, watch out!
28 Oct 2002 - South Wales Echo (Gemma Williams) - Church's Cathedral Special
What a way to bring the curtain down! The International Festival of Musical Theatre will team Wales's very own teen diva Charlotte Church with Welsh musical theatre star Steve Balsamo, singer Shan Cothi and tenor Wynne Evans for the event entitled Music of the Night - featuring the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, to be set in the majestic surroundings of Llandaff Cathedral on November 3. Steve Balsamo also performed at the Festival's Opening Gala, and will mark the final night by performing Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Sep 2002 - Hello Magazine (Phil Gould) - Superstar?
Steve Balsamo, former star of the West End stage, is about to take the pop world by storm. He talks to Phil Gould about being talent spotted by Prince Charles.
You might not be too familiar with the name yet but up-and-coming singer Steve Balsamo has already earned a royal seal of approval. The former star of West End musicals is now branching out as a pop act with the release of his debut single Sugar For The Soul.
While he is currently winning new fans with his power-packed vocals and smouldering looks, he already has one famous fan - Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales spotted the 29-year-old performing at The Prince's Trust rock school in Cardiff. He was so impressed, he invited Steve and his band to play at a private party at Windsor Castle.
Steve says: "It was an amazing experience. Prince Charles is a lovely guy and made me feel really welcome. I think he sees me as an ambassador for his organisation because when we first me I was unemployed. He's been a great support and it's such a cool thing to be summoned by royal appointment to Windsor Castle."
Although Steve might be a new name in the pop charts, his face may appear vaguely familiar to Londoners. His picture was plastered on hoardings and bus shelters around the capital when he landed the lead role in the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
I had to go for loads of auditions as I don't think they originally wanted an unknown. But I had long hair, grew a beard and went into the audition wearing a white shirt. So I think I had a psychological advantage," he says.
The Swansea-born singer won rave reviews for Superstar - but what he really wanted was a recording contract. Steve was determined to make it on his own terms and performing his own music. That dream became a reality when he signed a deal with Columbia Records.
He says: "I got the contract after I landed the part in Superstar. So there was definitely a plan."
Ironically, one thing that held Steve back from fulfilling his dream in the first place, was when a school teacher told him he could not sing.
"I wanted to join the school choir and they just told me that I couldn't sing. I took their word for it and until I was 17 I didn't think I stood a change. But it all came full circle. When I did Superstar that teacher came to se the show. I asked her if she could remember telling me I couldn't sing, but she denied it. She was a lovely lady and never meant any malice. I think it had been my fault for not letting myself go."
20 Sep 2002 - South Wales Evening Post (Alison Stokes) - Steve's Songs of Sadness
Singing has always been Steve Balsamo's passion - but it's taken on an even more emotional significance since his mother's death. When his mum, Elaine, lost her 15-month battle with lung cancer in May, Steve and his brothers Andrew and Michael were at her bedside singing. "My brothers and I were all harmonising together as she passed away," Steve revealed.
In the months leading to his mother's death Steve would spend the weekends with his family in Swansea. "We'd all moved away and done our own thing, so every weekend my brothers and I would spend time with my mum, to get back in harmony. And when she passed we all sang again so that she'd have an anchor. My mother used to sing Jim Reeves 'I Love You Because' to us as kids and one day I'd like to record it for her and me."
In the meantime Steve's mum is remembered in the credits on Steve's debut album, which was Radio 2's album of the week when it was released last week. Three years in the making, it's a collection of songs written by Steve both before and after his leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar in London's West End. His first single Sugar For The Soul went straight into the top 30 earlier this year.
"For a new artist to make a dent in the charts at my level is good, so I was pleased with top 30 single," confessed the 29-year-old pin-up. "My project isn't a Pop Idol. I've written songs myself and worked really hard and I think I appeal to a slightly older pop market. When a station like Radio 2 gets behind you it's big news. Since I started making the record three years ago, so many things have come and gone. I've experienced a whole range of emotions from being on TV to watching mum pass. I'm in a totally different frame of mind now, I just try to live in the present."
15 Sep 2002 - Wales on Sunday (John Gilheaney) - My Family And Me
Singer opens his heart about his childhood and losing his mother.
Three months after the death of his beloved mother pop heartthrob Steve Balsamo today speaks movingly of his loss and his happy childhood. In an exclusive interview with Wales on Sunday Steve, 29, recalls growing up in Swansea and opens his heart about his mum Elaine's death from lung cancer earlier this summer.
"Everyone was present at her death," says Steve, "Andrew, Michael and me (Steve's brothers) were all singing and we could all feel in harmony with each other. It was beautiful and profound. She died three months ago from lung cancer, she was 62 and she was first diagnosed fifteen months earlier, the doctors said she had only three months to live. Before she died I said, "When you go, come back," and she has, I've seen her. My Mum was a big Jim Reeves' fan and I'm going to record I Love You Because for her, and me, one day."
Musically, Steve is celebrating the release of his long awaited new album All I Am. He is fast establishing himself as one of Britain's finest singer-songwriters.
Here, he unveils a variety of photos from his youth. They reveal a time full of dodgy barnets, angelic looks, dubious tank-tops, curtains ahead of their time and a dad with an uncanny resemblance to Austin powers. Welcome to Steve's world.
Sep 2002 - HMV
Steve Balsamo first tasted fame in the lead role of Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Earning him a Best Newcomer award at the Theatre Awards, it was only a matter of time before this naturally gifted singer moved into the pop world. First single Sugar For The Soul gave a hint at what was to come, well, All I Am Is You (from the forthcoming debut album) moves Balsamo into a different league entirely. A goosebump inducing mid-tempo ballad, it wraps soaring strings and lilting guitar around a wonderful vocal performance that'll win Balsamo a wealth of new fans. Like Darren Hayes or Ronan Keating? Then this is for you!
Sep 2002 - Scottish Daily Record (Julie MacCaskill)
Just why Swansea-born Steve Balsamo isn't already a massive star is one of life's great mysteries. Hopefully, this confused state of affairs is about to change with release of this upbeat little number. Bursting with energy, the atmospheric ballad more than showcases his unique style and surely it is only a matter of time before glory comes calling. Help him make it sooner rather than later. You owe it to the music world. (4 out of 5 stars)
Sep 2002 - Vizzavi
Steve Balsamo burst onto the scene earlier this year with his brilliant single, Sugar For The Soul. While it may not have performed as well as he'd expected (scraping into the chart at a paltry No. 32) the song certainly made us sit up and take notice. Bad hairdo aside, Mr Balsamo - a former Son Of God in the stage version of Jesus Christ Superstar - has a fine voice and a great knack for writing a good tune. All I Am is another epic-sounding track that may not have the summery sheen of his previous stuff, but has such an anthemic feeling in the chorus that you'll find it hard to stop yourself from climbing on to the nearest rooftop, flinging your arms to heaven and screaming a mighty 'Yes!'. Middle-of-the-road certainly, All I Am suggests that the UK can boast its very own answer to Aussie crooner Darren Hayes. Yippee!
Aug 2002 - South Wales Evening Post
All I Am is the new single from Swansea singer Steve Balsamo. The former Jesus Christ Superstar frontman cracked the top 40 with his first single Sugar For The Soul. But he is hoping for greater things with the follow-up, released on September 2. He said: "I'm hoping it will be a big success and that we can build on the first single. It's quite a poignant song, a big song." Steve, aged 31, was brought up in Sandfields and went to Neath College but now lives in West London.
Sep 2002 - South Wales Evening Post - Singular Ambition
All I Am is the new single from Swansea singer Steve Balsamo. The former Jesus Christ Superstar frontman cracked the top 40 with his first single Sugar For The Soul. But he is hoping for greater things with the follow-up, released on September 2.
He said: "I'm hoping it will be a big success and that we can build on the first single. It's quite a poignant song, a big song."
Steve, aged 31, was brought up in Sandfields and went to Neath College but now lives in West London.
Sep 2002 - South Wales Evening Post (Nancy Cavill) - Songsmith Steve Slams Telly 'Idols'
Swansea singer Steve Balsamo has hit out at Pop Idols Will Young and Gareth Gates on the day his debut album is released. He described the hype surrounding the ITV show as nonsense and said fickle young fans would soon turn their attentions to someone else.
Steve's new single All I Am failed to chart in the Top 75 yesterday. His album of the same name is out today.
The 29-year-old from Brynmill, who writes his own music, first shot to fame as the star of West End musical Jesus Christ Superstar but quit the show to pursue his dream of a singing career.
Steve, who studied performing arts at Neath College, is now signed to Sony Records and his first single Sugar For The Soul, was released on March 4 this year. The song reached number 28 in the charts and Steve and his Swansea band The Millionaires performed it live on TOTP2.
However, Steve admits the timing wasn't great - his single was up against not just Pop Idol winner Will Young but also runner-up Gareth Gates.
"I wasn't disappointed with how it did because when you release in the middle of all that Pop Idol nonsense any inroads are a bonus," he said. "To try and release something you've worked on for three years in amongst all that - it held its own so I was jumping for joy. It was a ridiculous time to release a single but Will and Gareth, how long will those people last anyway? Who's Will now? The 12-year-olds are already on to Darius," Steve added. "I've worked for years learning the craft of songwriting and I'm coming from a much different place."
Steve's big hope now is his album, which is pitched at a more mature record buying public. He has also been writing more material, coming home to work on new songs with The Millionaires.
"It has been a very interesting ride the last six or seven months and we've got some big gigs on the cards," added Steve.
13 Sep 2002 - South Wales Echo
The only memorable thing about the appalling West End show Notre Dame was Steve Balsamo's warm and velvety voice. No longer on stage, Steve demonstrates the full range of his rich vocals on his debut album. Several years in the making, it shows Steve's ability to write a soaring radio-friendly pop tune, like the title track All I Am Is You, or a gentle ballad like his duet with Shawn Colvin on I Don't Know Why. Already album of the Week on Radio 2, All I Am is a confident debut from a stylish star.
Sep 2002 - Yahoo
When Sugar For The Soul was released in March 2002, only a handful of people sat up and took any notice, which is rather sad when you consider it's one of the most uplifting songs ever written. However, those lucky blighters who did get an earful of rose-tinted magic would have realised then and there that Steve Balsamo was definitely a talent worth looking out for. Not only did he co-write his debut offering, he also sang it like an angel. Of course, as he started out his career in musicals (he played the Son Of God in the stage version of Jesus Christ Superstar, doncha know), his knee-trembling vocals certainly come as no surprise. And so to the album. All I Am is solid debut set from Balsamo. Well produced and slick, the 12 tracks are just the kind of stuff you could imagine ex-Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes belting out. However, fans of Sugar For The Soul and second single, also called All I Am, may be disappointed that none of the other tracks on offer here are as astonishingly brilliant. That's not to say the album is filled with a load of duffers. Far from it, in fact. Come What May, Love Is The Word and Hollow Tree are all tip-top foot-tappers. Steve is definitely a star to watch who offers a refreshing alternative to the pre-packaged pop offerings of certain 'pop idols'.
Sep 2002 - Channel 4 Teletext
Velvety vocals slip effortlessly across crashing guitars on Steve Balsamo's debut, All I Am. From the soft melodies of Sugar For The Soul, through to the fab gutsy, Come What May, this is an easy-on-the-ears album destined for mass listening.
2002 - Advert for "All I Am" Album
28 Mar 2002 - South Wales Evening Post (Shaun Greaney) - Sweet Success For Soul Singer
Swansea singing sensation Steve Balsamo has spoken of his recent Top 40 success and promises there is plenty more to come.
Steve is on the crest of a wave after his first single cracked the official Top 40 and made it to number 24 in the Pepsi Chart.
Life is looking good for the singer who learned his trade singing in pubs such as The Singleton and The Coppermans in Swansea. With the backing of music giants, Sony, the former Jesus Christ Superstar frontman was tipped to top the charts with Sugar For The Soul.
But the 31-year-old, who now lives in West London, was up against the likes of Will Young and Gareth Gates, made stars by the Pop Idol phenomenon.
"It was probably the worst time in the world to release a new single," said Steve. "But when you consider that the likes of The Corrs and Savage Garden didn't get into the Top 50 or 60 with their first singles, it's looking good."
Steve is thrilled at the prospect of pop stardom. "I loved touring round the country to promote the single and I have another single to come out in May," he said. "I'm hoping it'll be a big success and that we can build on the first single.
Titled All I Am, the single is also the title of his new album, which should be in the shops this summer.
"It's quite a poignant song, a big song, and we've hoping for a nice moody video and all that," said the ex-Sandfields boy and former Neath College student.
If his second single is a success Steve says his next move will be to conquer the American market.
Mar 2002 - Sunday Express (Simon Gage) - 24 Hours In The Life Of Steve Balsamo
Steve, 29, found fame starring in Jesus Christ Superstar. Originally from Swansea, he now lives in London. His debut single Sugar For The Soul is out now.
Did you sleep well last night?
No - I'm sleeping on a camp bed because I gave my bed away to some friends who don't have any money.
Who were you with at midnight?
A friend called Rupert, who's a biology professor. He's written a book about telepathic pets and we were talking about a psychic parrot he's discovered.
Who was the first person you spoke to this morning?
My girlfriend TJ.
What was the best meal you had today?
I've not had much today, but recently I went to a Masonic dinner, which was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. There was no ceremonial stuff, just everyone drinking their brains into another place.
What was the most expensive thing you bought today?
A jacket potato, which was about two pounds.
How much have you spent today?
Just the two pounds. I'm on a promotional tour so there's not much opportunity for shopping. But I bought an expensive suit recently from this really cool shop in Bond Street. It was about £1,000 and kind of Seventies with flares. A bit Tom Jones.
What made you laugh today?
We've got this guy in the band who is half man, half duvet. He's always so tired, he could sleep sitting on a pin.
What are you most proud of today?
I found out that my new single was played in Kevin Webster's garage in Coronation Street. That was a moment. You know you've made it if you're being played in Kevin's garage.
What do you most regret about today?
I haven't said "thank you" enough. I think politeness is important - it's the way I was brought up, to be appreciative if people help you out.
What song can you not get out of your head at the moment?
Moi, Lolita by Alizee, but it's not my kind of thing at all. I love The Beatles, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay, you know - proper songs.
How long did you spend getting ready this morning?
I had to get up at 6.30 to be out for seven so I literally ran the bath, jumped in and jumped out, then threw any old clothes on.
Did you meet anyone new today?
I met a guy at a radio station called James, and a bloke from the record company called David. Recently I've been meeting 20 or 30 people a day but I can remember all their names, I make a point of it.
What time will be you be in bed tonight?
I'm going out with my girlfriend, so I don't know. I usually go to bed late though, two or three o'clock. I'm always reading or surfing the internet. I'm an information junkie.
Was it a bad hair day or a good hair day?
Mar 2002 - Designer Magazine (Alex McCann)
On the same night that Pop Idol Will Young heads straight in at Number 1 with his record breaking double a-side of "Evergreen" and "Anything Is Possible", a real Pop Idol is heading out on the road on the first date of his UK Tour. Its a fact that isn't lost on Steve as he slyly slips out the thinly veiled dig so who bought Will Young's single then? To which everyone laughs out loud except for a middle age woman who missed the point completely. After a spell in West End playing the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar... Steve has been there, done that, gave his soul to the devil and now he wants it back by getting back to his true roots of Welsh White Boy Soul.
Debut single "Sugar For The Soul" fuses a hint of Robbie in the vocals and a touch of Toploader gone pop in the instrumentation, but ultimately its Balsamo's individuality that shines through in the formula led world of British Pop. Backed by a six piece live band to beef up the recorded versions while still retaining the type of professional polished sound that can fill stadiums the world over. At times it can all seem a little ballad heavy and seems like a bridge from the West End to the Pop Charts, but given time I'm sure you'll see a progression into bona fide pop star.
With so many pop stars relying on cover versions and a team of songwriters it would have been easy for Steve to click his fingers after his spot in the West End for the best songwriters in the business. Instead he's got back to his roots of live rock & roll and penned his self titled debut album. His only cover tonight, a take on the Beatles "Hello, Goodbye" complete with a sly dig at Oasis is played simply as a nod to the greatest songwriters ever and not as the trump card often used by the C-list manufactured pop acts.
Based on tonight's show Steve Balsamo shows he has ability to reach out to adoring girls and middle age couples. It may not be a musical revolution but he's more than able to take Will Young out in 60 seconds.
Mar 2002 - Smash Hits Magazine
Mar 2002 - HMV
Hailing from Swansea in Wales, this dark, handsome crooner has already seen his fair share of success and adoration thanks mainly to his roles in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Notre Dame De Paris. Now all set to take the pop charts on full-tilt, Steve Balsamo's debut really is a wonderful introduction to an incredibly talented singer/songwriter. An uplifting and immediately catchy combination of pop and rock, Sugar For The Soul is a rare musical treat that touches on many different influences but still manages to sound unlike anything else around right now. A brilliant debut!
2002 - Advert for "Sugar For The Soul" Single
Mar 2002 - Capital Radio
This is the debut single for Steve Balsamo, a half-Italian from South Wales, who learnt to sing by doing Elvis impressions in the bath, but sounds nothing like The King these days. After playing the pubs of South Wales with his covers band, he moved to Bristol then on to London, where he landed a role in Les Miserables. That was followed by a stint playing Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar after which Steve decided to follow his real dream of becoming a singer-songwriter - and here is the result. With its middle-of-the-road sound, Sugar For The Soul is a slice of 80s-ish lite-rock from it's piano intro through all its power pop choruses.
Mar 2002 - UKMix (Tom Eames)
At first I wasn't expecting to like this song, and thought Steve Balsamo would turn out much like Jonathan Wilkes - all hype, poor single and unlikely to return. There's something about this song though, that makes it hard to dislike. A pleasantly uplifting track with a summery feel, it seems to have a bit of a spirit-raising effect. (4 stars)
Mar 2002 - Buzz Magazine - Have You Seen This Man?
1 Nov 1997 - Western Mail (Leslie Able) - Record Break for Superstar Steve
Steve Balsamo, the Swansea-born singer who won rave reviews for his performance in the West End hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar, is now unwinding from the gruelling role in the South of France.
"He is working on the first two tracks of his album," said Steve's agent Jonathan Greatorex. "It was always his plan to leave the cast of Superstar at the end of his 12-month contract and concentrate on doing an album."
The album, which won't be in the shops until early Summer, is apparently gong to be mainstream pop music along the lines of George Michael and Seal.
"This is what he has always wanted to do which is write and record his own songs," said Jonathan. "Superstar has given him the opportunity to do that."
While Steve, 26, loved doing the musical its demands took their toll, both mentally and physically.
"By the end of his contract he was ready for a rest. He is quite a spiritual person and it was a role he took very seriously, which meant he took it upon himself rather than just playing it."
It was, of course Pontypridd-based band Crystalise in which Steve was lead singer that helped launch him on his West End career. It was during the Prince's Trust concert in Hyde Park that Steve was first spotted and signed up to play the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum Theatre.
Steve is expected back in the UK at the end of the month, and while all the publicity blurb for Superstar once focussed on Steve it has now switched to the actor who plays Judas, none other than Ramon Tikaram who was the sexually ambivalent Ferdy in the successful BBC2 series This Life.
Nov 1997 - South Wales Evening Post (Darren Waters) - Album Deal Makes Balsamo a Superstar - Singer Signs Substantial Recording Contract
The meteoric rise of singer Steve Balsamo looks likely to project him permanently into the celebrity firmament.
Having been plucked from relative obscurity by Andrew Lloyd Webber to play the lead in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Balsamo has now clinched a five-album, multi-million pound deal with Sony records.
Balsamo's signature on the dotted line has made him one of Wales's biggest earners, and has launched him into the super league of singer-songwriters.
With the backing of the Japanese music giants, who already have stars such as Celine Dion and Michael Bolton on their books, and a six-figure advance already tucked in his back pocket, Balsamo looks set to become an international name.
He is already in the South of France recording the first songs for an album due for release in the summer of 1998, by which time the huge Sony publicity machine will have cranked into gear ensuring his name is on everyone's lips by June.
His agent Jonathan Greatorex said, "This is great news for Steve. He has a five-album deal with Sony." Greatorex described the music as "mild rock", in the vein of Brit and Grammy award-winner Seal. "Most of the songs will be Steve's original material, with possibly some cover versions. The first single will be released early summer next year."
Greatorex dismissed suggestions that the deal may be worth as much as £13m as "ridiculous speculation". "I would just say Steve is now a reasonably well-off young man."
The rise and rise of an Unemployed Swansea Boy:
1995: Unemployed and playing low-key gigs in a band called The Living Room.
1995: Walk-on part in Welsh soap opera Pobl Y Cwm. Tours with musical Les Miserables.
1996: Auditions along with 1,000 others for the lead part in Jesus Christ Superstar.
1996: Plays in front of 100,000 people at the Prince's Trust concert, Hyde Park, with the band Crystalise.
1996: Recalled 10 times to re-audition for the role of Jesus, before being chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
1997: Finishes in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum Theatre, London in September.
1997: Signs five-album, multi-million pound deal with Sony Records.