Journey Steve Balbi is one of Australia’s leading songwriters – first with Noiseworks, followed by Electric Hippies and now as a dynamic solo performer. He has emerged from the darker side of rock ‘n’ roll with an energy and authenticity that has created an underground swell amongst new fans. Here for the first time, Steve accounts his journey… “There is super 8 footage of me at age four doing concerts in the hallway of my family home in Newtown, the crowd roared and I was pleased with my performance. At age six, my extremely raw talent was spotted by my uncle who played in a real band and started taking me to gigs. He gave me a tambourine and I was digging the whole experience, poker back stage in between set’s (not me), late nights and the chicks were diggin the awkward looking cat on the tambourine. I still love playing tamba. After that experience it was a given, I needed more of this and pestered my parents for a guitar. It was black, had steel strings and was a crap brand but I loved it more than our dog. In fact much more… I played it constantly (I should be much better than I am), but maybe that’s because I only had six lessons and sacked my uninterested teacher to go down the ‘teach yourself to play’ road. I remember never wanting to be a virtuoso (lucky about that), I just loved to make up my own music and started writing songs very early in the piece. My first song was called Mary Jane… Hmmm I didn’t even know drugs existed at age nine, it must have been an imaginary person – I can’t recall… I ended up starting a band with a few of my cousins. By that time I had this really cool semi acoustic hollow body guitar and a silver-tone amp. I was ten and we were the Apachies (the Maltese Apachies). We were not cool… we wore silk shirts and bow ties. By the time I was twelve the Apachies went on a talent show called Pot Of Gold on Channel Nine, but were beaten by a clown (not a good look). The band soon broke up after that. At age fourteen, music started to become a lifestyle, the clothes, the language, every thought and dream was sponsored by the love of chords, lyric and beats. At this stage I was in a band called… wait for it… Franz Lizt (very very bad). We used to play Swan Lake Black Sabbath style. A year later it was Rupert B Funkified filth… this was interesting. It was with a couple of older guys from school, we had a horn section and played tower of power funkadellic… Somehow I ended up playing bass. We started at the Mosman Hotel on Friday nights and it grew out of control. We would pack this joint out and became local heroes. Shortly after we started to play around town and I was spotted at a joint in Kings Cross by Kevin Borich, Australian Blues Legend. He asked me to join the Kevin Borich Express and I still hold this as an honour. I seemed to become a bass player by default (I always just wanted to sing and play guitar), but one thing lead to another and I seemed to drift away from my truth. However it was an amazing experience. I was on the road and enjoyed all the trappings that came with it. I learnt how to drink whisky, take drugs and play the blues. At age 20 I met Justin Stanley (my musical soul brother) from an ad in the Herald, placed by a guy called Doug that read, “Song writer looking for song writer to write with”. Justin and I turned up at this guy’s house at the same time (very good). We sacked Doug and started making music together. I met Stuart Frazer at a gig I was doing with Kevin Borich – he was playing with a band called Cyril B Bunter and was working with Jon Stevens and Kevin Nicol (The Change) at the time and needed a bass player for a session… I did the session and they kept bugging me to join the band for about a year. I kept telling them I was already starting a band with Justin and I really wanted to play guitar and sing, but Stuart in his comical way said “well, can we join your band”. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a jam. At first it was just to get them off my back, but the five of us had something, so Noiseworks began. I left the band after ten years of constant work all over the world with varying degrees of success. I left because I was creatively not able to express myself enough… I was the bass player that wanted to sing and play guitar and tell my own stories. One must be true to the gifts we are given… better late than never. Justin and I stared producing different music – Vincent Stone, Jenny Morris, Max Sharam, Leonardo’s Bride, Juice, Nikka Costa. Then came the Electric Hippies, in fact we always were the Electric Hippies . We made one record that took us back over seas to Europe with eager fans, a Record Label and radio play all believing in us big time. While my music life seemed to be going from strength to strength, so was my substance abuse that put me on my ass… It must have had something to do with the first song I had written (very very bad) and The Hippies broke up with Europe wondering what happened (I have exaggerated that a little for your pleasure). It was a surprise to find out that I in fact was not in control of my life at all, and had become a slave to the very thing that wanted me dead. Rehab…… Then Universe came along. A band with members Cath Green from X and Bird Man from somewhere else and the late and beautiful Cath Cynerdal. Our EP, Above Water was funded by Sebastian (good man) on Phantom and we scored a deal with Festival Records. We made a self titled Album that was never released, but I’m happy to share it with you at a gig… I have a few copies left. Universe broke up due to me needing another bash at the hab… Finally I got it (sobriety). That was ten years ago. I have been clean ever since and played more solo shows than I can remember up until 2006 when myself and Scott Aplin of Natalie Bassingthwaighte fame started a wonderful band Move Trees, with the great Doug Aplin (Genius) and Pete Skelton from Coffs Harbor. We’ve made a great Album and now just waiting for Martians to land and get us on some big festivals and give us lots of money to play. (never know, could happen). In the meantime (Solo) and still enjoying the ride like never before. I am working on a new album and just can’t STOP BEDTIME”.