May 5, 2011

An Interview With Meic Stevens, The "Welsh Bob Dylan"


Meic Stevens will need no introduction to most readers of this blog ( for anyone who does require some background info there is a 'Rough Guide to Meic Stevens' at the bottom of this post ) His musical career has spanned nearly five decades and he has been styled variously as 'The Legend' and the 'Welsh Bob Dylan'. In a surprise move Meic recently emigrated to Canda. He agreed to speak to AmeriCymru about his life and future plans from his new home in British Columbia.

Meic Stevens
AmeriCymru: Hi Meic and many thanks for agreeing to talk to AmeriCymru. I suppose the first question on many readers minds is why did you emigrate to Canada?

Meic: I don't know if you speak Welsh, so I'll write in English this time. Basically I came to Vancouver Island to paint  for a one man show at Glyn y Weddw art gallery near Pwllheli North Wales. The exhibition will open next April 2012. I also came to study the native Americans here, also what sort of deal they have with the Canadian government, I might get some clues as to what native Welsh could do to improve their situation in Wales. Basically we have no more rights than the English or any other foreign immigrants which has been eroding and destroying the Welsh culture and way of life for years. Wales has been subsidized by the British government, particularly in the arts , ...of course S4C. But this is not the answer to the erosion of a nations' culture and way of life. The industrial revolution was imposed on Wales and had a disastrous effect on the way of life of the indigenous people and more especially on the language and literature. King Coal has a lot to answer for and most of the profit left the country fast!

AmeriCymru: How are you enjoying your new home? What are the main differences between Canada and Wales that have struck you thus far?

Meic:
I'm living with my girlfirend, Liz, who I met whie I was an art student at Cardiff in 1960. She has been the main cause of me returning to the easel. it's very good and stumlating getting back so close to raw nature and wild places and all that goes with that. Canada is a big, big place, space and wilderness so close.  I live next door to an indian reservation in the Comox Valley. Many of Liz's friends, like Alexandra Morton and others are totally committed and very active in their support of ecology, partiularly the salmon and other fish problems that exist here. I am obvioulsy a suporter of conservationism, which is in a sad state in Britain.

AmeriCymru: You  said in a recent BBC interview that you will be concentrating on painting and writing a book about your childhood. Care to tell us a little more about your plans in this direction?

Meic:
The next project after the Glyn -y-Weddw exhibiton will be the book about the children of the Solva Valley in Pembrokeshire, I am also planning another album of Welsh songs, to follow my last one on the Sain label (Love Songs), which was in English. I also wish to record a blues album over here for the American market and am looking for a label.

AmeriCymru: How difficult was it recording and distributing through the medium of Welsh back in the 1960's?
 

Meic: Back in the 60s, recording in Welsh was a nightmare - more of a joke, really. There were no recording studios and even the studios of the BBC were equipped with obsolete or inadequate equipment. By  1968 I was recording for Warner Brothers in London, but prior to that I had recorded for Decca in 1965 and had produced my own album of self written songs which was later released by 10th Planet Records entitled "The Tony Pike Sessions." I recorded with an Ameican guitarist, Mike Meerpol, whose stepfather wrote "Strange Fruit" for Billy Holiday. Mike was one of the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and later lectured in economics at Harvard (ed.). It was done in Wales (the record industry) so Huw Jones and I started Sain Records. Later, Dafydd Iwan joined... he's still at it to this day. I have enjoyed quite a free relationsihp with Sain over the years. who have released around a dozen albums of mine.

AmeriCymru: Who were your major musical influences back then and who would you cite now? Who do you listen to?

Meic:
My early influences were blues and jazz singers like Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Big Joe Wiliams, Josh White, Connie Johnson. I was playing guitar by 1955 and still do. I haven't played yet over here but am very keen to do some concerts.

AmeriCymru: You have often been described as the 'Welsh Bob Dylan'. How comfortable ( or not ) do you feel with that label/description?

Meic:
"The Legend" and "Welsh Bob Dylan" things are great, who woulnd't want to be compared with the greatest modern folksinger of our age? Dylan is a rare phenomenon, I could go on about that guy!

AmeriCymru: How do you feel about the contemporary Welsh language music scene? Any bands that you think are particularly worthy of note?

Meic:
The Welsh music scene is dead and very disorganized. Nearly all of the bands are amateur, because it is almost impossible to make a living in Wales as a Welsh language singer, or band. For example, there is no organized gig circuit, like a chain of clubs and pubs or even art centres that regularly put on Welsh language music shows. Most of the Arts Council money goes into paying administrators, etc. and the Welsh National Opera. Even the National Eisteddfod struggles for money. Something drastic has to be done about the ineptitude of S4C, who employ far too many desk jockeys and other hangers on and far too few musicians and entertainers. Hardly anyone watches S4C because most of the programmes are so bad. Talk to anyone in the pubs and restaurants round Wales and that is the general consensus. We got handed a t.v. station on a plate and it very soon became a gravy train, many millionaires have been created but you don't hear much about that.

By the way, I don't know one artiste, actor or singer who has earned anything like that kind of money. I, who am one of the most popular singers in Wales, voted singer of the year five years in successsion by a public poll have always been pushed to make ends meet in Wales. Something is very wrong over there!

Meic Stevens Aber Gig Sells Out
Aber Gig

AmeriCymru: You've been cited as an influence on Welsh bands like Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - what influence do you feel or notice you've had on upcoming Welsh musicians?

Meic: I have influenced and worked with loads of artists in Wales apart from writing the first three modern operas in Welsh. "Etifeddiaeth trywy mwg" with Gereint Jarman, "Craeth y carreg ddu" myself and "Dic Penderyn" wiht Rhydwen Williams. I have also published two volumes of my autobiography on Y Llofa, Solva Blues (English) and Hunangofiant y Brawd Houdini and Y Crwydryn a Mi, both in Welsh.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Meic Stephens?

Meic: To conclude, it's great to have such a big change in life (and unexpected) at the age of nearly seventy. I shall hit 70 on March 13th, 2012. I'm off back to Wales at the end of June to play three concerts in the National Eisteddfod, one on Monday 2nd in the Pavilion, another on the anniversary of Hiroshima in the Arts Centre in Wrexham (Cymdeithas yn Iaith). We will return the second week of August to Comox Valley, I certainly do hope to strut to my stuff now and again over here sometime in the future so if anybody out there wants to book me by email, the address is LIZSHEEHAN at shaw.ca - any communications are very welcome and you can get info on records on the Sain website.



MEIC STEVENS ON YOUTUBE

CLICK THE IMAGES ABOVE TO PLAY THE VIDEOS




meic stevens performing with acoustic guitar
Meic Stevens Performing
Rough Guide to Meic Stevens

Meic is a singer, guitarist and songrwriter from Wales. His musical styles vary dramatically from folk, rock, jazz to blues and even techno music.

He has made many recordings which started with "Did I Dream" (Decca Records 1965) to his latest, "Love Songs," released August, 2010.  He now lives in Courtenay, BC, where he is preparing work for a one-man exhibition of paintings back in Wales next April. He is a member of the Gorsedd of Bards of Britain, an exclusive druidic-style organization of intelligentisia that can only be joined by invitation.  The number of members is strictly limited and the Gorsedd of Bards is the heart of the National Eisteddfod of Wales, one of the greatest arts festivals in Europe.

Meic has decided to live in Canada, on Vancouver Island, where the air is clean and inspiration abundant.

Information on Meic can be found on the Sain Records website also on Youtube.  Meic does not have a camputer or personal website, he says he doesn't need them.  M ost of Meic's sound and video recordings are in the Welsh language, he also sings and writes in English and has recorded several albums of songs in that language.  "Outlander" (Warner Brothers 1969), "Ghost Town" (10th Planet Records), "The Tony Pike Sessions"  (10th Planet Records) were released between 2000-2005 and his most recent, "Love Songs" on the Sain Records label.  Meic is availale for bookings, please email LIZSHEEHAN at shaw.ca.  Meic has made hundreds of television appearances, has written three modern operas, has been touring since 1963 and has been the subject of four television documentaries.  In Canada, he will perform alone with guitar and will sing folk, blues and self-penned songs and also some  traditional Wlesh songs.
 
Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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