Steve Wernick Band: My love affair with music is no gamble
From being excused from the choir because he was deemed to be tone deaf to gigging across Australia with his own band, Steve Wernick is the perfect example of sheer determination and dedication to his music.
His biggest influences are Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Del Amitri, The Clash – classic standards which defy time and era.
His most recent album is Love Is A Gamble, but he also released a mini album last year consisting of six tracks which gave him the encouragement to do a full-blown album.
Steve has only been making music for around 10 years, although he did manage two local hometown Wolverhampton bands before he emigrated to Australia.
He has always been a music fanatic, but it took him a long time before he was ready to write and perform, or in fact how to go about it.
The former Regis Comprehensive pupil put his music on Myspace in the name of the Twisted Waltons, which consisted of just himself writing lyrics and singing and Greg Piggott, who played the instruments. They acquired a good internet following, but he had actually ‘photoshopped’ the images to make them look like there were more people.
“Someone then asked where they could see the band live, but we were really just a studio band,” says Steve. “It made me feel like a bit of a fake and so I thought I had better get a real band together, so I got together with some musicians.
“The lead guitarist, Rolf Knudsen, who although is Australian, had spent 20-odd years in the UK in a band called The Volcanos, which was a post punk band, and we started working together.
“We then formed a band called The Cleanskins and were beginning to get quite a reputation doing really good gigs, playing festivals, getting great reviews and appearing on TV in Australia, but we never recorded anything.
The death of the bass player, Sian, who was married to the drummer, spelt the end of the line for The Cleanskins and so Steve and Rolf were left writing and eventually decided to put the six-track album together, back in 2016.
Radio play both in Australia and here in the UK followed, which gave him the encouragement to record Love Is A Gamble, which is distributed through MGM Australia and is on iTunes and Spotify globally through MGM and distributed locally in Australia on Waterfront Records.
“I am keen to write another album as I am obsessed with it and write all the time,” says Steve.
Owning a vinyl record store, Steve often plays his recordings in the shop and people frequently come and ask who it is. “Joe Strummer is the most common misconception, or Billy Bragg,” said Steve. Impressive!
Moving back to the UK next year means Steve needs to create a UK version of his band as it is logistically too difficult to manage musicians on two continents. “I stumbled across this band called the Grant Pritchard Trio,” says Steve, “and went to see them play to see if we were going to be compatible. I have put it to them to be my backing band.
“They are a bit younger than me,” laughs Steve, “but that should give the songs a fresh energy as well.”
Steve took lessons and worked hard doing live gigs, and it soon became normal to him. To date he has performed around 250 gigs in Australia as well as gigging here, the latest being at The Cavern in Liverpool.
Steve is certainly a wordsmith and his lyrics are raw and based on real life experiences. He lost five members of his family and close friends within a 12-month period which inspired his songs Keep On Wearing Black, Graveyard Blues and Black Dog Blues.
“Being able to write songs is quite cathartic,” says Steve. “And the benefit is that when other people hear those songs, they can relate to them. Quite a few people contacted me after hearing Keep On Wearing Black for example because it helped them in their grieving process.”
The album starts with a country style song and moves into darker tunes inspired by Steve’s loss. It follows a bit of a theme until you get to the last song, which is much happier.
“I got married in July so the last song on the album, A Place I Call Home, is a song I wrote for my wife, Lizzie, about 12 months into our relationship. I am very proud of that song,” says Steve.
“Black Dog Blues was played on Black Country Radio and was the record of the week on the Black Country Mayhem show. It was thrilling to find it was being played in my home town. And the DJ who played it, Phil Hampton, wrote me a private message saying how much that song had helped him through feeling down and how he had related to it.
“If I knew how to write commercial music, I would probably do it,” says Steve. “Because it would be nice to not have to worry about how to pay the bills, but the truth is that my music comes from the heart.”
His heartfelt music may also come from being diagnosed with cancer himself in 2009. Luckily, after two years of treatment Steve got the all clear. Being in hospital gave Steve time to write even more songs.
“I remember thinking they were good songs and that I could be even more honest. There is a certain amount of self-consciousness when you write. If you expose a mean or selfish side of yourself, it’s OK.
“You should not have those impediments in the way, it should just be about the songs. It took that really critical situation for me to take my song writing seriously.”