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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Jon Stevens talks music

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For Jon Stevens, the remarkable 30-year career as a singer/songwriter may just as easily not have happened.

New Zealand-born Stevens was well on the trajectory for playing football – and not Union as you might be thinking, but League.

It was his sister who talked him into pursuing his musical bent, and it all kind of steamrolled from there.

‘I didn’t even want to do music,’ laughs Stevens. ‘I fell into it accidentally. My eldest sister had a friend who heard I could sing and she asked me to come and sing some demos. My sister took me in – I was 16 and it was 1977 or thereabouts and I went in and sang some songs. I was a really shy kid; you couldn’t even talk to me. I was from the country. I played the songs and apparently I had a good ear for music.

jon-stevens‘Some months went by and my sister sent me some messages: “Oh they are sending the music on to CBS, they want to meet with you,” or whatever. I never did meet with them… and then that they wanted to release the song called Jezebel. I wasn’t interested, but the song got put out and it was number one.

‘To this day it was the longest-running number one in New Zealand. I wasn’t interested in being a rock musician; I was with my mates! I just went along for the ride, for fun; it all happened so fast.

‘I think I made about $2,000 and ended up being totally over-exposed in New Zealand!’

Stevens has fronted the legendary Noiseworks and INXS, and now is enjoying more success with the Dead Daisies.

‘We are getting a lot of traction overseas. I don’t do it for money. I never have. I love what I do and I love the Dead Daisies.

They are this amazing vehicle – it’s a band of guys all good at what they do!’

Stevens’s latest incarnation is as a three-piece acoustic for shows at the Bangalow Bowlo.

‘I love playing these shows, I have been doing them for a few years now. You can’t hide up there; you have to know your chops. I am never quite sure what we are going to play because these acoustic shows are very interactive and laidback; you know if someone yells out a song I may sing it.’

As a veteran in the music scene, Jon Stevens is a believer in running your own race.

‘There is a lot of apathy here. The same people have been running the music industry since the beginning. You are the creator, you need to take charge. I was always the type of kid who spent his time looking out the window. It was always my bent to be creative. I welcome it and embrace it!’

When it comes to career highlights, Stevens is philosophical.

‘The biggest highlight for me is pretty much five years ago, surviving a near-death experience. I had double heart bypass surgery. I had no idea at the time but I was surviving on a one per cent blood flow, and I was about to drop dead.

‘I had just come back from touring, and I was feeling tired. I remember the date: it was 11 September five years ago. I went for the checkup, and I passed everything because I am pretty fit, and I was very fit back then. But the doctor sent me for an MRI scan just to be sure because we have a family history of heart disease. I drove myself to the hospital and they plugged me in and I was in hospital for a month and nearly died of complications!’

So when it comes to songwriting, how does it happen for Stevens?

‘I have a guitar sitting out and it will sit down for weeks and then I pick it up and the first thing I do is play a song. I don’t write things I can’t relate to; if I’m not in love I can’t write a love songs…’

‘I write my truth.’

Jon Stevens plays the Bangalow Bowlo on Thursday. Show at 7.30pm. Tix $40 at the door or $35 presale at the club.

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