Balbi goes the full Mullum
Steve Balbi is living the dream. A creative chameleon, Balbi continues to reinvent his wheel. From bass guitarist in Noiseworks to one half of the psychedelic pop duo Electric Hippies to Mi-Sex in 2011, Balbi is a passionate collaborator, but also a prolific solo artist.
‘Being in bands was a big part of my life’ says Steve.
‘I was always just scared to do my own thing – scared to succeed and scared to fail, the drug use and my lifestyle made people fall away, so I slowly learnt to confront that… all of a sudden you can’t stop and everything is terrible and it’s like if you don’t jump the train is going to crash. It’s literally like a life or death decision.’
Years on Steve has faced his demons, and things couldn’t be sweeter.
‘I do so many wonderful things in collaboration. Whether writing with people, or playing live with others, or producing. I have the perfect life! You don’t forget your past – it’s part of you, and now I can operate as a survivor. I can easily tap into that pain, and the memory, that I can sing to people. I can also come out of it and be grateful to be able to sing it. The main thing I’ve realised, when I got clean, was that I was an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I realise that music is a gift and I just happen to have this thing, and my job was to give this gift – not to be loved for the sake of giving it. I try and give it as fully as I can. It’s not about the applause, it’s not why I do it. Before, it was a very self-centred approach.’
For Balbi, making music comes as easily as breathing.
‘I literally can’t stop, it’s either that or I paint my studio orange! I know that I am going to die wishing I had done more! I can’t work enough to give all those ideas a day…’
Steve’s gig at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services celebrates the digital release of I Think I Know for Sure – written during the national 2020 COVID-19 lockdown when musicians and their lofty dreams and fabulous projects got seriously grounded and Steve’s wings certainly got a covid clipping too.
‘I was about to head out on a bus with recording gear and a bunch of fellow songwriters – the Legendary Dust Buckles – we had a $3 million budget to head out and make a music travel documentary, and it just fell through. So my next six months was supposed to be doing that… but you know… it didn’t bother me. I am a cup-half-full kind of person. I thought – I will just make a record and hang with the kids’ (Balbi has four kids).
So Steve used what he had on hand.
‘I had two mics, my son’s toy drum kit, and I had to play drums because I couldn’t get a drummer. I found it a real blessing – it made me look back at the things that were important to me – things that made me want to be a musician. The record is an an ode to my heroes…’
Balbi comes from a tradition of playing a lot of gigs. It shows when he hits the stage.
‘For young artists nowadays, if they play two shows a week they are happy; we used to play eight gigs a week – it was so energetic – it was a great to be in bands. I feel blessed. I don’t feel like I was lucky; I have always loved music and worked hard. I have never studied it, but I played it hard. It’s not a surprise I had Kevin Borich see me at 16 and say “He can play bass” because I would have played more bass than most kids at that age.’
Steve Balbi brings his solo show to Mullumbimby – ‘I am a bit nervous,’ he laughs.
‘I get terrified before a solo show… I sit there and think “What am I doing this for? It’s not worth it… ” then I start playing… and it is very worth it’.
Steve Balbi plays the Mullumbimby Ex-Services on Sunday at 3.30pm with support by Lucie Thorne. Tickets on mullumexservices.com.au