“How simply can you create song and have it have some power — that’s the whole trick!”

— Steve Bailey

Usually I have a lengthy opening paragraph, this time though I’m keeping it simple and to the point: Madison’s Somerset Abbey will host a five-piece band that I want everyone to know about: Black Cat Road will be playing at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21. To that end, an interview was arranged with Steve Bailey, singer-songwriter and guitarist for the band. Bailey spoke to me from his home in Peru.

Q: I’ve enjoyed the songs on your website, some are quite danceable.

Bailey: Thanks, but we don’t do that on purpose. The song just has to go where the song has to go, which is why we struggle with the blues label these days.

Q: Well, you have to honor the song, that’s for sure, because if you try to force it someplace where it doesn’t want to go, it won’t.

Bailey: Yeah, in my opinion, and I have written quite a few songs, once you look at a song and say, “This could use this” or “This could use that,” I think you’re heading in the wrong way.

Q: Are all the songs on the website yours?

Bailey: Well, I’m not sure which are which — they are mine, Jessie’s or Kate’s (members of Black Cat Road), we all write.

Q: That’s good because that gives you a nice mix of influences, styles and sounds.

Bailey: It really does, it really spreads the palette some.

Q: Could we run through the members of the band and the instruments they play?

Bailey: Sure, I play guitar. Kate Seavey plays bass and sings lead on a couple songs and backing vocals, too. Jessica Hines plays washboard and also sings lead and backing vocals.

Q: Is she (Jessica) the principle lead singer?

Bailey: Well, her and I both but she’s the one that everybody talks about. When you see her you’ll know what I mean.

Q: Yeah, I saw the video you posted on there, too, so I definitely know what you mean. She really throws herself into the performance.

Bailey: She also does a good chunk of the writing.

Q: Good to know. Now we need the keyboardist.

Bailey: We call him “Slopoke Johnson,” he also does various percussion instruments.

Q: Does he do any vocal support?

Bailey: He does not.

Q: And the drummer?

Bailey: The drummer is Chris Hartogh. He was like the final piece of our puzzle, he brings a lot of structure and discipline to our outfit. He was trained at a conservatory over in the Netherlands somewhere, I forget where, but he’s helping us hone on arrangements and that sort of thing. So everybody in this group has a very strong function, that’s the strength of the group really.

Q: How long have you guys been in existence?

Bailey: Gee whiz, four or five years maybe? To be honest with you, I’m not really sure. And the reason for that, Lucky, is that we started out as the Icy Waters Band playing the blues to get gigs but we never did play the blues quite like we were supposed to and we never really did covers unless we really were crazy about a song. It’s been difficult to stay busy and stay solvent based on those facts because people like what they like and like to hear what they like, so when we do make fans they’re in it to win it. Our fans are crazy about us and they do more to sell us than we do. You see, we’re focused on music so much that our business acumen is not great. It’s taken us a couple of years to get a CD done, not because we don’t have the material or arrangements or anything, just the funding.

Q: I understand completely, and doing covers might get you more exposure but doing your own material, I think, is far more important.

Bailey: Well, it is to us because in the end — when we’re all done with it — we’re going to be happy with the path we chose and we’re going to be proud of the path we chose.

Q: Have you ever played at the Somerset Abbey before?

Bailey: We played Halloween there. It was very interesting, it wasn’t a great turnout but the people who own the place are very committed to bringing some music and culture to that area. We’re excited about that, we’re excited to be part of that. They’re great folks that run it.

Q: Well, I think that once more people have the opportunity to hear and see what you do — because what you do is rooted in what you’ve listened to and what you enjoy — they’ll be quick to get on board with your band. I really believe that because there are decided elements of classic rock in Black Cat Road’s sound.

Bailey: As far as classic rock goes, back when I was a kid in the early 70s, the bands that the kids love nowadays in retrospect they were hot new bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk (Railroad) and Deep Purple. They were all great bands and they all sounded different, but they all had a blues thread running through them. I wasn’t into blues until much later, but all the music that I liked was rooted in the blues, I just didn’t know. It’s hard to beat that stuff. In the 60s, when I was a really young teenager, it was the Beatles and The Monkees — you know, the pop music — then in the 90s everything had a sameness to it that I just stopped listening. When I stopped listening, Lucky, I got to liking that I wasn’t listening — so I stopped trying to be current or relevant. I keep finding new ways to be honest with my music.

Q: And that comes through loud and clear in your music, I hear it clear as day.

Bailey: Well, when you see it live you’ll get a good dose of that because that’s all we are. We’re not going to knock your socks off with pyrotechnics or any of that stuff — everybody in the band is really, really good — but it’s just about how simply can we get our message across. We don’t write simply to be simple, we just take a song, and if that song is good, we don’t screw with it.

Q: And that’s the best way to do it. Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this, especially since your band might be an unknown entity to a lot of people in this area?

Bailey: I would say, just see us once, just once, and you’ll probably see us again. And beyond that, go see local music. There’s a lot of great talent out there everywhere you look. So get out and support a band or a musician and help them out — and watch them grow.”

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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