Steve Luff has joined us as one of our music writer/reviewers. Many of you will know Steve from his Friday night show on Black Cat Radio. Although the station is local to St Neots in the Bedford area, it is also available via the internet and Steve’s show is becoming something of a worldwide cult. He has listeners in Spain, France, Italy and the USA and the audience is growing weekly.
So what is it about Steve’s show that makes people flock to listen on a Friday night?
He’s not the ‘smoothest’ presenter in the world, sometimes stumbling over the pronunciation of words. Maybe this is part of his charm, people can identify with him? Or possibly his obvious enthusiasm for music is what is catching on? He is very knowledgeable about music across all genres and is not afraid to play a diverse selection on his show. This is another appeal because rather than sticking to a narrow selection of music he can reach out to everyone, all age groups, all community members, shy, outgoing, you name it there is something for everyone. That is quite a skill in itself.
Steve was obviously destined to be on the radio and has had many years to hone his skills:-
“I have always been fascinated by radio, at a young age I used to ‘broadcast’ down a toy intercom system I had, begging my parents to listen! I even created posters and put them around the house”
His introduction to radio broadcasting came when a friend on Watford Hospital radio was looking for a guest ‘with some music knowledge’. Eventually he was given a Friday night slot with the station and was awarded ‘Presenter of the year’ by them in 2003.
Steve was brought up in North London and now lives in the St Neots area with his wife, Wendy and two children. Apart from his Friday night show he also has a weekly slot on Hospital radio in Bedford.
He comes over on his show as warm and personable and tries to include all his listeners by playing their requests and giving them name checks but one suspects this will become more difficult to do in the future because his audience is rapidly expanding as word spreads. His followers on twitter have reached over 4000 and Black Cat Radio has over 10,000 listeners tuning in.
Another attraction on his Friday show is that he gives regular air time each week to a couple of unsigned artists.. When asked what encouraged him to do this, Steve explained:-
‘The music industry has gone through major changes in recent years. Social media allows artists to connect with their audience like never before. It’s a sad fact about radio today that the focus is on attracting advertising and therefore attracting the biggest audience. As a result playlists on most stations are set and limited not allowing for new talent to shine through. It is increasingly more difficult for the John Peels of this world to play their latest discovery! My enthusiasm for new artists extends from almost twenty five years of writing music reviews, firstly in a magazine and then for a website featuring mainly ‘undiscovered artists’. When the opportunity presented itself I extended this to my show.
Of course I would love to discover the‘next big thing’ but I suspect that in the 21st century, stars the size of Elvis or the Beatles are unlikely as we are exposed to so much music through the internet, making it harder to gain Megastar status for a single artist!. This can be a blessing however, as unsigned artists can promote themselves on Social Media alongside established ones and the web allows fans of a particular genre to discover more.”
Asked if he has any contacts in the music industry and whether he ‘pushes’ artists outside of his radio show, Steve adds:
“Nearly twenty five years of writing and broadcasting does mean that you get to meet people, but the most important person is the listener, if they get a chance to hear new music – and like it of course – then that will create a demand to be heard. As well as the show I use Social Media and my blog to highlight my recent finds.”
Steve admits that writing is another passion of his. He has written for ‘Cross Rhythms’ since 1990. The site has grown to become the biggest website of its kind in Europe, highlighting music of an inspirational/faith nature. He has reviewed both major artists such as Josh Groben and Alison Krauss alongside many independents.
He receives around six albums in an average month, of all genres ranging from brass bands and children’s music to heavy rock. He enjoys discovering – and sharing – new music with others and over the years, has received many great comments from musicians and audiences alike.
When asked about talent shows such as ‘X Factor’ and ‘The Voice’ Steve says that what has changed since shows like ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ is the ‘marketing push’ and the idea that you can be a ‘star’ without serving your apprenticeship in ‘dingy’ halls with small audiences. He prefers ‘The Voice’ because it focuses more on the music rather than the image but adds that he suspects that the likes of Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan would not succeed on these shows as they would be seen as unmarketable.
Steve attends many gigs but the ones that have left a deep impression on him are gigs by Elkie Brooks ‘for her stage presence’, Martyn Joseph ‘for his audience interaction’and Deacon Blue for the great ‘atmosphere’.
What was the first record Steve ever bought? ‘This is a little embarrassing” he chuckles “although
I was only seven at the time! I remember getting all my loose change together to buyone of those 1970s
‘Top of the Pops’ albums. It was a little disappointing as they were not the original artists, but the thrill of buying music and just absorbing it, has never left me! Albums that impacted my teenage years in a massive way were ‘Rumours’(Fleetwood Mac and ‘Breakfast in America’ (Supertramp)
You can hear Steve’s show on Friday night’s (9 – 11 BST) at www.blackcatradio.co.uk
Follow him on Twitter: @SteveLuffRadio
Interview by Melodie Melia