After more than 30 years of intensive touring as a solo act, Steve Winwood figures it’s time to get some of those performances out to the masses. Steve Winwood’s Greatest Hits Live comes out Sept. 1, spreading 23 tracks across its two discs.
The set features songs from throughout Winwood’s 50-years-plus recording career with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith (whose “Can’t Find My Way Home” is premiered exclusively below) and on his own, most of it hailing from the past decade with his current touring quintet — which was a key reason Winwood is releasing a live album now.
“Obviously when I’m playing live shows I’m expected to play a lot of things,” Winwood tells Billboard. “But what I’ve tried to do with the people in the various bands I’ve played with — particularly with the band I’ve been working with the last 10, 15 years or so — is we try and reinvent some of the songs that I’m known for and I’m expected to play. It’s more interesting to us, and we hope it’s more interesting to the listener.”
“After a while of collecting these things, I think there’s enough stuff here we can put it out, and it’s quite interesting,” he continues. “I think it’s a bit more than just live versions of what’s on the [studio] records, you know?”
Winwood plays keyboards and guitar in the current group, which features Jose Neto on guitar, Richard Bailey on drums, Paul Booth on woodwinds and organ and Edson “Cafe” Da Silva on percussion. He plays the bass parts on foot pedals, modeled after the jazz organ trio model of Jimmy Smith, and Winwood says the configuration gives him a certain amount of space that allows for more improvisation and tinkering with the song arrangements.
“There aren’t too many people who play in this style,” Winwood notes. “I’m a bit of a control freak, so I feel that I can control the band by playing the bass as well. The bass lines are much more simplified, and it creates a space, and also makes the rhythm guitar much more crucial. I’m very lucky to have been working for a long time with Jose Neto, who combines the rock of [Jimi] Hendrix and Jimmy Page with Brazilian harmonies and rhythms. It’s a great combination.”
Winwood continues to be a road warrior; he toured the North American east coast earlier this year and starts up in Europe next week, with a North American west coast trek slated for the fall and the Midwest in February. He’s still enthusiastic about playing live, although the tour durations have become shorter in recent years.
“I can’t really do the very long tours, three or four months at a time,” Winwood acknowledges. “It’s just by age; after three, four weeks, it’s enough for me. I need to rest. But I’m still keen to play; I’ve been doing it since I was 14 years old. I’ve never really done anything else.”
Winwood is also working on some new music, as it nears a decade since his last studio album, 2008’s Nine Lives. Some of his recent influences, however, may surprise fans.
“I’m actually quite interested in certain forms of dance music,” reveals Winwood, though he shies away from the EDM tag. “The trouble is EDM sort of sounds like people don’t have any input into it. I think it has the potential to be an incredible compositional tool, and there are some people in it who I think are making incredible pieces of music. I think the next great composers will be DJs and producers. I think young people deliberately make it very complicated with all the genres and sub-genres because they don’t want older people to understand it — but the more I learn about it, I’m getting quite interested in it.”
Though Winwood has music in motion, there are no specific release plans just yet. “It’s a project that’s sort of ongoing, and I haven’t really reached a conclusion for it yet,” he says. “And it did have to go on the back burner because I’ve been doing quite a bit of touring lately, and it’s a bit hard to carry on doing [new music] while I’m touring — it is for me, at any rate.”
Check out the live version of “Can’t Find My Way Home” below, premiering here off Winwood’s upcoming Steve Winwood’s Greatest Hits Live.