Steve Crump began playing piano when he was 3 years old, coming home from watching his older sisters learn ballet and tapping out some bits of the ballet tunes on a toy 1 octave red grand piano - a ‘party trick’ he still revels in. One of 4 children in a working class family, his parents none-the-less scraped together enough money for piano lessons and a basic piano. By chance, his mother’s uncle was a piano restorer and when Steve started to show a glimmer of promise, he was taken over to ‘Uncle Alan’s’ place where there was a huge garage full of pianos waiting to be repaired. In a gesture of unbound graciousness and progressive parenting, Steve was asked to walk around and play as many as he liked and decide which one he wanted. He chose a beautiful Beale pianola, with a large steel back that produced a concert-hall reverb encased in a beautiful cabinet.
Various musical adventures followed, including being chosen to play the piano for Primary school events like the Christmas concert, more for the fact he can’t sing than was otherwise talented. Being called upon at New Year’s Eve parties to play became a tradition and a chore, but made exciting sometimes when asked to accompany a family friend who was a television personality with a deep and moving voice. In Secondary school, Steve was the school pianist called upon to play at assemblies and functions including his own Sixth Form Farewell. The option to complete senior school at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was seriously considered, but this was the late 60’s and life seemed too good to spend practising scales all day. Thus music did not become his career.
On and off over the years, Steve put to tape about 90 songs, tunes and melodies, few getting any public performance. Approaching 60 years old in 2011, he decided it was time to use the technology now available to ‘put out’ a budget CD to family and friends. Brian Lizotte, of Lizottes’ Live’N’Cooking fame, kindly played some over the PA at his Kincumber restaurant for that birthday.
Musical adventures started to build on each other including being invited out of the rain in NYC by the barman of “The Bitter End” and being allowed on stage to play the piano where so many greats have performed. Steve also spent a few days in and out of “12 Tonar” records in Reykjavik, getting to learn more about Icelandic music and, over coffee in Mokka just down the street, being encouraged by the founder, manager and researcher, Johannes Agustsson to get some of his stuff done the Icelandic way - not to hesitate or worry about what might come of it.
The Head of the Newcastle University Conservatorium of Music, Professor Richard Vella, an innovative and prominent musician also encouraged Steve to play and record, pushing him to add more variation, offering himself as a critical friend and guiding Steve to better understand the musical heritage of what he was attempting. Through a chance meeting at the Darwin Festival, Balang (Tom E Lewis) invited Steve to come to Katherine and spend time at the Djilpin Art Gallery there and at Wugullarr just inside Arnhem Land. Four of the songs on “Midnight Rain” derive from those experiences.
Another chance meeting, this time with Heath Cullen when he performed a lunchtime concert at Basement Discs in Melbourne for his 2nd CD, ‘The Still and The Steep”, triggered a gut feeling in Steve that here was a musical soul mate who could help him get down the sounds he was reaching for. Heath’s thoughtful, sensitive and skilful production of “Midnight Rain” expresses the generosity and inspiration of being part of something bigger than yourself, a metaphor for Candelo community which is rich in like-minded and amazingly talented musicians, artists and actors.
As Steve started to put more time and energy into his music, as a consequence of all the above, three other people offered help and inspiration, through Chris Lee's Wholenote Publishing’s help with transcription of messy improvisations and through ReesDigital beautiful graphic design of the sheet music as well as artwork of the ”Midnight Rain” CD packaging. Pat Monaghan, ex-Basement Discs, now heading his own show at Rocksteady Records, champion of Independent music, Triple R interloper and Finders and Keepers market DJ didn't hesitate to stock my CD. Rhys Gray, Tasmanian composer and musician from the Huon Valley has taken over from Chris Lees doing fantastic score transcriptions of Steve’s music: see http://www.rhysgraymusic.com. Of course, family members provided the foundations and supports for taking things this far. The names of all the innocent and guilty are in the CD acknowledgements, but words aren’t enough to express Steve’s gratitude and thankfulness.