Sunday 26 January 2020

Life lessons with Steve Wall: 'Moving to the west of Ireland completely changed me as a person'

Musician/ Actor Steve Wall pictured in his studio at Greenmount, Harolds Cross. Photo : Frank Mc Grath.
Musician/ Actor Steve Wall pictured in his studio at Greenmount, Harolds Cross. Photo : Frank Mc Grath.
Talent: Steve and Joe Wall busking in Galway in 2001.

Steve Wall is an Irish musician and actor. As a founding member of two successful bands - The Stunning and The Walls - along with his bother Joe, he has played in front of live crowds in Ireland, the UK, Australia and the US, supporting artists like U2, Bob Dylan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers along the way. Born in Dublin, at age 13 Steve and his family moved to his father's home town of Ennistymon in Co Clare. Having first dabbled in acting in the 1980s, in recent years Steve has landed roles in hit television shows such as Vikings and Moone Boy. Most recently, he starred in RTÉ's 1916 drama, Rebellion. The musician-turned-actor is in a long-term relationship and has a 10-year-old daughter. Steve is part of the line-up of tomorrow's Rock Against Homelessness concert.

Everybody is aware of the homeless crisis. Just saying we're 'raising awareness' is a bit of a clichéd and hackneyed phrase. I'm not going to say it's about awareness, you just go into town at night and you see the amount of people in doorways.

It's about trying to sell out the Olympia and raise as much money as we can.

It's short-term, but it's better than nothing.

I started learning and playing guitar when I was 15. I was really into music growing up in Dublin - the house was full of my mother and her sister's records. We had everything from Ella Fitzgerald to Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, the Beatles, the Kinks, Elvis and Perry Como - there was a lot of music and a lot of sing-songs in the house.

There is something about the West of Ireland, when you go it's like lifting a lid off your head. It's the expansive sky, the light, the pace is a little bit slower.

Moving to the West of Ireland completely changed me as a person. I'm glad it happened. It was definitely a tough thing to deal with at the time, I learned so much from it. I met new people with a completely different way of life, a different sense of humour - I've written so many songs about the West, about the town and the characters.

I moved to Dublin to pursue an acting career. I was on the dole for a year, didn't get any auditions or anything like that - I hadn't got a clue. It was around that time that I thought I was going to start a band.

The Stunning split in 1994 but in 1993 we knew we were going to break up. We'd been out to the States a few times, we'd toured out there, we'd just done a tour with the B52s in the UK and we'd even spent a week with Bob Dylan in the Hammersmith Apollo, but nothing came of it. It didn't happen and we didn't get those records released outside of Ireland.

There are business disappointments; every artist suffers them. The success is in the longevity and being able to continue to do what you do. Look at people like Christy Moore, he has a really loyal fan base that just grows all the time and I admire him. I would love to be able to go out on a stage - even on my own - in my 60s and play songs from my back catalogue and new songs. That's success, that's being in a position of power.

I find a sense of security takes the edge off me. I find it hard to settle down. I've only begun to realise this in recent years, but automatically I veer towards things that tend to scare the s*** out of me. It's almost become a motto in my subconscious that I need to scare the s*** out of myself every couple of months because when you do that you kind of find the best in yourself.

My first acting gig was Moone Boy, I auditioned for it not expecting to get it at all. I was doing the audition for the experience of doing the audition, not with a view to actually getting it. I was more scared being told I got the part than doing the audition itself, because it was like: "Oh Jesus, I got it, I didn't really mean to get it, now I've got to really do it!"

I do look back at my work. Sometimes it's cringe inducing. You hear some actors who say they never look back at their work, but they are experienced actors who know what they are doing and experience has told them that they've gotten to a point where they don't need to see themselves. I've forced myself to look back at the stuff I've done to see if I'm believable, to see if I am doing it right.

You need to have a neck of leather in acting. I've found it to be a very different discipline to music. If you don't get a role it's down to you - you weren't suitable, you can't change how you look. In music you can write a different song in a different style.

Researching for Rebellion I got really into the 1916 stuff. I still haven't gotten enough of it, if anything I'm more interested in it now and it hasn't reached saturation point for me at all. I've been to the exhibitions - last week I was at the one in Collins Barracks and I found it really emotional when looking at some of the artefacts and seeing Roger Casement's overcoat in a glass case there. It's been fantastic for the younger generation. It's given all young Irish people a different sense of their history and where they come from.

The Stunning will be performing at the Rock Against Homelessness charity concert, taking place at Dublin's Olympia Theatre tomorrow, Sunday, April 24, at 8pm. Sponsored by Independent News and Media, the line-up features some of the biggest names in Irish music including Camille O'Sullivan, The Strypes, HamsandwicH, Le Galaxie, Mundy, and Heathers. Tickets, priced €25, are on sale from ticketmaster.ie and through the Olympia box office, olympia.ie

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