Seasick Steve at the basement session playing “Don’t Know Why She Love Me But She Do” on cigarbox guitar. Steve is living proof that your big break can come at any age. Born Steven Gene Wold in Oakland, California in 1941 – yes, 1941 – Steve has spent his life in transit: he’s been everything from a hobo to a record producer. But he never strayed far from music.
Kicked out of his family home at the age of 14, Steve became a genuine hobo, hopping freights all over America. Always traveling with his guitar – having been taught a few chords as a kid by Delta bluesman KC Douglas, an old pal of the legendary Tommy Johnson – in the ’60s he began to play at clubs on the West Coast and supported Son House among others.
Seasick’s show in the live TV show Live On Jools Holland in December 2006 is considered one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of music. After the performance, the artist, thinking that no one listened to him, threw his guitar angrily and returned home. Before he could wake up the next day, he was famous.
An American, living in Norway, in the following years published platinum albums, received two Brit Awards nominations and thousands of invitations to major international music festivals.
The distinctive punk blues performed by Seasick Steve carries all the hallmarks of self-taughtness. Raw voice and always customized fingering while playing hand-made guitars – these are his trademarks. He can create instruments from cans of cigars, car parts, or even … from a pickaxe, and his guitars have two or three strings.
When asked about his nickname has said: “because it’s just true: I always get seasick”. When he was ill on a ferry from Norway to Copenhagen, later in his life, a friend began playfully using the name and, despite Wold not rising to it for a while, it stuck. When asked about his name on the British Sunday morning television show, Something for the Weekend, he replied, “I just get sick on boats”. On Top Gear, when asked about his name, Wold replied: “Well, I guess I just don’t like boats!”