Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Winwood rolls into town with decades of iconic sounds

Brian T. Atkinson
Steve Winwood has decades of music from many band incarnations to showcase on tour.

Steve Winwood’s four-disc retrospective “Revolutions: The Very Best of Steve Winwood” spotlights the iconic singer and instrumentalist’s catalog from the Spencer Davis Group (“Gimme Some Lovin’”) through his solo hits (“Roll with It”).

The former Blind Faith and Traffic member supports the expansive collection Sunday at ACL Live. “Austin has great music going,” Winwood says. “It’s wonderful to be welcomed to play and possibly go listen to some other people playing as well.”

American-Statesman: Tell the story behind writing ‘Gimme Some Lovin.’’

Steve Winwood: I’d just moved to London (and) lived with an artist friend in quite a bit of squalor, as you can imagine most 15- and 16-year-olds just leaving home do. We were due to go into the recording studio and my brother came up with the bass line and I played the organ lick over it. I knew exactly what I wanted to sing, but I didn’t have the lyrics done. So, I went back to this friend’s that night and in a matter of a couple hours I wrote the lyrics. The next day we went into the studio and cut it.

How well does the song hold up for you today?

Very well. It’s always something that goes down well live and everybody seems to know and love it. A lot of people know the song but don’t know me. In fact, I remember some people came up to me after I played it live and said, “Why are you playing a cover of a Blues Brothers song?”

How much did MTV boost your success in the 1980s?

Yeah, I suppose it did. A lot of people seem to think that was more of a pop period for me, but I like to think the music I was making during the ’80s and ’90s very much contained the same elements I was doing with Traffic. It was rock and blues with folk elements and African and Latin rhythms. I think in the ’80s, the record industry machine had kicked in. They make those songs sound more of the time.

The industry is going through big changes right now.

I think each decade comes along and at the moment the music industry is going through many big changes. The ’80s and ’90s were perhaps the days of MTV, then something else comes along, the days of Youtube and downloads or whatever. That again opens up more opportunities. When I first started, playing live was the way you got yourself known. We’ve probably got back to that now.

You don’t think Youtube will take away from audiences at the show?

People will always want to go see people play live. You might also argue that records being sold in great numbers stop people from going to shows and I don’t think they did. Playing live is very different. It’s one thing to sit at home in front of your computer and watch an artist play, but when you go see that music live and you have the atmosphere, it’s something that Youtube or records can’t capture.

How was playing again with Eric Clapton (at Madison Square Garden in 2008)?

It worked really well because Eric is now a great singer and bandleader, two things that he perhaps wasn’t in the early days (in Blind Faith). Blind Faith was very much an exploratory attempt and he didn’t want to be a singer and he didn’t want to be a bandleader. Now, he’s great at both. It’s just a joy to play and work with him.

Steve Winwood