Interview with Steve Overland (FM)

Since reuniting in 2007, FM have returned bigger and better than before. This week they hit the road with Foreigner and Europe. Mick Burgess caught up with lead singer Steve Overland to chat about the tour and their plans for the future.

You’ll be hitting the road soon on a run of dates with Foreigner and Europe. Are you looking forward to that tour?

We certainly are looking forward to it. We toured with Foreigner and Journey two years ago and we did loads of festivals with them so we touched base with Foreigner on that tour and they are fantastic guys. We got to know them well and I think that’s how this tour came about. It’s a great bill and we couldn’t really have wished for a better bill for our genre. We really can’t wait to start as we haven’t done a support tour like this in the UK since we got back together. We did it a lot the first time around supporting Bon Jovi and all types of bands. We’re looking forward to going on first and nicking the other bands’ fans.

What did you think when you were first approached about these shows?

It’s three really great bands and the fans will love it. The new line-up of Foreigner is absolutely brilliant. They haven’t toured over here that much so it’s a great chance to see them. We supported Europe in the early ’90’s when they were at their peak and it was like being on tour with The Beatles. The place was full of screaming, beautiful women. The material Europe is doing now is brilliant. They’re an excellent Hard Rock band and a great live act. When we were first asked to do the shows with Foreigner and Europe it was an easy decision for us to say yes. We have known both bands over the years so there’ll be a great atmosphere and a lot of friendly rivalry on stage. It’s going to be such an enjoyable tour.

How long will you get on stage each night?

I’m not sure at the moment but we’ll push it for as late as we can but there’ll be a limit as there’ll be a curfew and Foreigner will be ending the show. We’ll get a decent slot and will make sure we make the most of it.

Will you be sitting back and enjoying the rest of the show when you’ve finished?

We’ll be watching both bands for sure. We’ll probably hang about and go out to the merchandise stall between the shows and meet the fans but we’ll certainly be watching Foreigner and Europe. You can learn from watching bands like those. It’s always good to watch the bands you play with. When we toured with Bon Jovi on their Slippery When Wet tour it was amazing, they gave 120% every night and their enthusiasm and energy rubs off on you. You can always learn from other bands no matter how long you have been going and that’s what we intend to do.

On 4th April yeo play at the City Hall in Newcastle. It must be a few years since you last played there?

I’ve played pretty much everywhere in Newcastle at some time or other. I played Dingwalls with Wildlife the band I was in with Simon Kirke from Free and I played at the Riverside many times but the City Hall is a great gig. With that area and the North in general, when Rock music went away it was kept alive in the North. It’s one of the reasons why we were able to come back due to the support we’ve had from up here. We’ve got a lot to thank the North for. In London no one was really bothered anymore but the North is what kept it alive.

What was your local venue for concerts when you were growing up?

Well I’m from Norfolk so I was in the middle of nowhere and my nearest venue was West Runton Pavilion it was on the coast near Cromer. Even though it was at the backside of the country I saw everyone there from Thin Lizzy to Wizzard. Absolutely everyone played there.

Have you got any new music out to coincide with the tour?

There’s an EP coming out for the Foreigner tour called Futurama. It’s not like a normal EP though as it’ll have 11 tracks on it. There’ll be 6 live tracks that we recorded last year that we have never released live before; there’s 4 brand new songs on there and a super duper remix of one of our songs too. We just kept adding things to it and it’s nearly an hour long. Rockville was last year so we felt we’d give people a taste of what we are up to now for the new album and that’s out on 31st March.

Talking of Rockville, you funded that through the crowd funding platform Pledgemusic. Why did you decide to go down that route?

We did a deal with the first album we did when we came back called Metropolis and somebody suggested Pledgemusic. Someone from Pledge contacted our management and we were unsure at first and just wanted to take up an option to do a proper record deal for the album. We then looked into it and thought it was a great way to give something back to the fans. They get to invest in the band and they get things back. We gave microphones that I’d used for years, guitars, studio visits, video shoots and sound checks where they could get up on stage with a guitar and they came and had pizza with us. It’s stuff that they just wouldn’t normally get the chance to do. We had such a brilliant response to it. We loved doing it, the fans loved being a part of it and we got our album funded by the fans. It was a great experience for everybody. We got to know some of our fans really well doing this and got some great feedback in a much more productive way than just a quick chat after a gig. It was so much more relaxed and open and they could tell you what they wanted from the band so we learned a lot from this whole process. We were talking to the people who are keeping us in a job basically. It was a really great thing to do.

You ended up doing Rockville II from this too?

One of the things Pledgemusic normally do is they like an artist to do a bonus album for the fans and they asked if we had any demos from the Rockville sessions we could put on a bonus disc. We didn’t want to put an album of demos out, we just don’t do that. It’s not fair to charge our fans the same amount of money for a set of demos. We had recorded 20 songs for Rockville, all at the same studio, done with the same producer and mixed by the same guy. We said we’d take some of those and put them onto another album. They were of the same quality as the songs on Rockville. They didn’t get onto the main album not because they weren’t good enough but purely due to similar style of songs already being on the album so they were left off for something similar. When we had time off during the Thin Lizzy tour we went into the studio and recorded some more tracks to make it up to a proper album. Rockville II came out as a result of Pledge as well and after the Pledge project was over our label in Germany picked it up and it’s been doing great over in Europe as well.

You had been away for almost a decade and returned to headline the Firefest Festival in 2007. This was originally only going to be a one off. Did the fans reaction persuade you otherwise?

It was only going to be a one off gig. We only expected two or three hundred people to turn up but it was the first time Firefest had ever sold out. People came from Japan and America; we even saw a banner from the Greek FM fan club that we never even realised existed. It was totally overwhelming. When we came off stage, we just sat there and never said a word, we just couldn’t speak. After a couple of weeks we started phoning each other and asked if we should do a few more shows as our fans had been so loyal who had stayed with us during 10 years of inactivity so we felt we owed it to them to do some more. Then the agents, record companies and publishers started getting in touch and all of a sudden we were back in the position that we were in when we first split up. We certainly never expected a reaction like that and the response has been amazing. It’s great to be able to come back to the same sort of level we were at before. I still get such a massive kick out of doing this and my age to still get that buzz from music is a great thing to do.

What about your brother Chris was he not interested in playing again?

Chris is kind of a recluse now and he teaches guitar in Norfolk which is where he’s from and because he’s Chris Overland he can’t fit everyone in so he teaches for about five days a week. He just got sick of the touring and wanted to do something else. We’d toured for a year with no time off at all and everyone was exhausted and one day he just said he didn’t think he could do it anymore. That was a massive shock for me as he was my brother and my main writing partner. He got sick and tired of the pressures of it all which now we don’t really feel as we control things ourselves now. Our management listens to us and our record company doesn’t give us a load of grief so things are a lot more relaxed this time around.

What about your original keyboard player Didge Digital?

As for Didge, he guested with us recently on the last couple of tours and he’s as mad and weird as ever!! It was great to see him and he’s a brilliant player. The crowd loves him and he’ll certainly be playing with us again.

Your comeback album Metropolis got some great support from Radio 2 who played “Hollow” and “Bring Back Yesterday” regularly. How much did that help build up momentum for you

All of our singles were playlisted on Radio 2, don’t ask me how we did it as I don’t have a clue but it’s been fantastic. It kind of makes Rock music relevant and brings it into the mainstream and that radio play has helped to bring Rock back. It’s all been so fantastic and it has really helped bring us back and let people know what we are about now. We don’t try to write the heaviest songs or the fastest songs. We like to write good tunes with a good chorus. I actually start with the chorus and work back. It’s got to have hooks.

You also have a new solo album out very soon called Epic. How does your solo work differ from FM?

It’s a totally different way of writing and everything. With my solo work I try and keep away from the direction I’m in with FM. With my solo work the record company has writers like Tommy Denander and Christian Wolf who send song ideas through. So instead of me sitting down writing from scratch I get backing tracks from other writers and I’ll pick out the stuff I like and work on those with the writers. It comes out totally different to FM as they have a lot of input into the music. The playing is different and it’s a slightly different direction musically. Mike Slamer from City Boy and Seventh Key produced it and he did a great job. It’s been getting great reviews and I’ll eventually have to go out and do some solo gigs.

You’ve got Billy Greer from Kansas on your album. How did he get involved?

Billy has such a fantastic harmony voice. On FM’s records I do the backing vocals but on my solo album I wanted it to sound different so Billy brings something different to my sound. There’s a different blend to the harmonies and it brings in different textures to the sound. Billy is a bit hidden in Kansas behind Steve Walsh but he’s a great singer in his own right with a wonderful tone and range. Mike suggested bringing him in to do harmonies and it worked so well, you can clearly hear his voice on the album.

You’ll be releasing the album on Escape Music who you’ve worked with in the past. They have connections with the region as one of their directors Barrie Kirtley is from County Durham. How did you end up on a label with roots in the North East?

Barrie is a great guy and he’s from the Durham area. I’ve had a solo deal and also with Shadowman for over 15 years now and we work so well together. He knows his music so well and he just lets me get on with doing my music the way I want it. He’s so supportive of my work and Escape Music are a great label to be on. They are one of the few Rock labels that have managed to keep going and they have a great distribution deal with Sony. I originally worked with them on a Foreigner tribute album and I was only going to be singing a couple of songs. There was a guitarist there called Steve Morris from Heartland. Steve asked me if I wanted to do an album and Shadowman was born from that and we went on to get Harry James and Chris Childs from Thunder involved too and we signed to Escape after that. We’ve done four albums now and we’re working on our fifth so that’s another album I’ve got coming out soon.

With your tour with Foreigner and a solo album out this year, what else do you have planned for 2014?

FM are on the road right through 2014 and we’re recording an album. I’ve got the Overland album out now and there’s other projects that I’m working on outside of Rock music. I’ve also got 11 tracks demoed for the Shadowman album but haven’t got time to record them yet so I need to see Steve probably on the one day I have free this year to start the recording process. There’s lots going on and it’s always like this but to be honest what’s not great about that. Everything is going great and having so many projects on the go keeps it interesting.

FM’s UK Tour with Foreigner and Europe and FM starts at Waterfront Hall, Belfast on 1st April and ends at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton on 15th April.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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