‘Sought after’ keyboard player’s career is flourishing

Shoreham keyboard player Stevie Watts has become one of the Uk's most sought after jazz/blues players
Shoreham keyboard player Stevie Watts has become one of the Uk's most sought after jazz/blues players

Shoreham keyboard player Stevie Watts has become one of the UK’s most sought after jazz/blues players.

His hard work paid off when he won British Blues Keyboard Player of the Year Award in 2014.

Stevie, who plays and teaches the Hammond organ, said: “I didn’t even know I’d been nominated. It was a huge surprise. I had never won anything before so to have recognition for something was brilliant.”

Stevie, 43, grew up in Warwickshire before moving to the south coast 10 years ago. He has been passionate about music since he was 12 when his father brought home an organ from the 70s.

“They tell me I took to it like a duck to water and I couldn’t stop playing it,” he said. “I listened to artists like Lenny Dee, who played utter cheese but the guy could really swing.

“Dad played a lot of rock and roll like Jenny Lee Lewis and Little Richard which I loved and my mother was very much into The Carpenters.”

He started playing his first gigs with a local band playing covers in his home town Rugby.

When he was 24, he joined a band led by Darius Keeler who played original material. He said: “I didn’t really know how to play anything that wasn’t already written down on paper so it was a huge learning experience.”

Soon afterwards, Keeler formed a band called Archive playing similar ‘trip hop’-style music to Portishead and Massive Attack and Watts joined the band for the tour of its new album, Londinium.

He said: “The album blew me away as soon as I heard it and the band got very big, very fast. It was my first taste of the big stuff, from very small gigs to headlining to thousands at big festivals.

After Archive’s Londinium tour, Watts started gigging again with other bands and – for the first time – started getting work as a session musician.

About a year ago, he met up-and-coming blues/rock musician Ben Poole and joined him for his 2015 Glastonbury performance on the acoustic stage. He is currently on Poole’s four-month Europe-wide tour which started in February.

He said: “A lot of the time in the music industry, you’ve got no guarantee that you’re going to be able to make a living.

“So you do have to have faith that the work will come in. It’s been a slow process but it is finally paying off.”

Despite his success, Stevie still performs regularly in his local pub in Shoreham.

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