Al Stewart

[ROCK] The description “living legend” seems to be thrown around a lot these days. While there is no doubt that many older musicians today have tales to tell and songwriting ability, 69-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter Al Stewart is truly worthy of the title. Stewart, who scored two major radio hits in the 1970s with “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages,” is constantly pushing the boundaries of what it means to write a truly great song. And boy, oh boy, does he have some stories to tell about that golden age long ago. Stewart performs at Buffalo State College’s Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 20.

Was music something you always knew you wanted to pursue?
When I was 11 or 12, I was already telling people what label I would record for. Turns out I got the label wrong, but I was right about my choice of career. I started listening to records right when rock-and-roll broke out in England, so me and my generation were at the right place at the right time.

You’ve lived and played alongside so many other great musicians: Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens. Is there any particular memory that you really cherish?
I have a very fond memory of getting backstage during Beatlemania in England and somehow convincing John Lennon to let me play his guitar. That’s pretty up there. I did used to live next to Paul Simon, and I used to hear him literally writing and playing songs through the wall. I got to hear a fair number of Paul Simon originals before anyone else, I suppose.

When you write, do your feelings and experiences influence albums as a whole, or does each song come from a new place each time?
I think that when you start off, you write love songs. But by 1972 I was done with that and I was looking for something new to write about. Turns out the only other thing I was really interested in was history. A foolproof way for me to discover what to write about is just to open an atlas and find a country and write about events in its history. In songwriting, there’s the “baby you’ve done me wrong” song and the “baby I love you so” song. But if I hear a song that’s about a place and time in history, I’m there. I’m all ears and at attention. But if I put on a record that goes “baby I love you so” or something like that, I’m gone. They’ve lost me and I’ve checked out. You have to really focus on the content. I have two basic rules: Don’t write about anything other people have already written about, and try not to use language that other people use in songs. The other half of that is that I don’t really live in the present. I spend days at a time living in 1848 or other times in the past. Understanding what happens now is impossible without understanding the present.



We're sorry, this event has already taken place!

1300 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, NY