The music of singer, composer, performer and producer Steve Balbi mines a kaleidoscope of life at the margins. Transcending rock and pop while coalescing sentimentality and soul, Balbi bespeaks Bowie and Dylan in melody and verse, exploring the heterogeneity, refinement and dirty rotten groove of Radiohead.
First cutting his chops on bass with Kevin Borich Express at just 17 years of age, Balbi was very much the child prodigy. Although the creative chameleon’s species being was soon liberated as he cultivated an indelible production and song-writing partnership with Justin Stanley; first founding and producing Aussie chart-toppers Noiseworks (1986), before forming the Electric Hippies (1993).
Numerous European tours, four multi-platinum award-winning albums, and various ARIA Award Nominations later, Balbi lifted his guitar from the rack to form Universe with Cathy Green (X) in 1996, working with Prince and Paisley Park’s Susan Rogers, before Move Trees and Moon emerged in subsequent years. Then in 2011, Balbi accepted an invitation to front 1970s and ‘80s new-wavers Mi-Sex, who will next year mark the 40th Anniversary of Graffiti Crimes and Computer Games.
Reflecting upon his journey as composer and producer, Balbi’s eclectic catalogue of production credits transcend genres, akin to his odyssey as a musician and performer. For the dynamic assemblage of artists that he’s produced includes Noiseworks, Electric Hippies, Glenn Shorrock, Juice, Jenny Morris, Pearls & Swine, Toe to Toe, Vincent Stone, Fyre Byrd, Moon, and Christine Anu, among numerous others. And in 1999, Balbi sat in on vocals and guitar for David Bowie’s Hours sessions with Marius de Vries too.
In April this year, the world became a very different place for millions of Australians when Dr Jordan Nguyen and his extraordinary team of dreamers at Psykinetic launched Atmosphere – eye-controlled technology that enables people living with high-level physical disability to use only their eyes to make music. Celebrating yet another world first, Balbi traversed new ground alongside Jessica Irwin to release the single ‘Winners (Psykinetic Mix)’, which was recorded with Psykinetic’s eye-controlled music software.
Three months later, reflecting a renaissance in Test Cricket, Balbi composed and produced the new Fox Cricket Theme. Orchestrated by George Ellis and recorded with members of the Sydney Symphony, the Theme promises to become profoundly entrenched within the Australian consciousness, just as the Channel Nine Theme song has been an iconic symbol of the Australian summer for 40 years. Balbi has since composed the Themes for ‘The Big Break’ and ‘Cricket Tragic’ programs also, meanwhile a hip hop and rock version of the Test Theme featuring Brett Lee on bass will be launched this summer.
Yet it is Balbi’s debut solo LP, Black Rainbow (2013), and its subsequent surreal reprise, Rainbow Black (2016), which appears to have set a point of departure for his enigmatic artistry, and manifestation into a new solo LP due toward the end of 2019 – Humans. Inspired by ten photographs from Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York series, Balbi’s third solo endeavour is an eclectic collection of words and music that navigates a wistful path from melancholy through madness.
Casting a renewed focus upon the notion humanity itself, in both riff and verse, the first single ‘Modern Love’ was released on Friday 26 October and debuted at #3 on the iTunes Rock Chart.