Jo is Steve Hackett’s right arm: together they co-write songs and music, tour, travel around the world in search of extraordinary inspirations and experiences, and share a very intense life. Here’s a brief portrait of Steve’s soulmate in her own words.
By Saimon P.
HR - Italy is always on Steve’s tour list (thanks for that!) and you have here a strong, warm and passionate fan basis. What do you like about coming here?
JO - Both Steve and I always love coming to Italy. We feel we have a special relationship with Italy. We love the kindness and passion of the people, beautiful scenery, wonderful food and incredible history (I studied Classics at university and I've always been fascinated by the ancient world). Italy has a powerful atmosphere which always draws us and a warmth which always invites us back.
HR - What’s your role in Steve’s tour? What do you like and dislike about touring and going from place to place all the time?
JO - We have a tour manager who deals with all the day to day touring, but I organise interviews for Steve and support him on the road. I take on a lot of the admin work and Steve and I also sort out social media posts etc together. We co-manage Steve's business. It's also lovely to be with Steve on tour. Touring can be tough physically because of the schedules, but it's great to see so many places and people, and special to be able to share it all together.
HR - Has anything funny or strange ever happened during a concert?
JO - It's weird when the power fails and everything goes quiet! That has happened a couple of times that I remember. Steve and Nick Beggs once did a dance together to Rob's sax and on another occasion Steve did some push-ups on stage! It made everyone laugh and then thankfully, the power came back on!
HR - We know that you and Steve travel extensively around the world. We saw pictures of you in Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for example. To what extent do these trips – if they do – influence Steve’s music and your songwriting?
JO - Everywhere we go has an influence. Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Cloud Forest inspired the track Inca Terra, where we also included Peruvian instruments like the quena and charango. As with this track, local music influenced the sound of the song. Behind the Smoke has a Middle Eastern influence. Hearing the oud played in Morocco was incredibly inspiring. Iceland, with its biting cold weather but extraordinary enticing scenery and the amazing Northern Lights gave us the idea for Fifty Miles from the North Pole.
HR - Since you travel a lot, what do you consider home?
JO - Steve and I always say that home is wherever we are in the world! We have friends everywhere and we love to embrace every place we visit. Having said that, it's always great to return home and to be able to connect with that inner world again.
HR - You co-wrote many of the songs of the new album. Was this your first time as a songwriter? Is so, what was the experience like?
JO - Steve and I have been writing songs together for several years. Initially I just wrote some of the lyrics. I am a writer by profession anyway, so it was a natural progression. We shared a lot of ideas for years and several of the songs on Out of the Tunnel's Mouth, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon and Wolflight as well as The Night Siren were co-written by the two of us, whilst Roger King contributed musically too. Initially I concentrated more on lyrics, but I have been increasing involved with melody lines and musical ideas over time.
HR - How was the artistic process? How did the songs come about? Was the starting point the words or the music?
JO - Sometimes it's the words and other times the music. Sometimes Steve works out a piece of music on guitar and then we add lyrics. But there are times when we write lyrics and then figure out a melody. Often it's a mixture! So many different aspects in each song.
HR - Steve’s last album is very evocative and full of imagery even for a non-English speaker. What’s your favourite song of the album?
JO - It's hard to say I have a favourite song as I love them all in different ways! Both Behind the Smoke and West to East always affect me strongly because of the power of both music and message.
HR - Who’s the female singer you admire the most both as a performer and a songwriter?
JO - I guess that could be Kate Bush, an extraordinary performer, singer and writer with an incredibly creative approach.
Thanks a lot, dear Jo!
Thank you Simon P.! It has been a pleasure to do the interview with you.