An Interview with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart

Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Songwriter Hall of Famer — DAVE STEWART — is bringing his “Eurythmics Songbook” tour to the SAP Center in San Jose this Friday night, January 26th, as the special guest on Bryan Adams’ “So Happy It Hurts” tour, while also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) album. Limited tickets are still available here.

With a career spanning four decades and over 100M album sales worldwide, award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, producer and Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart is among the most respected and accomplished talents in popular music history. Stewart co-wrote and produced each Eurythmics album in his world-famous duo with Annie Lennox. He has also produced albums and co-written songs with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Gwen Stefani, Damian Marley, Stevie Nicks, Daryl Hall, Bryan Ferry, A.R. Rahman, Katy Perry, Sinead O’Connor, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Joss Stone, and many others.

His wide-ranging work has earned Stewart a long list of prestigious honors, including over fifty ASCAP and BMI Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards for “Best Songwriter,” four BRIT Awards for“Best Producer” (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), a Golden Globe Award, and a GRAMMY® Award. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Eurythmics was recently inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame® and U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry, in recognition of its qualitative and historical significance. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were among the 2020 inductees into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, inducted by St. Vincent, with the ceremony taking place in 2022. Also in 2022, with an inspired induction by U2's The Edge, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation welcomed Eurythmics as inductees for their profound impact on music.

In advance of his show this Friday night, we had the honor of speaking with this musical legend and you can find our full interview below.

SFBayAreaConcerts: You’ve described the Eurythmics catalog as ‘a labyrinth of different kinds of songs;’ I love the idea of this spiraling maze of tunes that you’ve constructed. How do you connect these different tracks while playing live?

Dave Stewart: That’s interesting, you see, because along with co-writing every song with Annie [Lennox], I produced them. So, in creating those different sorts of fusions of styles together in experimentation, even on the Sweet Dreams album, everyone thought we were an electronic band--but we weren’t.

We’d already been in another band that sounded more like Love--a band from the Sixties--with jangling guitars. When we were in that band, Annie and I were never satisfied with the sound that was being recorded. We had a friend, Conny Plank, a German producer; we worked on an album with him as the Eurythmics called In the Garden.

There, I had a chance to talk with him a lot about how to engineer, how to record. We had Holger Czukay from Can playing with us--Markus Stockhausen. Right from the heart of the U.K. and American pop world we were deep in the experimental world.

After that, I said to Annie, “You know what, I think we need to get a tiny amount of equipment, enough to record ourselves. I’ll learn how to use it and then we don’t have to keep asking people to get our sound--we’ll just make that sound.”

And so the Sweet Dreams album…Actually tracks on it have trumpet players, and people playing slide guitar (on “This City Never Sleeps”)--all sorts of instruments on it crammed into an 8-track tape recorder. By the time we released two albums, in 1983, Sweet Dreams and Touch (which had “Here Comes the Rain Again” on it), there’s a full orchestra and me playing a big Gretsch country guitar.

By the time the next album came out, the next year, we were making Stax R&B with “Would I Lie to You.” We were both massive fans of R&B and Motown. We could do whatever we wanted, because I learned how to produce our records, in any style we wanted to.

As we went on into that world of “Missionary Man” and “Sisters are Doing it for Themselves” I was in a studio in LA and thought, “Oh, I’ll have Benmont Tench play the Hammond, and Mike Campbell play guitar along with Nathan Watts (Stevie Wonder’s bass player)…” I became a full-fledged record producer, not just me and Annie together, it was, “Oh, we could tackle anything.”

So on stage I had to pick my band I’m touring with very carefully. I made an all-female band who were virtuosos. On the harmonica, living in Brazil, there’s Indiara Sfair--she’s brilliant. The saxophone player, Yasmin Ogilvie, and a bass player called Julia Lamb--I brought them all together; none of them had met each other before.

And then, a girl called Hannah Koppenburg who I worked with when I played the Royal Festival Hall with Nile Rodgers--she became a great friend. I brought her out to record with me. She is all the keyboards. She’s brilliant--in fact we just made a jazz album together that just came out.

So, how we, as you described it, create this melange of sounds, with eight powerful women on stage who are all different. And, there are three different voices, different singers who are powerful too--like Vanessa Amorosi, one of the greatest singers around, from Australia.

And then we have Judith Hill on the first half, along with Vanessa, and there’s Stevvi Alexander. Now, they all have different voices; since we went through different genres of music, we can work with different voices through those genres.

That’s how I do it basically.

SFBAC: Amazing--and what a cool way to get various vocal textures. Touring, you’ve played with Oakland’s Tower of Power in the past, does collaborating with different artists change your perspective on some of your songs? And, are there instances where another musician helped you look at your music differently?

Dave Stewart: Well, yeah. For instance, out of the blue Bob Dylan called me up, in 1984 I think, and meeting with him and playing music with him, talking about songwriting and music with him--that was a big influence.

Working with Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney--other different artists from Sinead O’Connor through to No Doubt--everywhere along the way there were different ways of looking at music; seeing what really turned them on.

But one thing that was running through most of it, and me, was blues music. That’s what I discovered when I was a kid. First thing I ever put on my dad’s record player was Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues Singers.

That was such an influence that in 1991 I made a film called Deep Blues with Robert Palmer, the Rolling Stone and New York Times music writer who wrote a book called Deep Blues. I went out to Mississippi and was filming R.L. Burnside and all these players.

So yeah, that’s been a theme running through things. You see, even “Sweet Dreams” is a blues song--I can play it like a blues song. “Missionary Man” is a blues song; so much blues running through stuff.

I always held back as being the front person, obviously--Annie and I were the perfect match as a duo as I was orchestrating, doing the guitar playing, songwriting with Annie right at the front.

Then when we decided to stop for a bit, I formed a band called The Spiritual Cowboys--funny you mentioned Tower of Power. The first time I ever played as this new entity, you can see it on YouTube, I played live on stage--they flew me to Liverpool for John Lennon’s birthday. I played “Instant Karma” with Tower of Power on stage with me, and so many different people.

I had just flown out a young girl that did a sax, and acoustic guitar instrumental that I wrote and she was called Candy Dulfer. She sang with Tower of Power. And, then I had, singing with me, I had Bobby Womack.


Dave Stewart: Yeah! You have to look it up on YouTube--I saw it the other day. I say something like “Welcome to the world of the Spiritual Cowboys”--and suddenly you see, like 30 people on stage. I’m singing “Instant Karma” and the horns section sounds amazing on it; it’s all live.

SFBAC: Speaking of YouTube, you’re no stranger to San Francisco--I heard an incredible recording of a 1983 show you did at the Kabuki on YouTube. Do you have a favorite memory of playing in the Bay Area?

Dave Stewart: Well, you just named it. You see, that show, just before it we were in a hotel room, Annie and I, and the phone rang with a call from RCA Records. (It could have been the show after that.) They said, “We just want to tell you that you just went to #1.”

We were staring out the window and then we started jumping up and down on the bed. It felt so weird!

And then, when we got to play at that theater it was an amazing gig; the atmosphere was tingling.

Yeah--you should probably check that out. I can’t remember the exact date of that Kabuki Theatre show but I know it was San Francisco when we got the call and it was 1983.

SFBAC: We can’t wait to have you in the Bay Area--what a powerhouse with both you and Bryan Adams on the same night.

Dave Stewart: Yeah, me and eight girls! I hope you enjoy it!

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