Steve Poltz by Mike Gee (1999)

Steve Poltz by Mike Gee

Steve Poltz ruffles his hair, slumps into the corner booth in the bar area of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Sydney’s Double Bay. “Good morning,” he offers, and he looks more sacrilegious than religious although the Halifax, Nova Scotia-born, son of an air-conditioning salesman, was once an altar boy. “It was good training for a singer,” he says, before failing to perfectly co-ordinate coffee cup and mouth.

The night before Jewel’s music director, songwriting partner and opening act had ligged out to a Cronulla bar owned by some friends and played a two-and-a-half hour unannounced and unplanned set, perched on a stool, aided and abetted only by his acoustic guitar and a copious amount of tequila. “I’ve never had a tequila high before. It was great,” he says, wincing. “Usually I drink beer and bourbon and I wake up fine the next morning. Jewel says I’m like a cockroach. She lives really healthily but she still gets sick. She says that I can go and out, get wrecked and I’m fine the next day. I just like life. “And I had such a good time. That’s what it’s all about. The oldest tradition in music is singing and strumming a guitar. But you can’t just go out and play, no matter where you are. You have to have a show even when you’re a solo guy. Me, I like to tell stories.” Poltz is remarkably good at talking even when he has a hangover. But we’re talking entertainer here. The songwriter was birthed, tested and refined by a lengthy stint busking his way around the US and Europe after rejecting selling pipe-nipples as a career option. On his return he settled into the San Diego scene, met Jewel and got her a gig at the Innerchange Coffeehouse where she would hone her chops and later get discovered and signed. “When I met Jewel it was just like meeting another person,” he says. “I had no idea she was going to be big.” He also had absolutely no idea he would end up writing one of the biggest singles in recent history. You Were Meant For Me had spent more than 60 weeks on the Billboard Hot I00 chart by the beginning of the year, the longest run by any single, ever. “That’s a freakout,” he laughs. “That’s like falling into something. After we wrote it I remember saying, ‘this is stupid, you can have this song’. I wouldn’t say, ‘you were meant for me, I was meant for you’. “So I went, ‘let’s write another one’, and we sat down and wrote it on some napkin – little did I know that napkin was going to help pay my bills. Our songwriting partnership just developed from there.” Steve Poltz will play an intimate solo show at Cargo Club on Thu Apr 17. His debut solo album, One Left Shoe, is out now through UMG.