The Québec six-stringer Steve Hill is at the top of the Canadian Blues scene from sea to shining sea thanks to his seven Maple Blues Awards in two years, as well as the Blues Album of the Year JUNO award in 2015. And that’s just the beginning.

What’s behind all these awards? His four self-produced albums titled Solo Recordings, Vol. 1, Vol. 1 ½ (EP), Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 – the last one released a few weeks ago – bring the total of his recorded output to nine releases in 25 years on the scene by the amazing guitarist who found his own unique groove in his solo work.

“That’s what I like about the new paradigm of the industry: the proximity to the people; you develop actual relationships.”

“With the industry undergoing so many changes, he says, “the fact is I couldn’t afford musicians anymore; I had to re-invent myself. Before going on this solo adventure, I was $30,000 in debt. When I played Club Soda, I would post the posters all over the city myself, with the help of my bass player.”

And record sales weren’t any better. “Before starting my own label, No Label, I would earn a buck fifty per record sold after the first 40,000 copies,” he says. “With last record company, I earned 40 cents per copy sold. Today, I don’t have a manager, I don’t have a label, and I sell outside of Québec! When I visit Toronto or Western Canada, my albums are stocked in record stores (N.D.L.R.: he has a distribution deal with Outside Music). I do a better job of this, “he says proudly. “Twenty percent of my sales are digital, the rest are physical formats.”

Thanks to his media exposure here and abroad, and the countless awards and distinctions he’s earned, Steve Hill couldn’t be happier. “My concerts are sold out,” he says. “After the show, I go straight to the merch (T-shirts, records, posters) table myself and I meet the people for an hour. I take pictures with them, we talk, I autograph guitars, boobies, whatever! [laughs] That’s what I like about the new paradigm of the industry: the proximity to the people; you develop actual relationships. People write to me on Facebook and I reply as fast as I can.”

Steve Hill

Photo: Scott Doubt

This success has meant that he gives about 125 concerts per year, and the telephone is ringing off the hook; downtime is rare. “I recently had no concerts booked for a few days straight, so instead of flying down south, I took a break from being the frontman and became a simple session player,” he says. “I went into the studio to record two songs with singer-songwriter Pépé and Marc Déry, who’s producing his new album, and I showed up at Bistro à Jojo (a famous live Blues spot in Montréal) just for the fun of jamming. A few days later, I was in the studio again with Erik West Millette (Trainz), and Kevin Parent was in the studio next door working on his new album. He invited me to collaborate on one song. I love to play, and it’s rare that I’m available for this kind of stuff.”

But for now, Steve Hill remains a one-man-band. With one foot on the kick drum to maintain the cadence, he sometimes shakes a makeshift shaker, a can filled with loose change, taped to his right foot. To round things off, a drumstick is affixed to his guitar neck, so that he can hit a hi-hat and cymbal.

All the while, he produces multiple hypnotic riffs that range from rural and modern blues to rock, country and folk. “Everything is live, I don’t use sampling,” he says. “It’s an honest reflection of who I am as an artist,” says the man, who calls himself a “guitar whore. I own over thirty guitars and more than twenty amps.”

Steve Hill has two more Canadian tours booked in 2016 and he’s currently looking at offers for dates in the States, Europe and Brazil in 2017.

In concert at Montreal Club Soda, April 28th.