Steve’s on an odyssey

Mar 2020 Steve’s on  an odyssey

BackBeat: Odyssey – Native New Yorker

By Martin Hutchinson

DISCO legends Odyssey are taking their party night around the country in what promises to be an energetic and boogie-licious experience.
Odyssey was one of the most successful soul/disco acts from the late 70s to the 80s.

The hit run started in 1977 with Native New Yorker and continued with dance anthems If You’re Looking For a Way Out, Inside Out, Going Back To My Roots and the chart-topping Use It Up And Wear It Out.

Originally billed as The Lopez Sisters, the group was in fact three sisters – Lillian, Louise and Carmen. Carmen left and was replaced by Tony Reynolds and the band was renamed Odyssey.
While enjoying their greatest hits, behind the scenes there was a young man who was acting as a backing musician and musical director. Steve Collazo (pictured) was Lillian’s eldest son and today he co-fronts the band with the current line-up of himself, Kate ‘Kay Jay’ Sutherland and Michelle John.

Now permanently based in the UK, Steve tells me that he never really joined the band.

“No, I can’t really say if I ever actually joined the band. I’ve been there since its inception, my brothers and I were in the background all the time.

“The record company was mainly interested in my mom’s voice and I was happy to be on the periphery – as long as the record company didn’t know that I was helping out behind the scenes.”
All the time though, Steve was soaking up music from everywhere.

“My mom and aunty (Louise Lopez) were both classically trained and my dad had a diverse taste in music. We had a lot of Latin influences like Salsa and Merengue, and Calypso from my mother’s side.

“I grew up in the Motown era, particularly seventies Motown – The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder when he got his synthesiser, Marvin Gaye when he wasn’t producing other acts. Then there were the Brooklyn bands such as Brass Construction and Crown Heights Affair, then The Ohio Players, Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago.”

When Odyssey made it big, Steve was proud. “Yeah, I was so proud. I’d seen my mom and aunt struggle to be taken seriously, not just in the music industry, but in life in general. Then I saw them plastered all over the New York subway – it was amazing.” As time went on, Steve stepped to the front of the band.

“I was really a victim of circumstance, but in a nice way. I’d always wanted to come up front, but the Record Company didn’t want it, they wanted the public to see a certain line-up. But mom was getting older, the trips were long and there was the record company politics. Eventually, I had to step in to keep the legacy going and make a future for the band.”
Steve admits to enjoying the touring.

“Yes, I absolutely do. The thing I enjoy most is after I finish what I call my work – the show. I like to mingle with the audience afterwards and get feedback. The people will tell you their stories of how a particular Odyssey song was the soundtrack of their life. I never get tired of hearing those stories.” The band relocated to the UK many years ago.

“Yeah,” Steve said, “I’ve been here 26 years now. It made sense really. The Visa restrictions made things difficult and the taxation was hard. Also, we had more hits in the UK than in the US. And it’s quicker to get to Europe and less expensive. I think I’ve probably been to more places in Britain than most Brits.”

And the highlights?

“There’s been so many.” Steve smiled. “To have ownership of the legacy is great, and it’s all about the songs and performances. Back in the day, the live show was about 60% devised by me and I’ve grown into it, putting my own stamp on it and I haven’t corrupted it in any way. And to have my own work and songs being performed is fantastic.”

Steve promised a great show.

“Firstly, I have to say that the band is great. We have two keyboards, drums, bass and guitar. They’re relatively (to you and me) young guys, but hiring them was the best move I’ve made. They’re hungry for it and always wanna raise the bar.”

“We’re a party band and the audience is usually on its feet from the get go. You’re going to hear all the classic hits, at least one or two ‘rare grooves’ (songs that were not necessarily hits, but are very popular) and some covers from the disco era.”

Steve admitted to having a favourite Odyssey song.

“Yes, it may sound vain or conceited, but my favourite is Sooner Or Later. I co-wrote it with Romena Johnson in the nineties and what I like most about it is that it captures the Odyssey spirit. Old School meets New School meets Old School. I feel warm and fuzzy when I hear and sing it. Of the classic Odyssey songs I’d say – reservedly – Inside Out.

“What’s really great about the shows these days is that the youngsters come to them. It amazes me to see so many young people – they absolutely love it. Of course, today will be the ‘good old days’ for this generation, so to be a part of that is amazing.”

For the future, Steve told me he is going to carry on.

“Yeah, I want to take it higher and keep doing what I’m doing. Of course, I’ll have to look after myself as I get a bit older. This year is the 40th anniversary of our big hits and it’s great to be able to mix new music with the classics.”

Odyssey is appearing at venues around the country throughout the year.

Dates are in The Beat Good Gig Guide.