Swansea International Festival

Songwriter Circle

Tuesday 25 September

The Hyst

Swansea’s Steve Balsamo hosts an evening of beautiful acoustic music and great songwriting with Tia McGraff & Tommy Parham, Pete Riley, and Andy Collins, in one of Swansea’s best venues for live music.

Steve Balsamo

Steve Balsamo is a singer-songwriter and actor from Swansea who shot to prominence in 1997 after playing Jesus to great critical acclaim in the West End revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. Although he won a Variety Club Award for the role, Steve decided to return to his first love – writing and performing his own music – and signed to Columbia Records soon after. In 2002, Steve released his debut album, All I Am, which reached the Top 40 in the UK. He then went on to win Best Male Solo Artist at The Welsh Music Awards in the same year.

In 2004, Steve formed The Storys, a West Coast-influenced harmony country-rock band. Their highly acclaimed self-titled debut album came to the attention of Elton John who, after publicly declaring it ‘Fantastic!’, personally called Steve at home and invited the band to tour Europe with him – for three summers! The Storys made three albums, and also toured with the likes of Joe Cocker, Katie Melua, Celine Dion, Santana, Van Morrison and Tom Jones, to name but a few.

After meeting Jon Lord, founder, writer and ex-keyboard player with Deep Purple at The Sunflower Jam in 2007, Steve was asked if he would like to tour the world with him as part of his Concerto for Group and Orchestra band. Steve also featured on the studio recording of the concerto alongside Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and guitarist Joe Bonamassa.

Aside from this, Steve is a prolific songwriter, having scored hits around the world with artists as diverse as Meat Loaf, Australian Idol’s Anthony Callea, and Slash of Guns n’ Roses fame. He is currently working on a series of solo EPs due for imminent release.

Tia McGraff & Tommy Parham

Hailing from just south of Toronto, Canada, Tia McGraff is an internationally renowned, award-winning Americana/singer-songwriter and author. Accompanying Tia on her musical journey is her partner, Tommy Parham.

The two met and married while living in Nashville, and have enjoyed an extensive career performing, song writing and recording together for more than 12 years. They bring such an honesty and passion to their music that they have even been described as the modern day Johnny and June!

2015 to 2017 were stand out years for Tia and Tommy, with sold out shows around the world (including Nashville’s coveted Bluebird Café), international acclaim for their CD release Crazy Beautiful, and radio play on such notable shows as Bob Harris Country on BBC Radio 2.

With the 2018 release of Stubborn In My Blood, first single Strong reached beyond all demographics and boundaries and was adopted as an anthem by the #metoo movement and women’s empowerment groups around the world. The next single, a cover of the classic One Tin Soldier, is also sure to light up radio playlists.

A gifted author, Tia’s children’s book, Jake The Road Dawg has helped raise funds and awareness for her local chapter of The Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Seven international CD releases, various film/TV placements, and numerous nominations and awards (including Americana CD of the year first round nomination for the 2016 Grammy Awards) have earned Tia and Tommy a respect in the music industry and a global fan base. The duo have a gift for getting to the heart of the matter and writing relatable songs about life, love and this crazy world we live in.

Pete Riley

A singer/songwriter born and raised in Liverpool, Pete Riley has been playing music ever since he can remember.

After signing to Atlantic Records in the 1990s, Pete embarked on a two year tour of the US with his band Treehouse, going on to release their debut album Nobody’s Monkey to critical acclaim.

After returning to the UK, Pete embarked on a solo career touring in the UK and Ireland. On release of his first solo album After The Parade, Pete was invited back to the US to work with American, multi-platinum selling artist Edwin McCain with whom he had struck up a solid friendship during his previous stints in the States. It wasn’t long before Pete was asked by Edwin to join his band as a permanent member.

Pete relocated to the US for a decade and went on to forge a solid writing partnership with McCain, co-writing three successful albums as well as the US radio hit singles Shooting Stars and Say Anything, the first of which appeared in a Warner Bros. TV drama about a young Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

Since then Pete has been writing, recording and producing with many different artistes worldwide, including Edwin McCain, Narada Michael Walden, Henry Priestman (The Christians) Maia Sharp, Angie Aparo, and Kevin Kinney.

Throughout the last few years there have also been numerous TV appearances in the US (VH1, CBS’ Good Morning America) and more recently on BBC1 in the UK (The Politics Show). Pete’s songs have also featured in the internationally released Miley Cyrus Disney film The Last Song, and in Ruth Jones’ Sky One show Stella.

Pete’s most recent project has been a three album collaboration with singer/songwriter Amy Wadge, which has resulted in a six year touring stint promoting albums Rivers Apart, Afterglow and Bygones.

Andy Collins

Andy Collins is a singer, songwriter, bass player, producer and educator from Swansea.

Having honed his chops in the pubs and clubs of South Wales – most notably with local heroes, The Karrots – in 2003 Andy formed The Storys with Rob Thompson, Dai Smith and Steve Balsamo. Their harmony laden, West Coast-influenced and self-produced debut album quickly garnered them friends and fans far and wide.

Tours with Joe Cocker, Katie Melua, Runrig and an invite to a special memorial concert for Jim Capaldi followed, and shows with Santana and Celine Dion to over 60,000 people in Amsterdam saw the band get radio play both in the UK and Europe.

The Storys recorded three albums, signing with Warner Bros. for the second album, Town Beyond The Trees. Made with erstwhile Paul McCartney and Kate Bush producer Jon Kelly at Real World Studios, the band got major radio support in the UK, and many sessions followed. The band were even invited to play the BBC’s legendary DJ Bob Harris’ 60th birthday party, where they were joined on stage by Robert Plant and Bernie Marsden for a little midnight jam.

The Storys won a songwriting award for Town Beyond The Trees, and several songs were used in TV shows and films, including US teen drama One Tree Hill, and the Jason Statham heist movie, The Bank Job, in which Andy and the boys made a cameo appearance as the wedding band! When The Storys called it a day in 2012, Andy released his debut album Closure to some great reviews.

His second album, Right Here, Right Now was released in October 2017.


Songwriter Circle