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Fame & Fortune: Steve Winwood

steve-winwoodIn this age of flash-in-the-pan pop stars, the steady longevity of Steve Winwood can be hard to fathom. Now 60, Winwood began performing as a teenager, scoring his first hits at the age of 17, when his band The Spencer Davis Group rocked the charts with "Gimme Some Loving" and "I'm a Man."

Over the next decade he formed the supergroup Blind Faith with Cream refugee Eric Clapton, then followed it with the popular '70s act Traffic, releasing classics including "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy."

The '80s saw Winwood emerge as a solo act, remaining vibrant with the likes of "Back in the High Life Again," "Roll With It," and "Higher Love," and he has continued playing and recording ever since. Winwood has just released his latest album, "Nine Lives," which features the same sort of slinky grooves he built his career on, as well as guest star Eric Clapton on the bluesy "Dirty City."

Bankrate spoke to Winwood about his new album and the crumbling record industry.

Bankrate: The last record was released on your own label, and this one came out through Columbia Records. Why the change?

Winwood: It's kind of the wrong way around, isn't it? Obviously the music biz is in a fever: Things are going downhill very quickly; records don't sell. Everything is changing. The media, radio stations, nothing seems to be safe in this industrial revolution, which actually I don't mind because, in the end, the music itself can only benefit from it.

But to answer your question, I obviously want to reach as many people as possible. The last album was on our own label, and it was a success for us, although in terms of a commercial label it would have been a big flop.

But I'm still striving to try and reach more people with this music, and as the record industry is undergoing such grave and big changes, obviously the major record companies have to be at least trying. We just took a gamble, really, and I guess we'll see how they do. It's a licensing deal for this one record. It doesn't in any way tie me up. It's not like a marriage with Columbia, but we'll see. So far they're doing quite well.

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Bankrate: There's a big difference in the percentage of the money you get to keep when releasing it through your own label and by going through a major label. Considering the career you've had, is money even a consideration when deciding which way to go?

Winwood: Yes. It's always a gamble. I can't pretend it isn't. All I'm trying to do is make the very best record I can and hope for the best, really. That's all I can ever do. It's no good trying to second guess the market and say, "Well, I made this kind of record with that record company because in the past that's always sold well and made mega bucks, therefore if I do it, it should lead to the same thing." That's certainly not the way to go -- that's fraught with disaster for anyone who goes that route.

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