Steve Rothery (born 25 November 1959) is an English musician. He is the original guitarist and the longest continuous member of the British rock band Marillion, which is the most successful band to emerge from Britain's 1980s neo-progressive rock scene, having sold over 15 million albums. Outside Marillion, Rothery has recorded two albums as part of the duo The Wishing Tree. He announced the release of an instrumental solo album for September 2014. According to Guitar Player, Rothery "specializes in crafting lush sonic atmospheres with layered guitars and effects processing". In 2001, Rothery was voted Yorkshire and Humberside's best guitarist in a poll in Total Guitar magazine. He has been hailed by MusicPlayers.com as one of the great progressive rock guitarists, describing him as "never one to go for major flash, he always plays for the song and not his ego, but when he shines, he shines brightly", and comparing him favourably with John Petrucci, David Gilmour and Alex Lifeson.
Rothery was born in Brampton, South Yorkshire, England, and from the age of six he lived in Whitby, North Yorkshire. He began to play the guitar at the age of 15. In an interview for Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio 2 in 2013, Rothery revealed that his musical tastes always differed from his friends, who were getting into punk rock while he preferred progressive rock, which he had been introduced to through the Alan Freeman show on BBC Radio 1.
In 1979, he saw an ad in the music press for a band called Silmarillion that needed a guitarist. He auditioned successfully for the band (19 August 1979). From this point he concentrated more on melody, composition and mood in his playing, and less on his technique, although he revealed in 2013 that when he is not touring, recording or rehearsing, he still practises guitar for an hour a day, part of which will be scales and finger exercises. Later, Silmarillion shortened its name to Marillion.
As well as work with Marillion, he started a solo project under the name The Wishing Tree (with Hannah Stobart providing vocals), and released two albums titled Carnival of Souls (1996) and Ostara (2009).
Rothery had been approached by EMI to make a solo album during the recording of Marillion's Misplaced Childhood (1985) and by Miles Copeland when Marillion were recording Brave in his castle in France in 1994; he decided to join with Stobart and form The Wishing Tree instead.
On 25 November 2013, Rothery announced that he was working on a solo album to be titled The Ghosts of Pripyat and scheduled for a September 2014 release. The album's production was financed via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and quickly reached almost double its target by 17 December. The idea for the album was born when Rothery was rehearsing for a show at the annual international guitar festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in October 2013, with a band including guitarist Dave Foster (of Mr. So & So), drummer Leon Parr (formerly of Mosque), and bassist Yatim Halimi (of Panic Room). An audio recording of the show was made available as a download from Rothery's website as a first impression of the forthcoming album's direction, followed by a CD in February 2014. Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis) appears on two tracks and Steven Wilson on one. The album's cover was designed by Lasse Hoile. The finished album was finally released on 22 September 2014.
Rothery has been described by Tone World as "an incredible player whose phrasing and warm tone have influenced and inspired countless guitarists". MusicPlayers.com described him as "an incredibly talented player", claiming Rothery's tone "is sure to appeal to fans of diverse guitar sounds"; the site proclaims him an expert at "guitars drenched in shimmering chorus, sparkling delays and cavernous reverbs", and praises him for "spacey sounds and blues sections" as well as "acoustic rhythms that anchor the melodies". He has been identified as having "three distinct trademark sounds": a "sparkling clean arpeggio tone draped in digital delays", "soaring melodic lead tones" and a "classic blues tone".
Rothery states David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett of Genesis and Andrew Latimer of Camel as his biggest influences. He also considers Jeff Beck a source of inspiration. Rothery has cited "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd and the title track of Hackett's solo album Spectral Mornings as the recordings that influenced his tone. Rothery has also stated that Joni Mitchell was another influence on his style, especially her use of open tunings, which Rothery believed created a very harmonically rich sound. He has cited Mitchell's "A Case of You" as another of the songs that had the biggest influence on him.
In 2011, Rothery launched the British Guitar Academy "to bring together some of Britain's top guitarists to pass on their hard won knowledge and experience to a wider audience through a series of workshops and masterclasses. The aim is to concentrate not just on technique but also creativity and individuality." As well as Rothery, the Academy has featured guitarists such as Aziz Ibrahim (Simply Red, The Stone Roses, Ian Brown, Asia and a solo artist), Dave Foster (Mr So & So and a solo artist), Michael Casswell (Brian May band, Cozy Powell band, Tony Hadley, Ronan Keating), Matt Prior (Bonnie Tyler and TV & film music composer), Rob Harris (Jamiroquai since 2000, Kylie Minogue, Beverley Knight) and Dan Steinhardt (Tin Spirits, developer of the Gig Rig pedal switching system and acknowledged tone guru).
Steve Rothery appears on every Marillion release since their 1982 debut single; see Marillion discographyCarnival of Souls (1996)
Live in Plovdiv (December 2013)
Live in Rome (August 2014)
The Ghosts of Pripyat (September 2014)
Jadis – Jadis (1989, production)
Arrakeen – Patchwork (1990, guitar)
Rock Against Repatriation – "Sailing" (1990, guitar)
Enchant – A Blueprint of the World (1994, production, guitar)
John Wesley – Under the Red and White Sky (1994, guitar)
Arena – Crying for Help, The Cry (1994, guitar)
Mr. So and So – The Overlap (1998, production, guitar)
John Wesley – The Emperor Falls (1999, guitar)
Ian Mosley & Ben Castle – Postmankind (2001, guitar)
The Reasoning – Awakening (2007, guitar)
Gazpacho – Firebird (2005, guitar)
Swallow the Sun – Servant of Sorrow (alternate version from the single New Moon) (2009, guitar)
Edison's Children – In The Last Waking Moments (2011, guitar)
Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II (2012, guitar)