“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Steve Oliver
Smitty: I am blissfully delighted to have my next guest here at JazzMonthly.com. He is a phenomenal guitar player, an incredible vocalist. I mean, he’s so phenomenal that he can make some of the greatest sounds from the finest guitar strings to barbed wire. (Both laugh.)
Steve Oliver (SO): I like that.
Smitty: He’s never met a guitar string that he doesn’t like. One of the most versatile artists on the planet. His latest project is one I know you are truly going to love. It is called One Night Live. It is a dual project with an audio CD and a marvelous live DVD. Please welcome the incredible and amazing Nu Groove recording artist, Steve Oliver. Steve, how ya doin’, my friend?
SO: My gosh. Hello, Smitty. It’s good to talk to you again.
Smitty: Yes indeed, likewise man. Well, hey, this new record, I mean, it’s not just a new record. I mean, it’s a live DVD, it’s a live CD, but it’s unlike any live recording I have ever encountered. It is just amazing and you, on this project, I had to label you. You know, as I’m listening and watching, I said “He’s a melodic beast.” (Both laugh.)
SO: I’m a melodic beast. I like that. I haven’t heard that one before, but I’ll accept that.
Smitty: I think it is just the most amazing project of positive grooves, serious melodies, and it is total interaction. This is an artist-fan interaction at its best.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you for that. That’s very kind of you to say. Yeah, you know, that was the whole point of wanting to do this project. I’ve been wanting to make this project since I started playing music, really, because I’ve always been a live performer, and I always think “live” when I’m writing music---how it’ll translate live to an audience, so every studio album I’ve done I’m always thinking “live,” so to me, to be able to finally have a DVD/CD live album is like a goal, a dream of mine come true, plus we have new songs on there that I wrote for the show and put some new music on there so it’s not only like a catalog of older material from the past albums, but it’s some new music also. I wrote six new tunes, so it’s like a whole new record but in a live setting with a couple of studio tracks too, so there’s a lotta stuff on there. Behind the scenes and all kinds of stuff.
Smitty: This seems like a lot of work. I mean, it just seems like you put so much into it, a lotta heart and soul, and I know you did because I know you and I know how passionate you are about music and about your music. How long did this take?
SO: You know, it’s funny. We started the concept probably—we were talking about actually doing it almost two years ago. Then when we decided on where we wanted to film it that was about a year and a half ago. So when we really started thinking, okay, let’s put this in action, and then I got in touch with a great director named Tom Emmi, who is an amazing guy that I met through doing the Studio Jams.
Smitty: Yeah, Tom’s great.
SO: So we talked with him about directing it and there’s a lot involved with just the prep work, and then the real work was actually me rehearsing. Actually, we rehearsed this show like every week—I do a rehearsal once a week—before we actually filmed it and started touring, so yeah, there was a lotta prep work going into it, it took about a year and a half.
Smitty: Hard work and all of that time truly has paid off with this because it came out just stellar.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Oh, you’re so welcome. And I love the caption on the project that says “A MUST SEE LIVE EVENT!” because it truly is. I mean, that says it all right there because I think everyone has got to experience this for themselves, whether they’ve been to a live show or not. They are going to capture something new and something so cool with this great project.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you. The unique thing about it is I’ve been touring as a duo for many, many years and what’s really cool about it is I’ve tried to find a project out there that has this kind of vibe, you know, with two people playing and doing all this stuff. ‘Cause I’m playing, I’m triggering sounds upon sounds and singing at the same time, and then Humberto Vela, the great percussionist/drummer, he’s playing the drum kit and percussion at the same time, and I’m playing bass and guitar and singing, so there’s a lot of that going on, plus we’re entertaining.
I’ve never seen a project—I’ve been looking for a project like this because this is what I was always attracted to. It’s kind of thinking forward, you know, innovation, and I’ve been going on You Tube trying to find anything that had this kind of approach so then I could say “Oh yeah, that’s really cool” and get some ideas, but there was nothing out there like it. So it’s kind of a first that I know of, anyway, that is this creative kind of force put together in this kind of real special show, and I am just tickled pink with it. I just think it came out really, really nice.
Smitty: Oh, it’s incredible, man. I mean, I could listen to the CD all day and I can watch the DVD all night or vice versa.
Smitty: I mean, the complement of the two in this CD/DVD project is amazing, man. I mean, if you’re down, if you’re tired or just whatever, got a lot on your mind, this is the therapy.
SO: Well, you’re exactly right. That’s why I write music. I really believe in that and music is therapeutic. And especially when times are tight or down and you’re bummed out, I believe music always brings you out of that. If you allow that door to open, it will come in and it will just make you feel good, and that’s what music, to me, is about and that’s why I write music.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s truly therapeutic. Have you thought more about getting into music therapy? Because your music, to me, truly fits that.
SO: Yeah, globally that’s what I think when I’m thinking of the public and getting out there and playing live. I’m always thinking “I want to make people feel good with music.” I mean, that’s kind of my driving force, so I’m looking at it, I’m a therapist, even on a festival or even playing a small club or wherever we’re performing, you know, in front of thousands of people to a small crowd. That translates when you’re playing live and it translates a healing thing and it has a power. Music has this power to do that, especially live because music in a live setting, there’s nothing like it.
SO: There’s nothing like that power of being there and you’re feeling the bass, the low end, and it’s going through your body and it’s all energy, it’s all coming through you, and that’s kind of when I’m playing and I’m up on stage, that’s what I’m thinking. I want people to feel healed. (Laughs.) Like a healing force in a good way, so to me I do look at what I do as therapy. I’m a musical therapist on a public scope if that makes any sense.
Smitty: Thus the great project Positive Energy.
Smitty: And the great song “Feeling Good.” And if you can’t feel good after listening to that track, “Feeling Good,” then you really need some help. (Both laugh.)
SO: Oh, yeah. It’s definitely one of those tunes, it’s a fun upbeat track.
Smitty: Yeah, and you and I have talked about this before, but when I listen to your music, I’m singing. I don’t try to sing along with too many projects, but this one—your music I’ve always tried to sing but, of course, you know I fall way short of doing what you do. (Both laugh.)
SO: Well, that’s the beauty of being inspired by listening and I love that too. You get a good hook, you hear a song that you’re listening to and it’s “Oh yeah!” It just makes you want to be a part of it, and that’s the beauty of music.
Smitty: Yes, and the synth sounds, the sounds that you make vocally, it’s so signature with you, but the reason why I think there’s such a great connection to that with you and the fans is that those are the things that we subconsciously do when we listen to music that we love.
SO: You’re exactly right. That’s so true. I never thought about it that way, but you’re exactly right.
Smitty: You know, but you’re living that for us and then we try to sort of harmonize along with you and then we come to really realize how phenomenal this really is.
SO: Yeah, right, you’re right because people whistle or they’re singing the melody or they’re not singing the words, so yeah, we all do that naturally and I think we did that as kids, actually, when we were young. We all used to “La-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da,” just kind of—just singing.
Smitty: Yeah, even if we didn’t know the words we did that.
SO: You’re right, right.
Smitty: “Da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da,” you know, and it’s like—
SO: Whoa, you sound good, man. (Both laugh.) Hey, you wanna join the band?
Smitty: No. No, I would ruin it. (Laughs.)
SO: That’s all right. We’re gonna get you. That’s it. We’re getting you up on stage. Next time I see you, you’re coming up and you’re gonna sing with us. That’s it. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Oh my Gosh, Steve. I don’t wanna run everybody out of the theatre. (Both laugh.)
SO: Of course not.
Smitty: And the other thing that I always love about your music is your choice of guitars, and I know you have a fantastic relationship with Carvin, the great guitar makers.
Smitty: Talk a little bit about what you’ve done with them because you designed guitars with them and they have such a passion for what you do and they love great music, and I really appreciate that about Carvin.
SO: Oh, absolutely. You know, it’s funny, about four years ago I was at a NAMM show in Anaheim, California, where it’s called the National Association for Music Merchants, and I’ve always been into synth guitar. I’ve been playing it for, gosh, 15-20 years, triggering keyboard sounds with the guitar, and I was always looking for a company that I wanted to design a new kind of nylon guitar and a steel string electric guitar and go in with a company and design a new guitar, you know, with my expertise because I’ve been doing this for so long in terms of the synth guitar world, so Carvin is actually based in San Diego, which isn’t too far from us where I live, so I went to the booth at the NAMM show and went up and talked to Bob Keeney, the head of A&R there and he’s the one that kinda brings artists into the fold to help Carvin get out there with other artists.
Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles is with Carvin and, I mean, Joe Walsh of the Eagles is with Carvin. I mean, they have a lot of amazing artists on this roster at Carvin world, and so I went to Bob and I just said “Hey, I know you don’t have this in your line, but I would really like to create a nylon electric acoustic guitar that can trigger synths, and I know you don’t have that in your line.” And he goes “You know what? We’ve been talking about kinda getting into that world” and I’m like “You’re kidding,” so it was almost like they were thinking it while I was too, so it was like a great match.
After that I met with Mark Kiesel, who’s the CEO of Carvin and is also the guitar designer for Carvin, we just hooked up and brain stormed a bunch of ideas for these two guitars that I designed with them and he was asking me what I’m looking for and all the things that are easy to use so that every player can just play these guitars, and it took us, gosh, almost two and a half years of working on these guitars to get them to the point where they’re done now, both guitars.
One of them’s called the NS1, which stands for Nylon Synth, which I named, actually. I got to name it, which was really cool. So the NS1 and then the other, the electric guitar, is called the SH575, and they’re both synths. You can trigger synths and you can play electric, you can play acoustic guitar, and the whole idea was to have a guitar that could do everything and that was the basis of, for me as a player, because I like to have a guitar that you don’t have to change all the time. A one-stop shop with a guitar. You put it on, you play, and you can do all these things with one guitar.
Smitty: Are these guitars featured anywhere on the Internet where people can see them?
SO: Well, you know, it’s funny. On the One Night Live DVD, everything that I’m playing is what Carvin is. That’s the guitars I’m playing. I’m playing the NS1 and I’m playing the SH575 exclusively on the video, on the new album, so yeah, and also you can go to my Web site, www.steveolivermusic.com, and you could look on there and look for the NS1 video, and it’s on Carvin. I made two videos with Carvin about getting it or if you want to check it out and you could really get into the making of and how it works and all that, and it was really fun doing those videos.
Smitty: Yeah, when I first heard the NS1, I was in Atlanta at Mable House.
Smitty: During your sound check, I knew right away there was a different guitar in your camp. They both are some of the most attractive guitars.
SO: Wow. Yeah, I had just got it. I may have been doing its first gig that day with it.
Smitty: And, man, the sound was just resonatingly cool.
SO: Oh, thanks for saying that. Yeah, Carvin and I really spent a lot of time on the sound and on the pickups and all the different things to make a guitar sound the way it can sound, and for everybody to play, not just me. I mean, you can go to www.carvin.com and check it out. It’s a beautiful instrument, so I think they’re some of the best made guitars ever.
Smitty: Yeah, well, let’s talk about the strings. As a guitarist, how much of a role do the strings define an artist, would you say?
SO: You know, it’s funny because every guitar player that I know, hardly any of them play the same type of gauge strings. They all use their own, you know, whatever gauge. Gauge is like a thickness of the string.
SO: So I use real—because I play nylon guitar a lot, so I like that kinda thick string, so when I play the electric guitar, I use 10 gauge strings, which are real thick. The smallest string, anyway, is 10 gauge. And sometimes I use 11’s. So I like using thick strings because it’s, I don’t know, just for me it’s like the sustain is really there and the bigger the string, it’s almost like the more sound you get for some strange reason, so that’s just my theory, and that’s the great thing about guitars. Every guitar player has their own kind of design and why they use the type of strings they use.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely. And I just think what you’ve done with Carvin and what Carvin has done with you, I mean, you guys have formed a fantastic relationship because this is just such a match in what you do in your live performances and studio with these great Carvin guitars. I think they’re just fantastic.
SO: Oh, thank you. Yeah, we’re really excited about these instruments and having everybody play them. In fact, I just got Chieli Minucci on board with Carvin.
SO: Yeah, so he’s now working with Carvin, and it’s funny because artists will come up to me after the show and ask questions, and also Jonathan Butler is now playing an NS1.
Smitty: Oh, cool.
SO: Because he came up to me after a show and saw me play and he was “So what are you doing? What kind of guitar is this? What are you playing? What are you running through?” And he was asking me questions and so I love being able to help out musicians and we’re always talking tech talk, you know, at shows and whenever we run into each other, and that’s part of the beauty of being an artist. We all share, you know? So I really love sharing the Carvin technology with everybody.
Smitty: Yeah, well, along with that, every guitar has to have a great guitar player for the match to really jell and happen.
SO: Sure, absolutely.
Smitty: Yeah, and I’m a firm believer in you as a—and I’ve said this before: you’re a world class performer and I think the whole world should see you at some point in their life because I think that you have such an uplifting spirit, not only as a person, but your music as well.
SO: Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Your music is just truly inspirational.
SO: Well, it comes really from the fans and the people you play for because music, to me, is a very special—there’s nothing like it, you can’t put your finger on it why it makes you feel a certain way, and it’s very powerful and I believe in that wholeheartedly.
Smitty: Yeah, and you mentioned Humberto earlier. The duet show that you guys do together is just extraordinary! How did you meet Humberto?
SO: I met Humberto actually through Will Donato, the sax player that I’ve worked with for years, and he’s recorded on, gosh, probably three of my albums, and Will is kind of like the “know musicians around where we live” and so we’re always looking and talking about different players and different people, and he knew I was looking for a percussionist and a drummer, and I knew I could trust Will so he called me out of the blue and just said “You gotta check this guy out,” so I did and I gave him a call, and I usually don’t call. I mean, people will give me suggestions and sometimes I’ll go “Oh yeah” if I’m not looking or whatever, but for some reason I just felt the need to call him, and so I did and we hooked up.
And what I loved about Humberto is he wasn’t touring, he wasn’t playing with anybody. He was kinda playing locally and he was playing in churches and he was real busy doing that, and that really excited me because not only was I looking for somebody that we could just go in and start working together and kind of create this thing and then it turned out that’s exactly what he wanted to do, and he loves to rehearse and he loves to practice. He practices every day just like I do too, and so it was like “Perfect!” So we started this amazing kind of friendship and rehearsing together weekly and became such great friends and such passionate music lovers, and it just became such a great chemistry between the two of us.
Smitty: Humberto’s featured very well on the DVD/CD. How did he grab the idea of doing this project?
SO: Well, you know, it was funny. He was, you know, because he’s never had this kind of opportunity before, so he was a little nervous about it at first, especially because he’s so prominently featured. He’s emphatically featured in the whole project in the concert, in the footage, and so he really wanted—he did his homework. He really wanted to do this right and plus we’re doing some innovative things and he just started doing these innovative-type things playing the drums and the percussion at the same time, and he had to practice a lot to feel good and comfortable about it.
And he was very excited but he was a little skeptical at first. What are you throwing at me here?” (Both laugh.) But he saw that I’m very open to “Hey, let’s just do this and see how it goes and see what happens,” and we started practicing and pretty soon it was just like, you know, I’m not the type of artist that is very finicky, I love to rehearse, I’m not real finicky, so I give him room to grow and I believe in that. When you’re working with musicians, you gotta let them do their thing and not dictate to them what to play.
SO: Even though the music kinda gives them a borderline of what to do, they follow a format, but if they have something to bring to the table, I’m more up for that—and that’s what we did a lot with Humberto. I let him bring a lot of stuff to the table and then we discussed it out.
Smitty: Absolutely. I think of so many things that we do daily, when it comes to music, I think musicians have to feel free.
SO: Oh yeah.
Smitty: If they’re gonna truly express themselves and bring out the best of their musicianship, they have to feel free, number one.
Smitty: And I think what you just said about Humberto, giving him that room, the space and the openness to express himself and you two express yourselves together, is just incredible and it always shines in the music.
SO: It really does and in the DVD it really showed that. It shows that we’re having a good time because we’re smiling all the time, we’re laughing, because that’s how it is every time we play. I mean, it just feels that good and hopefully that translates to the audience. We’re hoping it would, but we’re feeling that, you know, playing together. It’s like “Yeah, yeah! This is great.”
Smitty: And what really demonstrates that is—and I hope everybody gets this project, because if you don’t, you’re truly missing something—but when you get it, watch the “behind-the-scenes” part of the DVD first because that really shows the true passion and love and all the exciting things that went into making this great DVD, and it really helps, I think, the audience see how much fun you’re having making this DVD and what it does for yourself as well as the fans.
SO: Right, absolutely, and I thought that was a big thing for me when we were discussing putting the DVD together, was to have a behind-the-scenes in it because I really believe in that. I’m a big fan of behind-the-scenes when I watch an artist because I really believe that it embraces what they do, and what I’m doing is kinda different and a lotta people don’t really know what we’re doing, so I believe so much in telling people what we’re doing. So they know, and that’s part of the reason of making this DVD is to show people what we’re doing and really bring it to the fore so they can understand. It’s not “Oh, yeah, we’re just gonna play and whatever happens happens,” but we’re triggering all these sounds, we’re doing all these things, and it needs to be explained and seen more than if we just recorded a regular CD. You would never know.
Smitty: Yeah, exactly.
SO: And so that was the big mission of mine as an artist, to show people what we’re doing.
Smitty: Yeah, and one of the things I appreciate is the work that Tom Emmi did with this DVD. The quality of the DVD is outstanding and the whole structure of it is just unbelievably great.
SO: Oh, thank you. Yes, I agree. I mean, it’s very easy to navigate and it’s also done in 5.1, so all you 5.1 surround sound people enjoy that. And George Landress mixed it. He’s a great engineer. I’ve worked with George on my last, gosh, pretty much he’s done every album I’ve done. He’s mixed or been involved in engineering. And on this project, working with George Landress again on this whole project—he actually was there recording it live when we were doing it and then he took the masters home and mixed it and then I came in and we did the 5.1 mix and he did the 5.1 mix in his studio. We had so much fun doing the 5.1 and putting the sonic, you know, like all my guitar synths are coming behind you and in the back of the speakers and the guitars in the front and then the basses in the center, and we just had a blast putting all the percussion in different areas. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Yeah, it’s so cool, and then you’ve got a couple of great bonus tracks on here. One is “This Fire” and the other one is “On the Upside.” We hear about music projects with bonus tracks all the time. But I think these are special and I think you had something really special in mind that is different from just “All right, let’s throw a couple of bonus tracks on there and hope people buy it.”
SO: Yeah. No, I believe in giving the public as much as they deserve, as much music as possible, and part of the reason I wanted to have a couple of studio tracks is because I kind of show where we’re going for the future, so that’s what “This Fire” is about. It’s a vocal tune and 50% of the show is vocals, lyric singing too, and then also I wanted to have a smooth jazz track too that we could put out, which actually did pretty well at radio this year, and yeah, so I wanted to kind of cross-pollinate everything and keep that diversity going as for me as an artist.
Smitty: Yeah, I just want to name some of the songs on here, some of my favorites. I love “Chips and Salsa” and I’m sure a lot of people do.
SO: Oh, thanks. Yeah, that’s a fun one.
Smitty: Yeah, and “Wings of Spring” is one of my favorites. “Fearless.” They’re songs that really just rise above and demonstrate your musicianship. “Feeling Good” is one of my favorites. Of course, everybody loves “High Noon.” (Both laugh.)
SO: Yeah. Oh, thank you.
Smitty: And I still love one of the oldie but goodies, “I Know.” That’s a great track.
SO: Yeah, a lotta people always request that at the shows and I took it out of my set, gosh, I think after the first or the second album came out and I never played it that much, but everybody always requested that song and it really touched them, so we really wanted to add it. And what’s really cool about it is this version is just me and Humberto playing live. And it came out so organic and I really liked that version that we did on the live DVD, and that’s the other thing, is all these songs from the previous albums, we totally rearranged and did different things to them and that’s the beauty of doing it live. It’s like a whole ‘nother record even though some of the songs are on the other records or other CD’s, but one of my favorites, actually, is I really enjoyed the two songs that segue together, “Sojourn” and “Fearless.” There’s something about—because that’s kind of the direction I’m heading in vocally is that tune “Fearless” is one of my faves and that’s kind of where I’m heading, kind of a pop/world music vibe with lyric singing, and I’m real excited about heading in that direction, like Sting, Peter Gabriel kind of vibe.
Smitty: Yeah, and it kind of reminded me a little bit of Al Jarreau. (Laughs.)
SO: Oh, really?
Smitty: Yeah, and I love that bass sound with “Fearless.”
SO: Yeah, you know, that’s me playing everything live. I mean, I’m triggering the bass and the guitar and singing, and then the orchestra sounds, I’m adding those, so it’s like you would never know, I mean, if you didn’t watch that. Yeah, we’re playing that live. (Laughs.)
Smitty: It is so cool, man.
SO: Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Everything about this is just a fantastic project and you’ve made some changes along the way. Man, you’ve got a deal with NuGroove.
SO: Yeah, we just signed with NuGroove and they have Sony Red distribution, which is fantastic, and we’re very excited. They’ve been great and we just look forward to working with them on future projects and all kinds of things.
Smitty: Yeah, and you’ve got new management now, you’ve just made all kinds of changes, and changes are good.
Smitty: And I think changes, especially when you’re making decisions for your career or your life, I think changes are victorious.
SO: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more because, yeah, you gotta keep moving forward. I mean, at least that’s my thinking. Just keep moving forward and sometimes people don’t wanna move forward, so and then you just—you want to work with people that believe in your same philosophies, obviously, because that’s the only way it works.
Smitty: Exactly. Well, I think you’ve made some great changes in your career and to put this project together that really says that Steve Oliver’s moving forward, he’s in control of his life and his music, and you have the options in your hand to make these great changes.
SO: Oh, absolutely, and I think more now, I think all artists right now should be artists. They should think, you know, about what they wanna do, what kind of music do they wanna do? And that’s, to me, what a true artist is all about, not just like we always see American Idol and they’re singers. Some of them are artists, but they’re singers, and I believe in artists. I’ve always loved the singer-songwriters, the Joni Mitchells, the John Mayers, Billy Joels, Elton Johns. They wrote their music, they wrote their own, and they had something to say, and I’m a big fan of that, so I’m always doing that as an artist, and it’s really hard now to be an artist because there’s a lot going against it because the industry wants a little more control of you. They don’t want you kinda doing your thing, unfortunately, but there’s definitely ways to get out there so you can be an artist.
Smitty: Yes, and I think you’re doing that and I applaud you for it and really enjoy watching you and watching your career just take off and just move forward at such a very cool pace.
SO: Oh, thank you. Yeah, we’re working hard every day. (Laughs.) Aren’t we all, huh?
Smitty: Aren’t we all? Yes! And I just wanna say something about your music that I noticed and that’s the chordal structures and changes that you have within your music, and I think that, too, is a key to reaching an audience because you reach an audience with great melodies and fantastic rhythms. Those chordal changes, I think, are just something that is on the tip of our emotions of anticipation.
SO: Oh, man, well, thanks for acknowledging that because, yeah, to me, that’s exactly what I think about, is I hear movements of changes and chord changes and, I mean, that moves people. You could go from like a B minor to just to a C sharp minor 7 flat 5 and you just have a feeling when you play those two together or whatever. You’re being creative and there’s something about that that really excites me. When I hear a change, I hear a melody. And then I hear a melody, and how they all work together and it’s magical.
Smitty: Well, Steve, I truly agree wholeheartedly and you have such a can’t-be-denied attitude and that same vibe that I appreciate, and I just wanna say keep your flava strong, keep doing what you’re doing, and I certainly hope that everyone gets an opportunity to order this and get this great DVD/CD set because it is truly fantastic.
SO: Oh, thank you, thank you. It was a joy to make and the love is there to be seen and to be felt, and that was the whole mission.
Smitty: So how can people get this project?
SO: Oh, man, it’s gonna be released, actually, June 24th in all the stores and it’s gonna be online, it’s gonna be on iTunes, it’s gonna be at our Web site, www.steveolivermusic.com. You can order it early, actually, before the release date, from our site direct. And on the 24th it’ll be everywhere. Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Borders.
Smitty: All right, man. This is fantastic. Well, it’s great that you have all these outlets where people can readily get it because this has gotta be in everyone’s collection because it’s that good.
SO: Oh, thank you. You know, I would hope so. I hope people will like it. (Laughs.)
Smitty: And then to complement that, this is my personal endorsement that everyone should get out and see this live too because your live performances are second to none.So I’m just excited for you and I say to myself sometimes, “He’s come a long way from doing weddings and touring with Bamboo Forest and Steve Reid to where he is now. This is just amazing.” And you know, Steve, I truly think that you have a whole lot more in front of you, so brace yourself.
SO: Oh, thank you. Yeah, we’re forward thinking all the time.
Smitty: Now, you just recently were invited to come out and perform at high profile, too. How did you get involved in this and what was it like?
SO: Yeah, it was The Love & Pride event at The Abbey in West Hollywood and the Mayor of West Hollywood was there. We just did this three days ago and Jay Leno was there, T. R. Knight from Grey’s Anatomy, a lot of celebrities were there, and I performed there too because it was a media event, so we had some photo ops and a lot of pictures, and got some pictures of Jay Leno and me. It was pretty amazing. My publicist actually was putting together a thing about love and pride and about, hey, if you’re in love, everybody could get married. It’s about gay rights and he really believes in that and so he asked me to perform for the ceremony. And so I got to play about three or four songs at this really special event and Extra was there, Entertainment Tonight, it was really publicized in all the trades and all the news channels and, in fact, there was a clip of me and Jay Leno when we were meeting each other, and it was really cool, and it was on one of the local channels, I think Channel 11.
Smitty: Wow. Well, I’ve always liked Jay Leno. He’s pretty cool. Wow.
SO: Yeah, he got called because he believes in that too, so he just wanted to hang and showed up, pulled up on his motorcycle.
SO: And it was great.
Smitty: Yeah. You were on the cruise. You and I hung out on the All Star Smooth Music Cruise.
Smitty: We had a great time.
SO: Oh, man, I’m still recovering. (Both laugh.) It was one of the funnest times I’ve ever had, to tell you the truth. I had the funnest time just hanging with you and all the artists, and it was like one big party and all the fans were like one big love fest.
SO: Love Boat. (Laughs.)
Smitty: It was fun, man. Talk about how different it is to do that kind of event opposed to doing just a theatre event or an outdoor festival.
SO: I know. There’s nothing like going on the Smooth Music Cruise. It’s so different than going to a theatre show or a concert venue because everybody’s living it for five days and you’re there, you’re a part of it, you’re a part of it with the artists, and it’s all about having a great time and hanging with all the artists and hanging with the fans of the music, and there’s no experience like it.
Smitty: Yeah, you get to meet fans you’ve never met before.
Smitty: You get to hang out with fans and really hear how they feel about your music. You could wind up at the table with them for dinner.
Smitty: And sometimes if you’re up on some of the different decks where they have places to hang out, they come in, they sit down, and it’s such a casual and laid back, cool setting to be with the fans.
SO: Yeah, absolutely, and I think it’s so important for the fans to see that and to feel that, and that’s the big beauty of going on this particular cruise which you don’t get at a theatre or you don’t get at a concert venue because it’s a different experience.
Smitty: Yeah, so what was special about the Smooth Music Cruise for you?
SO: For me, I mean, not only hanging with the fans, it’s also hanging with all the artists and all the things we do, the meet-and-greets, I really enjoy that because it’s gathering the meeting of the minds with all the artists where we’re talking about the business, we’re talking about the music, and fans get to ask questions and I really love that, and I love being with the artists and getting to know them and becoming friends. I mean, I feel like now we’re all such great friends and that is really cool when you come away from the experience and you just go “Wow, that was great hanging with Nick Colionne or Norman Brown,” and you always have those memories of the conversations you had, and it’s just a real special event. There’s nothing like it.
Smitty: Yeah, and how about the jam sessions?
SO: Oh, man, those are the most fun. As a musician, those are the best because obviously you’re jamming with everybody. We’re all on stage together and that never happens anywhere else on land. You can’t do that anywhere else but on the cruise. That would never happen at a festival. I mean, very rarely if it does, but to have 15 artists or 20 artists up there going on and off stage and all jamming together, I mean, there’s nothing like it.
Smitty: Yeah, and would you say that it’s a unique jam session with Nick Colionne?
SO: Oh, man, Nick is (both laugh)—I love Nick. He’s such a great host as a jam host because he’s a comedian. I call him a comedian. In fact, I just saw him a couple weeks ago and I told him that. (Both laugh.) I said “Nick, you shouldn’t be the jam host, you’re the comedy show. The Nick Colionne Comedy Show.” Because he is really funny and he makes it so easy to just come up there, and if he sees us like backstage somewhere and he looks over, he’s always looking around, if he sees us, he’ll just point “Oh” and get up to the microphone, “Hey, Steve Oliver’s here. Come on up here, Steve.” “Whoa, okay, I guess I’m getting up and playing.” (Both laugh.) So Nick is just so fun and he’s such an open minded personality that you just love being around him, so it’s very infectious hanging with him at the jam sessions.
Smitty: Yeah, do you think the fans feel that great camaraderie and that great vibe during events like the jam sessions on the cruise?
SO: I think the fans probably like that stuff the best because it’s not scripted. You’re not doing your own show, you’re not doing a set list, and they know we’re all just jamming and being on the edge of our seat, and I think the fans like that the best, to tell you the truth. In fact, I’ve had a lot of comments on that from fans saying how much they really like the smaller kind of stage areas where they can see us just kinda stretching out as we’re jamming. (Both laugh.)
Smitty: Yeah, being improvisational at its best, yeah.
SO: Right. Yeah, because in jazz, that’s what it’s all about, you know, just hey, you don’t even ask what key you’re playing, you just get up and start playing, and the audience loves seeing that and I think the musicians obviously love doing that because we get an opportunity to do that with other artists, so it’s just a win-win situation.
Smitty: Do you think that doing the cruise—because you’ve done cruises before—but I think I saw you the most excited on this cruise than anywhere I’ve ever seen you.
Smitty: And do you think that it just takes the fan/artist level beyond just an autograph and a picture?
SO: Oh, completely. It becomes a family, I believe. I mean, we all become kind of part of this kind of music family, which I think is so important for the fans and the artists because you see how the music has touched people and it inspires the artists so, again, it makes a great exchange, and I think the fans come away with a whole new perspective of the artists and vice versa. That’s the beautiful thing about this genre, particularly the jazz genre, is it is kind of a family because we are doing it for the music. We don’t come into this genre for money.
SO: That’s for sure, and if that were the case, who would be playing this music? So I think from that standpoint, when all of those artists, we’re all playing together, we all have that common bond. We love this music, we love this kind of music, we love doing it, and the fans are the same way. They love it and they understand it.
Smitty: Yeah, and there’s opportunities for fans to be close to the artists, especially after an event. They line up, they get a CD, they get an autograph, and then they take a photo, or they can perhaps interact on My Space or the Internet somehow with an artist, because when you come on a cruise, it’s just over the top.
SO: It really is.
Smitty: It elevates the fan/artist interaction to a whole new level.
Smitty: So what would you say to fans that are anticipating the upcoming Smooth Music Cruise in January of 2009 and those that are maybe just contemplating or thinking about it?
SO: Oh man, I would say there is no thinking about it. You just gotta go and be part of it because the experience is forever and you’ll become part of a musical family, which is very special. I mean, it has a special feeling like I’ve never experienced before, so as a fan, I mean, it’s just amazing. The feeling is amazing. You’ll go away from it just so elated and want to come back.
Smitty: Yeah, very cool. All right, Steve, I just want to say once again, congratulations on this fantastic project. It is called Steve Oliver One Night Live and you will enjoy it for more than one night, I promise you.
SO: Wow, thank you.
Smitty: Steve, thanks again, my friend. All the best in 2008 with this project and your tour, and I look forward to seeing you out there on the road and I certainly look forward to seeing you on the Smooth Music Cruise, where we get to hang again.
SO: I know, absolutely. I’m so looking forward to that. Thanks, Smitty you’re awesome.
Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
For More Information Visit www.steveolivermusic.com and www.carvin.com and www.thenugroove.com and www.smoothmusiccruise.com
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