Tell us about yourself and your music
I began in music at the age of 8 when my church asked me to sing at their Christmas pageant. I did that and then again the next year. At the age of 10, I learned to play the acoustic and sang my first gig just a few months later playing folk songs by Woody Guthrie and such. In high school, I played the bass guitar and sang along with a band. My high school asked me if I would start a band and so I did. In college, I joined one of the original “folk mass” groups and sang in churches for about 30 years, on and off. Since 2014 I wrote about 200 songs and record and play originals and covers. I play Acoustic Rock, Americana, and Folk songs. I have always been a Beatles fan and love singing their music. I am critically acclaimed for Country (but it was Americana) by the critic who discovered Blake Shelton. I have seven #1 hits on the radio and interviews on the radio twice. I was involved in politics just after college and ran for state office. I was the projected winner on the 11 o’clock news but lost by 300 votes. I love people and connected with them easily. Politically, I am a moderate and have worked in Defense for about 40 years and counting. I’m a CPA and a Certified Federal Contract Manager. I love helping the less fortunate and have done so for many years.
Talk to us more about your latest release
A few months ago I released a single on iTunes, Spotify, and so on called “The Clarion Call.” The song is a plea to protect our democracy. Patrick Henry’s clarion call was “Give me liberty or give me death.” He was one of the founders of the United States. I am a student of history all over the world and use it in some of my songs.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
I sing and play my music using several vocal styles and acoustic styles. Sometimes I just strum a song, occasionally using the Carter Strum which was invented by Johnny Cash’s mother-in-law, Mary Carter. I also play arpeggios which is an Italian word meaning “broken chords.” I fingerpick if I’m in the mood. I also developed a bluegrass strumming technique that I use on songs like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” I like a strumming technique invented by John Lennon where he “hammer-ons” chords just like a Blues guitarist does a hammer on with notes. But I focus on my voice. I’m told I have a great voice and people are amazed when I sing live. They always tell me how great I am, but I think I need to polish up my technique just a little. Since I have asthma, I learned how to break up lines to sing them in pieces with a smooth transition between the breaks. I’m still perfecting this technique.
Who have you been listening to lately?
As I said, I am a great Beatles fan and listen to them. I also like Bob Dylan and John Denver. I have played John Denver songs for years and love the quality of his voice. People in my generation love John Denver and when I play him they tell me how great I am at singing his songs. But his voice is higher than mine so I change keys at times, dropping them down a few steps and half steps. People don’t seem to know the difference. I’m also a big can of The Allman Brothers, Stephen Stills, CSN, and John Fogerty of CCR. I listen and play their songs often.
Who are your biggest influences?
In bass guitar, I first copied Jack Bruce and even bought the same Gibson SG bass he used. On acoustic, the Beatles are my biggest influence and folk singers like Woodie Guthrie, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and John Prine. People tell me I sing like Neil Young and one fan told me I sing like Woody Guthrie. That’s a great honor. I love to listen to Eric Clapton and I adapt some of his songs to acoustic, but I didn’t play him much until his “Unplugged” album came out.
Tell us about your passions
My passions are music, writing, and history. I am an accomplished writer on technical issues related to accounting and so forth, but I have also written about 200 songs since 2014. I love history and write about that too. I’m presently studying Thomas Jefferson and I think it’s great to learn about our presidents. The stories are not that different than the issues we face now. Also, my family has a great place in history. I am descended from the Mayflower Pilgrims and had three ancestors fight in the Revolutionary War.
What else is happening next in your world?
Of course, we are living with this Novel Coronavirus right now but I’m not that overly concerned about it. I wear a mask so other people feel safe, but I had the illness and it wasn’t that bad. I had minor symptoms and it disappeared quickly. I was still able to sing well even during the illness. I am where I want to be musical except that I want to get my name out there. When I post songs to FaceBook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and ReverbNation I get some fan interest, but not as much as I think I can. So publicity is now most important.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Tony Stephens Music
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