Having received a guitar from his grandfather at age 6 he started his music education. This continued with learning various brass instruments and singing in the school choir. By age 17 he’d starred in 4 Musical Theater productions.
In college, Steven began to focus on songwriting. He first performed his original music on campus at UC Berkeley and then on campus radio station KALX. He was a featured vocalist in the UC Marching Band’s televised halftime show, culminating in being the featured vocalist in the band’s U.S. tour, playing 23 cities from California to Maine.
After college, Steven started performing as a singer/songwriter in various clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shortly thereafter, he packed up and moved to LA
Hollywood opened up new opportunities: He performed in the “Hollywood Chorale”, representing the city in the form of a 16-voice jazz choir. He then performed in the country band “Grand Junction” and appears on their single “You’re Not Alone”. For this band he wrote the country song “Whiskey Straight Up”.
Soon Steve came into demand as a vocalist for live and studio performances, garnering 6 album credits and another single “Far Away Lands” recorded by platinum-record songwriter David Pomeranz and Russian pop star Sasha Malinin. Another album Steve appears on featured performances by 60s legend Melanie and actor Elliot Gould. He sang with Edgar Winter and his band for performances at the LA Street Scene, as well as providing vocals backing a number of other international stars such as film scorer and trumpet player Mark Isham, Frank Stallone(Sly’s brother), Karen Black, Leif Garrett, Rolling Stones pianist Nicky Hopkins, Jazz master Chick Corea and Austrailian pop star Kate Ceberano.
Continuing to hone songwriting skills, and in collaboration with Theatrical producer Steven David Horwich, Steve wrote music for two musical theater productions. “The Way To Happiness” had two theatrical runs in Hollywood. For “Thief in the Night” Steve worked with prominent songwriters David Pomeranz and Harriet Schock and did co-writing with Horwich and 3 Dog Night drummer Mickey McMeel.
He had the opportunity to work with top Mexican pop stars Amanda Miguel, Diego Verdaguer, and Johnny Laboriel, Venezuelan Telenova star Ruddy Rodriguez, “Waltons” star Judy Norton-Taylor, Catherine Bell (“Jag; The Good Witch”), “X-factor” finalist Stacy Francis, Metropolitan Opera star Michael Lockley, Drummer Tom Brechtline(Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty, Robben Ford), keyboardists John Novello(Taste of Honey) and Peter Schless(Melissa Manchester, Jeffrey Osborn), Rock bassist Billy Sheehan(David Lee Roth, Mr. Big), legendary arranger David Campbell, “Steely Dan” bassist Tom Barney, David Crosby bandmate Jeff Pevar (CPR) and Elisabeth Moss(Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale).
A brief return to the States allowed Steve to record with Producer Tony Rockliff (The Temptations, Cat Stevens, Dokken, Beck,)
The band performed at the St Vincent Blues festival opening for Oleta Adams, where Steve performed his song “I’ve Got No Right to Sing the Blues” (within earshot of Johnny Depp’s yacht, there shooting Pirates of the Caribbean), and at the St Lucia Jazz Festival, where they opened for Kenny Garrett and Babyface. The opening act for Steve’s band was none other than Rhianna.
Many of the band’s performances were recorded and televised on stations in Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and other islands and he appeared on radio stations on these islands and St Lucia, and probably more.
Returning to San Jose, Steve has quickly established himself in the local music scene, performing at numerous Bay Area acoustic venues, as well as larger events such as Earth Day at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in San Francisco, Food and Art Festivals in Los Altos, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Campbell, and Pleasanton as well as the Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Yolo County Fairs. He has appeared on radio station KZSC in Santa Cruz and on TV stations Chabot TV and Spectrum in Santa Cruz, and CreaTV in San Jose. Various local artists have performed Steven’s songs including “Savoy Row Girl” and “Mojo Working” by The Mike Osborn Band , “No One Can Say” by country singer Shawnna Lynn, and “Things Change” by the Michael Paul Band. He appeared on Erika Blue’s Ozcat radio (KZCT) show in Vallejo with neo-soul singer Lila Shae and recorded with Muslim Rapper Said (pronounced Sah-yeed). He has continued his commitment to the community, performing at Relay For Life, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Canary Foundation, American Cancer Society, Youth for Human Rights, local community centers and for other benefits and charity concerts. He has shared stage with prominent local artists such as Maxx Cabello Jr, “Lord Luther”(the 4 Deuces), Carmel Helene (Miley Cyrus, Johnny Hallyday), Keyboardist Victoria Theodore(Stevie Wonder,Arsenio Hall) and 70s R&B legends ConFunkShun. He also performed with Motown Icon Martha Reeves for a week of shows at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco.
Recently his song “Everybody Lend a Hand” was arranged for 4 voices and performed by the “Flag Choir” in south Florida. A number of his other inspirational songs are lined up to be arranged and performed by the group.
Steve’s first release “Eclectic Acoustic” (available on iTunes and other outlets) His Christmas CD “Tis the Season” includes the uplifting Holiday Song “The Message”which is on radio station playlists this Christmass season. His lastest all-original release “Things Change” includes tracks recorded by ace session musician Will Ray and Missing Persons guitarist Karl D’Amico. Two of the songs on this album have already been recorded by others and will be released on the West Coast by Mike Osborn and on the East Coast by Rita Meyers. Steven has released two singles off the new album. “That Old Hound Dog” and “Gone Gone Gone” are available on CD Baby, itunes, Amazon and other outlets.
Websites or Social Media Pages:
What Musical Genre Do You Feel Best Describes Your Music And How Would You Describe Your Sound?
Americana. I'm influenced by a wide variety of music and so blend folk, rock, blues, 'trop rock' and country into my own blend. I've tried to describe it as "Paul Simon and Jack Johnson channeled through Jimmy Buffet." You'll hear all of that on the new album.
How Did You Get Your Name? Is There A Story?
My real last name is too difficult for most people to grasp. First day of school every year the teacher would come to my name and say "Steven...uhhh....." and I would answer up to keep the teacher from further embarrassment. So when it came to promoting myself as an artist I decided to simplify matters and go with "Steven Gary". Even with that sometime people will call me Steven Gray or Steven Geary. Perhaps when I get famous I'll go the John (Cougar) Mellencamp route and slowly integrate my real last name.
What Are or Have Been Your Musical Influences?
So many. So very many. According to my mother when I was about 2 years old I was fascinated by local tv shows from a classical violinist and a local folk singer. The first music I listened to was what my parents were listening to - Big Band swing, Sinatra, plus novelty records like Spike Jones. When I started listening to popular music it was the singer -songwriters of the early 70s - James Taylor, Jim Croce, John Denver, Elton John, Simon and Garfunkle, and the lesser known but brilliant Kenny Rankin. I learned how to sing and play and write from these people. Then I got into musical theater. Then was playing trumpet in school and was exposed to jazz and that moved me into another direction. Then I worked on a Caribbean Cruise Ship and was exposed to reggae at the source as well as other Latin influences. I was fortunate to work with incredible artists like songwriter David Pomeranz who influenced me as a writer, and Maxine Nightingale, whom I learned a tremendous amount about all aspects of performance.
What Are You Working On Now? Any Future Collaborations We Can Look Forward To?
I just finished my latest album "Things Change" and I'm mainly working on releasing and promoting songs from the album. I've released two songs so far. "That Old Hound Dog" and "Gone Gone Gone" which are both on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and other places. My first album was just guitar and vocals and was a very wide mix of styles which is why I called it "Eclectic Acoustic". On the new album I decided to hone in on a particular style and while I consider it an Americana album, the style still shifts focus, some is more country, some more folk, some more bluesy, some more rockin'."That Old Hound Dog" is country-folk and "gone gone gone" is country-rock. As far as collaborations go, we'll see. Two of the songs on this album were with Nashville writer Jon Statham who was great to work with and I wouldn't be surprised if we did more. I've got some other local folks here in the SF Bay Area that I'm likely to be working with as well. I've not done a lot of collaboration as the songs I write pretty much come out fully formed. But I'm trying to expand in that direction.
What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry? What Is Your Plan Of Action?
I'm not into World Domination, but I'd like to carve out a small kingdom for myself! I simply want to get my music out to anyone who would enjoy it and to be able to write and perform to an ever-expanding audience. Right now the plan is to release music off this new album and see where it takes me. Two songs off the new album have been picked up and recorded by other artists and I really want to increase my credentials as a songwriter and have lots of other people recording my music. I've got a couple publishers vying for the material and another fellow looking to help me with licensing to TV/Film and I want to pursue this as well and make my mark as a songwriter. Another avenue that I really enjoy is doing House Concerts. This has become quite a phenomenon over the past 20 years. An intimate concert for a couple dozen people in the comfort of someone's living room. I really enjoy doing these small shows and I'm available to travel pretty much anywhere so - hit me up folks!
What Is Your Favorite Track To Perform Live and Why?
The title tack on the new album "Things Change" - as a matter of fact it's the only "live" track on the album for that reason. It's fun and light -hearted and people relate to it right away and start singing along with the chorus. Any good piece of art invites participation from the audience and I think this song does that the best of any of them.
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far?
Finding focus. Because I have so many influences and musical interests my career has been fairly dispersed and one needs a driving focus to really become successful in any field. So I did musical theater, then I did the singer/songwriter thing, then I played in bands, then went back to theater, then did a Cruise ship gig, then this then that. It's all fun and all worthwhile but doesn't necessarily get you anywhere. The other problem was with all my influences when people asked me what my style of music or genre, I didn't have an answer. And in this day you have to have a 'niche'. I was ready to make a new eclectic song collection when I finally decided I needed to focus, which is when I decided to do an Americana album and gave all the music a 'push' in that direction. So far it seems to be working.
What’s Your Typical Songwriting Process?
Again, as eclectic as my style has always been, my writing process is just as eclectic. Sometimes I'll just sit with a pad and pen and start randomly throwing words out until something coalesces. Sometimes I'll start with a title, or a clever rhyme, or with a general concept. But mostly the lyrical content comes first and the music flows from the lyric. There's been rare occasions when I'll start with a melody line, or with a rhythmic pattern, but that's a few songs out of hundreds. Sometimes it's just a flash of inspiration. "That Old Hound Dog" came to me all of a sudden and almost all complete right before I was supposed to perform at a luncheon. The organizers were trying to push me on stage and I was grabbing for something to write on saying "just a minute, just let me do this!" "Gone Gone Gone" is a you-cheated-now-go-to-hell song i wrote to try to convince a friend that's what she needed to do. You never know when inspiration will strike and when it does, you gotta go for it.
How Has Social Media Influenced Your Career As An Artist?
Many years ago I realized that there's an audience for everything and anyone can be successful as an artist if they can find that audience. I had this realization when I was performing with a Barbershop quartet and I was in the process of trying to figure out how to do this when I dropped everything to perform on a Cruise Ship. I was there for 15 years and by the time I returned to the "Real World" the Internet Revolution had occurred and I saw that here was the method to find and reach one's audience, just as I'd postulated all those years ago. Which is wonderful, but the flip side of that is how to get through to people in the massive chaos of information available. I really still haven't gotten myself up to speed on the effective use of Social Media. I just know it can be done.
What Are Some Tracks and Artists Currently On Your Playlist?
Honestly I'm not really listening to anything right now. My concentration has been so much on my own music and finishing the album I haven't paid much attention. I'm not a terribly big fan of commercial radio so when I'm in the car I'll put on some eclectic local station and see what I can find that's different and fun. Usually that takes me to college radio and publicly funded stations that play obscure stuff and vary widely in genre and I enjoy that. My own "playlists" can go from Sinatra to Elvis, Beatles, Eagles, Train, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, Greatful Dead, Chick Corea, Stevie Ray Vaughan, you get the idea.
What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music?
Not really a correct question for me because I've always made music. I got my first guitar when I was six. started playing trumpet at 10, starred in my first musical at 11, wrote my first song at 17. Had my first paying gig at age 20 and my first tour at age 21. The correct question would be what did I do besides music to make money - well. Fast Food restaurant manager, bank teller, chimney sweep, bookkeeper, messenger, sold solar water heaters, drug rehab counselor, Dean of a Music School. Then I got the Cruise Ship gig but even then I've always been interested in other things. While I was on board the Ship I also became a licensed Helmsman, certified lifeboatman and learned navigation. Even now I'm studying to be a ministerial counselor and I find that very fulfilling.
Any Advice For Young People (Men or Women) That Want To Succeed In The Music World?
Sure - first - don't do drugs. They're not cool, they kill creativity and drive and they will never solve anything. Second - In this day and age you can't just be an artist, you have to be a businessman. Don't let it kill the creative side, but learn the business end of things. It's a do-it-yourself world now and even if you get a manager and a label and all that, you need to know enough about what they do to be sure they're not screwing you over. Third you really have to have a passion for what you do. You need drive and single-mindedness of purpose. Get a real focus on what you want to achieve and go full tilt on it. Fourth - If you get stopped, it's either something you need to get better at, or someone is stopping you - find which and either get better at what you do or get rid of the person that's stopping you. It can be very subtle and you may think they are your golden ticket, but if anyone makes you feel bad or less-than, they are not your friend, get rid of them. Don't let anyone suppress or oppress or belittle you or your art. The biggest lie is "you can't succeed as....." Anyone tells you that, get them out of your life. Then get as good as you can at your art, learn the business and get to work. Lastly - don't sell your soul or your integrity for success. You've still got to live with yourself.
What Would You Change In The Music Industry If You Were A Top Music Executive?
I'd bring back artist development. There are tons of people with talent out there. It used to be that labels found someone with talent they developed them. I did a series of shows playing bass for Martha Reeves (a 60s soul superstar). She talked about how when she got signed to Motown, they sent her to "school" - taught her how to perform, move, talk, dress, everything. As a result they didn't just sound great, they were polished professional performers. We don't get that so much anymore. As a note - there's something else beyond the Executives. Did you know in the 60s there was a tax credit the labels got for producing a debut album? Truth. Making a debut album was almost free for the labels. As a result they signed and recorded countless new artists because, why not? If it worked, they won, if it flopped didn't matter. That got cancelled in the mid70s and by the late 70s the labels weren't signing any new artists and the industry tanked. They were saved by the Indie labels that took the risks with new artists and the majors then cherry picked the most successful indie bands. Now it's the Internet age and DIY artists are taking all the risks and when they succeed, well why would they bother with a label? I'd love to see Congress re-enact that tax break. Imagine the explosion of great new artists music that would create! And the record industry would thrive again.
How Do You Feel About Originality?
There's a balance in any art form between familiarity and originality. Art is a communication. If it doesn't communicate, it's not art. If you get too "original" people won't understand it and it won't communicate. If it's too derivative, it's boring or worse, plagiarism. The "sweet spot" is finding the balance. Even the latest "new sound" has its roots in what went before that allows people to connect with it while enjoying the unique recombination of familiar forms. I don't worry too much about "originality". Even if you're trying to sound like someone else, eventually you do it your way. I discovered this many years ago. I had a favorite James Taylor song that I played at every gig and I was playing it "exactly the way he did". One day I listened to the original recording and discovered I was doing it completely differently! I was aghast at first but then I realized for the first time that I had developed my own style.
Is There Anything Else We Should Know About You Or That You Would Like to Add?
A long time ago a friend of mine commissioned a survey to find out why people made music. The survey company came back and told him "all these guys want to save the world!". I think that's still true today. I believe all artists have a basic purpose to make life better, and in fact, artists, by creating something out of nothing, can be a very positive influence to create a better future for everyone. My basic purpose is to rehabilitate life in people. This pervades everything I do and If I bring a smile to someone's face or lighten their day then I'm fulfilling that purpose and doing my small part to save the world. If enough of us do that, we will.