Stephen Monroe is a" song writing singer" and guitar player from Omaha, Nebraska. Stephen grew up in the 1960's and the music of that time (as well as his brothers who were in a band), had a great influence on his current sound. Stephen's latest album, "Driving the Sky Highway" is a reflection of Stephen's diverse talent as he wrote all the material, played every instrument, and recorded/mixed it himself. Since the album, Stephen has continued as a prolific songwriter and active performer in the Omaha region. Fans of Americana Blues will truly enjoy getting to know Stephen.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. I really can't point to anyone that I personally can say "They were the one". I listened to great music growing up and I was a poetry writer in school and out on my own. I learned bass listening to records and picked up the guitar a little at a time. I wanted to be part of the musical community so I thought, why not put my words to music and see what happens. The music I was covering in the bands was my school of music and self expression seemed natural. My older brother David was into the arts and he may have been the closest thing to a catalyst making me believe it was logical to express myself this way.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I was listening to Awesome Radio out of Australia and in a chat room with the DJ that night and proprietor of Awesome Radio, Shashona. I had met her through Radio Submit and we had become friends. So it's 1 am in Omaha and Shash is playing tunes and I asked her if my stuff was really radio ready and so as I am sitting there she proceeds to play, I think 2 or 3 of my songs to prove her point that she thought they were ready to go. I was triple played on the world wide web from Australia while I'm sitting in my bedroom in Omaha. Plus one time she said she got a compliment from my music from someone in France. Its amazing how far music can travel
What has been the high point of your music path?
I think creating "Driving the Sky Highway" was big for me. I had lost about everything but my dignity in one year. My brother David (again) bought me a BR-600 portable studio and I was out of work and everything else. Over the next few years I wrote, played, sang, recorded and mixed a complete CD of music that when from me and my guitar to full band, bass, guitar (electric and acoustic) lead and slide solos, keyboards electric drums and back ground vocals. It's been received well and it is basically the ground work for what I will be doing in the future. I dream of letting someone else do the recording someday. It's DIY until then
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I fear it at times because a beginning is a commitment to completion and completion does not guarantee a product worth sharing. I look for an inspirational start. A set of words usually begins the process but there are innumerable ways for it to start. A guitar part may come first and you have to figure out what the guitar is trying to say or you find something to say and you have to figure out how to relate it to the musical world. In this process I have learned many things so that the music properly represents what is trying to be said AND the best way to be said. There is a lot of wonderful music out there and if you keep your quality high, someday you might be considered a part of that group.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
There is just so much music out now which is a blessing and a curse. I have no desire to be a star but just getting heard is a bit of a challenge - I am not the only Bozo on this bus, so that's okay. Selling music is a mystery to me so that energy goes to performance. The industry is a money machine and it looks for the #1 Hit baby!! So many of us out here are writing and I'm hoping great music with no desire to play that game. It would be nicer if creativity was more of a focal point. It is what it is and you do what you must do and except the consequences.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
John Prine comes to mind. He's a hot commodity these days but to me he's one of the greats where you, your guitar and writing are all just bare bones on the floor. Good guitar player but not a Tommy Emmanuel. Great heartfelt writing with a sense of humor. Guy Clark would've been there but he's gone on down the road
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
My rehearsals are called lunch at work. I have always has a cheap guitar sitting in my car and as close to every day I practice songs sitting in the front seat with that old guitar. I try and keep it in my car but I have had 2 windows smashed, the same guitar stolen twice, one taken after I failed to lock the door. So now I have a $75 Fender from the pawnshop in the car but it goes in at night.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Pontchartrain was tough and wonderful. I had this great refrain that popped out and then I decided to personify all the physical things. Its about the hurricane so Katrina became a hussy and Pontchartrain became the local lady that got her heart broken and lashed out in sorrow. Oh great ideas but I had to work to get it into a verse and had a set amount of time to convey the whole idea without being pretentious. I'm from Omaha and I'm writing about the GREAT New Orleans from up north. I love the music from down there so I was treading on sacred waters. I was happy when I was done AND I got a Muddy Waters reference in too!
What's coming up in the future?
I have enough music for at least 2 more CD/Albums. I need to get recording and I need to add to my income with as many live shows as I can PLUS playing for Colon Cancer Awareness (Boxer 500). This was my 8th year playing for an annual run/walk. I am an 8 year survivor. I play for MS Society Walks too. I'm still writing. I wrote a song for my new wife. I played it for her at our wedding last Sunday. I keep writing, keep playing, and keep reaching out to new people.
Where can fans can access your music?
My main website or Reverbnation. My two released CD's "Traveling at the Speed of Steve" and "Driving the Sky Highway" are on ITunes and Amazon. I'm performing on RL Live Stage soon and that performance will be up on Stephen Monroe Music by October. Thanks for having me here. Appreciate it.