Friday, August 25, 2006
Orange Pop: Pause was good for cause
Singer-songwriter Greg Stephens found that he created much more music after quitting performing and getting a day job.
By ROBERT KINSLER
Special to the Register
When Greg Stephens performs at Mother's Tavern in Sunset Beach on Saturday afternoon, he will have reason to celebrate. In addition to performing songs off his newly released full-length disc, "I Don't Know," Stephens is still getting plenty of well-deserved traction out of his 2005 debut, "Keep It Simple."
"I put a lot of energy into writing songs and putting out both these albums," said Stephens, a graduate of Marina High School in Huntington Beach who has strong skills as a singer, guitarist and harmonica player.
Although Stephens is putting an effort into playing area shows and keeping fans updated via his page at MySpace, he is also eager to get established artists to cover his material. His finely crafted songs run the gamut from alt folk-rock ("Different Way," "Ain't No Stopping a Wild Fire") to traditional country-Western ("Keeps Me Hanging On," "Tonight Will You Hold Me Tight") and Jack Johnson-styled adult alternative ("In a Perfect World," "Desperate Man"). "I'm trying to sell myself as a songwriter as much as anything," the Fountain Valley resident said. " 'Keeps Me Hanging On' is a fun, bluesy cheating-heart song, about a one-night stand. I like songs like that," Stephens said.
Stephens has several other favorite songs on "I Don't Know," including the rock-tinged "Dark Side of You" and the album's title track.
"I wanted to end with an 11th song and I wanted something new and fresh," Stephens said of the flamenco-flavored "What Went Wrong." "I kind of summed up the whole album. It's a little desperate song; you know less as you get older. There is a lot of reality and truth in my songs."
Stephens, 43, actually spent most of the 1980s and early 1990s trying to make it as a full-time musician, playing as many as three or four shows a week. But at age 30 he put his music-making dreams on hold to work full time as a plumbing contractor and raise a family. But a funny thing happened after he retired from performing.
"I've been able to write better songs. Through the off years I started playing songs and writing again," he said. It took Stephens about a year to complete "Keep It Simple," which was produced by his bassist, Lou Savage. "I started the second CD in January of '06 and it took me four months to finish. I have great musicians playing with me."
Indeed, Savage played with the Righteous Brothers, while keyboardist-accordion player Danny Timms played with the late Johnny Cash, as well as Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Walter Trout. The talented cast of players featured on "I Don't Know" also includes Richard Bredice on guitars and percussion, Greg Leisz on slide guitars and Frank Cotinola on drums. "I fed off these guys in the studio," Stephens said.
Stephens will be accompanied by Timms when he performs Saturday's free show at Mother's Tavern, 16701 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach. He begins playing at 3:30 p.m.
Graceland Mafia will be celebrating the release of its new album, "Blacktop," with a show at 8 tonight at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.
The Costa Mesa quartet will play on a strong bill that includes singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Alvin (of Blasters fame) and English Motorbike. Tickets are $15.
CONTACT US: email@example.com Freelancer Robert Kinsler has written about pop music for the Register since 1992.