As I recuperate from double hernia surgery I have been chilling to some music. Yesterday it was Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie Man and Alice in Chains’ Unplugged. One might not normally connect these two, but it’s instructive to hear musicians of all stripes truly listen to each other. No wankery, no pretense, just intense, emotional playing. It’s that sort of thing that can really draw a listener in. Music can be many things: busy, stimulating energizing, relaxing, contemplative, empowering, but if there is no true awareness – whether its a solo artist like myself, or an ensemble – then it holds no real meaning. I am working to create this quality in my own music, whether performing or writing. Because that is the end in itself, that is what determines success in art.
Some of you folks are new to me and my music, so I’m just going to give you a little insight into where I’m coming from, who my influences are. I listen to a very wide range of music. As noted in my bio, I majored in music, specializing in vocal performance, i.e. opera and art songs. I love singing that music, both from an artistic level: getting inside music of the great composers with their sublime and universal expressions of what it means to be human, and from a purely visceral level: the sheer physicality required to sing at the edge of my technique. So yeah, I dig opera and all other genres of so-called “classical” music.
Since I was 12, though, rock and roll has been huge in my life. My first rock album: Frampton Comes Alive, then Aerosmith’s eponymous and Kiss Alive. Pretty typical fare for an adolescent in 1976. 1979, however, was the year I discovered Todd Rundgren. I read an article about him in High Fidelity and thought “This guy sounds cool, I gotta check out his music!” He is and remains my biggest musical influence, following his own path, not afraid to completely change direction album to album. Even to the point of losing fans. The classic example of this is his 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star : the follow up to Something/Anything. They are both great albums, but very different. Go ahead and listen! And just for fun, check out Todd Rundgren’s Utopia too.
So, I have been told (unsolicited) that there is a Rundgren influence in my songs, especially those written for piano. I am also consciously influenced by Warren Zevon and Bruce Cockburn; both are difficult to classify (as I have been told I am) and both exhibit a wealth of musical and lyrical imagery as well as a political edge that I have always aspired to. There is also Jane Siberry, X, David Bowie, Laura Nyro, Minutemen and a whole bunch of others that may or may not have influenced the music that I actually write. This does not take into account the myriad of other groups, composers, writers, players that inspire me in a general sense. They will all likely show up at some point within this blog. So there it is. Just a little insight into my musical background, for what it’s worth. Have a great week, everyone.
Welcome fans and friends! I have been eagerly anticipating the launch of my website as part of the 2016 master plan to make Steve Kent a household name, in at least a few thousand households. I have some songs, some pics, some videos up for you to check out with much more to come. Unfortunately, I have been struck by some sort of tendinitis or tendinosis and as of now my insurance company has denied my doctor’s request for an MRI. This test is required in order to determine exactly what is going on and thus plan a course of treatment. So I have to lay off playing guitar until we know more about my situation. This state of affairs has seriously bummed me out. My evening routine had been to spend a couple hours practicing my songs with my lovely girlfriend, Laura, as my audience and critic. And now I look longingly at my Washburn while wrapping my elbow in a brace each night.
A few days ago, as I was listening to a podcast on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, I was reminded of Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament, a very moving letter written (but never sent) to his family as he discovered he was going deaf. Of course he couldn’t have known at the time that he would write some of his most sublime music (including his 9th) when his hearing was completely gone. He only knew that “the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than others” was in fact failing. I am in no way comparing myself to a giant like Beethoven, however, I believe that all artists who have come after him, no matter what style, medium or genre are in one sense following in his path. The forceful projection of his personality and his inner struggle as something that all could relate to was unheard of at the time. And this is what I hope to communicate to all of you: the feelings, thoughts, pain and joy common to us all.
Thinking about his plight also gave me some much needed perspective: I still have my ears, I can still play piano, I have modern medicine at my disposal. I will be able to play guitar again, likely quite soon. In the mean time, I am writing more piano-based songs and adapting some from guitar. I may need to go on the warpath against Cigna to get the approval for the necessary tests, but I won’t let them stand in the way. So welcome everyone, I hope you enjoy the songs I have up here and look forward to many more. It has been a particularly fruitful year for songwriting and I can’t wait to share them all with you.