Dan Stevens
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Dan Stevens

Gulfport, Florida, United States | SELF

Gulfport, Florida, United States | SELF
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"Dan Stevens"

Interview with Dan Stevens, who has recently released his CD, “Rearview Mirrors“.

He was interviewed by his wife, Juju, a former DJ, whose “on air” name was Downtown Jole Blon.



Give me three adjectives that best describe your music.

Dan Stevens: Heart-felt, auto-biographical (mostly) and meaningful (if only to me)



What genre is your music ?

DS: That’s always a tough question because it covers a wide range. I guess the most current response would be that it is Americana, but the songs run from folk to country folk, regional, political, western swing, southern rock, rock & roll, Blues, humor, and even a Cajun waltz here and there.



What, if anything, makes it modern ?

DS: It’s a blend of a lot of styles which are the true American music. The themes are timeless. I write about my personal experiences and how they have affected my view of the world. I have a lot of hard miles and tragedies to draw upon, but I hope my true message is that there is always some hope and that humor is the best balm for the wounds. I’ll have to admit that, as I get older, I have less tolerance for stupidity. I guess that shows in a number of my songs; sometimes you have to laugh to keep from cryin’. I don’t know if I’m “modern” per say, but I have a voice and I intend to continue to comment on the things I see and the things that I feel we are letting slip through our hands. We have some hard times ahead and everyone needs to wake up before it’s all gone. Freedom is a delicate thing and my generation has been fortunate to see the best this country has had to offer.



What history do you most draw from?

DS: My own. I’ve known a collection of true characters in my travels and most of my songs are a direct comment on their way of life; I sometimes combine several people I’ve known to express the idea I’m trying to get across. New Bedford is a good example of that. It is a true story but I have combined elements of two different couples to give what I believe is an accurate reflection of the mindset of a New Bedford commercial fisherman’s life.



When did you begin writing songs and what triggered it?

DS: I have always dabbled in songwriting ever since I started playing in 1966. I played in a series of garage bands and later a number of club bands doing mostly cover songs but always we had a “take no prisoners” attitude. I kept trying to write Rock & Roll songs for those bands but folk and country songs kept coming out of me. I eventually gave into it and headed off in my current direction. I officially gave up trying to play music professionally in 1980 and it was a hobby for the next 20+ years, playing around a lot of camp fires on Pine Island and at various festivals here in Florida. I worked a number of construction orientated jobs for almost 30 years to support myself and finally reached a point where my body gave out. In 2005 I got married and, after having a number of body parts replaced, was forced to go on disability. This gave me the time for the first time in my life to really concentrate on songwriting. It culminated in my new CD “Rearview Mirrors” and I have the material for several more if I can sell enough of them to pay for more studio time.



Have you noticed differences between people in Florida and those where you grew up in western Massachusetts?

DS: Not really. I grew up in the woods. My house was between a gravel pit that went on for miles and tobacco fields; there were several thousand acres of woods behind the pits. I spent my childhood dirt biking, shooting guns and partying in the woods and, when I moved to Florida, the only difference was which animals got poached and the peoples' accents. Back woods people are the same everywhere, though they're sometimes suspicious of anyone who sounds different. I had a good friend of mine from Florida get married and move to Maine. Her husband was worried he wouldn’t get along with “state-o-Mainers”. I told him if there were a room where the accents were translated and alligator were replaced with moose or deer, they would become best of friends in no time. That’s exactly what happened. He now has a bunch of new “Yankee” huntin’ buddies and it’s all good.



What’s going through your mind when you’re on stage performing?

DS: When it’s working, I’m totally in the song’s environment. It’s like a trance. I’m totally in the space I’m singing about. The minute I start to think about the audience or what song I’m going to do next, the performance suffers. Each serious song takes a piece of me. When you lay your soul out like that it always has a price. If you can really connect with the audience, the energy you get back more than makes up for it. At best it’s as powerful as any love embrace. I get to share a very personal moment with an audience and when I can see that they get it, it fills me with energy and makes all my effort worthwhile.



What’s the most satisfying part of being a musician?

DS: The com - The Bay Buzz


"The easy wisdom of Dan Stevens"

In the 1970's and early 1980's, songwriters crafted their pieces with the sort of insight wrought out of bad decisions and worse luck. But it wasn't the blues they were singing, and it wasn't folk music or even straight country. It was a form of rock and roll that went down easy, music that spoke to the unwavering thing in working adults, formed after years of small paychecks and deflated dreams, weary of the heavy stuff Bob Dylan had been spouting.

Dan Stevens, local songwriter extraordinaire, taps into a sensibility crafted by guys like Jerry Reed and Merle Haggard. When Stevens strums and sings, he does so with Reed's articulate sense of humor, but his pieces convey heartache and reflection with the accuracy that Haggard found in songs like "Sing Me Back Home", an ode to an old prison mate who was sentenced to death.

In "Buzzard Stew", one of the tracks off his CD entitled, Rearview Mirror, Stevens reminds us about the fragility of life, telling us that one day we might find ourselves "with a pocket full of could haves/And a pile of should have knowns." Heavy, indeed, but he takes us there with the demeanor of an old friend or funny uncle.

In fact, there was a dog named Rufus hanging out at The Ale and The Witch last night as Stevens performed, and when old Rufus began to bark, Stevens, unruffled, quipped, "That's my new back up singer."

You can get a dose of Stevens and his insightful music at Chattaway on Saturday, June 11.


- St. Petersburg Music Examiner- Don O'Cull


Discography

Groove Moon, Captured Moments (2004)
Dan Stevens, Rearview Mirrors (Gatorbone Records 2010)
My Life of Adventure (Gatorbone Records 2012)

Photos

Bio

Dan Stevens currently plays out as a singer-songwriter and host of showcase events with other artists when he isn't writing new songs. He's a regular at songwriter and folk events and festivals in Florida. The summer of 2012, Rich Reardin selected him as an up and coming songwriter and featured him as a part of the series he produces with Jason Wilbur (John Prine's guitar player). http://www.prx.org/pieces/79330-searchlight-dan-stevens-priorities

Dan won an honorable mention in the annual Billboard Song contest with his song Requiem, as well as a number of other alcolades for his studio cds. He has released two studio albums, Rearview Mirrors, (2010) and My Life of Adventure (2012). Both made the long list for the Grammy. His studio band is comprised of some amazing musicians: Gove Scrivenor, Chubby Carrier, Gabe Valla, Jason Thomas, Scott Vestal, Aaron O'Rourke, Wally Murphy and others.

Dan's music is influenced by the songwriters and musicians of his generation: Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Jerry Garcia, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, the Jefferson Airplane, Dan Hicks and even Roy Clark. He's also greatly influenced by the writings of Jack Kerouac, who died a few miles from his home in Gulfport, Florida.

Dan began his career in earnest in the early 70's, when he left Beloit College and traveled to Guam. There, he joined Bamboo, a horn band which played island nightclubs and concerts.

Over the years, he's been one of the founding members of a number of rock n' roll/blues bands: Apathy, Cottonmouth, Windfall Prophet, Groove Moon and others. He's played across the New England states, in Texas and Colorado (Boulder,Telluride, and Colorado Springs), and, of course, South and Central Florida.

He's played at the Pine Island Blues Fest, St. Petersburg Folk Fest and many other area events, including the Pinellas Folk Festival, the Sarasota Folk Fest, the Florida Folk Festival and Southern Music Rising.

He is slated to play Louiepalooza II, the Barberville Fall Jamboree, and Gulfport's annual Birthday Bash.