Owen Dacombe Steel
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Owen Dacombe Steel

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF
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"Owen Steel et al"

Thursday, June 11, 2009
Owen Steel et.al

Today I find myself in St. John, New Brunswick for the first time ever.
And I've kind of forgotten just how inspiring it is, being in a place you've
never been before. I did my corporate gig that brought me here, and was
keen to have a lobster lunch (which I did......yummm).

Between cracking open my red crustacean friend, looking goofy in the
manditory lobster bib, sipping on a local beer and texting with my best
friend Debbie, it was suggested I go on an adventure. Funny how I
always think that means photo related. The problem was I didn't run
into anything that interesting or photogenic after lunch. Until.....I
turned a corner and heard the soft cool sounds of a stand up base,
acoustic guitar and some basic rhythms. It was a young cool independent
band playing in-front of a small music store.

Funny I didn't expect the adventure to be musical. Their music was soft
yet edgy, and they seemed to love what they were doing. Just casually
playing on the street, on a quiet Thursday afternoon - for a very small
audience. Me.

It was cool and unexpected. And it re-taught me that we always need to
be positive and keep our eyes, ears and heart open, because we never
really know what's around the corner.

(perhaps their audience is larger than it seemed) - blog.dwaynebrown.com/2009/06/owen-steel-etal.html

"Owen Steel EP Review"

One look at the silk-screened graphics on a recycled paper sleeve, the E.P. by Owen Steel already oozes with the DIY grassroots attitude of the New Brunswickian Food Clothing Shelter label. As if sitting around an ocean-side bonfire with friends, the overall sound and style of Owen Steel is this slight Jack Johnson twinge of a guy playing songs out of his well-traveled, black composition book. Albeit not over-mastered and produced by millionaires for billionaires, Owen Steel is still distinct from folk music by forlorn surfers. For instance, listen for grassroots references to New Brunswick in tracks like VW Van and S.I.S.A. (Summer in Saint Andrews). In the end, the biggest shame about the release by Owen Steel is the way it ends after only four tracks. - CanonContainerShip

"Owen Steel 'et al' Album Review"

With the first listen of Owen Steel’s new disc “et al.” one can not help but be surprised at the amount of energy and talent that this album contains. With such a minimalist band some would think this album would sound empty but it is quite the opposite. The idea that less is more defines this album and it is put together perfectly. The only thing I find myself wanting while listening to “et al.” is the warmth of a record player and with any luck someday this will be recorded on vinyl. With songs about moose, death and a childhood home Owen displays an ability to tell honest great stories.

There are so many creative elements of “et al.” it is impossible to discuss them all. The album art done by NB artist Adam Jeffrey captures the spirit of the disc perfectly. The instrumentation and vocals by Steel are flawless throughout. Scott Culligan’s upright bass brings a great low end tone that fills out each song in a fashion that has been lost on 90% of the albums recorded lately. The pride of Stanley NB Mike (Mumble) Humble abandons the generic drum kit on this album and brings an element of percussion that is distinctly original. The range of percussive sounds created with a wooden box (Cajon) on “et al.” is impressive to say the least. Mumble also highlights a few melodies with his xylophone parts that are irreplaceable. Another high note is the list of guest appearances; Babette Hayward, Tom Easley, Joel Leblanc, A.G. Olmstead and Kelly Waterhouse “et al.” proves that the east coast community spirit is alive and well.

It is surprising to hear the wide array of tempos, styles and tones that are on “et al.” and they never sound forced or contrived. Owen has a genuine writing style that has been missing from NB music for a long time. To pick one highlight on this album is impossible and after listening to the album a few times I found myself noticing all the little nuances hidden in perfect site. Owen Steel has proved himself to be a mad scientist of folk music on this album and I am excited to hear and see what is next.
- Matt Everett/FeelsGood

"Great, Wonderful, Awsome, et cetera"


Nearly every child grows up dreaming of being a musician, but not every child pursues, let alone achieves, this dream. However, this year another young musician is able to say that he has.

Owen Steel, at the humble age of 21, has produced and released his own album with his band, Owen Steel Et Al.

Other than the obvious inclusion of Steel himself, Owen Steel Et Al is comprised of Mike “Mumble” Humble (percussion), and Scott Culligan (bass). The trio is joined on a number of tracks by some of their friends and local musicians including vocals by Babette Hayward and Kelly Waterhouse (Dub Antenna).

The self-titled album was engineered by Evan Hansen, who also worked with Fredericton locals Weak Size Fish and Olympic Symphonium, at Salty Towers in Saint Andrews. The album was later reworked and mastered by J. LaPointe who has worked with Maritime greats Joel Plaskett and Hot Toddy.

The release is a wonderful retelling of Steel’s interpretation of going through life in your early twenties – and his journey in particular.

Steel’s soulful voice belies years beyond his young twenties and adds a wonderful warmth to songs that make you want to lie down in the sunshine.

The release of the album coincides perfectly with the warm, sunny weather we have been experiencing in Fredericton. A number of the songs including: “VW Van,” “Paper Shape,” and “Wild ‘N Free” are the perfect anthems to take road trips to or have some cold beer and hang out with friends on the patio.

The inclusion of xylophone on a handful of tracks gives the songs a wonderful sense of childhood innocence and a summertime free of worries.

Owen Steel Et Al have been promoting their album the past couple of weeks on a VIA rail tour across Canada. However, as the old adage says, there’s no rest for the wicked and the band will be holding an album release party at the end of the month as well as starting a Maritime tour before the end of the summer.

Owen Steel Et Al was released this past week on April 2. The album’s official release party will happen at the Capital Complex in Wilser’s Room April 22.

The show will feature opening act Doug Macnearney – who originally wrote the second song on the album, ‘Driving.’ Cover is $7.
- Alison Clacke (The Brunswickan)

"Riding the Black Turkey"

Owen Steel is hoping his delicate ride will survive the 2,400 mile trek to the South by Southwest (SXSW) musical festival in Austin, Texas.

Steel calls his 1999 Toyota Tercel “The Black Turkey.”

“She’s got one blue wing on the left side, the other is black. I love her to death. Most turkeys can’t fly; this one can.”

Steel’s upcoming show at the Wilser’s Room in Fredericton on March 10 will act as a fundraiser for his trip, helping him gas up and get on the road.

Steel is a born and raised Maritime folk musician whose musical experiences run deep into the rural area around St. Andrews, NB and across P.E.I.

Some of his earliest memories include the folk culture circulating St. Andrews when he was a boy.

“That part of the province was/is full of draft dodgers and they brought along the spirit of folk music with them,” said Steel.

He joined in on music circles and potlucks and was in contact with many musicians through a local inn that his father ran.

“They were always on the porch playing, out back in the school house smoking, in the middle of the living room writing or in the kitchen cooking.”

Steel found himself caught in the touring circuit of many musicians.

“The songsters kept passing through town, and I think on a more subconscious level I was studying them. Not only their music, but their way of life.”

He adopted the bohemian qualities he witnessed in other musicians at his father’s inn and these days he enjoys getting on the road himself. He’s done two tours with Via Rail where they paid his travel and accommodation in exchange for song. He said that performing on the train was a great experience and a good way to meet other musicians.

“On our way back from Austin, we’ll probably be staying with a musician from Virginia who I met on the train from Vancouver to Toronto.”

Steel’s folk rifts and lyrical driven melodies have become a Fredericton favourite over the years.

“I spent close to three years living there [Fredericton] and it was a pretty big step in my development as a live performer. I’ve noticed a lot of bands who come through Fredericton always claim it as their favourite place to play.”

“I’ve experienced many great places as a musician and Fredericton is up top, no question! And that has a lot to do with the crowd: good, fun people who I find are well aware of the arts and are keen to support it.”

His Wilser’s Room performance will be complimented by percussion king Mike Humble and the renowned Joel LeBlanc.

After leaving Fredericton, Steel is making one last stop in St. Andrews before his pilgrimage down south. Joining Steel on the trip down to Texas will be fellow musicians, Doug Macnearney and Will Fitzpatrick.

“We may also be meeting up with an old friend of mine named Nico and our friend Babette Hayward is flying down ahead of us.”

His trip will take him through New York and Kentucky in a three to four-day stretch that will leave him seeing a large part of the United States.

“My main priority is to take in as much music as possible, as well as to play some whenever possible. There are apparently a ton of free shows and barbeques, and so I’m hoping to stumble across a bunch of new acts and get some good southern eats.”

Their goal is to arrive in Austin by the middle of March and stay until the end of the festival.

“After SXSW, we’ll take our time getting back, hopefully head into Louisiana, Alabama, and then get up to stay with a friend in Virginia. If the car lives, we’ll aim to be back by early April.”

The risks and obstacles the trio will face are inevitable, but Steel maintains that the company of music will keep them on their feet.

“It is a trip based on luck, hope and spontaneity and is ultimately being driven by the music,” said Steel.

He’s confident that the trip will continue with or without ‘The Black Turkey.’ - The Brunswickan/Matt Belyea

"NB's Steel named Winnipeg Festival Rising Star"

A young New Brunswick performer has grabbed an important prize at one of the country's top music festivals. Owen Steel of St. Andrews won the Galaxy Rising Star award at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on the weekend. Playing on the main stage Friday afternoon, Steel impressed the festival jury, and won the vote for this year's Rising Star.

Unlike many other festivals, who invite mostly local performers for the Rising Star competition, Winnipeg features a Young Performers Program open to all. However, you have to apply and be accepted. Steel incorporated the trip into his current tour, which found him playing on board a Via Rail train, which took him from Halifax to Winnipeg last week.

Steel released his first full-length disc in 2010, Owen Steel et al, and has toured relentlessly since, from coast to coast. His acoustic material shows a pure Maritime connection to nature, plus the Canadian instinct for story-telling. He's heading to the annual Evolve Festival in Antigonish, NS next, which runs from July 22 to 24.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is considered one of the top events of its kind in North America, with a strong legacy dating back to 1974. More than 60,000 people attend each year. Headliners this time included Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, kd lang, and Blue Rodeo.

- Bob Mersereau/ CBC

"Foodclothingshelter Does Halifax"

On the Saturday of the Halifax Pop Explosion small groups of sharply dressed kids in their late teens and early twenties pile in to Taz Records. The sound of fingers sorting through stacks upon stacks of new and used vinyl is slowly ingrained in the patrons’ ears.
The Pop Explosion is Halifax’s most popular festival. The festival has run annually since 1993. It includes over 100 acts, small panels with music industry experts, and a related film festival called the Halifax Film Explosion.
This afternoon, Foodclothingshelter Music, a Fredericton based musical collective, have organized an in-store performance at Taz. The showcase features three up-and-coming acoustic artists on their roster: David R. Elliott, Owen Steel, and Babette Hayward.
Luke Macdonald, founder of Foodclothingshelter, works as the group’s manager, promoter and booking agent. He started the collective as a means of getting involved with music from behind the scenes.
“We’re essentially a group of friends who all have a great passion for music – and art in general,” he says. He thought the Pop Explosion would be an ideal time to expose Foodclothingshelter to Halifax.
“During the Pop Explosion there’s so many people in town interested in new music, so if we can get our name out there now that’d be great.”
Owen Steel has been involved with Foodclothingshelter since it was simply a dream thrown around by childhood friends. He organized the Taz showcase.
Steel describes his music as “a folk-roots sound.” Though he usually plays with a percussion player, today he’s backed up by Doug MacNearny on banjo. As a musician Steel is resourceful – able to adopt any number of instruments in his songs, so long as they compliment his understated approach to song-writing, rather than spoil it.
Usually Steel is fairly confident, but today he’s feeling anxious.
“I find smaller shows nerve-wracking,” he says. “It’s so intimate and the littlest mistakes really show up. In a way it’s good, because it keeps you on your game.”
Steel’s live sets have a feel-good pomp to them. Accentuated by his grisly voice, he taps his toes through a number of songs about nature, and the thrill of the open road.
“[When it comes to writing lyrics] I have a hard time being serious. I like writing about animals,” he says. “I find my best lyrical moments are when you sit down and don’t think but they just come out – it’s simple yet profound.”
Still, Steel feels like Foodclothingshelter is a great way for artists to interact and challenge each other to improve.
“I’d like to start focusing more on lyrics,” he says. “Watching David R., his lyrics are amazing and I’d really like to focus on the song-writing elements.”
David R. Elliott grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, and the Taz showcase is his first show since moving to Halifax in May. He’s excited about playing for a new crowd.
“This is why I moved here,” he says. “There’s actually an audience that I expect to be somewhat receptive to what I’m trying to do.”
Lyrically, Elliott tries to channel the same working-class spirit mastered by mid-80’s Bruce Springsteen.
“I mostly just feel comfortable around working-class people,” he says. “Everyone wants to be thought of as somewhat intellectual and that often seems pretentious to me. I just want to tell stories about people I work with.”
Elliott describes his sound as “90’s countrypolitan and Springsteen.” He strums his guitar heavily, and sings with a surly, gravelly voice. Dressed in work boots and ripped jeans, he looks like he’s here on a coffee break from a nine-to-five at a construction site.
Though Steel and Elliott both have a certain romanticism to their songs, their rough voices don’t convey that tender sincerity like Babette Hayward.
Hayward is a nineteen year-old Saint John native, who is currently trying out life in Halifax. Though she picked up a guitar a few years ago, she only started playing shows last January.
She started working with Foodclothingshelter this summer, though she books shows through Jeff Liberty, her Saint John-based booking agent.
“Jeff’s been great for getting me on bigger bills like Evolve,” she says. “But Foodclothingshelter is more of an artistic community where I can interact with other artists.”
Unlike the two previous acts, Hayward’s lyrics are less obvious.
“I don’t like writing about things so blatantly,” she says. “I prefer to be somewhat metaphorical and leave interpretation up to the listener.”
Hayward’s voice has a shy and genuine quality that leaves audience members noticeably impressed. She moves comfortably between a soft whisper and soaring crescendo. Her stage demeanour is notably modest, and it makes her set more impressionable.
After the show, customers go back to browsing the racks. The shop gradually empties, and the din of records being shifted through returns.
James Donnelly, a newly hired manager, helped stage the benefit.
“Owen called me and I said ‘come on down’,” he says. “We do this whenever possib - November 12, 2009 by streetsoffire

"Steeling himself for a cross-country tour"


It’s a touch of old world romanticism, travelling cross country by train.

Picture whisking through the Rockies, chugging through all the tiny towns of Northern Ontario, whipping past the forests upon forests of Eastern Canada’s pine trees. It all seems like part of a dream. However, for the next couple of months it’s all just part of Owen Steel’s job.

For the next couple of months Owen will be travelling across Canada by VIA rail as a part of a program they run providing musicians with free travel in exchange for shows on the train. The tour will also see him playing shows at the stops in between until he makes it back to the east coast at the end of April.

In reality, the cross-Canada adventure is likely much more stressful than one’s initial romantic connotations. Running around the country, instruments in tow, playing shows in as many cities as you can while rushing to make it to your next stop to catch the train-- it’s a high stress lifestyle.

This is the exact situation the Brunswickan found Owen Steel in as he hopped on a trolley to the train station and took a call to talk about the tour and his newly released album.

“I noticed that some local artists had been doing it too. So, I got in contact with Kyle Cunjak (Share, Olympic Symphonium) and he directed me towards the personnel at VIA rail who organize that kind of thing. I sent an email and they liked the [music] links that I sent them and agreed to do it,” explains Steel on how he got involved with the rail company.

As for how the tour has been going, Steel explains that some venues are better than others. He says that a show in the retirement capital of Ontario didn’t pull the greatest crowd, but that hasn’t been indicative of the rest of the tour.

“We had an amazing show in Ottawa on Tuesday. We’ve had some confusion with our CDs and didn’t get them until we were in Ottawa, so that was technically our CD release show. We packed the venue and sold a lot of CDs; it’s been the highlight of the tour so far.”

The CD itself won’t be released in the Maritimes until Steel gets back in April because of an unfortunate mix up with a delivery truck. But he doesn’t want fans back here to think he’s forgotten about them.

“It’s funny how this worked out. We just got this opportunity to do the train so we took that without booking any home dates. However, I’m working on them while I’m on the road,” explains Steel. “Probably sometime in May we’ll be doing the Maritimes stuff. Nothing is booked yet in Fredericton but obviously it’s going to be a priority.”

As far as the album goes the sound shouldn’t be that foreign to old Owen fans.

“A lot of the songs on the album are really old, but only in the last year did we receive the money to make the album. They’ve been refreshed by the band we assembled though.”

Steel also explains the influences each of the band members brought:

“Stripped down, if it was just me, the album would be really folky, but Mumble [Mike Humble] adds a bit more blues to the songs and they get kind of groove oriented. Scott Culligan plays the upright bass and just adds even more to it, so the sound is so much more than if it were just me. Obviously,” he laughs.

Lyrics-wise, Steel says the album features the timeless themes in music.

“A lot of the songs have this perseverance theme. I mean, I feel like I’m 14, but I’m really 21. So, really I’m a grown up. I feel like the songs are a lot of me coming into my own.”

Owen Steel will be finishing his cross-Canada tour and heading back to the Maritimes in April. His new release is entitled Owen Steel et al.
- Alison Clack (The Brunswickan)

"Owen Steel"

A native of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Owen has found his place in society as an aspiring musician. With his music readily available to listen to on the internet, there were a number of songs that jumped out to grasp my attention.

As his acoustic hooks on to your soul, his smooth and clean voice pulls you in to clinch any remaining doubt that Owen is a show stopper. Emphasized in Volkswagen Van, his excellent transitions from verses into the catchy chorus allow the listener to slip into a state of serenity. Maybe I will help him buy his first Volkswagen Van!

Upon listening to my favourite tune offered by him thus far, my head took an instant sway back and forth. I did not see a moose however, did see something huge in Twig Eater. With the combination of Owen’s guitar; Mike Humble (mumble) adding an excellent beat; and Scott Culligan providing us with a great bass line, we are indulged in absolute brilliance.

Steel and Mumble will be touring across Canada promoting their debut full length album. They will be travelling on VIA Rail, joining the “On-Board Musician Series”. Listeners from all of Canada will now be able to embrace these two, highly talented East Coast Musicians.

I will be first in line upon their arrival to St. Andrews, preparing for a night to remember!

For updates of all kind, Steel’s homepage is available @ www.myspace.com/owensteel

- Shockenaw.com



7" - 2012

ET AL - 2010

et al (Demos On Cassette) - 2009

Castle EP - 2009 (sold out)

Idea Book EP - 2008 (sold out)



Music found Owen Steel at a young age.

While growing up on Prince Edward Island, he began taking guitar lessons from a local wood carver in exchange for eggs, cash, and farm fresh meat. The lessons did not last long but the love for song did; in the years that followed, the story of his exposure to music and the people who play it would read like a childhood dream.

Steel often spent parts of the year at his Father’s home in St. Andrews, New Brunswick – a small town close to the US/Canada border surrounded by the ocean. The house came to be known as ‘Salty Towers’ - an Inn that would gain a reputation for being a home away from home for many traveling musicians. From road warriors Ray Bonneville and Fred Eaglesmith to blues ambassador Guy Davis, unsung heroes The Acorn & Tyler Messick, folk revivalist Old Man Luedecke, local legends Isaac & Blewett and Hot Toddy, along with hundreds of others, Steel was fortunate enough to get an up close and personal experience with an incredible array of talent. “At first I didn’t clue in to what was happening,” explains Owen, in regards to his younger years at Salty Towers, “and then, slowly, I began to understand that I was living in the middle of a touring circuit with some of the world’s finest musicians!” All the while, and inevitably so, Steel maintained a strong interest in song writing, as well as developed a curiosity in live performance. Naturally, he adopted many of the bohemian qualities and musical styles that he witnessed from those passing through, and ultimately created something all his own. “The songsters kept passing through town, and I think on a more subconscious level I was not only studying their music, but also their way of life.”

The result of this exposure is something truly original: At their core, the songs retain elements of folk/roots music. Yet there are subtle and undeniable twists all the way through. On a recording, with other players at hand, things may take a turn towards vaudeville, blues & funky folk; before you know it you’re live watching a totally different one man band electric show. At a festival, it is not uncommon to witness his jug-band, complete with washboard and washtub bass; or perhaps you’ll find yourself listening to just a guitar and voice. No matter, whether solo, as a duo, trio or even with a 70 piece orchestra, Steel has become a versatile, engaging, and unique performer. With several hundred shows under his belt from Newfoundland to the Yukon; busking bouts throughout parts of the United States; on trains and buses, in cars and band vans; from intimate house concerts to 800-seat theaters; from Folk Festivals to Freak Festivals - Owen is gathering fans and friends wherever he goes!

With his sophomore album on the horizon for 2013, Steel has shortened the waiting game with a recently released 45 rpm vinyl record. It includes two new studio songs recorded by Charles Austin (The Super Friendz) at The Echo Chamber in Halifax, NS, with special guests Bill Stevenson (piano) & Corey Henderson (tuba) that were made to be loose, fun, beautiful & imaginative, respectively.