Stephen Colarelli
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Stephen Colarelli

Midland, Michigan, United States | INDIE

Midland, Michigan, United States | INDIE
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"Professor Stephen Colarelli makes the grade as a musician"

Sometimes it can be hard for an artist to be creative output when they’re buried in their profession and raising a family.

Midland resident and Central Michigan University professor Stephen Colarelli can wholly attest to that fact.

Having spent much of his growing years as a budding songwriter, it took Colarelli more than 20 years to find time to put his musical and lyrical compositions into permanent form. Working his first record, “Time and Circumstances,” in Nashville, he finished it with Bay City producer/engineer Andy Reed in 2009. For his second release, “Better Days,” which was recorded immediately afterwards, Colarelli followed suit once again by heading back to Nashville and then to Reed Recording Company for the wrap-up. He released it in February this year.

As he rarely plays live shows, the vocalist/guitarist has little opportunity to promote his music outside of friends, family, the web and word of mouth. The Psychology Department professor is currently back at Reed's studio pounding out another record with hopes to be heard.

"When I was younger, in my teens and 20s, I'd written a lot of songs but never really did much with them," said the artist. "They were mainly just work tapes. Then you get going, you get a job, family, bills, and so forth, and I put music on hold until a number of years later. Then I got into it and I started listening to those old tapes. I thought, ‘Those are pretty good songs.’ I also started writing more songs again.”

Finding just enough spare time to record his music and finish writing new material, Colarelli is no longer wasting any inspiring moments.

"On the first album, maybe 80 percent I had written years ago," he said. "(On) the second album, more of those were recent songs, but some of them were also songs I had written (a long while ago). The album we are working on now, a good number of the songs will be taken from songs I had written before and getting them up to speed and putting them down at Andy's."

Colarelli's styles cover much ground, musically, lyrically and emotionally. From soft ballads to up-tempo rock, he has a world singer-songwriter penchant for the adult contemporary realm.

"If you had to say, 'who am I like' as far as a songwriter, I would have to say maybe somebody like Paul Simon," Colarelli said. "He does a lot of different types of music. I don't think of myself as a genre person, where all the songs sound the same. Most of the songs are based on either imagination or other sort of personal experiences.

For a few cuts on “Better Days,” Colarelli also included poetry, which he put to music and stand out on the release.

"For two of the songs, the lyrics were by William Butler Yeats’ 'Mad As the Mist and Snow.' I had written the music to those lyrics a long time ago. 'Your Yellow Hair,' those are lyrics to a poem (called) 'For Anne Gregory.' I'd always been a big fan of Yeats. I still think it is inspiring and you just kind of go with it”

Local female vocalists Laurie Middlebrook and Lasondra Gatewood also make abundant appearances on “Better Days.”

While he would like to take his music out live, the professor can only commit to so much per right now.

"When you play out, you have to do a lot of rehearsing and get your set list 'just so and so-forth' and I am really pretty busy with my work at CMU,” he said. “So in my spare time I'll work on writing songs and recording them. Beyond that I don't have as much time as I like to play out. But I certainly do on occasion."

Hard copies of Colarelli's music can be found at cdbaby.com or downloads at cdbaby, ITunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. - Bay City Times


"Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)"

When not in the classroom as a college professor, Stephen Colarelli can be found composing songs that are equal parts story and harmony. The new release from Stephen Colarelli, entitled Better Days, is a very nice and relaxing trip through the musical side of a man who spends most of his time teaching.

The piano of Jeff Taylor starts off the first track, which is the title track. The piano-driven “Better Days” gives a gentle introduction to the music of Colarelli.

“How I Remember You” is the second track of Better Days, and is the first time you really get to hear the guitar work of Colarelli. The acoustic guitar sets the mood for the easy pace of this bittersweet song.

As a change of pace, “A Free Person” has a very upbeat feel to it. The saxophone featured on the track gives the song a bit of a retro feel to it, making you long for the eighties when the saxophone was a lot more prevalent. The song is an all-too-fleeting glimpse of what Colarelli can do when he wants to “get down”.

One of the most interesting things about Better Days is the variety in the styles of writing. The most interesting track on the album is probably "You Never Do," a song that features vocalist Laurie Middlebrook in a duet with Colarelli. The style of the tune is very reminiscent of songs written and recorded by Leon Redbone.

To bring a little more energy to the release, Colarelli kicks it up a notch with the song "No More Naked Ladies". The slight sense of humor in the lyrics and the style of the music might remind you more than just a little of Jimmy Buffett. You can almost imagine The Coral Reefer Band playing the music to the song.

While the majority of Better Days was penned by Colarelli himself, there are two tracks on the release that feature words by the poet William Butler Yeats. The two Yeats poems orchestrated by Colarelli for the release are “Mad as the Mist and Rain” and “For Anne Gregory,” though “For Anne Gregory” was re-titled “Your Yellow Hair” for the release.

When listening to “Mad as the Mist and Snow,” the listener once again gets transported to a different time period. The poetry from Yeats, the electric sitar, as well as the overall feel of the music bring to mind the music of the sixties, especially the music from Donovan Leitch, better known simply as Donovan.

“Your Yellow Hair” is one of the strongest tracks on the release. Colarelli is joined on the track by singer Laurie Middleton as they create a duet to bring out the two voices in the poem. The romantic music composed to orchestrate Yeats’ words adds even more power to the already emotionally strong words. This is also one track on the release where Colarelli puts down his acoustic guitar and allows the other musicians to create the music, as the piano, strings and flute all combine to create the music that give the song its magical feeling.

The album basically ends in much the same way as it began- with Jeff Taylor on the piano leading off the final track of the release, "When I Come Home". The spiritual lyrics of the song are handled by singer Lasandra Gatewood as Colarelli allows the rest of the musicians to once again create just the right feeling to his words and music. The easy pace of the song also gives the right feeling to end the album.

Stephen Colarelli's new release Better Days is a real pleasure to sit back and relax to. With a solid list of songs that are well written, there is not one track that could bring the album down. Here's to more great material from this talented singer-songwriter.


- Review By: Matheson Kamin


"Music Monday - Stephen Colarelli"

With my new job, I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to writing blog posts as I would like. It’s been compounded by computer problems at home and just doing a lot of writing at work. Yet there is an interesting overlap between some of my work writing and my personal writing. Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post AmeriCorps Members a Decade Later. It was about two doctors at CHC who had been AmeriCorps members and are now doctors.

I thought of this as I started writing my blog post about Stephen Colarelli. His bio on Sonicbids includes:

Steve went to Senegal, in West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in a small village working on agricultural projects. During his spare time he continued to play the guitar and write music. He formed a rock band with several other Peace Corps volunteers, and they would play for dances when they were in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. After the Peace Corps, he earned a doctorate in psychology, began a career as a college professor and put music on the back burner. Years later, he got a call from one of his Peace Corp buddies about a reunion, and they talked about getting the band back to gather to play at the reunion. They did, and from then on, Steve has devoted much of his free time to writing, producing, and recording music.

There is something deep, tuneful, yet simple about his music, something I imagine it would have been great to listen to in Senegal, or on a college campus in Michigan. You see, Dr. Colarelli isn’t just Peace Corp alumnus and a performer; he is also a psychology professor who is currently working on a book, “Handbook of The Biological Foundations of Organizational Behavior”. - Orient Lodge


Discography

Time and Circumstances (2010).
Better Days (2011)

(Available on: CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes; streaming on: Jango, Last.fm)

Photos

Bio

Stephen Colarelli speaks many musical languages: Americana, R&B, gospel, world, pop and rock—all synthesized into a distinctive voice. He is a singer-songwriter from Michigan, USA. Steve released his first CD, "Time and Circumstances” in 2010 and his second CD "Better Days" in 2011.

Steve was born in Denver and grew up in Arvada, Colorado (USA)—where he spent much of his youth involved in music and exploring the natural beauty of Colorado. He learned to play the accordion at age seven and took up the guitar a few years later. He was in rock bands from middle through high school, and he began writing songs in high school. His early influences were the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, and Motown groups. He went to Northwestern University, near Chicago, and was influenced by many of the city’s folk and blues artists. In college he also took up the violin and piano.

After college, Steve went to Senegal, in West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in a small village working on agricultural projects. During his spare time he continued to play the guitar and write music. He formed a rock band with several other Peace Corps volunteers, and they would play for dances when they were in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. After the Peace Corps, he earned a doctorate in psychology, began a career as a college professor and put music on the back burner. Years later, he got a call from one of his Peace Corp buddies about a reunion, and they talked about getting the band back to gather to play at the reunion. They did, and from then on, Steve has devoted much of his free time to writing, producing, and recording music.

His recording career started almost by chance a few years back. He went to Nashville on a spring vacation just to relax and listen to live music. Luckily he stayed at a bed and breakfast, The Writer’s Room—which is also the headquarters of Bryan Cumming’s recording studio, "Studio 23." A few months later, he went back to Nashville and finished most of his first CD, "Time and Circumstances." Back in Michigan, Steve worked with Andy Reed at Reed Recording Company to put the finishing touches it.

With another trip to Nashville, followed by regular sessions at Andy Reed’s studio, Steve completed his second CD, "Better Days," which was released in February of 2011. Better Days features Lasandra Gatewood and Laurie Middlebrook, two brilliant singers, doing lead vocals on four of the CD’s 14 songs.

Steve is now at work on his third CD.