Steve Zarate

Steve Zarate

 Athens, Ohio, USA

I'm a solo singer-songwriter w/ acoustic guitar & harmonica, able to play hundreds of 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s covers & requests of pop, folk, blues, country & rock tunes, and close to 200 positive, insightful, hopeful & healing original songs. I play to entertain or be atmospheric background, as needed.


Raised in Columbus, Ohio, Steve Zarate (rhymes with karate) began playing acoustic guitar and harmonica and writing songs at age 15 in 1976, emulating camp counselors who played great 60s and 70s music around summer evening campfires. Self-taught by learning songs he loved (especially Elton John, Neil Young and Beatles tunes), Steve has since copyrighted 182 original songs with the Library of Congress. While earning three Ohio University degrees (B.A. Telecommunications, M.A. Political Science, M.S. Journalism) between 1978 and 1991, he grew to cherish charming Athens and the green Southeast Ohio countryside. In 1992 he released a debut cassette of 18 original songs, "Athens Solstice." Steve has played at many regional events and also gained a reputation among enthusiastic college students as an incredible street performer with a vast repertoire of originals and tons of covers.

Having spent much of 1988 as a carpenter and NPR reporter in Petersburg, Alaska, Steve returned after grad school to live in Alaska from 1992 to 1997, discovering more locales he has come to cherish. He co-produced and contributed his song "Photosynthesis" to a 1992 Homer, Alaska, benefit recording, "Welcome The Spirit Green!" (collaborating with Jewel's father, Atz Kilcher, among others), before relocating to Juneau in 1993. Several years of state employment there led to the 1995 recording and 1996 release of Steve's first CD, "Homecoming," featuring 13 originals and accompaniment by nine Juneau musicians. Positive feedback led in turn to Steve's growing sense of confidence that dedicated musicianship and inspired songwriting are central to his life purpose, and in July 1997 he left Alaska to pursue musical opportunity in the lower 48.

Living again in Athens, Ohio, since September 1997, Steve has released three solo acoustic performance collections displaying his visionary gift for creating hopeful music blending eloquent positive imagery, catchy melodies and intricate guitar parts: "Invisible Campfires" (2002, 14 songs), "Jewel Of The Hocking" (2005, 4 songs live) and "Blowing On Embers," (2006, 13 songs). In early 2003 The Local Girls, a nationally-known Southeast Ohio-based singing group, included Steve's song "Jewel Of The Hocking" on "Four Year Heaven," a CD of songs honoring Athens and Ohio University. Steve was named an Ohio Valley Regional Co-Finalist in the 2007 Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, garnering praise for performances of “Invisible Campfires” and “Cell Phone Song” at a contest event on 7/21/07. The April 2008 release of the "Silver Linings" EP showcased six of Steve's best original songs through a collaboration with skilled co-producer Bernie Nau at his Peach Fork Studios in Meigs County, Ohio, with ten talented local guest musicians helping them come to life. In 2009, Steve had his fullest performance schedule to date, with 100+ performances and steady engagements in Athens, Logan, Nelsonville, Marietta & Pomeroy, Ohio, and Parkersburg, West Virginia.


“An honest and energetic voice…(whose) lyrics are really loaded with interesting images and raw enthusiasm.” –Dirty Linen

“I really like your craftsmanship in your lyrics. Consistency of meter doesn’t come easily but you achieve it. Good job!” –Tom Paxton, letter to artist

“Steve’s off to a good start; his debut recording is a strong offering…showcasing not only exceptional songwriting and guitar playing, but his ability to draw the best performance from his fellow musicians.” –Capitol City Weekly, Juneau AK

Shared stages with:

Greg Brown
Guy & Candy Carawan
Donna Mogavero
Ford James (formerly Kate Wolf’s bass player/harmony singer)
Bruce Dalzell
Laura Nadeau
Missy Whaley
Sarah Guthrie
Megan Cameron
Matt Peters
Troy Gregorino
Rusty Smith
Mark & Hilarie Burhans (of The Hot Point String Band)
The Paranormals
Joey Hebdo
Dan Minuskin
Todd Burge

Venues and Appearances:

The Thirsty Ear, Columbus OH (1999-2003)
The Front Room, Athens OH (1989-1992, 1997-2005)
Donkey Coffee, Athens OH (2002-2008)
The Blue Gator, Athens OH (2005-2007)
The Smiling Skull, Athens OH (2003-2009)
Toscano’s/The Oak Room, Athens OH (2002-2003, 2008-present)
The Union Bar and Grill, Athens OH (2002-2005)
Uncle Buck's, Albany OH (2002-2005)
Rhapsody Restaurant, Nelsonville OH (2006-present)
Cutler's at the OU Inn (2008-present)
The Piano Works, Logan OH (2007)
The Sandstone, Logan OH (2007-present)
The Blennerhassett Hotel, Parkersburg WV (2006-2009)
The Galley, Marietta OH (2008-2009)
Court Street Grill, Pomeroy OH (2008-2009)
The Alaskan Bar, Juneau AK (1994-1997)
Alaska Folk Festival, Juneau AK (1993-1997)
Southeast Alaska State Fair, Haines AK (1993-1994)
Anchorage Folk Festival, Anchorage AK (1993)
WOUB, Athens OH
WYSO, Yellow Springs OH
WORT, Madison WI
KTOO, Juneau AK
KHNS, Haines AK
“River City Folk” (public radio show), Omaha NE

Contact info:

Water Medicine Music


Fear-Based Thinking

Written By: Steve Zarate

FEAR-BASED THINKING (Written 5/29/2002, Athens OH; completed 6/20/2002, Cincinnati OH.)

Fear-based thinking's got me in a fix
Froze me in a pattern, lost me in the mix
Fear-based thinking put me in a bind
Stuck me in a straitjacket and strangled up my mind

Fear-based thinking said, "Don't write this song!
Nobody wants to know; it'll just come out wrong,
Besides, what makes you think that you're worthy of a voice?"
But it's a question of choice

Along the rocky road to recovery, regeneration, rejuvenation,
There's a shadow that's keeping me on my toes,
That old fear-based thinking, same thing everybody knows

Fear-based thinking thinks it's got me licked,
Paralyzed, bewildered, terrified and tricked,
Fear-based thoughts have a thing or two to learn
About the human capacity to finally turn

Toward the rocky road to recovery, regeneration, rejuvenation,
There's a shadow that's keeping me on my toes,
That old fear-based thinking, same thing everybody knows

It feels like being boxed inside a cage of my own choosing
That's never been locked, it can't be that hard to just break loose

What if we learn to stop them in their tracks?
Catch 'em in the process? Send 'em right back?
Maybe those fear-based thoughts could melt away
Hearts could soar and angels come to play

Along the rocky road to recovery, regeneration, rejuvenation,
There's a shadow that's keeping me on my toes,
That old fear-based thinking, same thing everybody knows,
Same thing everybody knows, same place everybody goes,
I think everybody knows

What if I fail? What if it doesn't work out?
What if I can't find the trail? How do I deal with the doubt?
What if I'm poor? What if the bottom falls out?
What did I come here for? What is this heartbeat talking about?
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Cell Phone Song

Written By: Steve Zarate

CELL PHONE SONG (Written 10/2005, Athens OH.)

Why do I gotta hear you talking when I'm walking down the street
With your cell phone up to your head
Saying, "I'll be there in about five minutes,"
When you might as well not call and walk a little faster?
And why do we gotta hear your one way chatter
When it isn't really any of our business?
It makes me wanna echo back every single solitary
Silly word that you say, just like,

"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
I was like 'Duh,' and she was like 'Duh,'" you know what I mean?
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
Did you see what she wore? She got it at the store, oh what a bore!"
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
Half-price pitchers! I wish that I was richer, but then again,"
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
And why's this guy repeating every word that I say?"

Sure, a cell phone's good to have around in case you get into a wreck
And you need to call emergency personnel
And sometimes they can be good for your business
Like when you need to check on messages that really are important
But even though you're standing right there in front of me
Still it seems as though your mind's about a million miles away
And I don't know why you won't pay closer attention to the beauty
Of the moment while you're yakking away oblivious, still you're saying,

"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
She was like 'Whoa,' and I was like 'Whoa,'" there you go,
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
I think that he was drunk, no doubt he's such a hunk, but kind of a punk."
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
I'll be there any second, another call just beckoned, totally!"
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it,
And why's this guy repeating every, -peating every word that I say?"

"Hang on, I've got call waiting;
Okay I'm back, it was just my mom...
She's wondering about my prospects,
But I'm just wondering if spring break is gonna be the bomb!"

I'd just as soon we confiscate 'em all
And blow a huge pile of cell phones into smithereens
And the only way that we would ever talk to one another
Would be on private lines and face to face without machines
Especially the ones used by the people yakkity-yakking while they're driving,
It's a wonder that they're even still alive
They're such a menace, in Venice they might throw them overboard
But not me, I know the pen's still mightier than the sword, so I'm like,

Oh my God, you're totally clueless,
Erecting such a barrier, depending on a carrier, you know what I mean?
Oh my God, you're awesomely clueless,
She's talking in the stall like she thinks she's in the mall, I'm truly appalled.
Oh my God, you're bitchingly clueless,
Strange looks all the time from strangers in the line, but still you whine,
"Oh my God, I'm totally clueless,
And why's this guy repeating every, -peating every, -peating every word that I say?"..."Oh my God!"

Invisible Campfires

Written By: Steve Zarate

INVISIBLE CAMPFIRES (Written 6/8 & 10, 8/20-21/2001, Athens OH.)

There on the corner, ordering their burritos
They come in all shapes and sizes, collegians and the local Joes
I sing with them on weekend nights, searching for the songs that fit just right
Building those invisible campfires, out where the concrete flows

There goes a boom-box car with the latest beat
Ten or twelve smoky sweaty crowded bars just up the street
They come around the corner queasy, find a buncha people singin’ “Take It Easy”
Building those invisible campfires, making the night complete

Can’t burn your fingers on this flame
Pull up a log, we’re glad you came
Don’t hide your voice away in shame
Let’s sing another

Song for the lonely girls in the corner booth
And then some songs for the country roads full of endless truth
Playin’ real good for free, tryin’ to instigate some harmony
Lighting those invisible campfires, feeling the rush of youth

Not everyone can see them burning
In this place of higher learning
But silent chords are turn, turn, turning
How does the song go?

There on the corner, munching down their burritos
Drivin’ that Chevy to the levee ‘til long after the taverns close
Cecilia and the Brown-Eyed Girl sounding like Aretha, Grace and Pearl
Building those invisible campfires out where the concrete grows,
out where the moonlight flows,
out where the night wind blows,
out where the sidewalk glows

Jewel Of The Hocking

Written By: Steve Zarate

JEWEL OF THE HOCKING (Written in September 2003 in Athens OH for a contest held by vocal trio The Local Girls seeking new songs for a CD about Athens and Ohio University. Their version appears on the 2003 release “Four Year Heaven-The Songs Of Ohio University.”)

I was raised in the city where the traffic’s something fierce
And the only green you see is between concrete
Then I came to the country, that’s where I fell in love
With a little college town where life is sweet

She’s the Jewel of the Hocking by the bend in the river
Any moment of the year she’s shining still
And there’s something about Athens and Southeast Ohio
That keeps the laughter ringing through these hills

I found a family of friendships down in Athens
With a wealth of rolling hillsides and a sky so blue
However far I roam I’ll always feel at home
On the college green at old Ohio U.

Friendly people there from everywhere with smiles full of light
And that good acoustic music after hours
In the fall the trees are rainbows, in winter fields turn white
And in the spring the spirits rise up with the flowers

I found a family of friendships down in Athens
With a wealth of rolling hillsides and a sky so blue
However far I roam I’ll always feel at home
On the college green at old Ohio U.

One time I was far away and I dreamed about old Court Street
I marveled at the brickwork and the old courthouse
Then I strolled down to the campus, saw the monument in sunshine
And I promised I’d get back to there somehow

In the cafes, bars and restaurants, at parties and at potlucks
Athenians always make you feel welcome
Ask any Bobcat, they’ll tell you how it sparkles,
That little patch of green that we call home

I found a family of friendships down in Athens, Ohio
With a wealth of rolling hillsides and a sky so blue
However far I roam I’ll always feel at home
On the college green at old Ohio U.
On the college green at old Ohio U.
On the college green at old Ohio U.

Living In Alaska

Written By: Steve Zarate

LIVING IN ALASKA (After living half of the 1990s in Alaska, I wanted to share the majesty and importance of that special place with Lower 48ers. Written 5/27/98, Athens OH.)

Living in Alaska you can find yourself in landscapes
That you never knew existed but you always hoped were true
Where the eagle lifts off from the pines and calls your heart to follow
Over tails of whales kersplashing into waves of shining blue

And I went to Alaska ‘cause I had to see the planet on
Her own terms without concrete, neon, advertising, constant chaos
And if you hear this through the overkill, the daily blah,
Perhaps you’ll dare imagine love is real and all’s not lost

The fishing boats, the cannery, the midnight sunset by the sea,
The garbage bears, the urban moose showed me Alaskan freedom
One night a friend said “go outside,” the Northern Lights were flying high,
They truly took my breath away, I hope you get to see ‘em

And I went northwest where the roads all end and the glaciers crawl
And people know the rhythms of the seasons and the tides
And I came to face my fears alone all through the darkest longest winter
Till March burst me through the other side alive

Living in Alaska you can feel the mighty salmon
Leaping high into your bloodstream in a river turquoise clear
And if you feel this all’s not lost, the daily blah can’t get you now,
You’re on your own inside the last frontier


"Homecoming" (1995)
"Invisible Campfires" (2004)
"Jewel Of The Hocking" (4 songs live, 2005)
"Blowing On Embers" (2006)
"Silver Linings" (2008)

Set List

I can do sets of any length, from 10 minutes to two hours or more. My most popular original songs include "Invisible Campfires," Living In Alaska," "Jewel Of The Hocking," "Cell Phone Song," "Fear-Based Thinking," "Summer's First Rays," "Some Public Access," "Came To Sing," "Water Medicine" & "Such A Gift." My strong suit in terms of covers is 60s & 70s pop radio, from the big names (Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Simon, Elton John, James Taylor, Neil Young, CSN, Joni Mitchell, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Doors, CCR, etc.) to obscurities and one-hit wonders ("Stuck In The Middle With You," "Ride Captain Ride," "Cover Of The Rolling Stone," "Garden Party," etc.). I also do songs by more recent and more folky artists like Greg Brown, Bruce Cockburn, Nanci Griffith, Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin.