Smitty: I am blissfully delighted to have my next guest here at JazzMonthly.com. He is a phenomenal guitar player, an incredible vocalist. I mean, he’s so phenomenal that he can make some of the greatest sounds from the finest guitar strings to barbed wire. (Both laugh.)
Steve Oliver (SO): I like that.
Smitty: He’s never met a guitar string that he doesn’t like. One of the most versatile artists on the planet. His latest project is one I know you are truly going to love. It is called One Night Live. It is a dual project with an audio CD and a marvelous live DVD. Please welcome the incredible and amazing Nu Groove recording artist, Steve Oliver. Steve, how ya doin’, my friend?
SO: My gosh. Hello, Smitty. It’s good to talk to you again.
Smitty: Yes indeed, likewise man. Well, hey, this new record, I mean, it’s not just a new record. I mean, it’s a live DVD, it’s a live CD, but it’s unlike any live recording I have ever encountered. It is just amazing and you, on this project, I had to label you. You know, as I’m listening and watching, I said “He’s a melodic beast.” (Both laugh.)
SO: I’m a melodic beast. I like that. I haven’t heard that one before, but I’ll accept that.
Smitty: I think it is just the most amazing project of positive grooves, serious melodies, and it is total interaction. This is an artist-fan interaction at its best.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you for that. That’s very kind of you to say. Yeah, you know, that was the whole point of wanting to do this project. I’ve been wanting to make this project since I started playing music, really, because I’ve always been a live performer, and I always think “live” when I’m writing music---how it’ll translate live to an audience, so every studio album I’ve done I’m always thinking “live,” so to me, to be able to finally have a DVD/CD live album is like a goal, a dream of mine come true, plus we have new songs on there that I wrote for the show and put some new music on there so it’s not only like a catalog of older material from the past albums, but it’s some new music also. I wrote six new tunes, so it’s like a whole new record but in a live setting with a couple of studio tracks too, so there’s a lotta stuff on there. Behind the scenes and all kinds of stuff.
Smitty: This seems like a lot of work. I mean, it just seems like you put so much into it, a lotta heart and soul, and I know you did because I know you and I know how passionate you are about music and about your music. How long did this take?
SO: You know, it’s funny. We started the concept probably—we were talking about actually doing it almost two years ago. Then when we decided on where we wanted to film it that was about a year and a half ago. So when we really started thinking, okay, let’s put this in action, and then I got in touch with a great director named Tom Emmi, who is an amazing guy that I met through doing the Studio Jams.
Smitty: Yeah, Tom’s great.
SO: So we talked with him about directing it and there’s a lot involved with just the prep work, and then the real work was actually me rehearsing. Actually, we rehearsed this show like every week—I do a rehearsal once a week—before we actually filmed it and started touring, so yeah, there was a lotta prep work going into it, it took about a year and a half.
Smitty: Hard work and all of that time truly has paid off with this because it came out just stellar.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Oh, you’re so welcome. And I love the caption on the project that says “A MUST SEE LIVE EVENT!” because it truly is. I mean, that says it all right there because I think everyone has got to experience this for themselves, whether they’ve been to a live show or not. They are going to capture something new and something so cool with this great project.
SO: Wow. Oh, thank you. The unique thing about it is I’ve been touring as a duo for many, many years and what’s really cool about it is I’ve tried to find a project out there that has this kind of vibe, you know, with two people playing and doing all this stuff. ‘Cause I’m playing, I’m triggering sounds upon sounds and singing at the same time, and then Humberto Vela, the great percussionist/drummer, he’s playing the drum kit and percussion at the same time, and I’m playing bass and guitar and singing, so there’s a lot of that going on, plus we’re entertaining.
I’ve never seen a project—I’ve been looking for a project like this because this is what I was always attracted to. It’s kind of thinking forward, you know, innovation, and I’ve been going on You Tube trying to find anything that had this kind of approach so then I could say “Oh yeah, that’s really cool” and get some ideas, but there was nothing out there like it. So it’s kind of a first that I know of, anyway, that is this creative kind of force put together in this kind of real special show, and I am just tickled pink with it. I just think it came out really, really nice.
Smitty: Oh, it’s incredible, man. I mean, I could listen to the CD all day and I can watch the DVD all night or vice versa.
Smitty: I mean, the complement of the two in this CD/DVD project is amazing, man. I mean, if you’re down, if you’re tired or just whatever, got a lot on your mind, this is the therapy.
SO: Well, you’re exactly right. That’s why I write music. I really believe in that and music is therapeutic. And especially when times are tight or down and you’re bummed out, I believe music always brings you out of that. If you allow that door to open, it will come in and it will just make you feel good, and that’s what music, to me, is about and that’s why I write music.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s truly therapeutic. Have you thought more about getting into music therapy? Because your music, to me, truly fits that.
SO: Yeah, globally that’s what I think when I’m thinking of the public and getting out there and playing live. I’m always thinking “I want to make people feel good with music.” I mean, that’s kind of my driving force, so I’m looking at it, I’m a therapist, even on a festival or even playing a small club or wherever we’re performing, you know, in front of thousands of people to a small crowd. That translates when you’re playing live and it translates a healing thing and it has a power. Music has this power to do that, especially live because music in a live setting, there’s nothing like it.
SO: There’s nothing like that power of being there and you’re feeling the bass, the low end, and it’s going through your body and it’s all energy, it’s all coming through you, and that’s kind of when I’m playing and I’m up on stage, that’s what I’m thinking. I want people to feel healed. (Laughs.) Like a healing force in a good way, so to me I do look at what I do as therapy. I’m a musical therapist on a public scope if that makes any sense.
Smitty: Thus the great project Positive Energy.
Smitty: And the great song “Feeling Good.” And if you can’t feel good after listening to that track, “Feeling Good,” then you really need some help. (Both laugh.)
SO: Oh, yeah. It’s definitely one of those tunes, it’s a fun upbeat track.
Smitty: Yeah, and you and I have talked about this before, but when I listen to your music, I’m singing. I don’t try to sing along with too many projects, but this one—your music I’ve always tried to sing but, of course, you know I fall way short of doing what you do. (Both laugh.)
SO: Well, that’s the beauty of being inspired by listening and I love that too. You get a good hook, you hear a song that you’re listening to and it’s “Oh yeah!” It just makes you want to be a part of it, and that’s the beauty of music.
Smitty: Yes, and the synth sounds, the sounds that you make vocally, it’s so signature with you, but the reason why I think there’s such a great connection to that with you and the fans is that those are the things that we subconsciously do when we listen to music that we love.
SO: You’re exactly right. That’s so true. I never thought about it that way, but you’re exactly right.
Smitty: You know, but you’re living that for us and then we try to sort of harmonize along with you and then we come to really realize how phenomenal this really is.
SO: Yeah, right, you’re right because people whistle or they’re singing the melody or they’re not singing the words, so yeah, we all do that naturally and I think we did that as kids, actually, when we were young. We all used to “La-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da,” just kind of—just singing.
Smitty: Yeah, even if we didn’t know the words we did that.
SO: You’re right, right.
Smitty: “Da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da,” you know, and it’s like—
SO: Whoa, you sound good, man. (Both laugh.) Hey, you wanna join the band?
Smitty: No. No, I would ruin it. (Laughs.)
SO: That’s all right. We’re gonna get you. That’s it. We’re getting you up on stage. Next time I see you, you’re coming up and you’re gonna sing with us. That’s it. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Oh my Gosh, Steve. I don’t wanna run everybody out of the theatre. (Both laugh.)
SO: Of course not.
Smitty: And the other thing that I always love about your music is your choice of guitars, and I know you have a fantastic relationship with Carvin, the great guitar makers.