Smitty: It is my wonderful pleasure to welcome to JazzMonthly.com an old friend, a great guitarist, he continues to make us feel good about life and that life has a purposeful meaning, one of the top guitarists in the biz, and a phenomenal songwriter! Please welcome Koch recording artist Mr. Steve Oliver. Hello Steve!
STEVE OLIVER (SO): Hey, man, good morning.
Smitty: How are you man?
SO: I’m doing excellent, loving life and feeling good, that’s all.
Smitty: Absolutely, my friend. And you’ve gotta be feeling good about this new record. It’s called Radiant and, man, the title certainly fits well because this is a stunning, radiant CD. I love every tune on this CD.
SO: Oh my gosh, thank you. It was a joy to make.
Smitty: And you really got diverse with this CD, man. I mean, you mixed it up like a pitcher mixing speeds on the pitching mound. Wow.
SO: (Laughing) You know, I love that as a description, as I think the time is open for that right now, you know, to be diverse and kind of explore different things that me as an artist can be able to do; Because I love so many different styles of music, so I believe in putting that diversity aspect on a project, yet making it cohesive so that it kind of flows at the same time. Also at the same time, you see these many different sides of me as a songwriter and a performer, and a singer, and a guitar player. So it kind of….it represents a lot of those different facets, which is really cool.
Smitty: Yeah. How many different guitars did you use on this project?
SO: Oh man, you know, this is the one album where I tried some new guitars that I’ve never used before. I’ve recently gone into business with a great company called Carvin, which makes some mean instruments and they’re out of San Diego. They actually loaned me a couple of guitars to try out and actually built me a new guitar because I play the synth guitar, and I’m able to trigger keyboard sounds and stuff, and they really saw what I can do with that.
Smitty: Very Cool.
SO: So they really want to jump into that kind of arena….of making a guitar for the masses in that way, a guitar that I play. So they built me this new prototype and I used it on a lot of the songs on the new album. So yeah, I use a lot of different kinds of guitars; some steel string, acoustic, some electric guitars that I don’t normally play a lot. I’m not known for that a lot, but I do play a lot of electric guitar too. So I added that on some tracks, three songs I played electric, kind of like a jazz guitar kind of thing.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s a great mix of strings.
SO: And then, of course, my nylon guitar; and they’re all synth access, so I’m able to trigger the keyboard sounds from the guitar along with the regular guitar sounds. So I used probably around, maybe five or six different kinds of guitars on this new album.
Smitty: Wow. Do you feel different with each guitar? I mean, is there a different mood with each guitar?
SO: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, with each guitar, when you plug it in, it’s such a connection because when you’re holding an instrument like a guitar, they all feel different. They all have their own personality, so it makes you play differently because you hear differently and it feels different than like a nylon guitar normally feels. For example, when I pick up the steel string, I play differently. I mean, it’s kind of like your mind goes into this mode, and so it inspires different ways of playing.
Smitty: I’m hip, I can dig it.
SO: And it’s very exciting for me. I love doing that, it’s like picking up another guitar totally foreign to you and you go “Oh wow!” Something totally different comes out, you know?
Smitty: A new toy.
SO: Yeah, exactly. The way I look at it…..guitars are like people, you know, none of them are the same. They all have different personalities, so it brings that element out in you as a player. So it’s really fun.
Smitty: Yeah, that’s very cool, man. So is the guitar an extension of Steve Oliver or is Steve Oliver an extension of the guitar?
SO: Oh, man. It kind of goes hand in hand, you know (both laughing)? We both bring the best out of each other.
Smitty: There you go, baby.
SO: And sometimes you pick it up and you just…….it depends on what kind of mood that you’re in…..and sometimes I love looking at a guitar in a guitar stand. Like in my studio here at home I have guitars on a stand. And it’s funny, I can sit there and stare at the guitar and it just….it’s calling you to play it. I love the look of it. It’s just sitting there going “Okay, I’m waiting,” you know.
SO: “Are you gonna pick me up and play me today or, are you gonna pick up my friend next door to me, you know?” And I love that, I love looking at the instrument. It’s such a beautiful instrument to look at.
Smitty: Yeah, that’s inspiration in itself.
SO: And it just always inspires me to want to play, just the guitar sitting in a guitar stand, looking at it in the studio. I’m just like “Oh, look at that,” you know, “Oh, I wanna play it”.
Smitty: Yeah. You know, it reminds me, Steve, of when I was involved in track and field, no matter where I went, when I would pass by a track….it calls you, you know?
SO: Oh yeah.
Smitty: Looking at the lanes excites me, even to this day. (Laughing)
SO: Wow. That’s it exactly. I think you know what I’m talking about here.
Smitty: Oh Yeah.
SO: I’m like wow. It draws you in.
Smitty: Yeah, exactly. Does it ever get to the point where you find yourself looking at all of those (guitars) and you just want to play them all?
SO: Yeah, it does get overwhelming, it’s true, because I have this one guitar that I have different tunings on, so I leave that, okay, that guitar I de-tune it, and I have different tunings and sometimes I just pick it up and I start experimenting. So that’s kind of like my “Okay, I wanna just experiment with different tunings,” okay? Then I put that one down and then “Oh, this one, you know, is my nylon.” I plug it into my guitar synth stuff and I’m triggering all these sounds. So they all have different things. It’s just….it’s really cool.
Smitty: Yeah. So your studio is like a candy store.
SO: It is. I go in there and it’s like “Okay, it’s hard to focus. Okay, okay, now it’s songwriting time. Okay, I’m focusing on a song.” In fact, I was just working on some new material, you know, before you called.
Smitty: Oh really.
SO: Yeah, you go in there and it’s like a laboratory. It’s, amazing what you can come up with. (Laughing)