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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Steve Oliver

steve oliverSmitty:  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.

Smitty:  (Laughing).

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)

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