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You can’t fall in love with someone’s music unless you know about it. On Sunday, January 8th, I attended a StageIt performance by Steve Carlson. These are fairly regularly scheduled events lasting about 30 minutes and at a cost of “pay-what-you-can.” Steve, as you might recall from my last review, is Jensen Ackles’ musical partner in Radio Company. While Radio Company is the most recent collaboration, Steve has been around the Supernatural fandom for years. I think more folks need to know about him so here’s a recap of Sunday’s Session. Hopefully it will inspire you to see the next one.

Hitchin’ a Ride

StageIt offers an attendance option for users who are low on funds. A user identifies themselves as a “hitchhiker” and another user “picks them up” by comping them a ticket. Like Steve, his fans are generous. This afternoon (3:00PM Central Time) online user CoffeeandGin is buying tickets for several folks. Thank-yous in the chat are interspersed with exclamations as this is the first StageIt session since Radio Company’s live debut on December 19th (Catch my review and song-by-song chronicle of that wonderful evening, "A Long Time Coming: Radio Company Live"!)  It’s also the first Sunday Session for many attendees. They’ve caught the bug.

Broadcasting from his home studio in Austin, TX, he’s surrounded by multiple guitars and other instruments. A retro jazz microphone is front-and-center, occasionally picking up glints from the candle. Steve tells us about spending the holidays in Colorado. While there, he wrote a new Christmas song ON Christmas Day and has plans to release it next year. It’s these kinds of behind-the-scenes details that inspire folks, myself included, to continue watching and listening. Even though many of the songs are familiar and he may think of the time as “practice”, there are more connections being built.

Acoustically Speaking

The first six songs are all on acoustic guitar and he admits to straying from the order of his original playlist. "The One That I Want" prompts WeirdLegacy to post, “This song is so beautiful,” to which Kelli responds that they could “listen to Steve sing and play all day.”

"Different Town" is one that Steve plays consistently during these sessions. The title track from his documentary by the same name, it garners the consensus that not only is it a great song, but also easy to sing along with. (A personal recommendation: watch the documentary. It’s 10 years old now, and provides excellent scenery and insight into how Steve approaches his music.)

Steve Carlson Different Town movie

LoganberryX is one of many on the chat who are simply liquefying in the heat produced by Truly Forgotten

I’ll need to listen to "Blind" again. A track from the Days Behind album, there’s a specific kind of heartache emanating from this song that requires more pondering. And it’s the perfect prelude to "Torch in the Rain". The trifecta of broken-hearted love songs hits home with "Pinata Novia." LynnZ admits to being overcome with emotion when Steve played this in Nashville last month. 

Guitar cr Robbie Down on Unsplash

Changing It Up and Back

We get a taste of dobro, one of Steve’s favorite instruments, so he can serenade us with "Happy Hour." This deceptively serene melody belies a thorny story of cheating partners.

Switching back to the acoustic “gee-tar”, "You Belong with Me" opens with a slightly nasal tone. Suddenly, as Tigerlili notes, there’s a slide into a fuller, more passionate, honey-whiskey timbre. It’s here, at the end of this piece that I notice the flexibility of his voice. Depending on the song and the style, like the “twangy” "Velvet Sky" from the upcoming album, Steve’s vocals range from almost pinched, to broad and open, to gritty. 

Chair Dancing for the Masses

"Wasted Jamie", "She’s Not There" (Zombies’ cover), and "Something In the Water" wrap up what was only supposed to be 30 minutes of music. Not only are we getting 50 minutes PLUS chair dancing tunes, but Jessica_rabbit and Rummi are both singing along as Rummi’s dogs go a bit nuts. 

I’m always amazed at the details that fans pick up. 

A flaming hot solo during "She’s Not There" prompts Tiger_lili to compare Steve quite favorably with Joe Cocker, describing both as musicians who never fail to make a song their own. Throughout the cover, Steve works up a sweat and pieces of his bangs fall out of place. Now, most of us are aware that the fandom has named Jensen’s bangs Stray Wally, so I pipe up and suggest naming Steve’s Stray Ulysses. It was the first thing that popped into my head! Given his past wanderings as a bit of a traveling minstrel, I think Stray Llewellyn may be a better fit.

Guitar Photo by Robbie Down on Unsplash