Interview - Steve Yanek

Steve Yanek's new album, aptly titled Long Overdue is due for release on August 5th. Let's have a chat with the artist about this release and music in general.

Welcome to this interview. Tell us about your upcoming release Long Overdue.

This album has been a true labor of love, as well as a testament of endurance in a way for me. It’s produced by Jeff Pevar (David Crosby, CSN, Ray Charles) and it’s a record that I’m very proud of. It took over twelve years to make it. Literally. We did a session at Tapeworks in Hartford, CT before T Lavitz passed away and all I had was a cdr rough mix of the songs we cut, and there were some pretty amazing things that T did on these tunes. Back in 2019 I was going through one of my “archive” boxes of old multitrack tapes and storage drives I found the original session files of four tracks I had recorded with Jeff Pevar and the final lineup of Jazz Is Dead (Rod Morgenstein – drums, Dave Livolsi – bass, and the late keyboardist, T Lavitz – piano and Hammond B3). I got in touch with Jeff at the beginning of 2020 and told him that I found these unfinished tracks we recorded and that my New Year’s Resolution was to finally finish them and make an album with him again! I’d had a bunch of songs I’d written that I thought would fit nicely with three of the songs from those original sessions and Jeff and I began to make plans to get together when he would be on the east coast later that spring with David Crosby. Then the pandemic hit, and the world changed.

It turns out that Jeff and I had both been investing in a lot of pro gear over the years in our home studios and had very similar setups that made it very easy for us to pass session files back and forth, and so we decided to record the rest of the songs that make up this album remotely. And it was a really cool way for us to work. I would lay down all of the basic tracks with me playing and singing all of the parts in my studio and send the session file out to Jeff in Oregon where he would proceed to replace most of my parts with much better ones LOL! He’d then send the song back to me to do the final vocals, then it would go to Kenny Aronoff in LA, who has an amazing studio where he cuts great sounding drums and really took these songs up a few more notches! Then Jeff would send them to Billy Payne, who had a recording rig in his house in Montana who would just glue the songs together with that magic touch that he has.

· How would you describe your sound?

Growing up in Ohio and coming of age in the 70s, the west coast sounds of CSNY, Jackson Browne and the Eagles kind of jumped out of the radio and jolted my soul and I’ve been chasing that sound ever since. It’s everything from introspective acoustic folk to pop to rock ‘n roll and country. And what I try to achieve with my music is to carry on that tradition but put my own spin on it. These are my songs written from my perspective and framed within a style of music that comes from that melting pot of styles. I guess you could say that I’m a neo-traditional folk-rock singer-songwriter!

· What do you write about?

I’m deep into the human dynamic. The ebb and flow of life. The struggles that we all go through. The losses. The triumphs. And the strength we gain from endurance. That and anything that pops into my head. Literally. Most of my

songs come very fast, one or two sittings at most. And a lot of songs come to me in dreams. Often times complete with a lyric hook and a melody structure in place and as soon as I can get to a guitar or piano the song will just complete itself.

· What do you listen to when you are home?

A lot of new music from new and mostly independent artists. I was anti-streaming up until a couple of years ago when I finally broke down and got subscriptions to Apple Music and then Spotify. Apple for the sound quality, but I love Spotify’s algorithm and the playlists – not the Spotify curated playlists – but the ones that other listeners put up. It’s like there’s millions of DJs at your fingertips out there.

· Your favourite live performance so far?

One summer night, years ago, I had a regular gig at this place on Friday night. When I was packing up at the end of the night the owner asked me if I could cover the following night the band had canceled on him. At first, I hesitated, but then I said I’d do it. I was performing outside on the deck and it turned out to be a beautiful summer night with an amazing crowd. At the end of the night this beautiful girl with the biggest bluest eyes I’d ever seen came up to me and we started talking and we still haven’t run out of things to talk about.

· Tell us a funny story that happened in studio or on stage.

Oh man, like all musicians there’s a thousand stories! Here’s one, I’m playing a gig in Huntington Beach, California, at Bennigan’s (I think) it was on the beach or a couple doors down from it. But, anyways, beach communities like that always have “beach people” wandering around the place. You know the older folks with the kind of year round tans that have taken decades to get to where their skin looks like a reddish brown type of leather. Well, there was this older woman in a well-worn flower dress over bikini bottoms and flip flops, (no bikini top) dancing by herself to every song I played. At one point she screamed out after I’d finished playing The Boxer, that my music moved her so much that she was going to dance naked! To which I replied I don’t think that’s a good idea, but before I could get the words out off came the dress and bikini bottoms and the bouncer escorted her out kicking and screaming.

· Your favourite albums?

Whew, that changes from week to week lol! How about this – I’ll give you two lists? Since the beginning of downloading began, my iTunes says I’ve listened to these albums the most:

o Abbey Road (The Beatles)

o Late For The Sky (Jackson Browne)

o The River (Bruce Springsteen)

o Legend (Poco)

o Madman Across The Water (Elton John)

But my current Top 5 for this week would look something a little more like this:

o Lindsey Buckingham (Lindsey Buckingham)

o Just One Voice (Michelle Willis)

o Leftover Feelings (John Hiatt w/ The Jerry Douglas Band)

o Quietly Blowing It (Hiss Golden Messenger)

o You’re Really Something (The Wild Things)

My wife and I just saw The Who at Madison Square Garden a couple weeks ago. The Wild Things opened up for them and just blew me away! It was their US

debut and what a gig to kick it off with. Pete Townsend is producing their latest album and the new single just came out called “Only Attraction” so that’s my song of the week on repeat!

· A musician you would like to meet for a beer?

That’s a tough one, most have either passed away or have taken the pledge lol! But Keith Richards would have to be my pick, and not at all for the obvious! He’s an incredibly intelligent person and he’s extremely well read. I remember years ago seeing a photograph of him in his library and I was blown away! I’d love to see if I could hang with him on history! Yeah, a beer and a history lesson with Keef would be top of the bucket list!

· What would you ask for backstage, if you were the most important band on earth?

I’m a foodie, so it would have to be some really good take-out from the best local delicatessen or café. It’s easy to pick them out from yelp and google reviews, but the locals always know where the best food is, so I’d have to send a scout to town a day or two before I got there lol.

· What are your plans for the near future?

My new album, Long Overdue, will be released on August 5th. It’s a full-length album of all new material that originally began as a follow-up to “Across The Landscape” my 2005 release. I had hoped to be doing some performances in support of the new album and had thought that the pandemic would be on the downward direction by now, but it seems to be going in the opposite way once again. I had COVID twice before the vaccines were available, and I still a few nagging long-haul issues that, fortunately are mild, but I really don’t want it again. So, I’m already working on my next album called September, which is a collection of songs that I wrote through the first eighteen months of the pandemic and I’m playing and singing all of the parts myself a la Paul McCartney. I’ve released four of the ten songs digitally so far with the intent to “waterfall” them into a digital album and a cd pressing in early 2023. I also have my own version of an archive project going on as well and plan to begin releasing several albums from my backlog of material over the next few years. I’ll start by making them available for streaming on my website at first.

I used always joke about being an analog man in the digital world, but I’ve realized that the streaming platform is really a perfect fit for my at this point in my life and my attempt to reboot a music career that’s been lying somewhat dormant for all of these years. The possibilities really are endless!
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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