A Blues musician on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Steve Warren, shares his thoughts on Coronavirus, living as a professional gig musician, and life on the coast. A conversation with a gulf coast friend, a familiar face playing at IP Casino’s Chill Ultra Lounge & Thirty Two Lounge, and on Sunday’s at Murky Waters, Ocean Springs.
Steve, I appreciate your time, and thanks for talking with me.
Steve Warren: “Thanks for the invite to shed some light on the local music scene, past, present, and future.”
Do you feel the events of the past month will change the music on the coast? And, just playing out in general?
Steve Warren: “I was one of the many to be the first out of work. At this rate, musicians will probably be some of the last people getting back to work. People want to live entertainment, it is evident on social media. We will never lose our Coast vibe, but we will benefit from an explosion of creativity, concepts, and ideas. Even, if we’re six feet apart at first.”
You have been through disasters on the coast from hurricane Katrina, and now Coronavirus. What are your thoughts on how this differs?
Steve: “Hurricane Katrina had its essential workers, I was knocked out of work for quite some time. It was a regional disaster that the world was only aware of. Immediately, I took a job helping people rebuild and clean up. I went back to work at Pinkston’s Music shortly after that. We came back even stronger. Then, I wrote and recorded “Katrina Blues”. Today, this is uncharted territory for everyone. The guidelines that were set forth, as a result, have absolutely sidelined the music world, and gig economy workers in general. We are still essential [laughs], but will need to navigate new ways to remain in the loop.”
You are home with family. You must have a story about being home with your young daughter, Leah, now with schools closed?
Steve: “Kids need the interaction, so it’s unfortunate. Online schooling was a bit of a learning curve, but we are set into a rhythm with it now since the process has been streamlined. The teachers have done a great job. I know they miss their students, too. We’re ok with quarantine. I’m getting a lot of stuff done that I have been putting off for years. Now we have nothing but time, it seems. She loves online video meetings with her teacher and classmates. I’m sure this will be a time that she never forgets.”
Let’s talk about the Blues and the Steve Warren Band.
Steve: “To me, Blues is synonymous with music, real music, the music of any style. You may have to dig deep, but you can find it. Just think of its origins, from a distant continent to a Delta cotton field. You wouldn’t have Eric Clapton without it. Hendrix was on it from the very beginning. He played his own version of the Blues, especially with Band of Gypsys. It’s just so earthy, soulful, and funky. You can tell when anything is from the heart. And that’s what I love about Blues, and music in general.”
You have been playing with Seadon Faulkner (bass) and Roy Swanson (drums) for years, have you remained in touch while staying home?
Steve: “Yes, we have definitely been in touch, on a weekly basis. We miss the stage, so we’ve been talking about how things may play out in the future, both socially and musically. Aside from jamming, I know we miss the hanging out, talking music, and joking.”
For years, you have been playing, how do you keep motivated artistically?
Steve: “Motivation comes from both good and bad experiences. People are getting very creative during the lockdown, and that’s good. However, most early Blues artists were, at times, motivated by negative or unfortunate circumstances. I think loving life keeps people motivated. Getting through hard times can certainly compel anyone to work harder. And, if art is your work, you don’t really see it as ‘work’.”
You started playing as a child. What inspired you to pick up the guitar?
Steve: “Between ages nine and ten, music was something I gravitated to even before then. I remember my mom listening to WTIX, a local radio station, while we were getting ready for school in the mornings. The music I was exposed to then is some of the music I still enjoy now, and appreciate even more today. My dad had an awesome Yamaha stereo system with Bose speakers, on which I listened to my “45” records of Queen, and cassette tapes of Beastie Boys. I played along with a tennis racquet and jumped off the couch, imagining I was on stage. In retrospect, I have always traced the music I love back to the Blues. However, I didn’t realize it until my late teenage years, playing Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Metallica. I wouldn’t have heard of Hendrix or Metallica at that time if it weren’t for my older brother’s music collection.”
What words do you have for your fans that are stuck home, and are unsure about the future?
Steve: “Be prepared for anything. Some will have a new lease on life. Be at pole position. Be ready. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whatever it may be. And take care of yourself and others.”
The stay at home order has shut down Steve’s stage, like so many across our country and the world, yet he remains positive. He waits for the stages to reopen. “For me,” Steve said, “my motivation is playing to a live audience, people who want to receive the song.” I think we all would like to be sitting listening to live music now and will appreciate it more when we can.