Kevin McWha Steele

Tell us about yourself.

Kevin McWha Steele. 45 yr. old songwriter, poet, musician, producer living between NYC and Baltimore, MD.

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Tell us about yourself as an artist.

After formally studying music and poetry in Paris and La Rochelle, France for four years, I relocated to New York City in 1999, as a fellow to Bard College’s writing program (MFA candidate, poetry). Since this time, I’ve been writing songs and poems in many different styles in both French and English under my real name and several pseudonyms.

Professional music credits range from session vocalist for Virgin U.K. to performing/recording with a variety of musicians, performance artists and songwriters in New York and Los Angeles, including The Southwing, The Thunderbirds, Rachel Rosenthal Company, Empire of Teeth, Magnetic Laboritorium, Puma Pearl’s Pandemonium, Gary Lucas, flezaDoza, Glassworks, Stephanie McKay, Haale Gafori, Adam Matta, The Devyl Nellys, Nimesh Gandhi, The Nightly Howl, Safety First, Pete List, Djinn, Bellyqueen, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, Akim Funk Buddha, Swiss Chris, Rob Mastrianni, Vin Scialla, Andrew Potenza, Ravish Momin, Patrick Tully, Jennifer Zimmerman, Lauren Piquon, and my  brother, the director/actor Kameron Steele.

As a songwriter, I’ve received accolades from Sting, Pink, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Philip Glass, Gary Lucas, Robert Wilson, among others. I’ve released six studio albums (3 LPs, 3 EPs) and two written works: a collection of poems and song lyrics entitled, “Medawin,” and a book Tanka-inspired poetry,”The 12 Alchemists & Other Poems” – written in honor of Yoko Ono and performed at the 2007 LongHouse Gala. My poems have appeared in Lungfull, Glimmertrain, Lit, and Fence Magazine, among others.

Currently, I’m in the process of completing an LP, second in a three album release, entitled “The Ariel Trilogy.” I released an EP of three songs off of this album earlier in the year under the name: “The Clamourous Owl That Nightly Howls and Wonders at Our Quaint Spirits.” For 2018, I’m hoping to join guitarist Gary Lucas for some shows in a 20th anniversary tribute to Jeff Buckley.

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Tell us about the genre of your music.

I mainly write folk, rock, blues and jazz tunes on guitar and keys. I also focused in early music initially, so, when I have access to my full range of instruments, I like writing for the Lute (8-course) and harpsichord.

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Tell us about the story behind your song.

“Front Page News” and “Les Choses Sont Pas Si Simples” were both written in a songwriting cycle during 2013, and subsequently recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN in 2015. Final mixing, mastering and additional recording was done with flezaDoza at “Brooklyn Native” studios in Brooklyn, NY.

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Tell us the challenges you are facing as a musician.

Struggling to complete current albums because of financial setbacks.

Currently, deciding if I want to sign with a big music publisher in the European market with connections to Universal and Warner. Have enjoyed being indie.

Some health complications that have kept me from performing and participating in the music scene the way I have been for the past 20 yrs.

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Tell us about the recording and production of the song.

Blackbird in Nashville, TN was great. Top of the line equipment (Phoenix 35 tube amps, Myrinx Swiss vocal mics – beautiful). Great staff. Working with flezaDoza in production/post in Brooklyn, easy and efficient.

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Tell us the names of blogs, radio or TV stations that have supported you so far.

As previously stated, did a limited release of material off of new album earlier this year. It’s received positive reviews from Lost in the Manor, Barry Gruff, YabYum, The Revue, etc.

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Tell us more about your music career, experience and future goal.

Future goals are simple. Better health to perform. Maybe sign to a label, though hesitant, as I like being indie. More songwriting… for both myself, and in the service of others (also as a lyricist). Some producing, if cash flow and interest were to arise. Continue writer’s workshops for poetry and songwriting. I’d love to pull off something of a Quincy Jones / Cole Porter path… with half my life lived in Paris, and the other half, elsewhere.

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Tell us what inspires you to write, compose and sing.

I go through waves, but the process is exciting. It’s as much you choosing the music as it is the music choosing you – ditto with poems. A deadline via grant or sponsor always helps!

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Tell us the secret behind making a hit song.

There is none. Just write a lot. Hopefully you’ll get better with time, and more importantly learn what makes your process yours, and not a pastiche.

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Tell the kind of advice you will give to an upcoming artist.

Also, do your best not to sign a crap deal, especially where you’re giving away over 70% of publishing or songwriter’s share – pretty common.

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Elaborate on your music careers, albums, songs, tours, recognition or awards you might have obtained.

I opened for Bruce Springsteen once before. That was cool.

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Tell us how you write your lyrics, compose, sing and record in the studio.

I write in song cycles, writing multiple songs back to back over consecutive days. Ideally, I have a block of at least 3-4 weeks. It’s fatiguing when starting, but exhilarating once I find a rhythm.

Studio time is always complicated. You hear the songs differently… instrumentation that wasn’t there in your performances, you start to hear. You want to try them out, etc. It’s a totally different beast than a simple live experience. A lot like filling in the blanks… but, then turning it around and performing the recorded material live gets complicated when you need to find 5 horn players to cover all the lines you just recorded in a studio version… Music engineer Michael Tudor had some great advice: “Get it all down, because you can’t edit what’s not there…”

Also, you always need more time and money than you think you will. Over-budget with both. Doing an album is a long process, esp. if money is an issue.

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Name five biggest artists that you like.

Five?

Nina Simone, Dylan, Prince, The Beatles, Patti Smith, Chet Baker, Jacques Dutronc, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Jeff Buckley, Terrance Trent D’Arby, Nick Cave, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Cole Porter, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Buddy Guy, Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, etc.

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Name the artists you have collaborated with before in your songs or artists you are willing to collaborate with in the future if you have the chance to do so.

flezaDoza, Rob Mastrianni, Akim Funk Buddha, Felix Chen, Vin Scialla, Andrew Potenza, Andy Jung, Pamelia Stickney (Kurstin),  Esteban Reichberg, Neel Murgai, Amar Sundy, Peter Tuerk, Duke Msleku, Will Jones, Jesse Paris Smith, Theo Moore, Haale Gafori, Lee Marvin, Ravish Momin, Aurelien Budynek, Spencer Chakedis, Andrew McCallum, Mitch Hinkle, Ben Warren, The Devyl Nellys, Wolfe Glass, Patrick Tully, Holly Gleason, Tessa Elaina, Stephanie McKay, Hector del Curto, Adam Matta, Pete List, Jennifer Zimmerman, Lauren Piquon, Mat Lefler-Schulman,  Arvin Zarookian, Michael Tudor etc.

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State the links to your social networks and stores for the purchase of your music.

https://kevinmcwhasteele.bandcamp.com

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Tell us about your happiest day and saddest day.

 Prefer to keep this private.

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Tell us how you will spend a million dollars. 

I’d buy a place, save some, and give some to family and charity.

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