Steepwater is Chicago born and bred. They have seen what the Windy City can do to talented aspiring musicians. It can fool you into thinking you are on your way and then before you realize, the mean streets have gobbled you up and spit you out, more fodder for the machine. This three piece monster rock & roll band knows all about the empty promises of the man and have broken away from the shackles of major labels and high powered management to forge an identity as a gifted touring band that lives by its own muse. By insisting on doing it their way they have toured with some of the greats in the business from Buddy Guy and Gov’t Mule to Bon Jovi and Cheap Trick. It’s a dream without boundaries.
Review: You are a great live band, everything is right in the pocket - great songs, singing, music - the whole package. How long did it take to "find" your voice, your own distinct style?
Jeff Massey: Well thank you - I really feel like we had a distinct sound since day one. Obviously we have influences and you can hear it in our music, but we put our own stamp on it. To be honest, I'm not really sure how that happens. To really answer your question though, it's been a continual process of writing songs, recording and touring - hard to really pinpoint exactly when and how we found our own voice, but I think it's there for sure. If ya stick together and play music, you believe in that whole idea of having your own voice evolves over the years.
Review:You've toured all over the states and overseas to huge crowds. What brings you to the Tri-Cities? Is there a certain charm in playing an intimate club?
Jeff Massey: Well, sure. We do all types of shows ranging from big festivals to small clubs. The people that come to clubs appreciate what we do, so of course we are going to have a good time and continue to come back – that’s the great thing about performing.....there is such a variety of circumstances as far as where you might be playing from one day to the next. I think it keeps the whole deal more interesting.
Review: What is your favorite Steepwater CD? Why?
Jeff Massey: Hmmm....well if I had to pick probably LIVE AT DOUBLE DOOR. As much as we love making studio records, the live record really captures what we are about - touring and playing. I think we really captured a great performance with this one...
Joe Winters: I dig REVELATION SUNDAY the most, solely because of the memories of actually recording it. My father had recently passed away, and the band convened at my brother Jim's house on Lake Michigan in Indiana, where we set up a studio and took a shot at producing an independent record (along with my bro) that would see release all over the world a year later. My brother and I had been through a lot together around that time, and I think it was a great creative outlet for us to be able to do something together like record a Steepwater disc. We had talked about doing something like that for years. Not to mention, my brother's living had an incredible sound and vibe to play drums in ~ hard wood floors, high ceilings, brick wall. I felt comfortable there. Although, I will say that our new CD that's coming out later this year is my favorite disc musically that we have recorded yet. Gonna be a monster of a record!
Review: Massey's guitar work is both powerful and sensitive. It seems that you go beyond technique to develop your own craft, using harmony and melody as well as your great slide work. Did you have a mentor? Who inspired you?
Jeff Massey: Well I could make a list a mile long! JIMMY PAGE was my first inspiration - I’ve always admired the ''jack of all trades'' guitar players. I like dabbling in different styles and blending it all into your own thing. He is the master of that concept, as well as being able to write good songs. Hearing FREDDY KING for the first time was a big eye opener, as was DUANE ALLMAN, ROBERT JOHNSON - the list goes on. Also, I had a couple really great teachers when I first started out that shared a lot of great info that I still use today - it's endless. Gotta absorb whatever you can, whenever you can.
Review: The rhythm section is so strategic in a three piece and yours is rock solid, hammer of the gods tight as a vise. Do you use any prompts to signify changes e.g., hand or arm signals, a look, a sharp drum roll etc
Joe Winters: Thank you for the nice compliment. I think that because Tod and I have been playing together so long, we just sort know what each other are going to do quite often, and it sort of just happens naturally. It's like instinct with us. We basically learned how to play together pretty young, so a lot of the phrasing that we use to form fills, etc is often the same. Of course it's not always fool-proof, but that's beauty of playing live music and leaving it open to some interpretive playing - you never know what's going to happen! Sometimes it's like magical, and other times not quite as perfect, but we try to stay in the moment with it, so each gig is original to itself, for better or worse...
Review: You've toured or performed with many legendary performers such as Buddy Guy, Gov't Mule, Cheap Trick. Do you prefer playing with blues bands or rock bands, pop bands...Bon Jovi?
Jeff Massey: It doesn't matter to us as long as the band is good people...nothing worse than dealing with assholes when your trying to do a show. And, truthfully, that doesn't happen very often. We've met a lot great people on the road and we love playing with other groups.
Joe Winters: it's always more fun when you play with bands that you dig, no matter what the genre. If we could play with AC/DC or The Rolling Stones, I would be all about it, because they are a couple of my favorites. Maybe someday? In the meantime there are a bunch of cool "undiscovered" independent bands that are some of my favorite bands to play with too, like Super 400 from Albany, NY ~ Healing Sixes from Indianapolis, IN ~ and The Muggs from Detroit. We run into so many cool bands, it's insane!
Review: Do you have a particular touring story/memory that stands out for you?
Jeff Massey: Oh man which one? The most recent crazy road story would be the guy that lost control of his car on a major expressway and managed to ram right into us, knocking our trailer on its side and sending us across three lanes of oncoming traffic! We all survived without a scratch.....amazing! There wasn’t very much damage to our musical gear either, although we did have to get a new vehicle. We felt lucky to be a live after that one. Hmm…what else. Oh yeah...how about the festival we played in northern SPAIN with a live sex/striptease show between bands, right on the stage! Don't see that everyday. There's a million stories....
Review: You had several songs placed on television (My Name is Earl, Friday Night Lights) and in the Disney Film Invincible. How difficult is it to get a song placed or purchased?
Jeff Massey: Well, we got lucky enough to have a manager at the time that had publishing ties. Like anything else, it's about who you know when it comes to these matters. Without a publisher helping out, it can be very difficult to get a song used for anything.
Review: You have all the goods, Steepwater is a great band. Why haven't you hit the big time?
Jeff Massey: Well thanks again. I wouldn't know how to answer that. What's the big time? Selling a million records? Playing stadiums......oh wait...I guess that would be the big time! As long as we have a fan base and places to do our thing, we are content. We are happy to be able to do perform music for a living - not everyone can say that. It takes a lotta work on any level and we are happy to be able to do what we do.
Joe Winters: Good Question! If we knew the answer, maybe we might have by now. Like everything in life, the music biz is all about timing. When the stars align just right, it might be your time. Until then, just gotta keep on keepin' on...
Review: You've been hard at it since '99. What do you attribute to your longevity? Your popularity?
Jeff Massey: It comes from a love for playing music. We feel like we get better every record, every show, there's a new experience around the corner at all times in this business. None of us want to give that up. We still like making music together. If we weren't enjoying ourselves, we would call it quits...
Review: A Musician's life, especially when you are in a touring band, can be very hard. What keeps you going?
Jeff Massey: Again, it’s the music. If you don't like traveling you'll never last - that's a given. It takes a certain breed to be a touring musician, but the payoff is being able to go on a stage and express yourself and let off some steam. I couldn't imagine not being able to do that. I think my head would explode!!!
Review: Any last comments?
Jeff Massey: Thank you for the interview! And thanks to everybody who supports the band. We will have a new studio record this summer and then it's more gigs! WWW.STEEPWATER.COM
Joe Winters: Thank you for writing about & supporting independent bands like ours! Your help & cooperation is vital in the success of what we do, and we certainly appreciate it. CHEERS!
Steepwater will perform @ White’s Bar on Thursday July 14th wsg Brody & the Busch Road Trio and Tony B & The Couch Band. Show starts at 9pm. They will also be performing on Friday, July 15th, at Bemo’s in Bay City with special guest Scott Baker.