Steve Rodgers has been working in the music industry for most of his life. From national tours, to running music venues, to bringing a haul of guitars out to Honduras to add to their music education resources- Steve truly honors his craft. There is something to be respected about a person who understands the vitality of music in another person's life, and one of the things that has stood out to me about Steve through my talking to him and reading about his work in New Haven is that his passion for his own music is matched only by his passion for other people's accessibility to music. On August 30th we are thrilled to welcome this staple of the New England Music Community to Gateway City Arts. Brian Jarvis and Alex2E join him by opening up the evening to round out the stellar night of music. Steve recently took some time to chat with us about his music and his journey with his various music careers.
Hi there Steve! We are really looking forward to your performance at Gateway City Arts on August 30th with Brian Jarvis and Alex2E. Can you tell us a bit about what made you bring this particular line up to Holyoke with you?
I haven’t played in the area in quite some time and it is 75 minutes from where I live. I’m looking forward to making new friends and fans in the area. Gateway City Arts seems like a good fit for me. I owned and operated 2 venues in CT for years which had a similar Arts centric Vibe. I’ve known Brian Jarvis for many years and his songs have always resonated with me, I have been happy to reconnect with him. This area is very close to home for Brian. Alex is a friend of Brian’s and Alex also played at one of my venues, I’m looking forward to hearing him live for the first time.
You have been extremely active working in the entertainment business in New England for the a while, can you tell us a bit about that?
I started putting together DIY shows in the New Haven CT area when I was a young teen. Some of those shows attracted crowds of 1000+ people . By my late teens I was touring with my band “Mighty Purple” we played nationwide playing over 200 shows a year.
I met so many underground touring bands on the road and would host them at parties in my Warehouse space (an old train depot on the defunct New Haven/Hartford/Northampton railroad line)
I started a weekly open Mic Night in that tiny warehouse which became wildly successful and well known in CT. After 8 years we were evicted from the Warehouse (the neighbors complained about the noise). When I got the eviction notice I was completely bummed out and took a walk down the street to use the last standing payphone in the neighborhood. I was going to call my wife....That payphone was in an industrial park in front of a building which said “for rent” I called the number on the sign and 3 days later I signed a lease on a 5000 sq foot space. I had less than $300 to my name at that time and told my new landlord to hold the check for 3 days. I swiftly crowd funded by telephone. (long before online crowd funding) and raised enough money for the first couple of months rent. I was 28 years old and had only run “underground not legal venues”. Zoning committees , town and state permits and Fire Marshals were never part of running shows up until this point.
I learned all the ins and outs of running a legal venue in a trial by fire fashion. My first legal venue “The Space” became a All Ages (no alcohol) nationally known tour stop for bands of all genres. Over the course of 15 years I expanded the venues into a building next door. There were 3 stages in 3 buildings, with a craft Beer Bar and restaurant, outdoor patio, Thrift Shop, mini arcade and recording studio. Me and my team often hosted 30+ bands per week as well as open mics, flea markets, multi-stage music festivals and so much more. The all ages venue gave hundreds of young people the chance to express themselves in a safe environment. I would often work up to 80 hours a week to keep the venues running smoothly. Due to a host of factors the venues (The Space/ballroom /outer space) came to their ends in January of 2018. I am very thankful for the amazing team of music and arts minded humans who helped me transform a practically abandoned industrial park into an Arts Mecca.
How do you think having experience as an artist and performer as well as experience in events administrative roles can interact with and impact your work?
I started writing songs when I was 12 years old and started playing gigs a year later. From that young age I realized that if I wanted to put out albums and play gigs, I needed to make it happen myself, instead of waiting for someone to magically take notice and do all the work for me. I adopted a work ethic in both songwriting & rehearsing discipline as well as spending nearly everyday on the phone booking, promoting and getting my band (and other bands) the launch we all needed to get out on the road and share music with people. As a young musician i would read books with titles such as “how to succeed in the music business”, Musicians Guide to touring & promotion” and many more. Writing songs, recording, touring, and promoting became my life. Although I lived the starving musician's lifestyle until my late 20s, I was enriched by the huge group of Musicians, music community , fans and friends who championed my vision to make music & events which brought people together. I cared so much about making things happen that a team of like minded people jumped on board to help all of my projects (band and venues alike) become success stories.
Can you tell us a bit about Mighty Purple and your other past projects and how they are different from your current work?
My brother Jonny and I started Mighty Purple in high school with our best friend Adrian. Our music at a young age was derivative of the music we listened to at the time. Mighty Purple put out 7 albums in 15 years and toured nationwide playing over 200 shows a year in a 10 year period.
Mighty Purple often got thrown into the jam band category (although we weren't a jam band at all). The band was too mellow for the grunge/rock crowd and too heavy and progressive for the acoustic / folk crowd.
In my mid 20s I began to make small run DIY solo acoustic albums. These albums were a much different sound from the democratic collaborative writing that would often happen in a full band setting.
Mighty Purple was on 3 different independent record labels which helped us to grow into the underground nationally known/ and unknown band we became. Mighty Purple is the only band I was ever in. I only started playing with a new set of musicians a couple of years ago. The music of my youth and the music I make now are very different. The songs I write are honest and vulnerable which resonate with kind and loving humans. The lyrics and vocal harmonies are the elements at the forefront. My new album is all acoustic with fiddle , guitar, bass and vintage keys
You recently won a round of The Valley Music Showcase, congratulations! How was that process?
I didn’t realize the gig was a contest until after my agent booked it. I haven’t played a contest type gig since I was in my early 20s. The organizers of the showcase are all very nice people and the crowd was attentive and really seemed like they were true music fans. I only had a couple of my bandmates with me that night. We played with the same fervor and passion that flows in our blood every time we get on stage. We are thankful for any opportunity to make new friends and fans and we have been invited back for a feature showcase at a later date. We look forward to being back in the area at Gateway City Arts on August 30th.
You are about to leave for Honduras with your family, can you tell us a bit about the work you will be doing out there?
I traveled to Honduras in the summer of 2018 with a group of folks from my church. We went to volunteer at a nonprofit called Children’s rescue mission. The mission serves 1500 meals a week to those who could not afford food. We also brought clothing and food and supplies to remote villages. I only took my guitar and my back pack. On the first day there I shared a few songs at a program for teenagers. After the program a bunch of enthusiastic teens took me to their music room at the mission. There were 5 guitars which all smelled of mold and were badly warped and unplayable. I spent the rest of the day fixing and cleaning the guitars and then spent most of the rest of my time in Honduras teaching a good size group of teens basic chords, singing and songs.
The experience was a very healing time for me which came after months of a difficult transition following the ends of the music venues I owned.
I started planning another trip as soon as I got back to the states. During the planning phases I contacted “first act guitars” who have donated 20+ new guitars to the mission, I also Collected Guitar’s from my local music community and will be taking them to Honduras in late July. I am launching their guitar program on this trip and will be taking other musicians to help me teach the many kids. Me and my wife are also visual artists and we will be running art programs as well as assisting in distributing food, blankets and clothing to villages in the region. We will also be building a new classroom for kids. I believe that giving kids something positive to create with can build hope and spark a Systemic change on a grassroots level. We are going as volunteers and raised money to go and serve. A couple of my bandmates and my teenage daughter are going on the trip this time. We are really looking forward to making an impact during our faith based mission.
What are some of the main themes you explore on “Count It All Joy”? Can you share some insight with us about the creation of this album?
Most of the songs on “Count It All Joy“ were written in the season following the endings of my music venues. As I mentioned earlier this transition time was extremely difficult for me and I embarked on a soul searching journey. I have kept journals most of my life and much of what I went through in that season filled multiple notebooks. In 2017 I developed nodes on my vocal cords which grew to a point where I could no longer sing. I even had trouble speaking. I was terrified that I would never sing again and I went through many personal battles along the way. I have a community of loving and supportive friends who rallied around me in this difficult season. I had surgery in early 2018 and was not allowed to use my voice for a month. In this quiet time I began to write songs in my head while at my piano or with my guitar. With the help of an amazing medical team at UCONN Health Center in Connecticut I relearned how to use my voice. It was like training for a race in silence 6 months later I began recording my new album with my producer and longtime friend Vic Steffens. My brother Jonny Rodgers (Cindertalk) played guitar, Seth Adam (fellow songwriter) bass, Ben Dean (Ex Caravan of Thieves) played fiddle, Ricci Harke sang harmonies, and Fred Delione (Ex Stepkids) played keys.
The songs are about the human struggle, love, light, hope, and strength. It is a vulnerable and honest album for me and I believe it will resonate with anyone who has experienced hardship, loss, internal struggle, or personal battles.
What do you think is special about the music community in New England?
I’ve been involved in the music scene in New England for over 25 years as a musician & also as a venue CEO. I have seen so many changes in that time. It is easier now than ever before put your music out to people who have never heard it, through social media avenues.
One of the best parts of the New England music scene is traveling to play in major markets as well as notable smaller markets is easy to do. The close proximity of each city also allows fans to travel short distances to see their favorite groups. There are so many different scenes within the overall music community here in New England. In my opinion The metal, hardcore, and jam scenes are examples of individual genres in which bands show each other the most support and through that support build community’s of fans and followers. Each city and state has its own dynamic with the way bands support each other. The healthiest scenes are the ones in which bands support each other not only on social media but in real life by going to each others shows. Healthy scenes generally have intimate venues which support original music. Those venues are often run by musicians and artists. Healthy scenes have DIY shows , town funded summer concerts which feature local music and radio stations with bandwidth which play local music. I could talk about this sort of thing all day... basically put down your phone and go hear live local music.
What is one thing that you hope your audience takes with them after seeing one of your shows?
Learn more about Steve Rodgers by visiting his website.
To catch Steve Rodgers live along with Brian Jarvis and Alex2e join us at Gateway City Arts on August 20th at 8PM. Doors are at 7PM. Grab your tickets here. Come early and grab a bite to eat at The Bistro.
RSVP to the Facebook event and invite your friends to tag along here.
To see a full list of upcoming shows visit our website.