Born and raised in Campbellville, Ontario, Steve Rivers has lived in Nashville for the last four years. He is a young recording artist and songwriter who is turning heads in the country music scene. His new album ‘Temptations’ is establishing him as one of the most exciting new artists in country music today and Steve sat down with Inside Milton Magazine for an intimate discussion about his life, his music and his ambitions in the land of the Grand Ole Opry.
Steve sits unassuming and approachable at a table inside Bryden’s Pub. The natural light streams in through the tavern’s windows, and the staff are friendly and happy to see the country singer they’ve watched growing up over the last decade.
Steve’s first jam sessions and live shows took place at Bryden’s Pub on Main Street in Milton. He tells me about his Thursday night escapades with friends in town. He and his friends were students from Milton District high School. They played in their own band, LTD, and reveled in the Thursday night jam sessions where Steve says Bryden’s was the place to be. At the age of five Steve was playing the piano. At 13, he was singing and playing the guitar. His high school band friends cut their live musician’s teeth at Bryden’s where they would play all sorts of music including covers of their favourite country southern rock tunes. Sometimes his friends would bring in their djembes (a skin covered drum played with bare hands) and Steve would hone his guitar playing, vocals and his stage presence. Being on stage is something that has always come naturally to him.
Steve says he loves playing to a crowd, and that it makes him far more nervous to have an audience of just one or two people.
Steve learned a lot about himself exploring his love of music in those days, and most importantly, he discovered that it his drive could propel him into a serious career in music. That career path would begin with an education at Fanshawe College in the Music Industry Arts program. The program focused on production and recording, the business of working in the music industry.
The next step, if he was serious about making a career for himself, was to go to Nashville. On the advice of his professor and colleagues, Steve took a leap of faith. He and his mom drove down to Nashville where he began the process of building a home base for himself south of the border in Tennessee’s little big town. Nashville is home to many different scenes. It is a college town. It is the home of indie rock. Located in midtown Nashville is music row where Steve says he would love to crawl into the attics, which he thinks might be filled with bottomless archives of unreleased songs. Nashville is a songwriter’s Mecca. A fellow student connected Steve to a recording studio in Nashville. Steve interviewed and gained an intern position at Quad Studios (originally known as Quadrafonic Sound Studios) where artists like Neil Young, Joan Baez and Jimmy Buffet have recorded. Then he found an apartment at the Music City Hostel and apartments, which Steve says was a godsend. He made friends, connections, and immersed himself in the songwriting and recording community around him.
He says his first summer in Nashville was the greatest summer of his life thus far. He stayed in the apartments for a couple of years, making lasting friendships and learning valuable lessons, some of them tough, about making it in the country music business.
So what about the music? Steve Rivers is all about connecting with his audience, through honest lyrics, real experiences and reaching out at live shows. Steve says it isn’t hard to get in front of major producers. One of his first meetings was with Ralph Murphy, a musician, record producer, songwriter who serves on the board of the Canadian Country Music Association. The meeting was humbling. Steve’s songs were “cut to shreds”, but he says the advice was invaluable. Ralph Murphy showed him “where the bar was, who he was competing with and how to listen better”. Steve took the lesson very much to heart. In today’s internet-era music industry, things are very different from the old days. Musicians remain independent longer, developing a fan base and brand for themselves long before they are signed by a major label. A musician’s brand is as much a commodity as the music itself. Musicians need to make connections early on with good producers, and most importantly with fans.
Steve wants to connect with his fans, and he believes the best way to do so is to get out there to the small towns and cities and just play. He believes firmly in the grass roots approach, stating that he values fans that are growing with him by following his music through the years. His second album ‘Temptations’ is on tour right now, and Steve is all about getting the word out, using social media and radio to promote his new country melodies and charms. He is also a gifted songwriter, stating that songwriting/publishing is a huge component of success in the music industry. Nashville is the place to be for publishing. He says that collaborative songwriting is a lot like dating, and he has a number of published songs under his belt that he has co-written with artists like Amanda Nagurney, and Canada’s Kerosene Creek. When it comes to his own lyrics and compositions,
“I will always be honest with my audience, about my music and about who I am. A good song is a good song, and it will do well.”
With Steve’s kind nature, handsome exterior and soothing southern sounds, it’s difficult to imagine anything but huge success for this emerging musician. He jokingly refers to his approach to media as a Honky-tonk Revival. His career path is a journey, much like the road trips he has taken along Highway 40—the Music Highway— connecting Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. His willingness to learn, to absorb, to exercise great patience and self-discipline has served him well on his path to country music fame. He has no illusions about overnight success, and he says matter-of-factly that it’s about being in the right place, at the right time and being able to deliver in that moment. Steve has prepared himself to deliver when he’s called upon to do so, because he knows that if he doesn’t, he won’t get a second chance.
Steve Rivers comes home every few months to reset, and to play local festivals and shows. Steve Rivers’ latest singles “Mess It Up” & “Uncomplicated” are currently being played on Canadian and US radio stations. Be sure to request Steve Rivers on your local country radio station.
Get a copy of his new record ‘Temptations’ on iTunes or at Amazon.ca, and look for Steve to be performing in a town near you! For a list of local shows in the Milton area, or to listen to Steve’s music, please visit his website at www.steveriversmusic.com