Next Thought On Music: a chat with jazz, neo-fusion artist David P. Stevens

David P. Stevens

Happy 4th of July MMT family! I’m excited about the holiday, especially being here in Philly, PA, as we will have the likes of homegrown talent Jill Scott, The Roots and host Kevin Hart leading an all-star lineup at the Philly 4th of July Jam on the Parkway (event will be simulcast live for the first time on music channels VH1 and Palladia, and televised locally on 6ABC at 8 p.m. EST). The event is part of a yearly all week July 4 holiday celebration called Wawa Welcome America.

Coincidentally, I was very blessed to interview contemporary jazz guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter/producer, and friend David P. Stevens, who is scheduled to perform this weekend, July 6, as part of the Welcome America concert series. David is currently celebrating his hit single “Just Like That,” featuring Gerald Albright, from his fourth independent album entitled “Epiphany.” I caught up with David, who has a busy tour schedule, last week and we discussed everything from film to family.

Okay so here’s an MMT signature question: if you could play any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

If I could make any movie it would be about an artist, or artists, from Philadelphia International Records. I’ve loved hearing stories about the history of it and what they accomplished, the good and the bad, and I would love to do a story on that (period).

You have resided in several cities known for their musical roots, Nashville where you were lead guitarist for TBN and Detroit home of Motown. But you have made your hometown, home of Philly International as you mentioned, your base. What made you plant your roots here?

As soon as I graduated college, I had a job, hated the job and thought “I’m too young to wear a suit.” I packed up my jeep, which was so old I had to tie the door shut with a belt, and drove to Nashville. I didn’t know anybody! I made connections, slept on some floors, eventually got an apartment, you know one of those classic stories. I went to Detroit for two years when my wife attended graduate school and was able to do music there. I came back to Philly because it’s where I always wanted my base to be. I grew up doing music here, I knew everyone, and it was easier to work and accomplish what I wanted with those connections.

What are some of the challenges you have as a contemporary jazz artist in the domestic market vs. the international market?

Here (domestically) things are so compartmentalized, you have smooth jazz, straight jazz, etc. But if you listen to radio in the UK, they play R&B, gospel, jazz, rock back to back. What they try to do is get the best mix of music, and they are always looking to find new people. And here, if they don’t know your name already it’s more difficult to get your music played. I was shocked (excited) to find out that my music is in heavy rotation on WHUR in Washington,D.C. I’d made a call to a local station, and was told that they couldn’t even listen to my music, I would have to send it to corporate.

If you were guest speaking to a group of school age musicians, what piece of advice would you give them on becoming a professional artist?

They need to have a well-rounded approach, and be willing to learn different types of music. Also, getting on stage to perform is acting. The way I am on stage is not how I am in my (day-to-day), it’s a difference. Young kids have to know it’s more than just their musical craft, and their “likability factor” is important. People have to like you in order to want to work with you and buy your product. Know your craft and learn the business.

Do you ask for constructive criticism from your wife & kids, and what has been the best advice you’ve received from them?

Absolutely! I have three children, two sons 9 and 4 and a 5-year-old daughter. My oldest son is a music connoisseur and he critiques me; and sometimes it’s enough for me to take some pause. My wife gives constructive criticism and, if something’s not good, she’ll let me know instantly! If something is really good, she’ll let me know that as well; and I know it’s coming from a truthful place, so I can always trust her. My daughter critiques my outfits! She’ll let me know “Daddy that looks corny!”

As I mentioned earlier, David keeps a busy tour schedule and will be next featured on Friday, July 5 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, with guest vocalist Carol Riddick. For event details and to purchase tickets, go to www.bethesdabluesjazz.com. You can also get more information about his tour schedule and music at www.davidstevensmusic.com.

David’s album “Epiphany,” as well as his other releases, is available for purchase on Amazon, cdbaby, and iTunes. Check below to listen to the lead single “Overbrook Drive.”

Until next thought family, Thomasena

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