So here we are today as we close out September and I am feeling pretty good about it. I am so excited to bring on my guest today from Chicago by the name Owen Stevenson. We have so much to cover but lets check on some music news first. First up, Technavio’s latest report on the global digital music content market provides an analysis on the most important trends expected to impact the market outlook from 2016-2020. Technavio defines an emerging trend as a factor that has the potential to significantly impact the market and contribute to its growth or decline. The top three emerging trends driving the global digital music content market according to Technavio media & entertainment research analysts are: Globalization of music streaming services + Replacement of digital music records + Rise in demand for wearable music devices. In other news, as the music streaming market reacts to the introduction of Pandora Plus, as well as new on-demand services anticipated from Pandora and Amazon, research shows Pandora with the leading share of weekly music streaming hours in the United States in the second quarter of 2016. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of the time consumers spent streaming music occurred on Pandora, followed by YouTube at 27 percent and Spotify at 18 percent, according to MusicWatch, a company providing consumer research for the music industry. For the paid “on-demand” music subscription segment, Spotify Premium posted a 7 percent share, followed by 2 percent for Apple Music. Now lets get to not only an amazing musician but just a all around cool guy, Owen Stevenson. Owen has got so much going on right now as he has a new album, ‘Right Here & Now’ out plus a video for “Come To You.” We got to chat with Owen and he opened up about summertime in Chicago, his use of Facebook Live, the new album, marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, and so much more!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and are you excited to see summer go and fall coming?
Owen Stevenson: Coming at you from Chicago! Summer in Chicago makes the other 9 months worth it, so I’m sad to see it go, but the few days we can call “fall” are also beautiful out here.
Stoli: Being that you are from Chicago, are you alarmed at the gun violence crisis going on with over 400 murders in 2016 alone?
OS: You know, the numbers are outrageous, and I hope someone can come up with a solution, and quick. What’s even more staggering is that the majority of the shootings are on the south and west side, in concentrated areas. There are some blocks in Chicago with more shootings this year than entire cities. I don’t have the answer for it, but I hope the city can tackle the problem sooner than later.
Stoli: At what point in life did music become more of a career path and less of a hobby?
OS: I don’t know that it ever was a hobby for me. Both my parents were professional singers and actors, so I grew up around the arts as a profession. I was singing in the Children’s chorus of Washington at age 9, and performing regularly at the Kennedy Center in DC, and up at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Went to a performing arts signature program in high school, and studied classical vocal performance at Indiana University where I got to be in the a Cappella group Straight No Chaser, and The Singing Hoosiers. Music has really just been a way of life, and I couldn’t be happier that I get to do it every day for a living.
Stoli: With all the technology and social media, do you find it harder or easier to get music fans to give you a listen?
OS: I think as social media develops, it gets easier. The most recent fad is Facebook Live streaming, and I love it. If I’m playing a cover gig here and there, I can live stream, and take requests. I have fans trying to crack jokes and make me laugh live on camera. I’m not the best at keeping up with the tweets and posts all the time, but I think it overall can increase the online reach.
Stoli: Your new album ‘Right Here And Now’ is out now. How long were you working on that and how has the response been?
OS: We took a nice, full year to record the album, and I’ve been very encouraged and excited about the response. In the past with kickstarters, I’ve felt a little rushed creatively, so I could get the materials to all the backers. For this record, we really took our time, worked with an amazing engineer at Uptown Recording in Chicago, and got all the sounds we wanted on every track. I definitely think it paid off to take the extra time, and so far, all the online reviews have been very positive.
Stoli: How do you choose what musicians you want to work with on your solo projects?
OS: I’ve got my regular cast of guys, Josh Murtha plays bass live, and recorded bass, and lead guitar on the album, and Dave Brandwein has played drums with me for a few years now. Both of those guys have really been a great core for bouncing creative ideas off of. I’ve been fortunate enough to build an incredible network of musicians over the years, and love getting to tailor my band to specific shows and venues.
Stoli: I love your song “Love Is the Best Thing We Do.” What inspired that song and was that based on real life love?
OS: Ha! You know, I can’t lie, I was a fan of the show How I Met Your Mother. That’s a quote from Ted in the last season. I heard it one night while it was on in the background at home, and just thought it sounded like a line from an old Motown tune. After the hook, it really was about a love in the city of Chicago, I just had pictures in my head of special moments around the beautiful city. With a girl on the EL station platform waiting for a train, seeing your breath in the cold air, or walking along the lakeshore for the sunrise after a crazy night out, looking at the skyline. To me the song is just being in love in this beautiful city.
Stoli: You play many live dates. What are you favorite venues to play and how do you decide on set list for the show?
OS: I just got to play the Double Door for the first time, which was cool to play the same state as the Rolling Stones. For putting together sets, I’ll play my favorite originals, but I feel like there are so many great songs written already, and in order to keep the interest of people at shows with multiple bands, throw in some fun covers. Lately some of my favorites have been Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson, and some Prince tunes. When it comes down to playing original music, I really love places like Uncommon Ground in Chicago, which is a wood paneled room with great acoustics, where people really go to LISTEN to original music.
Stoli: I love the video for “Come To You.” How did you choose that song for the video and who helped put the music to a visual?
OS: I had a picture in my head from the beginning of writing that song of a bar I used to play at regularly in the Gold Coast of Chicago. We even wound up shooting the video there at Mother’s Too. I had recently gotten back in touch with a good college friend that used to film all of our Straight No Chaser videos, Ryan Cohen. He was a freelancer production guy in Chicago that was able to hop in on short notice and help out directing the video. We all had a great time shooting it, and I kept laughing that it was considered “work”. Like I said, I love what I get to do every day.
Stoli: Massachusetts might legalize marijuana if Question 4 passes in November, what is your take on legalization in the U.S.?
OS: Do it! Legalize it, tax it, and put the money into schools, or programs for the homeless. Frankly the ambiguity of laws, and which ones are enforced is even more reason just to legalize it.
Stoli: What is coming up for Owen Stevenson and where you @ online?
OS: Before I went into the studio for Right Here And Now, I had realized I fell into a bit of a trap with playing too many cover gigs to pay bills, and lost some of that original drive. I’ve since gone back to almost exclusively original gigs, or a mix of both, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve got a great support group here in Chicago, and with the new record have had a lot of people across the country reaching out to see when I’ll be coming to their area. Hopefully the answer is soon. That’s the next step.
For a bunch of Facebook Live streams, like my page at facebook.com/owenstevensonmusic + Twitter/IG: owencstevenson and my website is owenstevenson.com.