Reverbnation Artist: Steffan May
Brian Ripple | Monday Jun. 1st, 2015
Steffan May is a singer/songwriter originally from Ohio, who now lives in Bozeman, Montana. He formerly lived in Austin, Texas where he played in a band called the Dangos. Steffan independently released a double album of original music called ‘Forget Yer Face’ in May 2014, and he also plays in a band called ‘Squirrel Gravy’ with his brother Ken.
Brian Ripple: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat and answer some questions for us. We really appreciate it. Let’s start with you… How old were you when you got involved with music?
Steffan May: I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents were big into music. Mom played piano and Dad played guitar, and both were into the pop music of the 60s and 70s. I have fond memories of attempting to sing harmonies of Beatles songs in the car with my family. My older brother has been encouraging me to listen to music for as long as I can remember as well. He used to tape stuff off the radio and make his own mixes before that was even a thing.
BR: Did you take music lessons or are you self taught?
SM: I’m self taught. I tried to take a guitar lesson in college after I’d been playing for about 10 years. My teacher didn’t like the way I played and tried to correct everything he thought I was doing wrong. It was a pretty disheartening experience, so I figured I’m better off learning on my own.
BR: How old were you when you first started
SM: I started playing bass in the 9th grade, and began learning guitar and writing songs around that
BR: What was your first guitar and your guitar of choice today?
SM: My first guitar was a Yamaha acoustic, and I still play it all the time. It’s been super durable over the years. My two favorites today are an Alvarez Yari acoustic and a Telecaster.
BR: Do you play any other instruments?
SM: I am best at guitar and bass, but can also play some banjo and drums.
BR: What are a few of your favorite albums to listen to on a long drive, both old and new? And what makes them so special to you?
SM: Man, that’s a tough one! So many albums, so little time. My two favorite new albums are Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night. Great songwriting, musicianship and production on both.
For older stuff, I’ll say Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie and Son Volt’s Trace. Shotgun Willie was my first Willie album and it’s just solid top to bottom. You gotta love those funky bass lines. Trace just resonated with me before I knew anything about “Alternative Country” or Americana. The banjos and steel guitar sounded amazing, even though at the time I didn’t really know why.
Bonus album: The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Bots.
BR: If you could sit on a bench with a musician legend for a day and jam out, who would it be??? And why this person or people?
SM: I’d love to sit and play acoustic guitars with Jerry Garcia and Johnny Cash. I know, I missed my window on that one. As far as current artists, I’d have to go with Dave Grohl. That guy is hilarious and an amazing musician. Jon Fishman (the drummer from Phish) would probably be pretty fun to hang out with as well, and it’s always a good time playing with great drummers.
BR: Can you tell us about your latest Recording project / CD “Forget Yer Face”?
SM: ‘Forget Yer Face’ is a double album with 20 original songs that was independently released in 2014.
I played all the instruments and recorded it in basements and bedrooms with a digital 8 track recorder. Chris Cunningham at Basecamp Recording helped put all the tracks on Pro Tools and then helped with mixing, mastering and production. My brother Ken also helped out a lot with mixing.
‘Forget Yer Face’ gets its foundation from the country, bluegrass, and folk traditions of the late 1960s/early 1970s, blended by the likes of Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Grateful Dead amongst others. From there, it attempts to push forward, drawing in a diverse set of its own influences from indie rock to jazz. Divided into two 40 minute LPs titled ‘Forget Yer Face’ (part A) and ‘Cosmic American Heritage’ (part B), both crammed onto one CD.
FYF hopes to create a true album experience greater than the sum of its parts. Songwriting and musicianship are the emphasis. These are complemented by a production style that keeps the focus on the natural tones of acoustic and electric instruments that sound the way that nature intended: stripped down and free from over-manipulation.
If you are interested in picking up a copy of Forget Your Face, you can get one at Cactus Records in Bozeman or Conley’s Books and Music in Livingston, as well as the usual on line vendors such as Amazon and iTunes.
BR: What are a few of your favorite tracks off the CD to play?
SM: I’d say my favorites are The Tune Unfamiliar (track 3), E. Rose (track 6), Before Long (track 9), and Braver Than Yer Thinkin (track 17).
BR: A while back you had a group “Squirrel Gravy”. Is this still going and can you tell us about that?
SM: Yes, Squirrel Gravy is alive and well. I play guitar, my brother plays bass, and we both sing. We’ve also been playing with Joe Beeson on drums and Michelle Sundquist on fiddle, both great musicians. We play a mix of covers and originals, and I would describe our sound as Cosmic Country Bluegrass Folk Rock Stew.
BR: Do you think its harder for uniquely talented musicians to “make it” in todays market, since popular music seems so homogenized?
SM: Well, I do think that technology has opened the door to a lot of musicians who can now put out albums without needing a ton of money and support from a major record label. So in a way, it’s easier to be able to make your own recordings and promote it on your own. The pool has gotten a lot bigger thought and it’s pretty hard to stand out because there’s so much music that’s out there. I’m saddened by the current state of popular music and think about how different it is compared to popular music in say 1969 or 1970. I’m really encouraged, though, by success stories such as Sturgill Simpson, who has been able to sell a ton of albums without any support from big radio or record labels.
BR: Any upcoming shows you want people to know about or other things we may not have had time to touch on?
SM: Squirrel Gravy will be playing at The American Legion in Bozeman on Thursday, July 30th, at 8:30 pm immediately following Music on Main. We’re also working on some dates in August and further out. Please check out my website, www.steffanmaymusic.com, for all the live music dates, free tunes, and a lot more. You can find us on Facebook at Steffan May Music. Thank you very much to Bozeman Magazine for the interview and for helping support live local music. Hope to see you out there and thanks for listening!
BR: Thanks for taking time to talk to us today Steffan, and we will see you at the next show.