1. How do you feel your life would have been different if you weren’t introduced to music at such a young age?
I was at that time, what would be commonly referred to as a “wild child”. It wasn’t destructive or over the edge lunacy, however let’s just say there was a hyperness and lack of focus about me that pervaded my ever day existence. The “doctors” suggested to my parents that it would probably be a good idea to try and get me involved in something that I could positively focus on instead of torturing those around me. My father, believe it or not, made his career as a square dance caller; keeping in mind that this is in New Jersey, not Memphis or Austin. That certainly had some musical influence upon me, however country was never my route. Good news was, I was around a performer whom had a great musical work ethic and was quite engaging on stage. My parents felt that perhaps a musical instrument and associated lessons might be the way to go. They gave me a choice, with the exception of drums of course, of any musical instrument I wanted to play. The accordion became my weapon of choice. I think the complexity of the keys, knobs, bellows and buttons resonated with my own internal chaos. Simply put, music became my best friend. No matter what else was going on around me, I always had that to fall into. Never bored, always engaged. That bled into the rest of my endeavors and provided me a foundation to excel at any activity that I engaged in, or at the least, exhausted myself trying. The ADHD part of me could never focus on the actual notes in front of me, although I could hear a song once and then instantly replicate by ear. As a result, I started writing my own material right out of the gate, much to the chagrin of my music teachers and parents. My entire BIO can be found at (www.stevenjvertun.com/bio)
2. What made you decide on traveling to Orange County California right out of college?
About two months before college graduation, my sister called me from California. She and her husband had moved out here about a year earlier. She wanted to know what my plans were, post-graduation. I was plan-less. She said, “Well, why don’t you think of moving out to California.” Took me less time to answer than her to ask the question. I knew they lived near Los Angeles, THE music mecca icon and that was exactly the direction my mind went. Time to pursue my musical quest. Loaded up my VW bu, 2 guitars, 1 beat up Fender Amp, a sack of clothes and $751 of dough. What I didn’t realize was that although Mission Viejo appeared to be 1/8 of an inch away from LA on the map, it was, in reality, traffic light years away in terms of getting there. So, here I was, locked and loaded, and nowhere to go because I didn’t have the money or a job to afford moving there.
3. How would you classify, or describe your brand of music to others?
I think it is best described the way a recent reviewer of “Ghost, Shadow and Sun” chose to voice it: “It is an extensive mix and variety of grunge, heavy metal, blues and power-pop, heartily crafted into one pertinent, human tale.” I think that statement nails it. I listen to a wide selection of music and always have. I believe that I have dragged these influences into each next decade and have succeeded in remaining current while carrying the past into the overall mix. I don’t believe that you could point to any single band and say;’ “There it is! He sounds just like them.” I like to write in a variety of styles, however I don’t think there is ever mistaking my sound. It all seems to flow with a continuity song to song, album to album, without being redundant. Everything falls into this wide open filter of my mind and comes out as it does.
4. How does your songwriting transpire, do you have a certain “recipe” you follow when writing?
For me, the writing comes fairly easily. While I don’t feel I was gifted as a technical musician by the music Gods, I was provided the ability to write and construct without a tremendous amount of writers anxiety or road blocks. It has always flowed easily or naturally for me. Establishing the proficiency of playing the chords properly and in the right timing and meter is where the challenge has always existed. Because of my lack of focus, diligence and adherence to the academic side of instrumental proficiency, there were some interesting outcomes that resulted. You know, I’d always pick up the instrument, put the music stand front and center, set the metronome in motion, all with the intention learning my scales, proper fingering and instrumental execution and all of that. However, after 10 minutes (or sooner) I’d be off banging away a bunch of chords and writing something new. That was the part that came easy and where my inspiration lied; on the fly. I’d have these strange and broken chords that I’d accidentally find and like to write from.
Prior to my recent solo excursion, I’d introduce a song to the band and the lead guitarist, a very accomplished musician, would invariably say, “You can’t do that”. Do what? “Play those chords in that order” Why not? “They don’t make technical sense”. Do they sound good? “Well yes”. Okay then what’s the problem? “They don’t make technical sense”. Look, just play the damn song then. “Fine. (long passive aggressive pause) What chords are you actually playing?” I don’t know; here, look at my fingers”. And the battles would rage on and on, but eventually we’d get there and I think it’s what gives my music it’s unique sound. I can be inspired by many things. Often times by a rhythm of some kind. Might be the sound of the tire of a truck driving next to me. I hear the cadence and a song might start playing in my head. Once I’ve got the very beginning of the thread, the ball of yarn just naturally unfolds. The lyrics usually start out as jibberish imitating words and just naturally start to fall into place. Definitely coming from a place of the subconscious. It may be months before I am even aware of what the song is specifically about. And then it will just hit me where it came from or what prior experience initiated it. I have had this epiphany moment on stage a few times over the years. It is a very unnerving, out of body experience when that has happened.
5. How did you come up with the name of your cd Ghost, Shadow and Sun?
For the longest time I had the working title “Innocence and Confidence” (one of the songs on the CD. I was on a long plane ride traveling to and from Sydney, Australia. I had just gotten the mastered, final version right before I began the trip. It had been a long, adventurous, but exhausting trip. On the return home, I had the phones on and the CD was playing continuously. I don’t typically sleep on a plane, however I found myself in a sort of half dream state. At some point, there were certain words that just kept flashing out at me while I was fazing in and out of consciousness. When I emerged, many hours later, the new CD name was clearly formed and imprinted on my brain and I knew this had to be the title. It fits the overall vibe, the foundation of the CD and there is quite bit of symbolic wordplay going on in it.
6. You have been though a lot in the last decade, do you feel that music and songwriting has pull you through some of the darkest times?
Without doubt. I am not prone to drugs and alcohol abuse. I have had some of the common challenging times in my life that befall many and I have experienced unfathomable tragedy experienced by far fewer. In all cases I have managed my away through in a sober state. It has always been the music that has provided me the required avenue of cathartic expulsion that kept me balanced, vertical and moving forward. It has been my way through as opposed to trying to go over or under that which has been placed in front of me. What has been most awesome for me has been the Ghost video (https://youtu.be/OWE3MElJf3Y) . It was crafted as a vehicle to send a message of hope for anyone that has found themselves in situation where they have lost someone and are in a grieving situation. The responses that I have gotten, from many people that have found comfort, a new paradigm, or an increased level of peace from viewing the video has been humbling and overwhelming. From this standpoint alone, I have accomplished my main mission.
7. The album has been out for a couple of months now, how are your fans and critics responding to it so far?
The album was actually released exactly two weeks ago (Feb. 3rd), although it feels as if its’ been many months, with all of the surrounding clatter and clang surrounding it. The response thus far has been beyond what I could have expected. The video for “Ghost” has been racking up the views on Youtube and the CD “Ghost, Shadow and Sun” seems to be going well, however it is hard for me to know because the music sites don’t tend to report sales numbers for up to 2-3 months. If everybody that tells me they have purchased has or does, then I expect it to do well. It is interesting to note that When I started this, I had no fan base as a solo artist. My FB/ Social media was extremely compressed with only 130 friends. In the past 6 weeks, since the initial release of the Ghost video, my friend base has grown to almost 2000 friends. The responses from these people has been inspiring and 100% positive.
Additionally, I’d like share that 30% of the proceeds are going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and The Wounded Warrior Project. The balance of the sales dollars will be invested into additional musical projects that will benefit these same organizations. I’ve had two Critic reviews this past week. Both gave the CD 4.5 and 5.0 ratings (out of 5) and they were extremely complimentary about the work. So far so good! The CD can be purchased/reviewed at:
iTunes and most major music outlets @ Steven J Vertun
Or you can find the me at www.StevenjVertun.com
ROCK ON EVERYONE!!!!