Steve Dalton is a singer-songwriter from Boston, MA. Steve is currently working towards releasing an album towards the end of the year and kindly agreed to complete an in-depth feature interview for Song Revelation. Read on to find out about who inspires Steve, what his current career highlights have been and what it’s like to live in Boston!
Q: Who are you called?
I’m a singer-songwriter called Steve Dalton. I don’t have a band name or a funky stage name like Lady Gaga. It’s just the real me.
Q: If you could classify your music in a genre or a number of genres what would it be?
My music consists of lyrical hooks and piano-driven syncopation. I like to write intelligent, emotive lyrics and music that makes people think. I guess I could be classified as piano pop. Sometimes power piano pop. Sometimes a little alt-folk.
Q: If you could use a tagline of fewer than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
My music warms like good scotch on a cold night; gives charm to sadness and hope to the disenchanted.
Q: What is your musical background?
Here’s my story. My parents aren’t especially musical, but my siblings and I would sing 3-part harmony for fun. In my youth I went through a phase when I was obsessed with ragtime. I took a year or two of formal piano lessons. My parents and piano teacher understandably wanted me to learn piano the classical way, but I wanted to do ragtime and to learn chords so I could play pop songs. They (surprisingly!) obliged. After a year or two of studying formally, I stopped lessons and started tinkering around on my own. In 2006 I started writing music in earnest, when I lost my job and my girlfriend and deeded to defend myself against a world that seemed to be caving in around me. I got on youtube and really discovered my voice. All very ad hoc and informal.
Q: How was 2010 for you?
2010 was a rough year. Life had me in a choke hold, and my responsibilities mounted until I felt I was suffocating. I stopped recording. I hardly ever played. But then, I recorded my EP. That album was like a re-birth. It was done in a return to creative life.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
I take artistic inspiration from my family and my faith. A lot of the pop music I hear glorifies a drunken party lifestyle, and while I’m not prudish or a teetotaler, I find those themes empty and unfulfilling. The bands that showed me that music can – and should – be something different are Radiohead and Coldplay. Radiohead’s piercing lyrics and brooding instrumentation were always about inner experience of life. That really appeals to me. Coldplay’s hopeful, soulful lyrics and instrumentation are about love and the positive aspects of a wholesome human existence. I’ve heard it said, “small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss ideas. I like music that is about ideas, and the really worthwhile ones: love, altruism, sacrifice, hope.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
Ben Folds. That guy plays a hot piano with a technical dexterity that must make classical pianists weep. Coldplay – not just because they write well-constructed pop songs with good lyrics, but because of the way they run the band. They all split the money evenly, 10% of profits goes to charity, and a band policy of no drugs. It’s fair to each other, generous to the world, and just plain professional.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
Ok, I’m going to assume that Chris Martin isn’t desperately trying to contact me to gig share… so… Kina Grannis is an intriguing musician and I’d love to gig with her. I’d like to collaborate with my brother, Matt Dalton, who’s embarking on an indie music career of his own. His songs are melodically beautiful and more delicate than my style, and I can imagine a really interesting influence on my music if we collaborated.
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
Maroon 5’s latest CD. “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay. I generally listen to a very small number of songs at a time, but I listen to them until my ears fall off.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
I am almost never not writing music. That’s not to say that all, or even most, of it ever makes it onto paper or recordings. But I am missing the portion of my brain that lets me stop singing, humming, or tapping a rhythm, even if I’m only doing it in my head. After a long enough time, you get pretty sick of singing other people’s songs, and so my own stuff starts happening in my mind. When I come up with something bad, I disregard it. When I come up with something good, I write it down or hum it into my phone. It can start with an instrumental idea or it can start with a vocal line. Usually some lyrical turn of phrase is the first part of the song that comes to me, and then I try to structure the song around that lyric and how it makes me feel. How can I try to write a song that maximizes the effect of a catchy or incisive lyric? I write all my own songs. Usually I make them about some shrouded approach to hope, because spiritually is a deep part of my life. I think music should give us hope and make us feel truly human in our gloriously messy gift of life.
Sometimes I “hear” unwritten songs with full instrumentation. That’s the conception. Recording is a whole other ball game.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
I wouldn’t choose one. They’re married; sacramentally entwined at soull! I do think they’re equally important. A beautiful melody can be ruined by inane lyrics. You think you’ve found a stand-out song, and then you catch the lyrics and the disappointment taints it forever. And no amount of sublime poetry rescues boring music.
Q: Where are you based?
Boston, MA. I’m living in a small quaint seaside town that seems very staid but is chock full of eccentric types. Got a great pizza place not half a block away, and a killer southern BBQ place on the corner. That’s pretty much everything I need.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
I’ve lived in this small town since I was 2 years old, but that is not sufficient for me to be considered a townie. Really, you gotta have been born here, if you listen to the old timers. Considering it’s been quite a while since there was a hospital in this town, give it a few decades and there’ll be no townies left. Pan out a bit to the wider metro area and I gotta confess that I love Boston, I love the accents, I love the prickliness of commuters – ask someone the time and you’re liable to get maced for being so outrageously threatening in actually interacting with a stranger – I love the Sox. Boston’s fun for the combination unfriendly-big-city vibe with gregarious-college-town vibe. It’s a creative city. The live music scene is awesome. The art scene is fantastic. This is a great place to be, provided you don’t need to park in the city.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A Christmas album, haha! Seriously, I want to do a Christmas release. I know it’s cheesy and everyone’s done it, but I love that music.
I’m also in the middle of writing a song for the woman I love. I wrote her one when I was wooing her, long distance, and she had other guys nearby asking to date her. It worked – she chose me! Now that I know her so well, I realize she deserves love songs more than I even suspected back then. And I don’t want to be the guy that was only romantic “back then.”
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
My first professional recording session in 2010. I’d recorded albums before, but always on the cheap. Hey, I was in college! Working at a professional studio was fantastic. I gained a deep respect for the skills of the engineers. I’m also starting to do live gigs, which are nerve-wracking and exciting and a load of fun. Recording is deeply satisfying, but live gigs are exhilarating. I love the audience. I just wanna buy ’em all a beer and get to be friends.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
Late this year I begin working with a promotions company. I want to ramp up my live gigs, get my songs licensed, and do that Christmas release. Then, 2012 I think I’ll get a street team happening.
I play in Boston about once a month. My next gig is November 8, at the Think Tank in Cambridge, time TBD.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Beer. Belgian whites. (Still talking about beer.)
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
My songs are borne of the daily struggles to live a good life in a twisted world. I don’t take a happy-clappy approach that ignores the fact that wicked scary evils exists in the world. But my songs aren’t depressive either. I like to think I have a realistic take on the world, lightened by hope. And some of the coolest parts of life are those times you just luck out. I wooed my Australian wife long distance with the song, “Reach Out For Me”, a simple, stripped down love tune she called an inter-continental embrace. But before you think I’m a romance god, balance my tunes with a secret fact about me: I’m a math geek. That’s what I studied in college, and I have a particular liking for topology. If I’m not thinking up a new tune I’m pondering a math puzzle.
Editor’s Note: Steve Dalton moulds dexterous piano riffs with heart felt lyrics to produce an appealing and commercial sound.
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Steve Dalton just follow the links below:
twitter link: twitter.com/orderandnumber
facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-Dalton/138815159488599
myspace link: myspace.com/orderandnumber
soundcloud link: soundcloud.com/orderandnumber
reverbnation link: reverbnation.com/orderandnumber
CDBaby link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/stevedalton