Steve Rodgers, 2017
Produced by: Ken Nelson
Notable Quote: “So many times I wanted to run away, so many times I couldn’t even find my way. But there’s a voice inside of my heart, says be brave, be brave and walk on.” — Steve Rodgers, “Walk On”
My quick 2 cents: In our current musical landscape riddled with autotune and shallow lyrics, Steve Rodgers’ album is refreshing, meaningful, and bursting with genuine talent. Buy it!
The full scoop: Earlier this spring I was scrolling Facebook and came across a post by David Spero for “Something About You” by Steve Rodgers (link below). Both the song and the artist were new to me, but that title had me curious, so I clicked on it. As soon as I heard the first few notes Steve sang I thought, “That voice… it sounds kind of familiar… last name Rodgers… wait a minute!”
Within seconds I confirmed that Steve is, indeed, the son of iconic rock vocalist Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company), but don’t be misled; he is not a half-talent trying to ride the coattails of his famous father. Steve’s voice is unique, moving, and absolutely addictive, and with his 2017 debut album, Head Up High, he proves unequivocally that he can stand strong in the musical arena on his own two feet.
I ordered the CD immediately.
Born in 1972, and having soaked up incredible amounts of artistic influence sitting on his daddy’s knee, Steve mastered both the piano and guitar at a young age. He started writing his own songs when he was 14 years old, and by 17 he was in his own band, making albums and touring with a solid measure of success. He eventually decided to pursue a solo career, sharing the stage with acts like Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and (of course) Bad Company.
Having high connections through Paul didn’t hurt, but Steve’s style and sound are nearly opposite of his dad’s classic rock leanings, and fans who expect to hear a carbon copy might be a bit surprised. There is that genetic similarity visually and vocally, but Steve soars off in his own direction. His songs have more of a contemporary pop flavor, laced with soul and performed with abundant passion.
And really, it’s his voice… that voice! It’s vibrant and magical, and he wields it perfectly without a bunch of unnecessary showboating; more of a minimalist auditory display that penetrates the heart without growing wearisome. I’m always left wanting to hear more.
Frankly, I think this album is brilliant. Every track is a stepping stone in what seems to be a very personal journey, and listening through from beginning to end sweeps me along with Steve as he makes his way. His songwriting is fantastic, with lyrics that speak of acceptance, bravery, and hope. The music is beautiful and perfectly suited as a backdrop for Steve’s powerful voice, like a rustic wooden fence for the ivy of Steve’s vocals to wend their way around, creating a colorful vision of peace, refreshment and solitude.
The opening song, “I Will Grow,” is introspective and relatable. It grabs you right in the heart of your grown-up self and plants you firmly in an emotional mindset. But before you assume that the whole album is going to cause your heart to ache, Steve launches into the inspiring title track, “Head Up High,” an irresistible, upbeat pep talk that my 16-year-old daughter loves to belt out. And from there he uses a little blues, a little folk, and a lot of heart to share his story, track by track.
I could gush over every single song, but I’ll just mention a couple more of my favorites. “Something About You” rolls out a poignant ribbon of longing and confusion that still gets me every time I hear it. On the other end of the spectrum, “Your Eyes” is a whimsical love song featuring Steve playing a sunny ukulele melody accompanied by his jaunty vocals. “So High” is another happy ballad, hopeful and warm, while “Messed Up” brings a bit of a funky vibe to an uplifting perspective shift.
In spite of the ethereal feelings I have about his music, there is just something so efficient about Steve’s style. He has a message to deliver and he’s not interested in wasting any time – or words – in doing it. When he’s said what he wanted to say the song ends and you are changed, left holding onto an emotional gem. I love that, since I’ve never been a big fan of dragging things out.
A terrific example of that is “Walk On.” Simple and straightforward, the lyrics encourage me in the middle of the dark, like Steve slipping his hand in mine and helping me move forward. Even though it clocks in at just under two and a half minutes, it’s enough. I feel strengthened somehow. Relatively short, and yet perfectly complete.
As of this writing, I believe Steve is wrapping up his summer tour by performing select shows in the US and UK, some as the headliner and some supporting Bad Company. If you have the opportunity to see him live, jump on it! In the meantime, do yourself a favor and snap up this album. It will restore your faith in today’s music scene.