Just about all musicians perform in a box. They can flex their musical output in a number of ways, but they also have these restrictions imposed on them. Some of these restrictions are enforced by record label stipulations. Others are instated by a bloodthirsty fan base that becomes too obnoxious for its own good, as if the three headed dog monster of Greek mythology. That thing was once a puppy. But another important element to ‘the box’ is the fear that an artist will fail in their efforts to leave it. It is arguably what keeps many musicians spinning wheels with the same artful floundering for decades.
Yet one gets the feeling that Steve Rapp doesn’t see a box. He hardly even sees a ‘place’ at all. Steve Rapp creates music for himself. There is no predefinition of appeasing a fan base. The artist is independent and small enough to play with different sounds without alienating an audience. And it certainly isn’t a record label, for Rapp hardly seems to be chasing dollar bills with his jazz-inspired metallic Hagar-ish rock sound. No- there is something else at play here- something far more exhilarating.
Steve Rapp and the band come with a background in life. He is a father. He is also a decorated veteran of the army infantry. He comes with this background that lifts spirits and becomes immediately relatable. Rapp is a far more ‘approachable everyman’ than ‘big rock and roll star,’ despite his music ultimately emulating the latter in an original and humbling way.
There is a lot of Lennon in Rapp’s songwriting, particularly “Peace n Love” from the 2011 EP, the Songsmith Album. The comparisons continue with the rowdy “Sophisticated Lady,” impaling the song right in the middle is a clarinet which lifts life into the track. Rapp has the same birthday as Lennon, an endearing coincidence of the grand universe that also may have helped ‘poke’ and ‘prod’ Rapp to fall in love with a woman named Yoko, his wife. Yikes.
The artist recently released “I’m Still Here,” a gorgeous and clean acoustic ballad featuring enchanting female vocals. This could mark a stylistic shift away from dirty jazz-rock and more towards heartwarming balladry. The short and snappy two minute tune “Who Will You Make Peace With” features a flash in the pan solo that returns to Rapp’s love for frenetic and soulful finger-tapping.
Rapp released The Songsmith Album in 2011, his last major release of any kind. But the artist seems to crave the lure of a great tune, and is expected to release his full-length follow-up soon enough. Tentative release date? The future. Good enough for me.
Steve Rapp is from Seattle, but notice how no mention of Seattle’s huge grunge movement was mentioned. We are past that. Steve Rapp not only has defined his own identity through his musical output, but he has seemingly broken grunge’s long-reaching grasp with tunes that break the mold of grunge angry/rock conventions. The power of Rapp’s music comes from its happiness, not its darkness.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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