Ten years ago, Stephen Chopek was performing songs in the New York City subways. He treated it like a full-time job – heading out in the morning, picking a spot, and sticking to it. He’d pack up his guitar, head home, and do it all again the next day.
It’s clear when Stephen tells this story that it doesn’t strike him as unusual. He was a professional drummer learning to play guitar and sing – what better way to hone your skills? He refers to his time playing underground as casually as he talks about his life on the road or studying with drummer Billy Martin of Medeski Martin & Wood. Stephen is a perennial student, as disciplined as he is curious.
Long before those subway sets, Stephen’s apprenticeship with legendary jazz percussionist Leon Parker led to touring and recording with guitarist Charlie Hunter from 2000 to 2002, which opened the door to a world tour with John Mayer and the recording of Any Given Thursday. He’s kept the beat for Marc Broussard, Jesse Malin, The Alternate Routes, The Pimps of Joytime, Todd Carey, The Everymen, Amy LaVere, John Paul Keith, Shannon McNally, and many others.
Not surprisingly, his stories tend to be about what was learned from every adventure; each tour, each artist, each session, was a prerequisite to the next. It is this collection of his experiences that laid the foundation for Stephen’s career as a solo artist.
His debut album, See Through, was recorded and released in the spring of 2012 – just him and an electric guitar. Over the two years that followed, he created an ambitious series of recordings that featured full-band treatments of his new material, every instrument tracked in the studio by Stephen himself. The songs were released throughout 2015 – the two EPs and a culminating full-length album, Things Moving On Their Own Together, earned Stephen critical praise for both his songwriting and his musicianship (“A skillfully crafted tapestry of punk, pop, folk and roots” – Skin Back Alley). He spent the better part of the next two years on tour in support of the album, thousands of miles logged in route to a dozen or more cities at a time.
Stephen released Talk Will Tell in 2017 — a solo acoustic six-song EP, recorded outside of Raleigh, North Carolina while on tour the previous year. Stephen’s latest release (April 2018) is a 45 RPM record featuring two new songs, “Radio Caroline” and “The Ballad of Cash & Dean”. Alongside a nod to history, these songs are rich in catchy hooks and dynamic melodies.
This release is a bit of a preview of what fans will hear when his next full length album, Begin The Glimmer, comes out later this year. Recorded in Memphis at 5 & Dime and mixed by Doug Easley (Cat Power, Ben Nichols, Frazey Ford), the album finds Stephen increasingly comfortable and confident in his songwriting, both lyrically and melodically. While rhythm was at the heart of the writing on Things Moving On Their Own Together, melody takes centerstage on this new effort to great effect. Look for these albums – and look for Stephen Chopek on the road, in a town near you.
Memphis punk rock/power-pop musician J.D. Reager recently moved to Chicago – and, honestly, he has no idea what he’s doing.
Reager has played with many semi-noteworthy bands over the years, including Pezz (B.Y.O. Records), Glossary (Undertow Music), and Two Way Radio (MTV’s $5 Cover series). He went solo in in 2008, and has released two critically acclaimed solo albums: The Repechage and It’s Dangerous To Go Alone. Take This!, which are available wherever popular music is downloaded these days as well as in finer record shops in the greater Chicago and Memphis metropolitan areas.
Reager’s as-yet-untitled third album is currently being mixed for release later this year, and features contributions from notable Memphis musicians John Bonds (River City Tanlines, Jack Oblivian) and Jeremy Scott (Reigning Sound). It will also the first album to truly feature Reager’s longtime backing band, the Cold-Blooded Three – Bonds (drums), Eric Wilson (bass), and Matthew Trisler (guitar).
Althea Grace is a young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the Chicago area. Althea’s music can best be described as new age blues with heavy doses of jazz, funk, and soul featuring her powerful, soulful voice and guitar skills to match. Growing up the daughter of music lovers and in a city filled with talent, music quickly became her sole passion in life. Before even learning to drive, Althea began sharing the stage with many notable bands such as X Ambassadors, The Shins & Sylvan Esso. Michael Kaiz of Jambase described Althea as “One of Chicago’s rising gems”.
In 2016, her duo, Future Stuff, released their debut EP. She has spent much of the last year touring the country with Future Stuff opening for blues legend, Doyle Bramhall II and Grammy award-winning band, Los Lobos. Quote via Sheryl Crow (Twitter/Instagram): “Saw a young duo called future stuff last night at City Winery Nashville. They blew me away! Check them out!!” Click here to see the exclusive premiere with Live for Live Music.