Steve Brown

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

Hard work brings great rewards and Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter Steve Brown truly exemplifies that. As the end of the year approaches and many musicians are winding down, heading towards the holidays, this extraordinarily talented musician is not only wrapping up his current concerts with Trixter Acoustic and continuing his shows with Rubix Kube, but he is also revving up for The Wizards of Winter shows which Florida fans can see January 6th,7th and 8th at the Stanleyville Theater, Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.

Since Brown formed his original rock band Trixter in the 80’s and their debut self-titled album released in 1990 reached Gold status, he has never slowed down with writing and recording hit songs, which he has done once again with his new incredible single “One To Lean On”.

Catching up with Brown, just after this latest release and still in the midst of other projects, he revealed a bit about his latest song, what people can look forward to with this year’s The Wizards of Winter show, other projects he is still working on and in addition to everything else, what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: Your new song “One to Lean On” is awesome as usual! I liked that melodic rock with encouraging words. What inspired that song?
Steve Brown: Well Lori, and thanks for all your support. I’ve been saying it for a while. At this point in my career, thirty plus years of writing songs. Closer to even forty years of writing songs. I kind of look at every song and I go, what haven’t I done in my career? You know what I mean? I’ve always been a huge Rolling Stones fan, blues, rock, whatever it is. The new Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, stuff like that, but even going back, I think more of an even bigger influence on me regarding that would be Richie Sambora. So, I think “One to Lean On” was just one of those songs. It started out as, somebody emailed me and said, “hey, so and so needs songs. You should write something for ‘em,” and so I did. It was a modern, you know like up and coming. If I said the name, you’d know who it is, but they need songs. They need a hit. I was like, alright. I’ll do it, and I came up with “One to Lean On” and what’s funny about it is, I’m gonna say about two years ago during the pandemic, I did a video and I’m like in my bathrobe and it’s me working on “One to Lean On”. My way of writing and recording is that I never really do demos. Everything I do when I step into my studio, and it’s such a blessing to have my own studio because it enables me the ability to record at all times, but I never make demos. So, everything is gonna be the finished product. The finished record. So, I went in and started with that you know, that groove (he sang) bong, dada da da. That thing that I had going on and it reminded me of a classic. I mean, those are the things that really inspire me. I go back to my youth and stuff and The Rolling Stones were certainly a huge part, and still a huge influence on me, so I have that kind of groove. I don’t know, that’s kind of the way I write a lot of the time is I go, what kind of feel do I want? Do I want something that’s like “Rocket” by Def Leppard? Do I Want something that’s like “I’m The One” by Van Halen? A lot of the time I do, but this time I wanted something that grooved, and again more importantly Lor is you know, doing things that I haven’t done. I think the most important thing for me now is to show everybody all the different sides of Steve Brown as an artist, songwriter and a producer. I just got back from Nashville. My first trip down there writing with Nashville songwriters and that goes back to what I was saying before. It’s about showing the fans, and more importantly people who don’t really know much about me or just know the guy from Trixter or the Def Leppard’s fill in guitar player, that there’s a lot more to me than meets the eye.

SFL Music: You were at BMI?
Brown: Yeah, I was at BMI, but I wrote at Sony. I was at Sony (Music) Publishing writing with J.T. Harding. He’s got like six number one’s with Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban. He wrote “Smile” with Uncle Kracker. You know, massive successful songwriter. I think we wrote a hit, so I’m very excited about that (he laughed)!

SFL Music: Is that going to be coming out soon?
Brown: I’m working on the track right now. The way it works in Nashville is, you have to get cuts is what they call it. You know, where someone says, ok, I’m gonna cut this song. First, we’ve got to have people listen to it and decide where it’s gonna go, but I’m really excited and again, I’m blessed with a very successful career and that I’m able to do things like this where I can do whatever I want and go to Nashville. At this point in my career, I’m extremely blessed to be able to get these opportunities and that people still want to work with me. That they see the future and not just the past in who Steve Brown is and that’s the most important thing for me because at the end of the day, and I say it all the time, I still love every aspect about the music business. For better or worse, as trying as it can be and I think you know this. You can tell by the way I post on my social media, there’s always the positive thing and look, I’m one of the extremely lucky ones in this business, but since I was a little kid, since I started on this journey, it’s always been in my blood. The drive and the love of it, and that goes with making videos, photo sessions, writing songs, travel, and if you’re not built for all of those things, you’re gonna have a tough time in this business to succeed.

SFL Music: You have done and are doing so many things. You’re recording, writing songs for other people. You’ve got Rubix Kube, you’ve got Trixter Acoustic with P.J. (Farley)…
Brown: Tokyo Motor Fist, Danger Danger, when that kicks back. I mean, there’s Eric Martin.

SFL Music: So many things. The Wizards of Winter tour is coming up.
Brown: You bet!

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with this year’s show?
Brown: Well, this year’s show, we’re gonna be changing it up. We’ve got some new songs that we’re adding and we’re still working out the details. Of course, Scott and Sharon Kelly, the geniuses, and the leaders behind the band. Again, we’re still working out the show, but we got a whole brand-new light and video presentation that’s gonna be happening and from what I know, it’s the same band that was out last year, and we got like six more shows. I think when it’s all said and done, we’re gonna have twenty-one shows throughout the east coast and the mid-west. We had a couple of offers, some really tempting offers for the west coast, but it’s just financially to drive out there with the gas prices and with tour buses, how expensive everything is. It just didn’t make any sense and it’s kind of a bummer because since I’ve been in the band, since 2019, I haven’t done the west coast with Wizards of Winter yet. That of course is always a favorite of mine to get out west to see all of my friends, but for everybody who sees the show, it’s very much inspired by TSO. It’s a Christmas, hard rock thing with great musicianship. Great incredible singing and at the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun and It’s a family show. There’s nothing in the show that scares kids. There’s no pyro. It’s all just a phenomenal, family fun entertainment. We’re just gearing up for everything and we start rehearsals in a couple weeks which is gonna be good and again, luckily the core of the band is pretty much the same, so that makes life a lot easier when it comes to rehearsing and what not.

SFL Music: Are you and P.J. still doing some of the Trixter Acoustic shows?
Brown: Yeah. We have two more shows for this year because P.J. of course is so busy. He’s out on tour right now with Eric, opening up for Michael Schenker and then P.J.’s got Australia and the U.K. with Fozzy coming up. So, yeah, we have two more shows for the Trixter Acoustic, that’s P.J. and I with our good friend Ben Hans on percussion.

SFL Music: You’ve worked with so many people over the years. What would you say you may have learned or took away from those experiences like with Def Leppard and all the people you’ve worked with?
Brown: Oh man. Well, I mean, you always learn something and I think I’m kind of a sponge for knowledge whether its working in the studio, playing live, with equipment, with my guitar. Ed Van Halen is such an influence on me and my old buddy. He was the king of tinkering. Always working on gear and getting better sounds and working on amps and stuff like that. So, I take away from everything. I try to first and foremost whatever situation I’m put into, I try to do my best which is not give a hundred percent, but give five hundred percent, and being let’s say someone who’s going to be filling in, I always want to make it seem like I’m not a fill-in and I think I’ve accomplished that with everything. Whether it’s playing with Def Leppard, playing with Dennis DeYoung, playing with Danger Danger, first and foremost, I am me. You know what I mean? I’m Steve Brown. I can’t change myself. I can emote to pretty much any situation, but at the end of the day, everything I do has my stamp on it and luckily with Def Leppard you know, Joe (Elliott) and Phil (Collen) were always just like, “hey man, you do you, but make sure you stay true to what the original like solos are, but you can put your own stamp on it,” and that’s really I think a testament and of course, I’m so honored to have those guys trust in me so much, but they know I’m gonna play whether it’s note for note or close to it, but yet if I add my own thing, it’s gonna be tasteful and respectful to the original guitar player or singer. So, that’s really it. I think the takeaway from all of this again, and I say it all the time, is just how blessed and how lucky I am to be able to do this and I’ve been saying it a lot lately Lori that you know, I’m 52 years old and I’m looking at the next part of my career as being better than the first half. I mean, who would have thought after selling a million records with Trixter, touring the world and doing all the great things that you know, fifteen years later, I’d be playing Wembley Stadium with Def Leppard in front of ninety thousand people and then doing fifteen shows over the last nine years filling in for both guitar players. I have to pinch myself sometimes, but P.J. and various other people, like they always go, “dude, no one works harder than you to get these things and it’s no accident” and I know that, but still it’s never lost on me how fortunate I am. I want everybody to know yes, I’m a very confident, hard-working individual. I know I have talent. I know I have ability. I work my ass off, but I still am so thankful to be able to get these opportunities, and there’s so many more that I can’t even tell you because I’m like on NDA, none disclosures, and other bands. I mean, I wish I could tell you all of ‘em because there’s a lot more, but again, getting back to what I said before, I still love all of this. I still love doing interviews. Though I might be late (he laughed). When I saw you called, I’m like, oh shit! I’m sitting here looking at a post-it that says “interview Lori 11am.” You know what happens Lor? When I get in the zone and I’m working on this new song that we wrote in Nashville. I’m trying to get the track together. I’m working out in the studio. Once I get going, you can’t stop me (he laughed).

SFL Music: I understand. It’s that creativity, right?
Brown: Yeah, that’s it.

SFL Music: You were giving lessons, but the last time we spoke, you had to put them on hold. What do you feel is most important for an artist like yourself to educate someone that’s getting into the music industry or wanting to play and create a profession out of it?
Brown: I’d like to be able to help every person that I work with and I think I do. I give them complete honesty and I tell them first and foremost how hard it is to accomplish. The song “One in a Million” is just not a title. Guys like P.J. Farley and Steve Brown, myself, we’re one in a million when it comes to musicians as far as the success we’ve had and the length of our careers, but if you can get past that, then all I try to do let’s say with guitar players you know, when I give guitar lessons, I try to teach all my students first and foremost, timing. How important playing to like a drum loop or playing to a metronome. To be able to play your scales. How important that is. Bending the notes in tune. Tuning. I also give vocal lessons. In this day and age, everything that you want to learn is on the internet. My wife and I, we were talking about making some kind of soup the other day. I’m like, well, there’s probably fifty recipes on YouTube and there are! I think there’s a hundred! So, that goes the same with lessons. The funny thing is that I tell everybody which is kind of detrimental to my finances, is I go, why do you want to take lesson with me? I’m expensive. Everything that I’m gonna teach you, you can learn on YouTube. And people go, no. We want to learn with you because we want you. We want to be there and experience being with you. I said, ok I get that, but that’s kind of a disclaimer, you know what I mean? Because look, it’s not rocket science, but I can certainly speed up the process. When I work with new bands in the studio, I show them all of my tricks. I don’t hold anything, and no pun intended with show ‘em all my tricks, but that’s the most important thing because again, that’s what all my teachers did when I was learning. They showed me everything and I was always able to learn something whether I wanted to or not. I remember when I was a kid taking lessons from Ross Baratta who was probably one of my most influential guitar teachers. He played in the band with Ray Gillen who went on the be in Badlands and Black Sabbath. Ray was a phenomenal singer and they had a cover band. When I started taking lessons from Ross, he was the first guitar teacher who made me start playing to a metronome. Showed me how to play scales and being able to build speed by learning how to play perfectly in time. It took me a year or two to really start getting the groove of that and in the beginning, it was so frustrating for a twelve-year-old kid to have to sit there with a tick, tick, tick, tick. Playing scales and playing stuff, but it was one of the most important things in the world that I learned and it helped me tremendously become ten times better of a rhythm guitar player and a hundred times better of a lead guitar player. So, I was thankful of that, and nowadays the kids, they’re able to go on YouTube and I tell ‘em all the time, I say, don’t worry about playing to a metronome. Go to YouTube and learn how to play. Go find a rock drum groove at a 120 bpm’s (beats per minute). Play all your scales. Play all your rhythm parts to that. It’s a lot more inspiring when you’re playing to a perfectly tuned and really nice sounding drum set, than it is playing to a 1982 metronome that just is a tick in your ear. Bonk bonk, bonk, but either way.

SFL Music: Way back in the beginning of Trixter, Jon Bon Jovi was a big fan?
Brown: You obviously saw the picture of Jon and I from a couple weeks ago. I played Gwyneth Paltrow’s fiftieth birthday party with Rubix Kube and I knew Jon was gonna be there, but yeah, Jon was the first, let’s say big time rock star take away Joe Lynn Turner from Rainbow and Richie Ranno from Starz. Richie Ranno was the first rock star I ever met as a kid and I met him when I was about ten years old, and then Joe Lynn Turner was next, but Jon Bon Jovi was the first real legit rock star that we gave the Trixter demo, the original Trixter demo tape with a picture, and we gave it to him right before SLIPPERY WHEN WET blew up. We gave it to him, and about a week later Jon called us on our hot line which was Pete’s (Loran) answering machine at his house, and he left us a really cool message. I think I have it somewhere, but he basically said, “hey man, I got your tape. I listened to it. I think you guys got a lot of potential. I think you’re great. Keep up the good work” and it was the first sort of validation that I ever got as a songwriter and you know, the guy who put Trixter together that hey, I’m on the right track here, and it was a huge confidence booster for all of us in the band at the time. It was like September of 1986, and then from there we saw Jon again New Year’s Eve when Bon Jovi and Cinderella headlined the Meadowlands Arena. We snuck backstage and Jon saw us.

SFL Music: I was there!
Brown: You were at that show?

SFL Music: I was, yeah!
Brown: Awesome! We were there. We were backstage and Jon came out and the first thing he did is, he grabbed these scruffy looking dudes with long hair and baseball hats on backwards and said, “hey man. He said, “Snake (Dave Sabo). I want you to meet Steve. Rachel (Bolan) I want you to meet Steve, Pete and the guys. This is Trixter.” He goes, “I want you to take care of them” and low and behold, we started playing shows with the original Skid Row. That was of course Snake, Rachel, Scotti (Hill) and Rob Affuso. This was before Sebastian (Bach) was in the band and we became really good friends, and Snake and Rachel were huge supporters of me and so much help. They hooked us up and yeah, Jon was a huge, huge supporter and a huge help to us. Then when the band got signed, Jon and Doc McGhee, especially, Doc was very instrumental in picking Trixter to be the opening act for the Scorpions tour in 1991, and the day we found out our record, the debut album went Gold, was on the Scorpions tour when we were playing two nights at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and Jon was there with us. He rode the bus with the Scorpions and I told him, I said, hey, we just got word that our record went Gold, and he had such like a proud dad look on his face. He’s like, “man, I knew it! I knew you guys were gonna make it.” He’s like, “I’m so happy for you.” And again, Jon has always been there. Even post Trixter. I’ve sent Jon all of my projects that I’ve done. A lot like Phil Collen, Jon was always supportive of “hey man, you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to keep writing songs.” Phil Collen has always been, like my father says, he’s like my Godfather the way he’s always looking out for me and always looking for a way to help me, hence getting in Def Leppard, but he was always a big champion. Jon was of my post Trixter songwriting and singing especially with 40 Ft. Ringo, with Soaked, Stereo Fallout. The post Trixter bands and stuff. Then fast forward to the end of August of this year, and I hadn’t really hung out with Jon in probably fifteen years. I think the last time we really spent any time together was backstage on the Bounce Tour. So, to see him at this party with Rubix Kube was really, really cool. I was able to introduce him to Cherie (Neve) and Devon (Marie) our singers with Rubix Kube and I told them the story, and Jon was so complimentary. He goes, “Steve, I always thought you were great and I still do.” You know the coolest thing was when I was there, Jon grabbed me immediately and goes, “Dude, you got to tell me about the Def Leppard thing.” He goes, “what’s going on?” Because obviously, I don’t think he saw or got the full story about what my role is. So, he was like “man, I see you posting videos and I’m not sure if you’re playing with them.” So, I told him the whole thing about me being the guy whose been you know, filling in for the last nine years. I’ve played fifteen or so shows with them filling in for both Phil and for Vivian (Campbell) and he was just, “man, that’s great!” And I told him, I said, hey brother, you know I’m always there for you. You’re my Jersey brother. I’m always there for you. Call me if you ever need me. He just gave me that beautiful wink and a smile that Jon Bon Jovi can only do. There’s Ed Van Halen. There’s Jon Bon Jovi, Phil Collen, Joe Elliott. Those guys, I’m eternally grateful for their help in my career.

SFL Music: So, you are still doing Rubix Kube with everything else?
Brown: Yeah, we got more shows. I’m playing this weekend with them. Yeah, Rubix Kube, its crazy to think you know, in February it’s going to be ten years that I’ve been in the band already. It’s been one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been involved with. We get to fly all over the world. We get to play these huge corporate parties for these incredible corporations. We get to go to these exotic locations and they’re just a great group of people. John LaSpina, the drummer for Rubix Kube, he plays drums on “One to Lean On”. Greg Smith from Tokyo Motor Fist and Wizards of Winter is on bass. Devon Marie who is the new singer in Rubix Kube, she sings background vocals. I always try to bring in my friends as you can see on most of my releases. I use a lot of the same people. It’s just the way I do things and I think the song lyrically, as I tell people. It’s a song about the way I look at life and the way, hey if you’re my friend I’ll always be there. I’ll always be your one to lean on, and that’s the core message of the song.

SFL Music: You mentioned Tokyo Motor Fist earlier. Are there any more songs that fans can look forward to?
Brown: Right now, I’m focused on “One to Lean On”. I’m putting everything I have into it. The lyric video is out. The full band video debuts on Friday which I can’t wait for everybody to see, and I’m really focusing on again, I’m always learning. So, this song has been a big, sort of education for me. I’m learning the streaming process because streaming you know, as much as we all want to deny it, it’s the future. It is the music business right now. So, I’m really learning that, and I’ve gotten some great tips and its helped me out and as you can see, I don’t know if you’ve checked Spotify, but the songs gotten like twenty-five thousand streams already in less than a week. I’m blown away. I’m getting added to all these play lists around the world. Ultimately, it’s about whatever way I can get my music heard, to my fans. More importantly, my new fans. This song, yeah, its Steve Brown from Trixter, but its Steve Brown the artist and I think it’s a lot deeper and again, you can’t categorize me. So, the future is that I’m gonna put out one new Steve Brown song a year. The next one I’ve already written and already worked on it. It’s going to come out probably the same time next year and its totally different. The other thing is that every song I put out is gonna be sort of a different genre, getting back to what I said before. It’s about showing everybody what I can do and also, what you haven’t heard me do. So, I’m gonna surprise a lot of people and the end result is going to be in 2032, yes that’s right. 2032, I’m gonna release my first ever solo record because in all honesty, I just don’t have the time in my life to devote to recording ten, twelve, fourteen songs in one shot. So, one song a year to really focus on that for a couple months of promotion behind it. A lot of content. A lot of meaning behind it and then in 2032, I’ll have probably ten, twelve, fourteen songs and release the full-length first official, maybe the first and last ever Steve Brown solo record, but I will tell you, it’s gonna be a tour de force of music if you will.

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