Steve Morse

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

Inspiration is all around us and for Guitarist/Songwriter Steve Morse, a particular event that most people experience at least once in their life, actually affected his life. This extraordinarily talented Guitar Player Hall of Fame musician co-founded the Dixie Dregs, played with rock group Kansas for five years, then went on to play with Deep Purple for twenty-eight years, and more recently played with supergroup Flying Colors. In addition to these world renown bands, he has sported his own band, the Steve Morse Band which is reuniting after ten years to tour in the U.S. South Florida fans should keep their eyes open for upcoming dates to experience this amazing show.

Catching up with Morse, he revealed a bit about the tour, their music, his past, new projects and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: It’s been ten years since you and your band are together. What can fans look forward to with this new show? How did it come together?
Steve Morse: Well, we’ve already done a few dates and its wonderful! Between the band and the audience, its surprisingly both exciting and relaxed. We’re playing the old classic type tunes and stuff from the latest album which is not that recent, but is our latest album called OUT STANDING IN THEIR FIELD and it’s a picture of us standing outside in a field. We also do a few Dixie Dregs or Dregs tunes. We changed the title from Dixie Dregs to Dregs because people were getting it confused. It was just a joke name. You know, when you’re a teenager making the name of a band, you don’t think in the future how it’s going to be perceived. We just thought it was funny because none of us were from the south, but we were living in the south. Andy (West) and I were the Dregs of what was left. Anyway, I got off track. Back to Steve Morse band. It’s the same guys from almost all the albums that I’ve done, and that’s Van Romaine and Dave LaRue. Dave’s on bass, Van’s on keyboards and both of those guys are high demand players in the industry, and I think they like this because I write for them. It’s not them just doing a supporting role. It’s them being featured and taking advantage of their talents because to me as a writer, I look for every possible way I can come up with variety and interest in any musical composition. So, one of our key things is to keep the songs fairly short, four or five minutes and have lots of sonic variety and different textures. I do things like have Dave the bass player, do counter melodies on his instrument and in the middle of the set, we switch to electric classical guitar and bass where we’re playing just a totally different kind of music, but within the set we have about five different varieties of music that are kind of straight up rock. Some more jazzy, ballad kind of things, but emphasis on melodic, and there’s at least one every set we’ve done that’s kind of like fast, Nashville blue-grass picking. Then the classical influence for sure, and I’d say some of what people might call prog-rock or fusion mixed in there, but the whole thing is that it’s written to appeal and you know, not be boring, just endless solos. There are a lot of notes and a lot of solos, but like I said, the emphasis is on making a melodic and communicating with the audience in a positive way.

SFL Music: What would you say inspires you when you write your music?
Morse: I think everyday life because everyday life is full of so much in the way of choices, beauty, frustration, happiness, unhappiness. The process of the life cycle introduces us to profound loss and when we lose people we love or family members. So, life itself has all the inspiration I need, and one of the things I like to do is have a life during the day, and then I kind of separate when the sun goes down. I stay up very late, but there’s a long period of time where I can concentrate on music. So, half of my eighteen hours awake is dealing with chores and outside stuff and then half is with music.

SFL Music: That’s a great balance. You have a hay farm?
Morse: Yes. I was just out there (he laughed) in fact when the rain came. Rain came and messed everything up.

SFL Music: Yeah, it will do that in Florida. What would you say influenced you to become a musician in the first place? You’re from Hamilton, OH?
Morse: Born there, yeah. We lived in a lot of different places. We were living in Michigan when I learned to play. I think just the same kind of influences, you know I was a kid. An eleven-year-old kid playing guitar for first time as well as learning to do wheelies on my bicycle. It was that kind of level of a commitment. It wasn’t a lifestyle choice. It was just hey, this is cool. Let’s try this, and as I got more and more into it, I just realized that it was a very versatile instrument. I had been influenced by seeing The Beatles play and everything. I saw an old guy playing that was running a carnival ride that I went on. He was sitting there with an acoustic guitar and he was playing “Freight Train”, finger picking song, and I thought it was just so awesome that he could make a complete sounding tune on that instrument and just pick it up. It wasn’t like a piano where he had to go to the piano. He just sat there you know, pressing the start and stop button on the ride and playing. So yeah, that was a big influence on me and the guitar itself offers endless challenge and endless reward. So, it’s definitely a lifetime instrument.

SFL Music: You started with piano and clarinet?
Morse: Yeah, yeah, but I was like the kid in the school band that practiced just enough to get his chair placed. It was not a good thing ‘cause I was used to trying to be excellent at things, but I just didn’t like the sound of the clarinet. I got stuck with clarinet because my brother played it and we had one. The parents fill out a questionnaire and then the band teacher got it, so in the music class they said, “oh Steve how about clarinet?” I said, I don’t really like clarinet. I mean, if anything maybe saxophone or drums. “No, clarinet it is” (he laughed).

SFL Music: You have a new instructional book?
Morse: Yes.

SFL Music: It teaches phrasing techniques, combining rhythm, string skipping, bends and all. How did that come about that you wrote it?
Morse: Well, I’d have to say the co-author was the prime mover there. I’m one of these people that has so many lists of things to do and I get distracted with writing. So, when I’m in the studio working on something, If I come across something that might be an idea, I’ll start working on it because you can’t schedule when you’re gonna be inspired. So, I get off track a lot. He kept me, poking and prodding, “come on I need this. Let’s do this track. Come on, lets finish this” and I’d say, of course, of course. I’m doing it, but he was very patient and did a great job of collating. In fact, I’m working on a transcription book with a German transcriber whose extremely, extremely meticulous and perfect, so it’s been amazing! I’m very inspired to be around these younger people who have such an amazing work ethic. I love it!

SFL Music: How did you meet them?
Morse: Well, the co-author of the book you’re referring to did a lot of work with magazines and content for guitar magazines in the U.K., and the German guy doing the transcription book was, I think that was from a guitar online thing I did during COVID.

SFL Music: What would you say is the secret to being so successful and having the longevity that you have?
Morse: Well first of all, it helps if you define success the way I do which is that you’re able to play music that you love for people that appreciate it. Leave it at that and when it comes to comparing numbers and amounts and especially things like record sales, don’t even go there. I mean, there is an old adage that says if you take care of the music, the music will take care of you. It’s still true, but it’s harder to make that happen in a world of shrinking opportunities. There are many opportunities to create content to create a song and now with this artificial intelligence, there will be even more songs with the same chords. So, doing something that’s unique, that you love, that really speaks from your soul, is the whole deal. If you’re not going to do that, then I say get a lottery ticket because you have a better shot.

SFL Music: What would you advise an up-and-coming musician?
Morse: I would say practice and spend as many hours a day as you can. Budget those hours a day and say, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna practice, write, transcribe you know, learn or work on my career steps such as making contacts. You know, going and meeting other people. Showing your ideas. Playing, listening together and writing, composing together. Networking. Everybody that is going to be well known in the circuit of live music will most likely get well-known by collaborating with somebody that is a quote nobody unquote. In other words, that’s when it all happens is when you find a likeminded person who also is in a similar position who has ideas, talent, time and willing to put in the effort, but everybody thinks they’re going to get a call from some famous group and say, hey you know, we really can’t find a guitar player. What do you think? Could we pay you a lot of money to come on tour with us? It’s just not going to happen. I mean, players are a dime a dozen, but creating something unique in the style that, every human has their own style. Has their own choices that they made through their life that gives them their own unique vantage point. That’s what’s gonna appeal to an audience is when you do that well.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. Was there anything new you are working on? Any new music or videos?
Morse: Yeah, I’m always working on music. In fact, we’ve even uttered the magic words of talking about doing a recording and that’s something that’s going to stretch over time, not like we’re going in the studio and suddenly it’s gonna be done six weeks later. We’re sort of long-range planners in that sense. So yeah, we’re working on new stuff. I’ve got a bunch of ideas mapped out and I can’t wait to get the guys all together to start trying them.

SFL Music: Is there a plan or like you said, long term as it comes?
Morse: Everybody’s got other gigs. This is sort of a low-density work load because of all of our situations, but it’s going really well and so we’re really happy and we’re gonna make another album.

SFL Music: That will be something great for people to look forward to. Is there anything else that you wanted to add about the show?
Morse: Yes. One thing I would like to add is to consider bringing somebody who enjoys art and enjoys a different take on things, and enjoys seeing something that may be unique to our generation because of the influences and the way we grew up.

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