The Stoney Curtis Band isn't exactly new, but the kind of airplay Cosmic Conn3ction is getting is a nice reward for Stoney, who's been rockin' his heart out for a while now. I sat down last week with Stoney to talk about his journey and some of the surprises he's encountered along the way.
Joanie: Your album was just released on March 11. What's going on?
Stoney Curtis: Well, it's going great. I'm getting a lot of play, not just blues stations, but rock stations, too. It's really been nice to know the album's been received as well as it has been.
Joanie: What about charting? You were on the Roots Music charts before the album was even released.
Stoney: Honestly, that surprised me. How does that even happen? Other than that, I haven't been looking at the charts. I'm more concerned with just getting the airplay right now.
Stoney: It's the timing. Everything has changed. I'm different. The production is different. Vocally, I pushed and (producer) Mike Varney pushed me. Guitar-wise, I wanted to stretch and really nail the tone. I was ready for this in a way I've never been ready for recording before. You know, the way we did it, it was raw and real (laugh), with a week and a tight budget. We didn't have the luxury of smoothing things out. You walk into the studio and you better have your shit together. Be ready to go. I couldn't keep playing a guitar solo over and over again, it had to be there and be perfect.
Joanie: So you walked in, sat down, and got to work. This time around you had different musicians in the studio with you. This wasn't your regular touring band.
Stoney: Yeah, that was different, too. Aaron Haggerty played drums, Steve Evans came in for bass, and Jesse Bradman, who's been on every album so far, was also there on keyboards and backing vocals. Working with Aaron and Steve, man, that was just a joy and an honor. Both bring so much to the table. And Jesse, well, he has to make everything good..."gooder". That's just who he is. Also, working with Mike, that's been amazing. He pushes and encourages me to do more, to try harder. I think together we achieved more musically and lyrically than ever before.
I feel like I've learned more since the last time I recorded, too. I really worked on that tone, improved vocally, I better understand the whole recording process, the engineering and everything. Plus everyone involved has more experience than the last time I recorded.
Joanie: And life changes you.
Stoney: It does. You have more experience as a musician, as a performer, as a recording artist, as a human being. All that comes into the studio with you. You can't help it. It's who you are.
Joanie: Speaking of life, your musical influences are pretty extensive. Let's talk about that.
Stoney: Absolutely. I grew up on a steady diet of music. All sorts of music flowed in our house. I think my older sister and brother were my biggest influences. My dad died when I was four and, I mean, I really looked up to my sister and brother. I can remember sitting there with my sister's collection of 45s. She had stacks of them!
Joanie: Motown! I remember you mentioning that specifically.
Stoney: Oh yeah. And then there was "American Pie". That was and still is my all time favorite.
Joanie: How'd you go from Motown and Don McLean to rock?
Stoney: My brother. I remember his copy of Alice Cooper Killer. That was a big one for me, too. And then there was KISS, Michael Schenker, Robin Trower, Charlie Rich, all the hard rock, 70s rock, and the blues! I loved it all. If My mom was getting ready for work or to go out, the radio was on. There was just always some kind of music.
Joanie: Are you the only musician in the family?
Stoney: I am. My older brother was a DJ (back in the day when you had to actually spin records and time it all out), but other than that, I'm the only musician.
Joanie: Your family supports your dream?
Stoney: They do. Always have. I'm very lucky to have that kind of support. Back when I was doing TV lighting during the day, playing clubs at night, raising a kid...my mom helped so that I could do it all, so I could chase the dream. She'd have my son when I'd be out playing at jams or gigs. She's been there for me and I couldn't have done it without her.
Joanie: Then there was an injury. You hurt your back and the lighting career was gone. Your bread and butter...
Stoney: Totally gone. In a way, it was a blessing because it forced me to get more serious about my music if I wanted to put food on the table. You have to pay the bills somehow.
Joanie: What about those early days do you remember most?
Stoney: Wow, there were some crazy times and the people... There was the Classroom in the Valley. I'd be there for jam night without fail. There was this guy, Big Ray, who'd come to see me all the time. Big guy. Huge. And he liked me for whatever reason. Once, my little brother came out to the jam and Big Ray was asking him if he was a musician, too, and my brother said no. Big Ray just shook his head and said, "you're a fool! Man, to be your brother for one night and play with you...you got more bitches than light switches." I don't know why, but that's stayed with me all this time.
Joanie: "More bitches than light switches" -- that's a new one on me!
Stoney: That place was just rich with characters, you know? Like the Sand Dollar was [the Sand Dollar was a blues institution in Vegas for 20 years]. You know, just interesting people and music and something crazy always going on.
Joanie: Yeah, the Sand Dollar. Never be another place like that.
Stoney: Back when I first came out to Vegas with Charlie and Colby (original recording/touring band), we used to have the best time. It was just a party. It was when we could let our hair down, try whatever we wanted on stage, just have fun. I miss having that band sometimes. There was a certain camaraderie. It was magical. You know, we were younger and a little wilder and...it was magic.
Joanie: It's been a couple years since they've gone on to other things.
Stoney: Things change. Personal stuff, families, you know how it goes. Nothing stays the same. So I look back on those times with a smile and then look forward to whatever comes next.
Joanie: What is coming next?
Stoney: For one thing, I'm recording a live album in May. May 19. Eric Gales is going to be there, recording his live album, too. That's going to be one of those nights, you know?
Joanie: I'd kill to be a fly on the wall that night!
Stoney: Again, that's the sort of thing that only happens when everything changes. It couldn't have happened before. The timing wasn't right. Now, all these creative doors are opening, opportunities are presenting themselves, and I'm ready. I can't wait!