at Boohaven Studios, Florida, November 2016
NEWS DATE 04/15/17: Quiet Time
Stephen played a late-night mini-set at his monthly haunt, Orlando's Black Cat Cafe, last night, and it was a quiet, reverent affair. Playing later than usual with an 11PM slot and seated for a change (perhaps due to continuing back problems), He opened with "Blind" from the Lovers And Liars album and closed with Day One's perennial favorite, "West Of Cassiopeia".
Sandwiched inbetween those Grayce favorites was a big new surprise - a intensely tender cover of Chocolate Genius Inc.'s "My Mom", a stark song about a man watching his mother slowly succumb to Alzheimer's disease. "It was a last-minute decision," Stephen explained. "I've actually been working on a different tune by the same artist and this just came back to my mind and stayed there. I figured, playing late to a small group in a familiar place, any mistakes would be forgiven. My biggest fear was holding it together emotionally, and I did crack a little near the end. It's a beautiful song, but also one of the saddest songs I've ever heard."
NEWS DATE 01/12/17: Awakening?
After months of mostly silence, a surprise hit this week - not only has Stephen published a new video in this website's "Like A Version" section as well as his YouTube page, but a live performance of a brand new song appeared today on his official Facebook page!
The new cover is of a 1972 song by Irish singer-songwriter Alan Hull entitled "United States Of Mind", and is a significant touchstone to Stephen's folk roots - he first heard the song at a childhood friend's home when the album was brand new. As for the other song? It's a folk ballad called "Elizabeth's Here", and Stephen says in the caption that the song should surface on "the next album". Both videos are from an August 12 performance at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe last year. A third song was captured on video in the set, but will not be published until the newest album is available or just before that.
And, as it turns out, that next album may NOT be the long-in-the-works "Hurricane Days". Stephen has now officially verified that he is working on both that album and a folk album that may be recorded live in the studio, with only his voice and guitar "plus perhaps a little harmonica and maybe a piano number or two". Although the album has a working title, Stephen is keeping it to himself for now - "I don't want to jinx it, and with me things usually change at the last moment anyway. I'm actually trying to learn my lesson after repeatedly giving away too much too soon."
after months of physical problems (back and hand injuries) and what Stephen
referred to as "a writing block that made me insane", it looks like he's
getting back in the swing in a big way. Stay tuned here for details as
NEWS DATE 09/14/16: Led
new video has appeared overnight in the Like A Version section. Stephen
recorded a cover of Led Zeppelin's "That's The Way" at midnight as his
58th birthday began. Check it out here.
NEWS DATE 05/14/16: Stop Don't Stop?
So immediately after announcing an official sabbatical, who should show up at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe tonight, 12-string in hand? Explaining that he can make sprints just fine, Stephen did a mini-set that showed no signs of weakness, despite mentioning his back problems between songs. After opening with "Hang On", he settled in on the Lovers and Liars ballad "Just Like You". Stephen explained the impetus for the track: Paris Hilton's '2-day jail term' a decade ago.
Stephen brought the set home by going back to the latest album for a reverent
take on "Watch The Seasons" before hinting that when he returns in July,
there may be at least one new song in the mix. Whether it's an older unreleased
track or a new tune from the Hurricane Days sessions is yet to be
NEWS DATE 05/09/16: Down, But Not Out
After over a year stops and starts, working on both the full-band-sound of the Hurricane Days album and a solo voice-and-acoustic disc that is as of yet unnamed, progress has ground to a halt on both. Once again, the culprit is physical. This, however, will be a longer pause.
While Stephen is still writing for the new albums and is playing both guitar and piano on demo work for the discs, he has of late been unable to do either for long periods of time. The culprit? He was diagnosed, after more than a year of recurring problems, with a degenerative and bulging disc in his lower back, the neurological results of which have encompassed everything from chronic pain in his lower back and right leg to recurring numbness in his right hand. In some cases degenerative discs bring pain at first before settling into their new shape, and the pain subsides. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case with Stephen so far.
He admits to trying to "power through" for as long as he could before admitting that something had to give, at least for awhile. To that end, he will be undergoing a "nerve block" procedure at the end of May to alleviate pain, followed by a trip to Paris in June which had been planned long ago. "If I can't relax there," he said last weekend, "I can't relax anywhere."
The next step will depend on how well the procedure works, and for how long. If pain returns to its present levels, surgery will be an option late this year or early in 2017 (the surgery often gives great results with few complications). In the meantime, Stephen's plan is to continue work as possible on much-delayed new music, but not to settle for less than his best. If this stretches out the long wait even longer, Mr. Grayce is prepared to go the distance. When decisions are made, they will be duly noted here. Stay tuned.
NEWS DATE 2/13/16: Thank You, David
returned to Orlando's Black Cat Cafe last night and packed a punch.
After opening with the Looking For Light rocker "All These Walls",
he slowed down into Lovers And Liars' "See Your Eyes" (for Valentines
Day, of course), then threw a beautiful curve. As a tribute to David
Bowie, Stephen did a passionate take on Bowie's cover of the classic
tune "Wild Is The Wind" that closed the classic Station To Station
album, With just his 12-string and an homage to Le Bowie's vocal
approach ("But I don't be hittin' that high note!", he laughed later) he
gave a passionate performance that easily won the crowd. "As fate would
have it," he explained before the tune, "The only Bowie song I know completely
on guitar is a cover. So this is my cover of a Bowie cover of a Nina
NEWS DATE 10/02/15: Grayce's Muscles, Meet Murphy's Law
With half the tracking done on the Hurricane Days album (plus a little on the as-yet-unnamed voice-and-guitar disc), two health issues have ground progress to a halt for now. Stephen spent most of last week in the hospital hooked up to IV antibiotics and painkillers, after a small knee wound got infected all the way into the joint in just a few days. While still in recuperation mode at home, he also pulled a muscle in his upper back. "I made the mistake of coughing while I was pushing myself up out of an easy chair," he says. "Turns out that chair isn't so easy after all, and it felt like the back of my right shoulder took a flaming arrow."
Since the new album had already been pushed back to early 2016, this may
or may not affect the big picture, depending on how fast Stephen heals
up. In the meantime, expect snippets of demos for the new album to show
up on this website soon, giving a glimpse of the work-in-progress.
NEWS DATE 09/12/15: Fire And Hurricane
After taking a month off, Stephen returned to Orlando's Black Cat Cafe. His mini-set started out in folk mode, performing the Songs From Dark Rooms track "Yes And No". Then, following a rare performance of the ballad "If She Could (Dianne)", only available as a free download in the First Takes And Second Guesses project, he closed with a new cover: a stark and reverent rendition of the Bryan Adams song "Into The Fire".
Stephen returns to his Boohaven Studio next week for more tracking on the
Days album, which, in true Grayce fashion, has been delayed. The good
news is that it's because of too many ideas, not a case of not enough
ideas. Turns out that now TWO albums are in progress: the full-band. country-rock
Days, and an as-yet-unnamed album that will feature Stephen as
he performs live: just 12-string guitar and voice, with occasional harmonica
(unless a piano-and-voice track shows up as well). Stay tuned for details
as they emerge.
NEWS DATE 08/02/15: 2 New!
to Stephen's participation in a private Facebook group, the
A Version section of this website has two new entries. The FB group,
"Theme Music", challenges its members by choosing a theme each week; the
members are encouraged to either write a new song or cover an existing
tune that fits the theme. The latest theme was "2 Minutes Or Less", and
Stephen chose to join in, covering not one but two songs, both fairly obscure:
"Madonna", a 36-second ditty featured on the 1992 Masters Of Reality
album Sunrise On The Sufferbus, and "Stolen", a minute-and-a-half
track from The Brian Jonestown Massacre's 2001 album Bravery,
Repetition And Noise. Both can be seen on Stephen's
YouTube page or here in the Like
A Version section.
NEWS DATE 06/13/15: Double-Duty
Stephen pulled double-duty at this month's Black Cat Cafe, playing a set for soundcheck as well as his regular set. He pulled from three albums: "Used To You" and "West Of Cassiopeia", both from 2002's Day One, showed up, as did "Hit The Road" from Looking For Light (as well as that album's rarely-heard title track), and Walking Through Fire was represented by "Airspeed" and "Sugarland".
After the show, Stephen commented that the Hurricane Days album
is still in the tracking stage, with an interesting twist - a couple of
songs are being recorded completely music-first, with lyrics to be written
later, a first for him. Song titles bandied about at this stage include
a title track, "Rained On Me", "Beautiful Blue", "Almost Gone", and "Tell
NEWS DATE 05/9/15: Instant Ramones
was in fine form last night at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe (celebrating
its 21st anniversary), with a surprise or two. When the MC commented on
Stephen's Ramones T-shirt during the introduction, a light went
off in Stephen's head, and he slammed into a hard-acoustic cover of the
band's "Blitzkrieg Bop" to the delight of the crowd. Then he toned it down
a bit with his own "Imperfect Heart" before taking it home with another
cover, of the Cat Stevens chestnut "How Can I Tell You".
NEWS DATE 04/28/15: Fits, Starts, Distractions
Work is still in progress on the Hurricane Days album, due this fall, but there have been diversions (playing around with a new mandolin) and other occasional complications (still a bit of stiffness in the finger broken in November, for instance). Stephen is cautiously optimistic, and is even getting more done than expected. Songs are appearing that are more attuned to another potential project. It looks like 2016 may finally see a solo-guitar-and-vocal album that Stephen has been alluding to for some time, and the circumstances are familiar to him.
"This is deja vu," he says. "When I was recording the Lovers And Liars album more songs suddenly started to come to me, but they didn't fit that album. By the time Lovers And Liars was done, I had written and arranged half of what turned out to be the Songs From Dark Rooms set, and here we go again: music is coming out of me that is perfect for the me-and-an-instrument album I've been thinking about. Whether it's a full album or an EP, it should show up next summer."
One thing that will not show up on that eventual release, however, is solo versions of previously-released songs, an idea which had been floated by Stephen a couple of months ago.. "Unless I do a proper live-in-concert album in the future, I think selling someone the same song twice is lazy, and cheating. That's why I released First Takes And Second Guesses (his "remakes album") for free online."
feature of the solo disc may be some tunes on instruments other than piano.
"My arsenal has grown a bit," Stephen explains. "I've toyed around with
other instruments in the last few years - piano, ukulele, balalaika - so
those may show up on the final product as well."
NEWS DATE 02/20/15: Going Googly
Turns out Mr. Grayce has begun the digital-sales route. As of today, his
last CD, Walking Through Fire,
is available in the Google Play Store for Android users. Search "Stephen
Grayce" and see for yourself. Previous albums will be available soon -
2009's Songs From Dark Rooms
will be in the store by June, followed by 2007's Lovers
And Liars, then 2004's Looking
NEWS DATE 01/20/15: Teaser Time?
The following picture was just posted on Stephen's Facebook page with a single word - "October". Is this something to do with the next album? The working title is Hurricane Days, and the pic looks like a storm's brewing. We shall see.
NEWS DATE 12/08/14: Scuttled By a Scooter
Work on all Grayce projects has been temporarily halted - by a broken finger. A statement from Stephen:
"A fractured left pinky has brought pre-production on the next album to
a halt for what I estimate is about a month. I'd love to say I broke it
skydiving in Africa or something, but I was trying to get a bolt off a
scooter's drain pan to change the oil and the wrench came off, shoving
my hand into the motor. Three days later it was worse, not better, so emergency
room time at midnight on a full moon! This too shall pass."
NEWS DATE 10/18/14: Twice As Slow, Twice As Much?
When asked for an update on recording for the next album, Stephen let loose a surprise - he is presently working on TWO albums. A so-far unnamed album featuring just the man and his 12-string guitar (plus occasional harmonica, we're sure) is in the early recording stages, featuring both new material and old - at least, that's the plan. Explains Stephen, "A lot of songs that are full-band on disc are just me and the guitar live, and that's how they were originally written. People have asked about live versions of a few of my more requested tunes, so a couple will show up on the solo acoustic disc. The original idea was an album of all released tunes done acoustically, but then I started writing, and we know how that goes. I just let it flow." The standout track from 2009's Songs From Dark Rooms album, "Bethesda", is among those tentatively slated to be on the album in solo-guitar form.
As for the second album, with the working title of Hurricane
Days, it is still shaping up as well.
Mr. Grayce is presently recording in his home studio, and plans to finish
at least a dozen songs before deciding what makes the final cut. Both albums
are aiming for a release in spring or fall of next year.
NEWS DATE 6/13/14: So Much For Superstition
Despite it being both a full moon and Friday the 13th, Stephen hit what was perhaps a new high-water mark tonight at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe. He tore into "Hit The Road" before giving passionate readings of both "Bethesda" and "Airspeed", wowing the full house.
"I knew it was going to be pretty good," he said after the set. "I was already sweating, pacing around the green room, eager to go. I had friends there from New York so I hoped this would be a good performance, and it all came together. The sound was fantastic and the audience was really into it. It's great to feel that kind of excitement coming back to you onstage."
While there tonight, Mr. Grayce also verified that he's still recording
sporadically for the next CD. "This one is coming out slower than the last
two," he said, "but what's coming out is really good. There's already one
that I thinks is up there with the best things I've ever written, but I
guess the audience will be the judge of that. Either way, I'm stoked, and
I'm cool with being patient if these are the results I get." He also confirmed
a few song titles - "Hurricane Days" (also slated to be the name of the
album), "Beautiful Blue", and "Almost Gone" (which he says was nearly the
name of the last album before he came up with Walking Through Fire)
are in various stages of near-completion, with "All Comes Back" and the
ballad "Elizabeth's Here" are next in line for recording.
NEWS DATE 5/10/14: Tiptoeing, Flying
The 20th anniversary of Black Cat Cafe in Orlando, the city and perhaps
the state's oldest open-mic for performers, was held last night, and our
Mr. Grayce threw the audience a curve for the occasion. After starting
the set on ukulele with the classic 1929 tune "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
(made famous by one Tiny Tim in the late Sixties), followed by his
own ballad "Blind", he began to play Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were
Here", but only made it to the end of the first instrumental passage before
morphing it into the same band's 1987 hit, "Learning To Fly". It also marked
only the second time Stephen had ever used a lyric sheet onstage (or lyric
tablet in this case), and he still admittedly managed to miss a word or
two. "That'll teach me not to practice," he said after the set.
NEWS DATE 3/25/14: Sometimes, It Just Gets Strange
There's another new Stephen Grayce video, for another unreleased song that isn't for an album. And it's a doozy.
Stephen belongs to an online group called "Theme Music". Its moderator chooses a theme for the week, and members are welcome to contribute either cover tunes or original songs pertaining to the theme. This week's theme was cars.
According to Stephen, he was noodling on his old student-size 6-string, seeing if theme-specific inspiration hit him, and the first thing that happened was his high E-string breaking. As he sought a different tack, a song just came to him, written in about 15 minutes. He grabbed a videocam, put it on a tripod and played the song. The video has one splice in it - according to Stephen, "I kept getting hung on one phrase, so I did a second take, got that part right and spliced the two together for the complete song. There was still a mistake - I went bridge-high on the last verse, which should technically be lower-register like the first two. But the feeling and spontaneity was there and needed, so it got kept as it was."
The result, depending on your mindset, is funny, strange, controversial (or car-troversial, as Stephen calls it on the YouTube entry). We'll let you judge.
DATE 3/23/14: On The...What?
There's a new addition to the "Like A Version" page. Over the weekend,
Stephen accepted the challange made by an online musical-artist group to
cover or write a song whose title is not mentioned in the song. He had
to look no further than The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St.,
which happens to be his favorite album of all time. Click HERE
to go to the "Like A Version" page, and scroll down to Number 4...
NEWS DATE 3/7/14: Walk It Off
Last night's stellar performance by Stephen at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe almost didn't happen.
"I was, frankly, feeling like shit, " says he. "Tired, spent, all that. Shortly before my set I went to a back room to rehearse and figure out what I'd be playing. I jammed for awhile, then started pacing around the room while I played. It actually brought me back to life, like a fighter jumping around to warm up."
And warm it was. He dove into the blues stomp "Keeping Secrets" like a
man on fire, then followed with the ballad "Elizabeth's Here", which
is scheduled for the next CD and dedicated to the memory of Stephen's grandmother.
He then closed out the set with an impassioned take on "Hindsight (Clear)",
the closing track from Lovers And Liars, before leaving the stage
to well-deserved applause.
NEWS DATE 2/13/14: Oldest of the New Stuff
Following a small wait (say, 25 years or so), Stephen has finally opened the time capsule and released THE DREAMLAND DEMOS.
Dreamlandwas Stephen's projected first album in the late 1980s. Six demos were made for songs for the album over a 4-year period, plus one instrumental that was discarded after several bad attempts to master it, before the project was inexplicably shelved. These are definitely low-fidelity, recorded on a four-track cassette recorder (!) at Stephen's apartments in both Orlando, Florida and Columbus, Ohio. Only the opening track, "Little Bit Of Heart", has been released before, as the leadoff track on the Songs From Dark Rooms album. The only modern touches are a guitar solo on the song "Find My Way", recorded at Boohaven last month.
The songs are as noteworthy for their style as for the quality of songwriting (which is high). These are rock songs - the aforementioned "Little Bit" and the song "H.O.H." show a heavy Robert Palmer influence, while the set's title track is as atmospheric as it gets. Other songs touch on early Fleetwood Mac-style pop, before the set is slammed home by the heavy-rock "Wall Of Sound", which shows shades of The Psychedelic Furs (an influence which would later crop up on the title track from the Lovers And Liars album).
Click on the cover to listen to and/or download the EP (complete with cover art if you wish to burn a physical disc).
NEWS DATE 12/19/13: A One-Off (Twice)
New music from Mr. Grayce is here to finish off the year with. A one-off single is now available for free download through the SGWord app or on Stephen's Reverbnation page (or use the player below!).. Entitled "The Only Mistake (I Made Twice)", the country-rock track is the result of a composite of two studio sessions at Full Sail University Studios more than 5 years apart.
NEWS DATE 12/12/13: 22 Strings in 45 Minutes (And One New Album?)
Stephen's gig at Lundyville Music Hall in Auburndale went off without a hitch. Setlist:
HIT THE ROAD
LOVERS AND LIARS
HANG ON (with "Blanket Of Stars" intro)
ELIZABETH'S HERE (unrecorded song)
GOOD TO GO
KEEP YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL (cover)
JUST LIKE YOU
WEST OF CASSIOPEIA
as "One man, 22 strings, 45 minutes", truth in advertsising prevailed.
In addition to his trusty Ovation 12-string, Stephen pulled out a ukulele
for a cover of the obscure Thirties song "Keep Young And Beautiful" (which
was brought back into the limelight in 1992 when Annie Lennox covered
it on her debut solo CD Diva). He then switched to his Yamaha student-size
6-string, complete with history lesson (most of his songs on the first
three albums were written on it, and he first got it by trading a microwave
oven for it in the late Seventies) for "Just Like You", which was recorded
with that very guitar using a non-traditional D-major tuning. The songs
got an impassioned performance, spurred on by soundman John Lange, who
gave Stephen "pretty much the perfect mix".
NEWS DATE 10/28/13: Lou Reed
A note from Mr. Grayce:
am saddened to hear of the death of Lou Reed. He was one of my favorite
artists and poets and influenced my own music a lot. The original song
I get the most requests for, "Bethesda", came right out of the Lou Reed
playbook - tell an eloquent story, add a twist. His influence shows in
a lot of my songs, actually, from "Superman For Free" on my second album
to "Stone In The Road" on my most recent one. And not only did his music
resonate with me, but he influenced so many other of my favorite artists
as well, from Patti Smith to Iggy Pop to the Sex Pistols. Hell, even Susan
Boyle covered "Perfect Day" (and did it amazingly well, I might add). I
will miss him, and I thank him for helping make forty years of my life
more interesting and artistically fulfilled. I wish his wife, Laurie Anderson,
who is pretty damned amazing as well, love and the hope for peace and comfort
from a fan who will forever be uplifted, challenged, and plain old rocked
by Reed's music and legacy."
NEWS DATE 10/24/13: Riffs, Vids, Gig
So where's Mr. Grayce been? Taking it day by day, it turns out, and doing a little of everything. Nightly jamming on his everpresent 12-string has produced a trove of new ideas - a riff here, a verse there. Ideas for the next album are slowly coming together, and as pieces get joined into songs, the direction of the album will make itself known. As usual, Stephen has channeled his creativity into cover designs and possible titles as well. So far the early leaders are Almost Gone, Hello Cruel World, and Blood And Stones. Also as usual, nothing is set in stone this early in the game, especially since Stephen has been known to change course midstream in the writing process.
And two more Grayce videos are now on his YouTube channel. The first is his latest cover tune performance, handling the Emerson, Lake & Palmer chestnut "Still... You Turn Me On", solo on the abovementioned 12-string. See it on the Like A Version page.
The second is more unusual. The audio-only track, "Get Me A Dog", is a lark that falls into novelty territory in nature, pushed ahead by a driving bebop attack and snarl-versus-twist guitar solos. Can you make out the ukulele overdubs? The dissonance of the chords is on purpose; Stephen says it was influenced by the Led Zeppelin song, "Friends". Hear it for yourself.
In other news, Stephen is heading back to Lundyville
Music Hall in Auburndale, Florida, as the featured performer there
on Wednesday, December 11. Details will be posted during the first week
of November, but we do know it will be a 45-minute set.
NEWS DATE 6/1/13: Like, Another Version
The second entry on the Live A Version section of this website has arrived,
with Stephen performing a solo cover of Lou Reed's "Cremation" (from
Lou's Magic And Loss
album). Stephen decided to tackle the song in honor of Mr. Reed, one of
his major musical influences, in honor of the man himself, who is recovering
from a liver transplant. (Get well soon, Lou.) See the video on Stephen's
YouTube channel or in the
Like A Version page.
NEWS DATE 5/11/13: New Music, New Old Music
Yet another video has shown up on Stephen's YouTube page and Facebook Page with little fanfare. "I Forgot To Laugh" is a plaintive folk ballad, and is Stephen's first-ever song-as-challenge. He's been taking part in a Facebook group called "Theme Music" - the forum's administrator picks a theme for the week and those who choose to participate either do a cover song within the prescribed theme or write a new one within the week. The "Airspeed" video was made with the group in mind, under its "Fast Or Slow" theme week. Now the theme "Ha ha ha" has been tacked with "I Forgot To Laugh". All indications are that this is the first demo for the Deep South EP that he's been planning for awhile, and if the track is any indication it may be an all live-acoustic affair. Check out the video below.
In other big
news, the latest Grayce cover tune surfaced tonight. At Stephen's Orlando
Black Cat Cafe performance, after opening with the Lovers And Liars ballad
"Hindsight (Clear)" and following up with the latest album's REM-style
pop tune "That Again", he surprised everyone with a elegant and rich 'Grayce-isized'
cover of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1973 classic "Still...You Turn Me
On". After the show, Stephen verfied that the tune will be the next addition
to the 'Like A Version' section of this website in the coming weeks. A
good time was indeed had by all.
NEWS DATE 4/20/13: Airspeed, The Video
There's a new video on Stephen's YouTube channel, for the Walking Through
Fire track "Airspeed". Almost a sequel to his video for "Superman For
Free" nearly ten years ago, a close-up of Stephen singing the track is
onscreen the entire time, albeit in a much rawer form than the "Superman"
take - the effect is old, old film, complete with scratches and lines.
To see it (and his other videos), check out the YouTube channel by clicking
NEWS DATE 1/12/13: Some Cat Plays The Cat At Black Cat
Stephen hit a one-two punch this month. Last week he did a full set at
Waterfront on their outside deck as part of his friend Thomas Cook's
book-release party (a tome about "Historic Haunts" in Orlando).Then
he hit the Black Cat Cafe in Orlando again tonight with a surprise or two
up his sleeve. Opening with the not-yet-recorded ballad "Elizabeth's
Here" to a warm reception (and many compliments after the gig), Stephen
kept it slow with the Lovers And Liars track "Just Like You"
before ending with an atmospheric cover of the Cat Stevens chestnut
"How Can I Tell You". A great performance to a great audience.
NEWS DATE 12/15/12: Version, Subversion
The much-promised "Like A Version" section of the website got its start
last week with the unexpected - Stephen's first cover song for the site
is a video take on Coldplay's well-known B-side "See You Soon"...on ukelele!
Turns out Stephen is getting it for Christmas and was allowed to play it
for a day to make sure it's all right. And play he did...check it out by
NEWS DATE 11/11/12: Got It Covered
Stephen's monthly mini-set at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe had a surprise at
the end. After opening with the raucous blues stomp of "Keeping Secrets",
he then calmed down for Walking Through Fire's "Watch The Seasons"
before playing a rare cover song - his debut of the 35-year-old James Taylor
track "Nothing Like A Hundred Miles" (originally on Taylor's In The
Pocket album), which came off beautifully.
NEWS DATE 10/20/12: He Came, He Played, He Loved it
Stephen's performance last night at Lundyville
Music Hall was a one-hour cross-section of his best, with songs
from all 5 albums included. The latest, Walking Through Fire, was
represented by "Sugarland", "Imaginary Towns", "Airspeed", and "Hang On"
(which featured an instrumental intro previously heard on YouTube as "Blanket
Of Stars"), while songs like "Lovers And Liars", "Bethesda", and "Billy
Can Fly" touched on their respective home albums. Two major highlights
were a forceful "Keeping Secrets" and the encore by request, "West Of Cassiopeia".
Stephen was a little tense at first, but the bluesy rock of "Hit The Road"
loosened him up and he talked with the effusive audience quite a bit, explaining
things like "Bethesda"'s genesis and referring to it and to "Used To You"
as "country co-dependent songs".
NEWS DATE 5/26/12: Catching Up And Moving On
While Stephen has been mostly silent online as of late, the wheels are turning on more than one front.
First, he's been keeping his monthly date at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe. May's performance found him in ballad mode - he opened with Songs From Dark Rooms' "Yes And No" , followed up with a beautiful take on "Smoke And Mirrors" from Looking For Light, and wrapped it up with "Blind" from the Lovers And Liars disc, sidetracked in the middle by the death of his guitar battery. A mic was swung into place in front of the guitar and Stephen picked up from where he left off, pulling it all together in a passionate performance.
Second is major progress on the upcoming Dreamland, a free-to-download
EP featuring song demos that Stephen wrote and recorded in the late
Eighties and early Nineties.
NEWS DATE 11/11/11: The Monkees?
Tonight marked Stephen's return to Orlando's Black Cat Cafe, and it was a good one. The energy was palpable as he tore into the blues-rock of "Hit The Road", then commented on how pleased he was that people had sung along - always a good sign. Things cooled down for the ballad "West Of Cassiopeia", and then the surprise - Stephen turned his guitar around and used it as a war drum for an a cappella cover of "Zor And Zam", an old Monkees song about leaders starting a war, only to realize no one else is showing up. The performance was as majestic and tribal as one voice can get. "Happy Veterans Day", said Stephen before he left the stage.
the performance, Stephen reiterated his plan to stay out of the studio
through the end of the year before diving back into the fray. It's a true
break - even the writing process has been somewhat temporarily abandoned.
"I'm still recording riffs and lyrics if they appear," he says, "But I'm
not pushing them into songs yet."
NEWS DATE 8/17/11: Exhale
Stephen celebrated the completion of the new album by taking a vacation. He spent a week in Paris, visiting all the usual sites (including Jim Morrison's grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery). "This was the perfect time," he explained. "I always go into a sort of post-album lethargy, and this gave me both the relaxation and the inspiration I need sometimes."
While he will be doing his monthly open-mic set at Orlando's Black Cat
Cafe, the break from recording will continue for a month or two. "I have
a few ideas," says Stephen, "but am not in a hurry. Once I jump back into
the fire, it will be a very big fire indeed." Unconfirmed reports say the
first project will be remixing and releasing free downloads from his first
original-material sessions that took place in the late Eighties and early
Nineties (the same sessions that produced "Little Bit Of Heart" on the
From Dark Rooms CD). Mr. Grayce himself has verified that by the beginning
of next year he will be working on at least one album, maybe two (the second
could be a real musical departure and released under another name). Stay
NEWS DATE 5/29/10: The "Fire" Arrives!
It's official. The new CD, Walking Through Fire, is available as of June 6, both here in Stephen's online store and at his performances (the first being his monthly appearance at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe on June 10). The track listing is as previously reported but with a couple of changes. The oft-performed ballad "Sugarland" now opens the set, moving the Tom Petty-style rocker "That Again" into the second slot. There's also now a short instrumental called "Here To There (And Back)" sandwiched between the majestic title track (which premiered live at May's Black Cat Cafe performance) and the more pop-rock "Hang On". Concerning said instrumental, Stephen says the title says everything, which shall be apparent on first listening. In an even more cryptic fashion, Stephen says there'll be a "companion piece to the album showing up at the end of the year... ". More on that as it develops, we're sure.
The disc as a whole is a step away from Songs From Dark Rooms'
harder blues-rock base, referring back to Stephen's folk-rock roots and
infusing a classic pop sensibility, with major emphasis on melody. Of course,
Stephen doesn't forget to bring the drama, whether it be quiet and stark
(the out-of-body chronicle "Sugarland" and the beautiful sadness of "Airspeed")
or lush and anthemic (the title track). Enjoy!
NEWS DATE 3/11/11: Fate Happens
Stephen uploaded this video to his Facebook page this evening. Click on the arrow at the bottom of the video to see it for yourself.
NEWS DATE 10/25/10: Songs For Susie and Songs For Spring
in Orlando was the scene yesterday for an all-day lovefest, the "Songs
For Susie" benefit for Susan Martin-Rott, a longtime friend and
supporter of the area's live-music scene, to help with medical expenses
from a recent emergency intestinal surgery. Stephen volunteered not
only because of his love for Susie, but because he also suffers from ulcerative
colitis, the disease that caused Martin-Rott's problems. "To put it in
perspective," says Stephen, "Kurt Cobain once said that colitis
was what caused him to first use heroin, because that was all that would
kill the intense pain that can happen from it." While Stephen's experience
has not been as rough as Susie's (or Kurt's), he was proud to do what he
could to help. This included sticking to released material from all four
of his CDs to push sales, the proceeds of which were given to the cause.
Tracks from Day One's "West Of Cassiopeia" and "Used To You" to
From Dark Rooms' "Breaking Down" and "Bethesda" all showed up. The
one variance from the released-material rule? Stephen's bass-and-vocal
take on the classic Lambert, Hendricks & Ross tune "Twisted", requested
by Martin-Rott herself. Several other acts chipped in with great sets (including
Beatles covermistresses Luv Me Deux, a favorite of Stephen's).
NEWS DATE 5/23/10: Road Testing & Studio Bound
Stephen played a couple of mini-sets at Bikes, Beans & Bordeau last night as part of the Jeff Kurzon & Friends evening, taking advantage of the intimate coffeehouse to debut two more new songs being considered for the upcoming CD. "Fall For That" is a Tom Petty-style midtempo rocker. On the other end of the spectrum was "Imaginary Towns", very much a folk song. "It's about dreaming of the perfect place to be," says Stephen. "Part nostalgia for the good old days, part a wish for the future." Lyrics like "hate's a word we saved for war / but we don't have those anymore" are pretty direct as the song's protagonist dreams his own special home.
Another special part of the night for Stephen was Kurzon's surprise performance of "Watch The Seasons", a song Stephen originally wrote for Kurzon's former band Dennis, Jeff & Bari. Jeff introduced it as "an original, but I didn't write it" and then had Stephen join him on harmonies. (Stephen recently recorded his own take on the song which may show up on the next disc as well.)
Stephen heads back into the studio on June 2 (two days before his birthday)
to record another track for the album, still on schedule for November of
this year and definitely looking so far to be a more folk-pop disc than
last year's harder-edged Songs From Dark Rooms album.
NEWS DATE 5/15/10: Something Old, Something New, Something Else
Our Mr. Grayce took the stage at Orlando's Black Cat Cafe tonight (their 16th anniversary!) and pulled out two guitars; his usual 12-string and his old six-string Fender acoustic. The latter began the set with a rare rendition of Lovers And Liars' "Just Like You". How to follow that? With the debut of a new country-rock midtempo tune called "Hang On", about, well, hanging on when life gets rough. The song has been confirmed for Stephen's next disc. His last song was the now-familiar ballad "Airspeed", also slated for the upcoming CD (Stephen swears seven songs are complete at this stage).
And has Stephen chosen a final name for the disc? "Not sure," says he.
"It's changed twice already so I don't want to lock anything in." We've
now heard both Almost Gone and Together Alone as possible
contenders. Also definitely-maybes as far as songs go are the folk track
"Sugarland" (long a staple of his live set), the Tom Petty-ish "That Again",
and his newest recording, the country-folk "Imaginary Towns", which Stephen
might be breaking out live very soon.
NEWS DATE 4/1/10: Back to Business!
Stephen returned to the studio at Full Sail University last night for the
first time this year, finally ending his "fate-imposed hiatus" as he puts
it. Musically the new song, called "Hang On", channels Stephen's inner
McQuinn : lyrically it's more Deepak Chopra, about sticking it out
through rough times. Autobiographical, given what Stephen went through
the last six months? "I wasn't thinking it at the time, but my subconscious
had to play a part," he says.
NEWS DATE 12/11/09: Back to Black (Cat)
Mr. Grayce returned to Black Cat Cafe in Orlando tonight for the
first time since his recovery from heart trouble, and seemed in full force.
After leading off with "Keeping Secrets", he played two rarer songs: "Elizabeth's Here", a ballad that's onlty been played a few times since its 2004 debut, and "Airspeed", a stark ballad that first appeared live early this year. Stephen said that both are tentatively slated for the acoustic disc he has resumed work on for a hopeful summer release.
DATE 12/08/09: NEW STEPHEN GRAYCE: Free For All!
Not only is there new music from Stephen Grayce: it's free! Online now
in the CD Store section of the website is a new EP from Stephen entitled
"First Takes And Second Guesses". It's made up of 6 songs, five of which
are re-workings of songs from previous albums.
NEWS DATE 10/12/09: Breakdown, As Promised
The new version of "Breaking Down", called the "Outside Influence Mix", is now available for listening on the player on Stephen's MySpace page and will be on the Audio/Video page for free download starting October 15th. The original version of the song is on Songs From Dark Rooms; this re-recording was produced for a student project at Full Sail University last month as noted in the last update.
The mix name comes from the amazing co-production work of the students
on the project. Stephen was receptive to new angles for the track, and
the students were responsible for the idea of doubletracking both lead
vocals and rhythm guitar, with an extra guitar line by student engineer
Howard adding another layer to the track. The new ending was a true
collaboration, with Stephen proposing the multi-layered vocal collage to
which the students added a white-noise washout for the final effect.
(If you listen closely, you'll hear Stephen wailing the Seventies' T.
Rex track "Children Of The Revolution" as the song stutters to
NEWS DATE 5/17/09: The Beast Awakens
After lying low for a few months following the release of Songs From Dark Rooms, Stephen is putting his toe into the pool again, in preproduction and writing for the next project or two. On deck are an acoustic CD; a new section of the website featuring Stephen doing cover songs originally recorded by everyone from Lou Reed to The Ramones for free download; and another CD featuring more lush, produced songs a la Looking For Light .
Also on the plate is a songwriters-round concert at The Music Shack's
new concert room in Casselberry, Florida on July 17. It will feature
Stephen, Melanie Fisher, and Jim Allen, trading off their
original songs and the stories between them.
NEWS DATE 2/13/09: Christine Grayce!
Another set, another surprise. At Black Cat Cafe in Orlando tonight,
Stephen opened on piano, doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Over
And Over" (from the Tusk album). He then switched to guitar, taking
on Looking For Light's "Billy Can Fly" before once again playing
the new song "Airspeed" for the attentive crowd. Fellow artist Melanie
Fisher had closed her set earlier with a cover of Lindsey Buckinhgam's
famous acoustic version of the Mac's "Big Love"; before Stephen started
the first song he said, "If Melanie is Lindsey Buckingham tonight, I must
be Christine McVie".
DATE 01/1/09: Happy New CD!
New year, new music! Songs From Dark Rooms is available as of January 1 from this website on the Discography Page (where you can hear samples of each tune as well), and can also be purchased at Stephen's shows. The final track listing is:
1. "Little Bit Of Heart" - A blast from the past. This song was recorded at Stephen's home in Columbus, Ohio, in 1987! It continues his Robert Palmer fixation (also evident in Looking For Light's "Hit The Road") and manages to sound like it was written yesterday. A 'low-fi' approach takes over, with only programmed beatbox percussion, funky bass guitar, and Stephen's multilayered, smoky vocals. Thus begins a different kind of Stephen Grayce album.
2. "Breaking Down" - Blues-rock with a stuttering guitar and slinky vocal tell the story of watching someone fall apart.
3. "Yes And No" - Stephen in total folk singer-songwriter mode. The bridge betrays a Cat Stevens influence.
4. "Keeping Secrets" - A stomping blues-rocker with a scorching slide guitar solo! The story of a man who's getting the hell out of a bad relationship and won't be looking back anytime soon.
5. "Bethesda" - Lou Reed meets country music. A deceptively straight-forward melody belies lyrics that are darker than you'd expect. Features Stephen on a soaring synthesized string arrangement, and the first live drums on a Stephen Grayce album since his 2002 debut EP, courtesy of engineer Bryan McClure.
6. "Hotel Blue" - Robert Palmer channeling again, this time through a slinky T. Rex groove in a song Stephen wrote in the late Seventies about a hotel-slash-house-of-ill-repute.!
7. "Dead" - Art pop? Blues? Soul? They're all here in a song that brings the drama.
8. "Hello Savior" - Another curveball. A jaunty folk-country tune about losing your faith, at Christmas no less. A Bo Diddley acoustic rhythm starts it off, and then it gets deeper, and deeper, despite a Neil Young-type harmonica solo....
9. "Here For Goodbye" - The darkest song on a dark album, one of those pondering-existence shadowy waltzes.
10. "Anca" - Delicate
guitars frame a search for a friend's self-esteem on this atmospheric ballad
to close the album. This was done at Stephen's studio, Boohaven, as a demo
but made the final cut despite a stray guitar note or two. A later take
was fuller but didn't have the feel that Stephen got at 2 am on his demo
NEWS DATE 11/01/08: Grayce Rocks DeLand
This year's DeLand Original Music Festival saw two sets from Stephen.
While both sets rocked, the first, in front of Dublin Station, was the
hands-down winner. Stephen locked into full blues-rock mode, leaning heavily
Lovers And Liars CD (with Looking For Light's "Hit
The Road" thrown in), and added "Keeping Secrets", a swaggering stomp from
Songs From Dark Rooms disc. His second set, on the
main acoustic stage just inside the festival's main gate, kept the same
feel but swapped out a couple of songs. "All These Walls" made an
appearance, and Stephen ended the performance with the ballad "See Your
Eyes", adding a very Neil Young-esque harmonica solo in the center. In
fact, his harmonica skills got a real workout, showing up in more
than half of each set.
NEWS DATE 9/6/08: Stephen Shows His Roots
Stephen made an appearance at the Rubicon Cafe's monthly open-mic
last night. After opening with "Just Like You" from the last CD, he debuted
a new cover- of Led Zeppelin's 1970 tune "That's The Way" to a rapturous
reception. He explained that his grandmother had once taken him to a record
store to get Led Zeppelin III as a birthday present...on 8-track
tape! "Those of you born after 1975 may have to Google it to find out what
I'm talking about," he joked. He also explained that the album was the
best of both worlds for him, putting hard rock and beautiful folk music
on the same disc.
NEWS DATE 2/05/08: Got It Covered
Tonight at Baldwin's Pub in Orlando, Stephen was almost all about the covers. He opened his solo set with just his bass and voice, covering "Twisted", a jazz tune written by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and previously covered by Joni Mitchell on her Court And Spark LP. He then picked up the venerable 12-string, covering Emmylou Harris' "The Ballad Of Sally Rose" and Teddy Thompson's "Everybody Move It" before doing his own tunes "One Last Kiss" and "Used To You", both from his 2002 debut Day One.
Covers were again the order of the night during the extended closing jam
led by guitarist Ken Epperson. Stephen appeared as vocalist
for the first time ever without an instrument in his hand, singing B.B.
King's "The Thrill Is Gone". He returned with guitar later in the set,
The Beatles' "Get Back", T. Rex's "Bang A Gong (Get
It On)", and Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown".
NEWS DATE 1/11/08: And He Played Real Good, For Free
Tonight was Stephen's first Black Cat Cafe appearance this year and went off without a hitch. He opened with Lovers And Liars' "Welcome To America", then went into "Smoke And Mirrors" from the Looking For Light CD. He closed with an unreleased song, "Bethesda". A stark country ballad with an unexpected lyric twist, the song is slated for recording soon.
Speaking of recording, Stephen was at Full Sail Studios again on the 9th,
tracking the ballad "Yes And No". The song marks the first recorded use
of the Ashbory bass guitar for Stephen. The Ashbory is a fretless small-scale
bass with silicone strings. The result is an electric bass that can sound
like a standup bass among other things. Both "Yes And No" and "Bethesda"
are slated for Stephen's next CD, which he hopes to have ready at the end
of this year. The working title is Songs From Dark Rooms.
NEWS DATE 11/03/07: Now He Has To Build A Mantle For It
New arrival on Stephen's resume: award winner! At the 2007 DeLand Original Music Festival on Saturday, Stephen took home the Songwriters Showcases of America's award for Best Solo Act 2007. And he showed how he got it twice that day, doing a short outdoor set in the afternoon and following it up with an hour of hard playin' in The Warf Lounge later in the evening. In fact, he didn't know he'd won for awhile since the awards ceremony was scheduled at the same time as his evening set.
Both sets pulled tunes from his two latest CDs; the evening show tossed in extras like the non-CD blues of "Keeping Secrets" (available as a download in the Download Store) and his funk take on "Used To You", from his 2002 debut Day One. It all worked, but it was the uptempo slams that got 'em going, from his venerable Robert Palmeresque "Hit The Road" to the slamming country-rock of "Mama Got Married" from the latest CD. His evening set closed with what is showing up more and more- the dramatic ballad "Last Night On Earth", written during Hurricane Frances in 2004. "Yeah," Stephen said after the show, "I hadn't played that in awhile but it's been showing up again with a little more punch to it. I think it's about time to record it."
NEWS DATE 10/26/07: Luv Is All You Need
Stephen's Boohaven studio was host to the pop duo known as Luv
Me Deux this week. Stephen engineered and co-produced a total of
13 tracks, all Beatles covers of course! Songs range from "Love Me Do"
to an amazing medley of "Across The Universe" and "Strawberry Fields Forever"
(Stephen calls it "Across The Fields"). Mixing was done on the 25th, and
select songs from the session are on Luv Me Deux's MySpace page already
(click on link at top of this story).
NEWS DATE 11/08/04: A JAM IS BORN
Saturday night at Austin Coffee & Film turned out very interestingly
indeed. Cousin B (a/k/a Brian Ascenzo) took the stage first
with a covers set. Then Stephen flew solo, working songs from both Looking
For Light and the upcoming Imperfect Heart CD, including
a new song called "Haven".
Then, following a set by local popster Jeff Ilgenfritz, a new force took over. With Ascenzo on guitar and lead vocals, Stephen on bass and harmonies, and Jeff slamming on the drums and harmonies, the three became an instant power trio. They covered the likes of Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues" and The Beatles' "Back In The U.S.S.R." to ecstatic reception. A sweaty time was had by all. Stephen couldn't resist closing the night with his solo cover of The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop".
NEWS DATE 10/30/04: "FALL" FROM GRAYCE?
And the surprises just keep coming. In addition to working on the upcoming
CD, Stephen is now pulling part-time duty as guitarist/bassist in a project
with local artists Michael Barry and Jenn Wilsey. The group
made its debut as a "dress rehearsal" at Austin Coffee & Film's regular
Thursday night open-mic event, with Brian Ascenzo, also known
as Cousin B, on guitar as well. Included in the set were Michael's
original song "Crossroads", a delicate take on Stephen's own "Superman
For Free", and covers like Joan Baez's "Diamonds And Rust" and Seals and
Crofts' Seventies smash "Summer Breeze".
And that was just the beginning. For the next gig Stephen had to venture only 6 miles from his home, to the Bat Farm's annual pre-Halloween hoedown on Friday night. The theme was "Woodstock and More", with hippie dress and acoustic music standing toe-to-tapping-toe with metal acts and more modern attire. Billed as Michael Barry and the Fall, the group, now augmented by percussionist Mike Dale, did an extended set, adding more Barry originals like "Daughter of the Key" and "Medicine Man" (with rousing harmonies by Stephen and Jenn) with even more covers like the Indigo Girls' "Closer To Fine" and an unbelievably funked-up version of America's "Horse With No Name" to close it out. Another highlight was a take on the Procol Harum classic "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", which segued into Pink Floyd's "Wish you Were Here", with Stephen working the classic opening guitar figure in full treble mode. And did Stephen have a good time? "It was amazing," he said after the set. "We had only had a couple of rehearsals, only one with Jenn really before the Austin preview, and I expected it to sound good, but not nearly as good as it ended up sounding. And in the true Woodstock spirit, Michael broke a guitar string and another musician there handed him his guitar to finish up."
Other attractions included an amazing tribute to Janis Joplin by local singer Jody Hudson, which blew Stephen away. "She nailed it," he explains. "Had me in tears. I am a Joplin nut, and it doesn't get any closer." And his impression of the Woodstock vibe was glowing as well: "It was just one big, loving party," he raves. "I expected to feel like a bit of an interloper not knowing anyone there, but the feel was one big family. It was as supportive and comfortable as could be."
NEWS DATE 5/24/04: HOMETOWN TRIUMPH
And the rest, as they say, is history. Stephen's performance at Soldiers
Memorial Theatre Arts Centre in Beckley, WV (near his hometown
of Shady Spring) on Saturday, opening for Ron Brunk, was an amazing
success. From the opening bite of "Hit The Road" to the closing calm of
"West Of Cassiopeia", Stephen's unique artistry wowed the crowd. The venue's
intimate setting and expansive acoustics allowed him to work his voice
from a whisper to a shout with ease. And another side of Stephen Grayce
was well-worked: humor! From his onstage patter ("I named my first CD Day
One....duh!") to his antics when called to the stage to help Ron
in his set (Stephen took a picture of the two of them while playing!),
it all made for a warm mix of art and heart.
Stephen's set list onstage:
more musical wonderment occurred. The day before the show, Stephen checked
out Tamarack, an artists-and-goods
center in Beckley, and discovered an instrument called a bowed psaltery.
It's a two-octaved, stringed, triangular wood instrument that predates
the violin a la 12th century; the ones at Tamarack are beautifully handmade
by Greg & Tish Westman
of Mabscott, WV (the one he purchased brought tears to his eyes when he
first played it). With its pianolike layout (major scale on the right,
sharps and flats on the left) and learning ease, Stephen not only bought
it and played it nonstop for a day, he brought it out to accompany Ron
the next night at the concert, on Ron's song "I Just Want Her To Die".
Ron wowed the crowd as well, with the aid of guitar whiz Paul Allen and cellist Jeff Gilkinson (and Stephen on two songs). An added bonus was the debut of Belgian singer Nancy Casteele on two songs during the set, and Jeff's amazing solo cello-and-voice rendition of songwriter Doug Haywood's "Ding Dong Howdy". Stephen and Ron also got to reconnect with lots of hometown friends, so needless to say it was a satisfying trip all the way around.
Stephen sends his thanks to the staff of the theatre (the sound was perfect), all who attended and helped, and especially Ron and the other performers who helped make this a true dream gig.
NEWS DATE 1/24/04: 15 minutes, anyone?
Well, it's official. Stephen is indeed onscreen in the much-lauded film Monster, now playing across the country. He's an extra in the very beginning of the "restaurant scene" (after the "moving into the new apartment" scene) and is in the top center of the screen for about 4 seconds more or less. A bald head and a turquoise Eighties shirt. So this is immortality? "I nearly choked on my popcorn with pride," he says. A word to the wise, though; since it tells the story of a hooker turned serial killer, the film is VERY violent, and graphic both sexually and verbally, so don't take the toddlers or your local Baptist minister.
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