N E W S
Stephen Grayce at Boohaven, October 2017pic by Allen Darck
NEWS DATE 11/10/17: Back to the Mac
Stephen returned to Black Cat Cafe after a two-month absence and fired on all cylinders. Opening with his perennial rocking fan favorite, "Hit The Road", he followed it up with the ballad "Billy Can Fly" (from the same album, 2004's Looking For Light.) Explaining that while he's working on new material, we'll be hearing more covers in his set, he closed with a reverent guitar version of Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird". No stranger to the Mac, he performed their Tusk track "Over And Over" in 2009, and featured his cover of that same album's "Storms" a couple of months before.
So where's he been? After a Barceona vacation to clear his head, Stephen has been ensconced in his own Boohaven Studio, in preproduction and writing for the next album... or two. The plan is still to have a full-instrumentation album, Hurricane Days, plus a solo voice-and-guitar album as of yet unnamed. After beginning the process more than two years ago and scrapping a lot of what was already recorded, Stephen is letting the songs decide which album will come out first. In the meantime, a non-album single or two may make it online early next year. Fits of writers block and continued back and hand problems have slowed things down but not stopped them. "I will admit it's frustrating," he said after the show, "but frankly, if I never put out another album I'd be satisfied with what I've done until now." While we discourage his saying things like that, we get it.
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."
So, 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 they arrive.
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 seen.
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
Stephen 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 Simone song...."
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
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 Hurricane 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 Hurricane 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!
Thanks to Stephen's participation in a private Facebook group, the Like 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 Me Anyway".
NEWS DATE 05/9/15: Instant Ramones
Stephen 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."
Another 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 For Light.
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.
NEWS 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.
Dreamland was 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).
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