"When you spend a good portion of your life walking into darkened bars with the intention to drink some beer and listen to music, there are a few things you just expect to see: people in jeans and boots, countless walking canvasses adorned with ink and titanium jewelry, lots of patches, plenty of drunkenness, and a never-ending parade of epic beards. What you do not expect to see is a quiet, comparatively clean-shaven man in a white button up shirt, black suit, stately cane, and an understated hat, but that is exactly what will greet you with a smile when you go to see Stevie Tombstone.
If it is at all possible to stand out while blending into the shadows, Stevie does it. Never commanding attention, he is more likely to be involved in a quiet one on one conversation with someone than to intentionally draw a crowd. He is the consummate observer, drawing in the energy of the crowd and getting a feel for what people want. This is a learned skill and, after more than 30 years as a musician, Stevie has had plenty of time to hone it into an art. Starting in the '80's and carrying on to this day, Tombstone has taken a long and winding road through the dark dirty alleys and gin-soaked gutters of the industry and these days finds himself rolling proudly down the highway, straddling the dotted line between raw emotion and subtle grace. Guitar in hand, slightly raspy yet hauntingly pure voice shooting right into the heart of those lucky enough to hear him perform, Stevie Tombstone tells the stories of everyone who's ever been on a journey. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him and hear of his adventure first hand.
|Stevie Tombstone from the video "Lucky"|
It's said that our story is printed on our face. I see you smiling with big eyes, but there are stories hidden behind your lashes, under your cheekbones, in the line of your jaw, and the crease of your brow. Many of those stories have been published, but not so much about where they started. What were you like as a little boy? Do you remember what was your favorite thing to do? What you wanted to be "when you grow up?"
My folks were music fans so I was exposed to some good stuff at am early age. I knew from an early age it's what I wanted to do, but took quiet a while to come to grips with it as a profession. I grew up in rural Georgia and moved to Atlanta around 19. When I started out it was traditional country and bluegrass, but when I hit Atlanta I fell in with the rock and alternative scene and cut my teeth in the clubs there in the early 80’s.
Was there one pivotal moment that turned you to music, or has it always been part of your blood?
Perhaps when I met Roy Acuff, or the summer I spent on “ house arrest” as a kid. I couldn’t go out to play or do much but play guitar and do homework, I spent a lot of time that summer working on my skills.
I've read your blog - it's fascinating (http://stevie-tombstone-tales.blogspot.com/). I was really touched by a few stories. In your story of "Nuthin Sweet About 16," you hit a bit on some of the rougher times in your life. I think maybe we have all been there at one point or another - there but by the grace of God go I - but your story seems to have more to it. A depth, as it were. What pulled you down that dark path? Have you forgiven the source of that pain?
Hmm the dark path was really just testing the limits of conscience and faith, I think the darkest part was living with regrets for my actions. It takes quite a few mistakes to learn how to deal with them properly afterwards. Its all part of a lesson we can learn , some folls are content to take advise and I wasnt one of those folks for a long time.
Do you feel that music helped pull you out of the dark and into the light?
I think music is partially responsible because when I have a positive effect on others ,I get back the good feeling I gave . I had no other choice but to evolve or wither. I’m just telling my tale onstage for the most part in hopes that a few can relate.
The story behind "Would You Die For Love" took my breath away. Growing up digging in the dirt with the MO sun shining on my face, just a step away from the Ozarks, I truly relate to the magic that is in those hills. What a gift "Bill" gave to you!
Bill was there when I really needed to learn the next step and his insights are and were a great perspective on human nature and self. His knowledge of the real world and Zen was the right stuff. I would only listen to someone I admire and I think a tiny bit of awe and fear is always a contributiong factor. I mean fear of living the tribulations that he had experienced.I was humbled by his story.
It seems as though you have beaten your demons and are now living a glowing life. You are married and have a son. What is like being on the road so much while trying to raise a family? Do you have particular routines or rituals that keep you connected? Do they travel with you when you're on tour?
I wish my family could come on the road more and it will probaly be the case in the future. It’s a blessing and a curse doing what you love for a living and then not having the ones you care for the most with you on a daily basis. My tour schedule will be a bit slimmer in the next year though as I plan to spend more time with them.
Kids are interesting - does your son know that his dad is kind of a big deal? Would you choose the touring musician life for him?
I think he kind of has an idea, but to him I am just his Daddy at the end of the day. I don’t push him to be musical however we do play music around the house. I wouldn't ask or push him to do what I do.
You currently have 4 cds available for purchase and / or available to download on iTunes. (http://stevie-tombstone.tripod.com/store.html) Do you have a favorite? If so, what makes that album special? Or are they all like children - you love them all equally, but just differently?
They are all dear to me like kids as you say, I think 730 am is my favorite and the Greenwood, it's really tough because its more about the song for me and not the entire release. 730 am took about 10 years to make and I have a lot of my life experience invested in it .
What does the future hold in store for you?
I’m hoping to make more music in the future, more releases, video, film and work with younger folks to put out some good stuff. I want to pass along anything I’ve learned from my mistakes and get folks to be themselves and not emulate. I'd like to leave a nice body of work that will last after Im gone and make my son proud when he's older and I’m gone. My new label ALTCO is going to be a great vehicle for all of this.
What is the one thing you want people to know?
Life is too short to fool ourselves or judge others without first looking inward. Hard work and perseverance don’t always pay off the way you want it to, but it does always pay off in wisdom if you know how to cull it from the experience. And mostly, importantly, support independent artists that have the courage to reveal themselves and take risks to gain your acceptance .
Just as quietly as he arrived, Stevie slipped out the door and on down the road. A few more shows here and there, entertaining and awing people along the way, all on his way back home."
|Feature article about Stevie Tombstone of Altco Music on MoonRunners|