How did you get your start in music?
Well, I think I first started with music way back when I was 7 or 8 singing in the church youth choir, which my Mom was in charge of leading. She still jokes that after one particular Sunday, when I made a mistake and came in too early during a song, I was so mortified she thought I’d never sing again (luckily, I got over it).
I always loved listening to music, and never hesitated to sing along and imitate the guitar parts -- especially to the stuff my Dad liked: Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and a steady diet of classic rock tunes on the radio.
I picked up the saxophone in my middle school band for 2 years, and while I definitely enjoyed it, it wasn’t something I was interested in continuing through high school. Still, through my teenage days music was a staple in my day to day life and I really started to appreciate the poetic nature of it and the power it has to inspire emotion in people.
Sometime around then, I started building my own “songs” in my head that were basically just little poems set to a tune that in hindsight were probably incredibly corny. However, the big problem was I had no way to get this music out of my head and into the real world, which is where my good friend Joey came in.
Finally, in my sophomore year of college, with his help, I picked up and started to learn the guitar. I’ve been hooked on writing and playing music ever since, and I really value the opportunity to share a little bit of my self with anyone who is willing to listen. My first public show was last winter, opening up for Joey’s band, Sea Rhapsody. Since then, I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to play in front of people and get my music heard.
What are your greatest musical influences?
I would have to say my greatest musical influence is Jeff Mangum, lyricist, vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock group Neutral Milk Hotel. I admire the honesty and the passion with which he performs (though the band is on an indefinite hiatus, he has returned to doing solo acoustic performances). His unconventional lyricism and ability to paint these wild, confusing images in the listener’s mind through both celebratory and heart-wrenching songs greatly inspires me.
I also love Neil Young, and I’ve always appreciated his distinctive voice and the way he plays the guitar, especially on his acoustic material.
Dave Matthews has been another big influence, and while he’s often derided as “music for frat bros”, I think a lot of casual listeners who only know his hits are missing out on his darker, more complex side – “Before These Crowded Streets”, especially.
The Head and the Heart, a newer folk group out of Seattle are a constant source of inspiration as well. Their three part harmonies are spectacular, and they write songs that can make you bob along slowly or clap, stomp and dance. Either way, you’re going to want to sing along.
How would you describe your music to someone you just met?
I would describe myself as an acoustic singer-songwriter who borders on folk at times. Probably acoustic indie-folk. It’s a little difficult because I’m still a young songwriter, and my sound is evolving with every new song, but that is definitely where the bulk of my influence lies and the direction that I’m headed.
And here's the tough one: Give us a 5-word pitch to a record label
I will sing for food
To find out more about Stephen and his music, learn about upcoming shows, and to watch and listen, please visit my Facebook music page at: www.facebook.com/StephenBakMusic.
For a free listen or download of his recent live album, recorded at Milford’s very own Café Atlantique, visit: http://stephenbakmusic.bandcamp.com/
On Twitter: @StephenBakMusic