A good way to describe Steve Saunders' music is a cross between Jason Isbell and Jimmy Buffett. People have a good time while his original songs may feature meaningful lyrics.
Steve was raised in Paintsville, KY, also home to music legends Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers. He was surrounded by music his whole life. “I started out singing in the church. My mother was probably the best singer I had ever heard. If we visited another church within a 75 mile radius, they would completely redo their program: ‘We see that Alice Saunders is visiting today. Would you mind singing something for us?’ She would. My mother’s voice ranged four octaves. When she sang, she would hit these really high notes and then soar even higher. I would hold my breath every time she sang and she never missed.”
Steve sang at the high school talent show in sixth grade, which caught the attention of a local musical family in town who invited him to join the band, The Del Tones and Rhythm Kings, which recorded on Wednesday evenings for Saturday broadcasts on WSIP radio.
Steve joined a couple of bands in Paintsville during High School and his brother Mark bought him his first guitar. “In those days (before the internet), we had to find someone who knew a song and have them teach us. My poor mother was probably sick of The Eagles’ ‘Lying Eyes’, at least the intro, because I just learned the intro and the verse. I never learned the chorus. I got tired of trying to learn other people’s songs, so I wrote my own.” The Del Tones and Rhythm Kings recorded one of his first songs he ever wrote.
Heading North to Greater Cincinnati
Steve moved to Greater Cincinnati area and attended Northern Kentucky University. He worked in the media services dept where he was introduced to multi track recording. Steve played in bands around Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for years. At one point he met and developed a friendship with the Joe Walsh band during the Confessor tour traveling with them to several cities. Steve became close with the late Rick Rosas (aka Rick the Bass Player) and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Waddy Watchel.
(Joe Walsh, Steve Saunders and Waddy Watchel)
Steve married and had children and a business that supported the family and his music habit. He released a contemporary Christian CD in 2000 that received regional air play and did some local touring, but business took most of his time. Fast forward a few years to Steve as an empty nester: “One day I realized that my daughter has a daughter and my son is career Army. They are on their own. So, I started playing out locally and found that it’s so much fun.”
Waddy and Steve a couple of years later
Back to the Music
In 2015, Steve released the self-produced The Basement Tapes with great acceptance. Starting with the country rock song Fly and ending with his only recorded cover “Heat Wave”, Steve played all the instruments. “My friend Jeff Monroe from Group Effort Studios did the mastering. He has such a great ear.” The songs all have origin stories and are grounded in Steve’s own experiences: Burnt Coat Harbor is about a working lobster fishing island he visited in Maine; Always was written about a striking elderly couple we saw in San Francisco; Nobody Likes You was inspired by someone Steve worked with; Run To Me grew from witnessing what appeared to be fallout from a domestic violence situation; Alison is about my daughter; and Seems Like It’s Over was my friend Rick Rosas’ favorite song of mine.
Steve moved to Columbus, OH for a couple of years and started getting involved with the local music scene there when Covid-19 hit. “The world shut down. I wrote quite a few songs and now I’m in the process of another CD, and getting ready to share all with stories that go with them.”
He is back in Cincinnati and playing regionally again. "As long as I'm having fun, and people are having fun, I'm going to keep playing!"
Rick Rosas (Rick The Bass Player)
Steve Saunders Music ©2023