I met Skye during the Word Tasting Tour (hosted by the Minimalists) back in Provo last month when he was promoting his new album, Up From the Bitterroot (Get it here! skyesteele.bandcamp.com/album/up-from-the-bitterroot ). Since then I have learned more about Skye and his music, which if you haven’t heard those strings, they’re killer. Skye is very talented and his lyrics are thoughtful and touching. I think mostly I’ve learned that Skye is truly genuine and his message of optimism is no facade. Here’s more about this Brooklyn musician in his own words.
Photo by The Light Effect
Why did you pursue music?
As a kid I dreamed of being a traveler and a poet, and I realized at some point that playing and singing songs is kind of the dream-job way of doing that. Most people don’t go out and buy books of poetry anymore, but they have plenty of song lyrics they know by heart and that carry great meaning in their lives. I played violin since I was three years old, so music is a native tongue for me, and pairing my poetry with music allows me to deliver it to people in this very direct way.
Photo by Mike Lavalle
Did you have to give anything up to pursue this?
Financial stability, for one thing. I don’t think most non-musicians realize what an apocalyptic time this is to be making a living in music. The evacuation of resources from our industry in the past decade is unprecedented in the history of recorded music. And this touches people in all aspects of the field, most of whom you’ve never heard of. Engineers and producers, freelance instrumentalists who work for other artists, jazz musicians, composers and arrangers– the big-name artists who are household names are mabye 1% of the personnel involved in making the music we hear happen, and its all the folks in the rest of that pyramid that feel the hurt the most. A lot of people I know in their 40s-50s who’ve always made a living playing their instruments or running studios are going through deep financial hardship right now. In a way I’m thankful that I started my career as a freelancer right when this all was happening so I never saw the green pastures of the past. I think it has made me more able to adapt to the current leaner ecosystem.
Photo by Shawn Harding
What is a joyous moment that you’ve experienced recently?
This week my tour took me through North Dakota. I played in Watford City, which is sort of a rough-n-tumble oil boom town, but it’s a place I’ve been fortunate to meet some wonderful people who’ve become supporters. Even still, my music is a bit of a stretch for most people up there, so I throughout the gig I felt like I was working to pull them over to my side. But at the end of the night when I sent the Love Bells out into the crowd (a 40′ string of jingle bells that I made to accompany my tune “Growing Song”) they went wild for them and were dancing, jump-roping, and just romping with them. It really broke the barier and everyone was having a blast, laughing and smiling together– opening up. It felt great.
Photo by Kathy Peterman
Besides this, what is another hidden talent, passion, or hobby of yours?
I love to cook, and I have a few pretty unique recipes I’ve come up with. I’m also known among my friends for making killer tostones (Puerto Rican double-deep-fried green plantains)
Are you close with your family?
Very close! We’ve got travelling in our blood, especially on my mom’s side, which is my Puerto Riccan side. So I have close family in about a dozen states, and I love getting to see them all when I go out on tour. In my old band they would tease me for having a relative at every gig.
Animal I Would Want to Be Most:
It’s hard to top being a homo sapien, but it would be fun to be a mocking bird for a little while– flying, plus knowing all those songs? yeah!
When I’m not traveling and I’m focused on writing I have a routine where I’ll turn my phone off before bed, get up around 8am, write my dreams down, do a little yoga, and then write music until lunchtime. I don’t turn the phone back on until after lunch. On tour its not possible to do all this, but I still try to maintain some time for physical activity and mental focus at the beginning of the day, and it makes a world of difference in my outlook and effectiveness when I do.
Last Great Book I Read:
I’ve been reading “Eastern Body Western Mind” by Anodea Judith, which is a western-trained psychoanalyst’s interpretation of the Chakra system and how it manifests in our psychology and bodies. This book has yielded a lot of surprising insights. Also, I read “Anna Karenina” last year and nothing has hit me as hard as that in a long time.
Photo by Taz Digital
My Dream Collaboration:
It would be pretty thrilling to play fiddle for Bonnie Prince Billy or do some work with David Longstreth. Also singing duets with Fiona Apple would be rad.
Favorite Song of All Time:
“Alexandra Leaving” by Leonard Cohen
If you could tell everyone in the world something, what would it be?
Cultivate a vision, and write it down. Repeat daily.
To learn more about Skye and his work:
To find his latest album:
Cover Photo by The Light Effect