Steve Wariner can’t help it. He may step away from the daily grind of the music business for a while. He may focus on writing songs for other artists. But the 25-year industry veteran, who has practically every kind of award on his mantel and three gold albums on the walls, knows it’s just a matter of time before he starts itching to do more. He’ll squirrel away a song or two for himself, planning for that time when he’ll jump right back into the middle of things, when he’ll decide once again to make another record.
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“I just love it. I love the songs and the writing, and having the players up here,” he says from his state-of-the-art home studio. “I love being in the studio with the guys and joking, throwing ideas around and creating. Music is just something you have to do,” he explains, “because you have something you need to say.”
Steal Another Day is Wariner’s first album since leaving Capitol Records two years ago. Free from any outside interference or subliminal pressures of “what’s popular now,” it captures the elegant breeziness of a top-notch musician playing for the sheer joy of it. “More than ever in my career I let the music dictate,” Wariner says. “There were no rules in making this album.”
Recording began casually. With no grand plan in mind, Wariner brought in a few musicians to his studio to cut some of the songs he had tucked away. Mostly, he wanted to dive into full-blown production again. As a songwriter, he was using his new 2,000-square-foot studio to put together relatively basic demos. “That just doesn’t satisfy my appetite. I guess that’s the producer in me,” he admits. Once they got started, the players and engineers fell into a groove, and everyone was really pleased with the sounds being produced. It became clear that the songs were adding up to an album.
Meanwhile, people were asking for new Steve Wariner music. He heard from record labels that wanted to sign him. He heard from radio stations that wanted to play his songs. He heard from fans who missed him and wanted to hear what he was working on.
Though Wariner spent most of his career making records at major Nashville labels, this time out he decided to do an album on his own. “Without meaning to sound sour, every year the business gets to be less about the music. I always tell people that I love music, but I don’t like the music business. Caryn (Wariner’s wife and business partner) and I talked about doing a record on our own for years,” he says. “When I recorded ‘Holes in the Floor of Heaven’ we were talking about it, though we ended up bringing the song to Capitol and that was the right decision at that time. But we also watched friends of ours go out on their own, and their success helped us decide now was the right time for us.”
Containing eleven new songs, and faithful re-recordings of five early hits, Steal Another Day shows Wariner’s incredible musical versatility, as well the effortless beauty of his lyrics. “Carmelita,” written with Lee Roy Parnell (who also shows up on guitar), is a Mexican-flavored romp about a hard-headed woman. Wariner adopts the Atkins guitar-picking style for a tribute to his mentor and friend, “In My Heart Forever (For Chet).” “Kiss Me Anyway” spins its tale of confusing love around a sensuous groove; the intimacy of “Steal Another Day” gets emphasized with its Latin atmosphere, while “I Really Don’t Have Anything” is a straightforward, romantic love song.
“Snowfall On The Sand” may be the most identifiably “Steve Wariner” song with its hopeful, full-circle story of a boy and his estranged father. The subject of the sprightly “I’m Your Man” unapologetically reveals his less stellar qualities, because he more than makes up for them with the strength of his commitment. “Ride This Rocket” applies as much to the no-holds-barred playing of the talented musicians as it does to the “seize the day” message.
“This Christmas Prayer,” “Welcome To This World,” and “There Will Come A Day (Holly’s Song)” may be the three most personal songs on the record. The first two are a result of Wariner’s reactions to the events of September 11, and both encourage an appreciation of family and the enjoyment of everyday life. Wariner wrote “There Will Come A Day (Holly’s Song)” for his stepdaughter, Holly, who has been diabetic since she was eight years old. It’s a message from parent to child, offering hope and a promise to always be there when things get rough. Wariner has given the song to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to use for fund-raising and promotional purposes.
“What’s fun about a lot of this is it’s really experimental,” Wariner says. “One day Rob Ickes, who’s an incredible dobro player, was at the studio to play on one song and I said, ’Let’s just try this other song.’ I didn’t have charts or anything. So we just rolled tape and started playing with it, and the result was Chet’s song, ‘In My Heart Forever.’ I wanted it to be low-key and intimate, and it’s just the two of us playing. It’s very spontaneous.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the remakes of his past hits were planned out in detail. “The Weekend,” “Some Fools Never Learn,” “You Can Dream Of Me,” “Where Did I Go Wrong,” and “Small Town Girl” are among Wariner’s favorites in his repertoire. When he recut them, he went back to the original recordings, called the musicians who played on the songs the first time they were recorded, and asked if they would play on the remake. He used the same amps and guitars that were used in the first recordings. “The recuts are almost identical to the originals,” Wariner says. “I really do not believe in new modern takes on old songs that aren’t even close to the original. These are brought into the modern era, taking advantage of the latest technological advances in recording.”
Wariner seems just as excited about remaking his previous hits as he is about his new songs. He confesses that he spent more hours on this album than on any other he’s ever done. In a practical sense, that’s because he worked in his own studio at his home. He didn’t have to book time to work--he could just walk out his back door and stay in the studio until midnight if he was on a roll. Still, he could just as easily have stayed on the couch to watch TV. The reason for the extra hours becomes clear after listening to Steal Another Day. Wariner doesn’t have anything to prove, but he sure has plenty to say.
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