Steven C works his pianoby Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
One of the biggest dreams and challenges for any artist is to to make a living from their art alone, and relatively few succeed.
St. Paul musician Steven Anderson, or Steven C., as his stage name goes, is an exception. Anderson has built a thriving behind-the-scenes career in the "New Age" music industry as a producer and pianist. Now he's stepping out of the shadows with a new CD.
St. Paul, Minn. — Steven C. Anderson is a new age musician trying to distinguish himself from thousands of other contemporary piano artists with his new CD, 'Signature.'
"My music, if you would call it 'New Age,' is more compositional," he said. "I don't just sit on the piano, put the sustain pedal down, hit some notes that are kind of arbitrary, and call it 'Wind Dreamer.' "
"And the one thing that people comment, via my Web site, is it has a lot more feeling to it, a lot more emotion," he said. "My mom always said to play with my heart and that's what I do."
Anderson's mother must have also instilled a ferocious work ethic in her son. Since his college days, the classically trained, piano performance and pipe organ major has been in overdrive, hustling up work.
"Right out of graduating from Hamline, I was worried about being a starving artist," he said. "So I learned to tune pianos, took on 22 piano students and played in three different bands."
The 42-year-old was keyboardist for the Minnesota Timberwolves for seven years.
He's shared a stage with Mannheim Steamroller.
He's played on and helped produce the Baby Genius series, and he's appeared on numerous Christmas CD's.
Anderson struck it rich as executive producer of a highly successful music and nature sounds series sold at Target.
In addition to all that, Anderson is a pianist for hire.
"As a gigging musician, I play a lot of different country clubs, weddings, funerals, churches, however the phone might ring," he said. "I even played a divorce party once."
Anderson's seven-day-a-week work life has brought rewards for his seven member family. They live in an eight bedroom, Italian Beaux Arts mini-mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Anderson's hand-made nine foot Bosendorfer piano sits in an opulent oval foyer, with black and white checkered tiles and a 12 foot ceiling.
By any standard, Anderson has done very well, but he's not quite as artistically fulfilled as he'd like to be, which is why he's released his first solo CD. He admits the record may have an uphill climb.
"It's a lot easier to sell concepts in this genre than it is to sell artistry," he said. "And so I'm trying to do a tougher thing by saying 'it's me.' It's Steven C., versus a record called 'Nightime' or something."
If reviews mean anything, Steven C.'s "Signature" release may find an audience.
MainlyPiano.com raved about it. RJ Lannan, who writes for another on-line magazine called New Age Reporter, was enthralled.
"His solo piano music is gentle, it's calming, placid," Lannan said. "I mean, you can be doing something else all together and still being enjoying it cause you will hear it. It will permeate into your mind and make you feel comfortable and calm and I really like that about it."
"There's a lot of it out there, but good music like that is kind of getting rarer and rarer," he said. "Once in a while along comes a really good artist that has taken melody to a certain level, and you can really enjoy it and get a feeling of it, and that's why I like Steven C.'s music."
Not everyone will be as generous. Anderson is aware how his genre has been derided or lampooned in certain circles. He thinks he knows why classical aficionados for example, may scoff at what even Anderson acknowledges are his less intricate pieces.
"Because it's newer music, you know, they didn't like new classical music at first, I mean, I always wonder, maybe I have to die and be 200 years later and someone may really like my stuff, who knows. So that classical person, I wouldn't let em bother me because I understand where they're coming from. And, I don't write piano music like Chopin. I write Steven C. piano music and we'll see how time judges me."
You can judge Anderson's music yourself in his own home. Anderson will open the doors of his mini-mansion for three free concerts, tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon.