Mike Estep Interview

Performing throughout Central New York since May 1998, the Mike Estep Band has made quite a name for themselves.

With two CD releases, leader Mike Estep has racked up an impressive array of critical reviews.

Mike Estep talked with us about his background and the band he put together.

Q - Mike, for the longest time you were a solo acoustic act, weren't you?
A - Pretty much, yeah.

Q - So, why did you put a band together?
A - Well, I did the first CD, " One Lane Bridge", and we wanted to have a CD release party. So, the people who helped me out with it, Tommy Scott who produced it, and Jeff Favalo, suggested we put a band together for the night. So, we decided to do one night as a band, and we had so much fun, and the response was so good, that we said let's try it some more. And, two years later, here we are.

Q - Where do you play with the band and how often?
A - We play all around Central New York, most places that have live music.

Q - Give me some names.
A - Styleen's. We play out at Munchy's. We play The Stoop regularly. For a long time our home base was a place called Hemingway's in Baldwinsville, which is not there anymore. That's where we started. That's where we had the first CD party.

Q - Were you born in Syracuse?
A - No. I'm actually an Army brat. My father was in the Army. I was born in Georgia. Lived in Europe for a while when I was real young. Lived in Oklahoma for a while. Lived in Maryland be moved to New York. Then, when I did move to New York (State) we lived outside of Geneva, in Phelps, which is the Sauerkraut capital of the world.

Q - I didn't know that.
A - You didn't know that? I'm surprised. (Laughs).

Q - Well, I don't claim to know everything about New York State. I try to concentrate on the music. So, what brought you to Syracuse?
A - I got a job with Miller Brewing Co. in Fulton, moved there, and lived there for six years. Then, I decided to move out of Fulton, and came down to Baldwinsville.

Q - You're the most invited guest of the Syracuse Songwriter Showcase Series. What does that do for you? What does that mean to be a part of that?
A - It was quite an honor. Before Styleen's became Styleen's, it was the Zodiac. That's where those series were always held. It was like a songwriters in the round type of thing. Four or five people a night each do a set of four or five songs.

Q - One reviewer compared your songs to early Springsteen. That's a lot to live up to, isn't it?
A - That is. I was a little taken back by that, in a very pleasant way. I was somewhat honored by that statement.

Q - You performed at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A - Actually, I performed there once. It was Memorial Day two years ago. Every year on Memorial Day they have what they call Voices on The Wall Ceremony. It's mostly speakers and they have one or two musicians. When my first CD came out, the first song, it was called ‘Walking Along the Wall', which was written the first time I visited The Wall. My next door neighbor was down there and he dropped off a cassette copy of the song and asked if it was something they would be interested in using as part of the ceremony, just to play the song. Lo and behold I get a call from the people at the Memorial and they didn't only ask if they could use it, they asked if I could come down and play it.

Q - That's a great honor.
A - That was truly a great honor.

Q - That was something you weren't even thinking about or trying to pursue.
A - He (the neighbor) told me he was going to do it, and I gave him my blessing on it. I really didn't think anything would come of it. I thought they may use the song as part of the program, but, when they called me and asked me to come down and play it, that was totally unexpected.

Q - Where do you go from here?
A - We're still trying to get the CD’s out there. We're really concentrating on the new one, full band effort, and just seeing what happens with it. We're having fun playing. We're finding it easier to get into places now booking primarily as an original band. Starting out it was a tough deal. You'd call a club owner, and they'd ask what do you play?, and we'd say we pretty much do originals, we'll call you. (Laughs).

Q - So you're finding it easier?
A - Well, I think we're getting a little more established. So far, our track record is intact. Every place we've played, we've been invited back. We're pretty proud of that.

Q - How often do you work, a couple times a week?
A - Not that much. Our goal has been three times a month, because everybody in the band has other jobs. We want to keep it fun. We don't want to make this another job. So far, we've pretty much exceeded that goal every month.

Q - Is there anything you'd like to add that I haven't asked?
A - There's one thing people often ask me, if given the choice would I rather go back and play the solo thing again, and with the band that we have at this point, I would definitely say no. We're a good group. We get along very well. We play well. I'm kind of honored to play with these other guys. They're definitely much more trained musicians than I am. They do a lot for my music.

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