Steve Poltz – Queen’s Journal


The Journal – Queen’s University
Traveling Troubadour

With undying enthusiasm and zest for life singer-songwriter Steve Poltz is coming to Kingston with a new record that promises to inspire
By Ally Hall

It would be insufficient to say singer-songwriter Steve Poltz is a well-traveled man. His last few decades in the music industry have stroked his affinity for exploring uncharted territory taking him everywhere from your Uncle’s living room to the lush land of Australia.

Bouncing from city to city telling tales of triumph and delighting audiences with his memorable live performances, Poltz took some time to talk to me over the phone from San Diego about breaking bones, The Ramones and staying creative.

Though Poltz may not be a household name to all, chances are you’ve heard one of the longest running tracks on the Billboard Hot 100—“You Were Meant For Me”—a track that Poltz co-wrote with his then-girlfriend, Jewel. The 1995 smash hit has marked Poltz’s career ever since, providing a backdrop for his story to be told.

“Prior to that I was in the Rugburns,” Poltz said. “Along the way I meet Jewel and we write a bunch of songs together. I like all my songs, they’re like my little kids … but the Jewel song is one that went out and won the lottery.” After his departure from the California outfit the Rugburns, Poltz adopted a more spiritual and purposeful outlook on his life and creation.

“We were young crazy fools, we just loved playing rock and roll … we were kind of drunk every night,” Poltz said.

Though memories of the Rugburns may be hazy, one show will forever remain in the forefront of Poltz’s concert cranium catalogue—when they opened for The Ramones.

“That was really fun, the crowd went nuts,” he said. “Their promoter came in before the show and said, ‘Don’t be offended when people throw stuff at you.’ A true rock and roll moment.”

Things have changed considerably for Poltz since then, a heavy dose of maturity and know-how guiding his evolution as an artist. Releasing more than eight albums since 1998, his fountain of inspiration and drive is seemingly endless. He proved it last February by powering through riffs despite a residual broken hand from a skiing trip. “It was a lesson I had to learn. I had to learn to say no. I shouldn’t have gone down the run I went down with the guy I went down it with … I should’ve been stronger,” he said with a laugh.

A soul who lives and breathes music, Poltz doesn’t have to look far to be inspired.

“I used to think you needed to drink and smoke pot to be creative. Now I don’t even really like drinking. I like being totally open to creativity, looking at life when I can really think. Health is a great thing—our bodies are amazing.”

With this outlook it’s no surprise that Poltz confirmed his famed affinity for yoga, a lifestyle that helps him avoid the all too common loathing result of years on the road with only the company of the same old songs.

“When it gets like that, you shouldn’t do it,” he said. “You’ve lost your purpose. Otherwise you’re not living a purpose-driven life and that would be very sad.”

If purposes in life are required, Poltz could easily make traveling his. The list of towns, cities and countries he’s visited comprises a small novel.

“It’s seriously insane how many places I’ve been,” Poltz said.

“I should do a better job of keeping track but I’m more of a looking ahead kind of person.”

It’s evident that the spaces and places Poltz occupies influence his sound.

“I don’t feel like I live anywhere. I like everywhere I play though” Poltz said. “There’s always a new adventure. I’m influenced without really thinking about it … it comes out of me like a sponge and definitely affects me.”

This absorbent approach to creative production has proven successful for the Nova Scotia native who despite his success, both mainstream and independent, exudes the most envious of relaxed energies and down to earth vibes.

Perhaps Poltz can credit his entrepreneurial label, 98 Pounder Records with relieving some of the stress other artists might face through loss of creative control throughout the longevity of their careers.

“When I got dropped from my label I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to release myself, then I can be a independent artist and have complete freedom,’” he said. “I love it. I’m in charge of everything. It’s just so fun to create, it keeps me kind of child-like.”

Poltz’s latest release marks a decidedly different direction for the artist. Produced by fellow East coast treasure Joel Plaskett, Dreamhouse came together organically through a musical dissection process that was natural for the two musicians.

“It was a really quick process. I really did love it,” Poltz said. “He’s fun to be around and we have these really great conversations. It was filled with a lot of laughter—we worked hard and we laughed hard.”

Becoming a part of the produced-by-Plaskett family provided a change of pace from Poltz’s usual recording process. Listeners are given a small glimpse into Poltz and Plaskett’s playfully collegial relationship in the video for Poltz’s “License Plate Eyes.” In addition to providing a more rigid recording schedule for Poltz to adhere to, Plaskett introduced old world charm into the process by recording everything on 2-inch tape analog. With no computer screens in the room, the two artists kicked it old school, providing a refreshingly charming tone to the aptly named dreamy record.

This old-fashioned approach to recording is mimicked in Poltz’s performances. An avid storyteller, concert attendees next week will find it hard not to be captivated while Poltz entertains with his “old and lost art,” always stressing the importance of never letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

Steve Poltz plays The Living Room on The Mansion’s second floor Thurs. May 20. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.