Curtis Stigers has worked with the likes of Elton John, Eric Clapton, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, The Allman Brothers Band and Joe Cocker over the years. He is known for very his distinguished and sultry voice. It has been said that his vocals are, “aging like a fine wine, deepened by experience, resulting in a more wizened, mature and expressive performer, a vulnerability only hinted at in his pop crooner days.” If you are day dreaming of his vocals back in the day, you need to listen to him now…
One of his first hits “I Wonder Why” reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 9 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1991. Thirty years later, he is still here and releasing new music. Curtis Stigers recently released This Life, his new album via Pandemic Poodle Records. It celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Stigers’ multi-platinum selling debut and features new renditions of some of his most popular songs. “I like finding songs that other jazz singers wouldn’t record, take them apart, put them back together again and create something that’s a hybrid of jazz and pop, in that nether region,” Stigers says.
Curtis Stigers will be performing live and in person at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Join him on May 24 and 25 for the This Life Album Release Party. Isn’t it nice that we can say “performing live and in person” again? Get tickets and info here.
Earle Dutton (ED): How does it feel to release a 30-year collection?
Curtis Stigers (CS): Looking back at 30 years in the record business, 14 albums and millions of miles on the road has been both humbling and inspiring. It’s been very instructive and revealing to see and hear how much my songs and I have evolved and grown in that time. That’s what being a musician and songwriter has always been to me. I’ve just tried to keep moving forward. I’ve always wanted to keep learning, to keep getting better.
ED: What would you tell your younger self if you could go back 30 years?
CS: Relax, kid. Don’t worry about proving yourself to anyone. Just tell your story. You don’t have to sing the highest or play the fastest. Your job is to communicate, to tell a story with a song. You’ll get where you want to be, eventually. Enjoy the ride because it only happens once.
ED: What is the strangest thing you did or hobby you took up during COVID?
CS: I started shooting and editing videos during the pandemic. I had a new album come out in the first month of the lockdown and I had no way to promote it, no way to share it with people. Usually, I’m on tour singing my songs for people, but I was stuck at home in my kitchen with my dogs. So, we made videos, my dogs and I. Eventually, I started doing my livestream show, Songs From My Kitchen, which features me playing guitar and singing songs and hanging out with my dogs, interspersed with videos I’ve created. It’s been a wonderful creative outlet and discovery. I feel like I’ve really grown as an artist and a performer.
I also developed a fondness for bourbon and rye whiskey. I bought a couple outdoor heaters and a couple buddies and I started The Old-Fashioned Club, which allowed me to see my friends once a week, outside and distanced, for a cocktail and some chat.
ED: What do you like most about performing at Jazz Alley?
CS: Jazz Alley is a world-class venue. There aren’t many like it. It’s big enough to accommodate a nice crowd, but intimate like a cool jazz club. It’s always an honor to play there. I grew up in Boise, so Seattle was the big city I visited as a teenager and Jazz Alley was like Oz for a young student of jazz.
ED: What other artist do you currently enjoy listening to in your down time?
CS: I’m a big fan of singer-songwriters. Jason Isbell and Hayes Carll get a lot of airtime at my house. Also, John Fullbright and Jeffrey Martin. Gillian Welch and The Shins, too.
ED: You are so musically versatile and diverse. How do you narrow your scope down to make a cohesive album?
CS: It’s not easy. There are so many directions I want to go. Over the years I’ve made pop albums, singer-songwriter albums, jazz albums with a small group, jazz albums with a big band, and everything in between. Usually, it’s the songs and the collection of musicians I work with that points me in a certain direction. I do a lot of planning and arranging with my collaborators in advance, but I also follow my instincts. I often don’t know what the album is until it’s done. It’s a mystery and a journey and I like it that way.
ED: What makes you feel creative?
CS: I do a lot of writing while cycling and Nordic skiing. I often stop during a mountain bike ride in the foothills above Boise and sing a melody or recite a line into my iPhone. The rhythm and euphoria of working out and going fast seems to allow me to relax enough to let my subconscious do its thing.
ED: How many guitars do you have?
CS: Ha! That’s funny and a little embarrassing. I’m really not a great guitarist but I love to play, and I love guitars, especially acoustic guitars. I think I own 3 electric guitars that I hardly ever play, including a Fender Stratocaster that I bought years ago from the producer/songwriter/guitarist Danny Kortchmar, which he claimed to have played with Jackson Browne on the Running On Empty tour. I have amassed 8 or 9 acoustic guitars over the years including my first nice one, an early 80’s Martin Shenandoah that I bought in New York City in the late 90’s. I mostly play my Taylor acoustic and a sweet Gibson J-45 that Nick Lowe very kindly gave me for Christmas about 12 years ago. Did I mention I love guitars?
ED: Name something that most fans probably don’t know about you?
CS: I love musicians and bands but I’m most impressed by stand-up comedians. I think stand-up is an amazingly difficult and complex art form. I grew up idolizing Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Albert Brooks, Johnny Carson and David Letterman. I’ve always wanted to have my own talk show.
ED: What would you like people to take away from your current show?
CS: I just hope they love the stories that the songs tell. Every song is a short story or a movie to me. I fall into a song headfirst when I sing it.