Steve Bell


Craig (00:00.854)
Hey everybody, this is Craig Garber. Welcome to everyone loves guitar. We get a great guest from the great white North of Canada, Steve Bell with us today. Uh, before we get started and I give you the background on Steve, I want to thank our mutual friend and lovely guy. Great producer, Murray Pulver out of Canada. Murray was on the show a while back. Another great episode. If you want to check it out. Thanks, Murray. Thank you very much. Steve’s Steve Bell, Winnipeg based singer songwriter. He’s released 22 albums over a 34 year career with independent sales, exceeding 400,000 units.

Add into that four concert videos, five songbooks, recorded master classes, and more than 3,000 live shows, and this guy’s a worker. He’s mostly known as a faith-inspired singer-songwriter who’s also an exceptional fingerstyle guitarist. He’s won two Juno Awards, numerous Western Canada Music and Covenant Awards, and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In 2021, he was recognized with the Order of Manitoba. And in 2022, he was inducted into the Order of Canada. And we’ll talk about this because this is a prestigious service award actually given to people whose service has helped shape Canadian society and whose compassion has united communities. So I’m interested in that. Steve’s most recent album is an instrumental called No Words, which came out in 2023. He also has a new album coming out this year in October called The Glad Surprise.

Steve Bell (01:13.391)

Craig (01:22.986)
Steve lives with his wife, Nancy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Steve, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate you coming on the show. You’re welcome, man. Hey, so before we get started, I was really curious about this Order of Canada award you received, because to me, it sounds like a community service award, more so than something related to music, like a Juno award. Talk about, and I gotta believe this isn’t for doing something once. This is probably like a lifetime of contributions you’ve done.

Steve Bell (01:28.987)
Yeah, too. Thank you very much.

Craig (01:52.768)
I would love to hear more about.

Steve Bell (01:55.031)
Well, it’s a little bit, the motto, it’s in Latin, but in English, it’s they desire a better country. So they kind of give it to anybody whose life and work sort of exemplifies that there’s more than just self-serving entrepreneurial ship or something. But it goes to scientists, it goes to artists, it goes to school teachers, you know, anyone who sort of showed up as that. So I think when I saw the description of how they were describing me, it was for

I mean, I’ve written a lot of music. I’ve contributed a lot to the cultural landscape, but I’ve also been quite active in various justice, social justice issues in Canada. And I’ve, so I’ve led my name and my efforts to a number of things, whether it’s anti-poverty things, indigenous reconciliation issues in Canada, which is a big deal here. And so I’ve been quite public about those. And so I think that’s really

those things have obviously shown up on someone’s radar. So I got the award. Yeah. No, it is very cool. Yeah. Thank you. I was very honored by that. Yeah. And you’re humbled and also it feels a little bit like also like now I’ve got to do it. You know, it sort of feels like we recognize you’ve done this. Now go do it. It sort of feels like, you know, so yeah, so it’s good.

Craig (02:56.738)
That’s really cool. Yeah, congratulations. Yeah. Yeah, it’s a big honor. It’s huge, man.

Craig (03:11.03)
because now you got to know yeah

Yeah, right Yeah, if you stop to be like hey man, we gave you this award. What are you doing?

Steve Bell (03:19.655)
Yeah, yeah, you’re supposed to be a good Canadian, so don’t stop. Yeah.

Craig (03:24.986)
Well, that’s good. Congratulations, man. That’s really nice. All right. You got an interesting story. Your dad was a, which is one of this right here was one of the reasons I knew you’d be a good guess. Your dad was a prison chaplain in the late sixties and early seventies. First, I did have a guy on whose dad was awarded first time as a prison chaplain. Uh, and on Saturday afternoons, you would go with him to the prison chapel where he invited inmates to worship and have jam sessions.

Steve Bell (03:26.463)

Steve Bell (03:45.128)
Oh yeah.

Steve Bell (03:54.675)

Craig (03:54.722)
So I have a few questions about this and please feel free to add any other information. It’s pretty interesting. I would imagine that was a fairly unusual thing to do on your dad’s end. Just like, Hey guys, let’s jam and you know, you know, I have worship together. Was that like, I don’t know what your prisons are like up there, but there’s like, this is not a forgiving country down here in prisons.

Steve Bell (04:18.989)
Well, it’s like, well, we don’t have the massive prisons like you guys have, you know, like a big prison here is like 300 people, like, you know, inmates, like, we don’t have these like thousands, I think you guys are more like, um, it’s their like, corporate things. Yeah, it’s usually, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s not like that here. And it’s still seen as it’s like, at least in theory, as a place that someone can kind of maybe recollect and

Craig (04:23.159)


Craig (04:31.53)
It’s a huge business. It is corporate now. BlackRock manages many of these prisons.

Steve Bell (04:44.715)
get themselves together and move out. And I think right off the bat, I think there’s a general assumption that any normalcy that the inmates can experience while they’re in there is a good thing. And so people are encouraged, families are encouraged to come and visit. Unfortunately with so many inmates, they didn’t ever get a visit for the whole time that they’re in there or get so few. And so dad just believed that bringing us kids in and hanging out at the chapel, we ran around the place Sundays and Saturdays and.

you know, giving the inmates some sort of sense of normalcy, they sort of became like my uncles in a weird, fun way. And yeah, like it wasn’t, yeah, it was just, this was our community. And then the inmates, several of them were, of course, at any given time, there was a number of musicians in jail. So, you know, so, and so they would ask dad if they could have jam sessions in the chapel. And the reason being, it was about the only place they could go to where there wasn’t a heavy presence of guards, right?

Craig (05:18.614)
Yeah, that is.

Craig (05:30.014)
Oh yeah, of course.

Steve Bell (05:41.599)
So dads agree with the inmates, as long as there’s no shenanigans, we’ll keep the guards out. They could come into that place and just for an afternoon, they could just sort of be normal. And they would sit in a circle and have these jam sessions. And a lot of these guys were country guys, Chet Atkins, that kind of style. And I was dying to learn how to play. And so they just said, well, if Steve wants to play, get him a guitar and…

let them sit with us. And so every Saturday afternoon, I’d sit in this circle for two or three hours. And they didn’t really teach me in the sense of, here, do this, do this. It was sort of like watch, do, watch, do, you know? And so I just would, I’d see fingers and I’d see things. And if I asked direct questions, they’d stop. But mostly they were just playing old timey music. And I learned to play guitar the same way, in a sense that I learned to speak English just by being around it.

Craig (06:19.819)

Craig (06:35.938)
Now, was your dad a player? Was he a musician? No, so he just…

Steve Bell (06:37.895)
No, no, my dad’s not, not at all, not at all. My dad’s, my dad’s was, he died recently, but my dad, he’s a theologian, pastor. My mom is a brilliant musician. She was a great piano player, great songwriter, great singer. We had a family gospel band with matching outfits and like that whole thing when I was a kid, we’d tour around, yeah. And dad would preach and we would sing. We were like a whole unit, right? Yeah, oh yeah.

Craig (06:45.294)

Craig (06:58.434)
That’s wild.

Craig (07:04.522)
Really? So you had like a whole like a TV show. Wow.

Steve Bell (07:07.739)
Yeah, yeah, we were like a traveling thing. And we did that every Sunday night. We were every Sunday night through most, we were somewhere. And he would promote his work because there I was looking for, in prison work, there I was looking for volunteers, people to come and befriend inmates, all that kind of stuff. So we’d be in a church on a Sunday evening and dad would preach and he’d talk about his work and us kids would sing. And it was, and then the deal was we all go to McDonald’s and we could have an apple pie afterward and a hot chocolate. So that was the deal. That was my growing up. Yeah.

Craig (07:32.45)
That’s wild.

Craig (07:36.142)
That’s incredible. Now, did, so he didn’t get pushed back from the administration on any of these things of like, no, okay.

Steve Bell (07:40.319)
No. No, no, because again, they did really encourage. I mean, they had, even inside, they’d have family days where inmates, their families could come and it’d be a big open area. And there’d be barbecues and hot dogs. And there’d be kids running around. And again, it was just really important for inmates to have some sort of sense of, again, normalcy and family and community.

Craig (08:07.82)

Steve Bell (08:09.411)
And it was pretty safe. I mean, when you think, well, here’s the other thing. I mean, there’s nothing, there’s probably about the safest place a child can be would be in a prison. I mean, people that hurt children have to be in a prison within a prison. Cause the, oh, no, no. Well, murderers for sure, but not pedophiles. Like, you know, lots of murderers, yes.

Craig (08:10.999)

Craig (08:23.902)
Okay, so there was no like pedophiles and like murderers and


Steve Bell (08:36.584)
But most people that do those sorts of things, they do it under a particularly compressed environment. They don’t wake up in the morning hoping they can murder someone today. And they love kids. And yeah, like people who hurt kids, they go to specific prisons because they’d be torn apart inside a regular prison. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I never felt unsafe, ever.

Craig (08:45.435)
Yeah, it’s situational.


Craig (08:53.99)
Okay. Oh yeah, same thing here. Wow. So let me ask this. Would you have done that with your kids? Okay, you would have. Okay.

Steve Bell (09:01.511)
Oh yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t know in my experience. I think if I didn’t know this, that would sound a little weird or unsafe or even irresponsible. But having been through it, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Yeah.

Craig (09:10.446)
Yeah, okay. Yeah, sure. Sure. Oh, interesting. Wow. Interesting. Yeah, prisons are either different here or just my frame of reference is different. But it’s not. I couldn’t see that happening here.

Steve Bell (09:22.163)
I think it’s quite different. Yeah, I think it’s a, well, I think also what’s also different now, I think now might be a little bit different because the whole, the crazy drug stuff, I think has changed what’s going on inside prisons to when I was a kid. So I think it might be a little bit more chaotic and a little bit more dangerous maybe now than it was back in the day. Yeah.

Craig (09:37.306)
Oh yeah, very much so.

Craig (09:46.45)
Yeah. Wow. Really interesting. So tell me what did, what lessons did you get out of this experience both musically and about life?

Steve Bell (09:57.823)
Well, musically, I basically learned my trade. I mean, it was, you know, I say this in concert in kind of half in jest, but it’s actually true that I’ve had a whole career in music because Canada’s most unwanted men invested in me as a kid. Right? You know, and so, and that’s, I mean, I know that that’s a kind of a good soundbite phrase, but it’s actually true. You know, these guys actually cared about me. They were proud of me. They taught me to play guitar.

Craig (10:13.186)
That’s so crazy. Yeah.

Steve Bell (10:25.923)
They had their own bands. I was invited to join bands. I was in like, so when there’d be a family day, I was in the band. There’s got pictures of me when I’m eight, nine, 10 years old, playing guitar with these guys. So I learned not only music individually, but I also started to learn how to play in a group. I had to learn to play.

Craig (10:40.878)
That’s so unimaginable for here.

Steve Bell (10:49.079)
understand arrangements, how to make space for other people, how to step in when it’s my turn, all that kind of stuff, that the communion that is group music, and how to be a citizen of a band, I learned then. And then the other thing, more sort of socially-spirits-y, I mean, I think you just, like, I remember when I first went in, I was all excited because I was gonna see these bad men. I was gonna, everybody, you know, I was gonna hang out with.

bank robbers, and I had some idea what they would look like. And yeah, the bad boy appeal. And of course, that makes me a little dangerous, right? And chicks dig that. That’s what you’re thinking as a little boy. And being so disappointed at how normal these people were. They were just people. A few of them had tattoos, but generally, they were just people. And so I think I really learned that. And not only was I a bad boy, but I

Craig (11:21.698)
The bad boy appeal.

Craig (11:29.954)
That’s so funny. Yeah.

Craig (11:37.188)

Steve Bell (11:46.343)
and people that had something to offer, something really good to offer. And so I learned that every person has a fundamental dignity that nobody can take away. I learned that every single person has a gift to offer, and that I should never be too uppity to receive a gift from any place, from any part of society, upper or lower. And I also learned that everybody has a story, and that before I judge, I have no business judging anybody if I don’t have time to hear their story.

Craig (11:55.49)

Steve Bell (12:15.311)
And usually, whatever you think about another person, their attitudes, their opinions, their actions, it’ll change once you hear a story. And there’s very few people who wake up and think, I would like to be a bad person today. There are occasionally, you know, your sociopaths, and you know, but I, you know, and again, we can’t excuse bad behavior or dangerous behavior, and sometimes you have to.

Craig (12:23.554)
When’d you hear the story? Yeah.

Craig (12:30.026)
Yeah, right. It’s yeah.


Steve Bell (12:42.451)
incarcerate people to protect society or protect them from themselves. But there’s always a story. And so I think I would, I just can’t look at somebody and say, you are the things you’ve done or the things that you do.

Craig (12:56.502)
Sure. So it sounds like you learned a lot about forgiveness even in a way.

Steve Bell (13:00.871)
Yep, yep, yeah, forgiveness and also just, but you also then learn yourself, like I can learn to forgive myself that even my lesser actions are bad actions. I mean, yeah, they’re choices, but they’re motivated by experience and trauma and all that kind of stuff. And so rather than feel terrible about myself because I did X, Y or Z, kind of go, okay, what’s behind that? Is there a way of digging into that and find healing or a way to sort of move beyond it? And so I think

It really did arouse empathy in me that I might not have had otherwise.

Craig (13:35.614)
Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, we’re all like one step away from doing something nuts, to be honest with you. You just don’t mean circumstances come up in life that you never imagined sometimes. And yeah, I agree with you. Not many people fundamentally evil.

Steve Bell (13:40.011)
Oh. Oh yeah yeah.

Steve Bell (13:45.467)
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. And also, I think you have to learn how to realize to this, no one event makes you who you are. It’s a million decisions, right? And so it matters that I’m kind to someone at a store or a server at a restaurant, that every choice towards kindness or grace is moving you in a direction or the other.

Craig (13:55.778)
Sure. Yeah.

Craig (14:10.603)

I agree with you.

Steve Bell (14:13.735)
Right? And so, I mean, I just look at my kids and I say, just small acts of kindness every day and make sure nobody even knows you did them because it forms you. It sets you off in a direction. And the minute you start, you know, nursing resentments, self-centeredness, that builds over time and all of a sudden, you know, you’re not who you wanted to be. Yeah.

Craig (14:20.991)

Craig (14:34.774)
Sure, totally. I’ve always said my whole life, show me how the guy treats the waiter or the guy pushing the broom in his office. That tells you the true truth of who somebody is and how they act.

Steve Bell (14:41.919)

Steve Bell (14:45.427)
Yep. 100%. And that’s a decision that you can make, right? Yeah, that, yeah, yeah.

Craig (14:52.318)
Yeah, absolutely. It’s totally free will. How you treat your boss or whoever’s paying you that, or your clients, that’s an easy one. But show me how you treat the guy who’s cleaning the toilets at night. Yeah, I agree with that. Well, thanks. That was an interesting story. So how did you first through that, how did you first… So you started playing music actually professionally in this gospel band with your family. After that, how did you… As you started growing up, how did you get into your career? How did your career do?

Steve Bell (14:57.703)

Steve Bell (15:02.567)
Yep, for sure.

Steve Bell (15:14.624)

Steve Bell (15:22.151)
Well, just out of high school, I started working in a music store. I didn’t really ever think I had what it takes to be a professional musician. That didn’t even really occur to me. I just thought, this is not possible. But what ended up happening, I was working in this little music store and kind of waiting for some idea of a reason to go to college and find a career or something, but I just couldn’t think of anything.

Craig (15:31.863)

Craig (15:45.366)
And your parents were cool with that. Man, that’s really cool.

Steve Bell (15:47.143)
Oh yeah, oh yeah, my dad, you know, it’s funny, like my dad always says like his, he said the most important thing is that you find your place. You know, he didn’t, like I remember saying to my dad, do you want me to be a preacher? You know, and dad said, I’d be proud of you if that’s what you’re supposed to be and you found that you did it. He says, it would devastate me if you did it to please me.

Craig (16:07.49)
Wow. Let me tell you, man, as a guy who came from totally shitty parents, that is, I can tell you right now that’s your dad was the standard of like, really.

Steve Bell (16:09.546)

Steve Bell (16:18.099)
He was a very, he was an unusually good man, you know? And so, no, he was really good with that. And so, yeah, yeah. And so I started working at the store. And while I was there, there’s a local band that were, they were like a jazz fusion band working in the clubs. I loved them, they were really good. You know, so back in like Spira Gyra, like I don’t know if you remember like that, like that whole era, right? Sort of pop jazz funk.

Craig (16:21.278)
Yeah, yeah. Find your place. I love that.

Craig (16:40.118)
Sure. Yeah. Yep. Mm-hmm.

Steve Bell (16:44.415)
rock and they were trying to do better in the clubs and they realized they would need a singer. And so they asked me if I’d come and play. And so I played saxophone and sang lead in that band for a year. And then so I started getting into the clubs. I met another guy, another two guys. We started a side kind of a gig as a folk trio. And that ended up being actually a fairly well-known group in my area, a group called

Craig (16:54.902)
Did ya?

Craig (17:10.998)


Steve Bell (17:14.415)
And we were very Cross Pistols and Nash-y, very Joni Mitchell-y, you know, like that kind of a thing. So I played three years with those guys. We played, like, this is back in the day, I mean, young musicians, we played six nights a week all year round. Yeah, like, my, yeah, yeah. And you could, if you worked hard, you know, I had a house and a car, you know, like not, not.

Craig (17:30.162)
That was when there was, you can, you could, there was, you know, you could six nights a week, three, four gig, three, four sets a night, yeah.

Craig (17:40.862)

Steve Bell (17:42.611)
not fancy ones, but it was a modest living. And I have a son who’s a musician now, and he’s very good. Man, these guys play a couple of times a month for beer and burgers. How do you get your 10,000 hours in? Yeah, you just can’t get your time in. And so basically for about 10 years, I played clubs and it started off with that fusion band, with folk, then I did pop bands and…

Craig (17:46.036)

Craig (17:53.577)
The opportunities don’t exist. No, you don’t.

Steve Bell (18:08.991)
country bands, and I just basically kind of went from place to place according to friendships and you know, and pretty much always a side guy. I wasn’t ever the front guy. I was very shy and never again, never occurred to me that this was something I could do on my own. It just didn’t occur to me at all. So 10 years of that and it was really great in the sense of I mean, there’s just, you’re playing in hostile environments, you’re playing in good environments.

You’re playing with other people. Almost always, if I was playing guitar, there was always another guitar player who was better than I was. And so you’re just always growing, right? And so the influences and the experience of working with others, back then too, I mean, we were in the studios almost every day. Like there was, you know, I was doing McDonald’s commercials and A&W commercials. And oh yeah, and then I started writing them and producing them. And so you…

Craig (19:01.138)
Oh, so you were doing jingles. Wow.

Steve Bell (19:07.727)
You know, so it was just, you were just in the studio all day and you were playing all night. And so just the experience, the possibility to grow and to work with people and learn from people was amazing, actually. And of course, almost none of that is happening now. Yeah.

Craig (19:25.974)
It’s unfortunate. Yeah, not at that. Well, let me ask you this. Are you still getting royalties in from all that music you create, you know, from the music license? No, they’re old. They’re not played anymore.

Steve Bell (19:32.767)
No. No, that’s, yeah, yeah. None of the, certainly none of the commercial stuff. I was involved in some albums back in the day that did well at that time, but they’re not now, so there’s nothing really coming in yet. Yeah.

Craig (19:44.894)
Right. Interesting. That’s phenomenal, man. You really like. Yeah, I mean, it’s like really mushroom man. Okay, so let’s go back now. So you’re a band member for years. You released your first solo album in 89 called Comfort My People. What finally prompted you to step out on your own?

Steve Bell (19:50.003)
I was really fortunate. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (20:00.98)

Steve Bell (20:04.639)
Well, after 10 years, I mean, it’s like everything was had sort of plateaued, you know, like, you know, and I sort of realized this wasn’t going anywhere. I mean, I love playing the clubs because I thought it was going to go off somewhere and it just never did. And after about 10 years, I’m married, I’ve got kids, I’m away six nights a week. It’s still pretty, pretty modest income. It’s manageable, but just barely. I’m tired all the time. And of course, you know, a nightclub is not the…

Craig (20:20.066)

Steve Bell (20:33.387)
healthiest place to be in six nights a week, you know, you know, so you drink too much and all that. You sort of feel this is not going anywhere. And then I had this, again, you know this, I’m a person of Christian faith, and so I can only tell you my experience, but I just had one night I had this very profound experience of presence. And I felt a voice saying to me, this time of your life is over, there’s something else for you to do. And it was so dramatic. It was so powerful.

Craig (20:36.106)
Yeah, of course. Yeah.

Craig (21:00.92)
Wow, dude, I just got goosebumps. That’s pretty cool.

Steve Bell (21:02.575)
Yeah, and so I thought I was being told to hang up my guitar. So I quit playing, I quit the band. My wife is a teacher, she was able to go back to work and wanted to. And I stayed at home with the kids for a year looking for something else. At this point, I’m late 20s, I’m completely unemployable. It’s too late to go to college, you know, in all that. So depression, feeling like a failure, you know.

And that’s when I started going back to some of the scriptures of my youth, like the Psalms in the Old Testament, just for prayer, like language for prayer. Because I mean, so many of the Psalms are lament, you know, where are you? Like, you know, that kind of stuff. And there it was. There was my prayer, my language, and that was no longer somebody from, you know, 4,000 years ago. These are now my words. And then melodies started to form and songs started to come.

Craig (21:44.747)

Steve Bell (21:58.035)
more devotional songs that weren’t something that I hoped the public would like. They were just my way of surviving. And they started to build. And right in the middle of that, an old family friend came by my house, a friend of my dad’s, and said, Steve, you should record like a gospel album, the stuff that you’re writing now. And I went, like, why? Like, for what? Who would buy it? Where would I get the money?

And he said, well, how much would it cost? And so I phoned a friend of mine, Dave Zygmuntzki, who coincidentally now is my manager, but he had a commercial studio. And he said, well, if we pull in all of our favors and do this, you know, maybe it’ll cost you 10 grand. So, you know, that was back in the day. And so my friend, my dad’s friend, cut me a check for 10 grand.

Craig (22:44.439)

Steve Bell (22:45.235)
you know, said, go make the record. And so I made the record, and then it was only a cassette. It was sort of in between albums and CDs. It was in that in between time. So we only made cassettes at the time. And I made 100 copies, and I gave 50 to the guy that funded it, and then I kept, you know, 50 for myself, mostly for Christmas gifts for, you know, uncles and aunts and cousins. And…

Craig (22:53.289)

Craig (23:00.258)

Steve Bell (23:10.227)
And then slowly people would start to phone me and say, hey, I was at your dad’s place and I heard your music. Can I get a copy? And so I had a little duplicating machine and I’d make them a copy. And eventually I had to say, can you give me five bucks? This has started to cost me money. Then I started getting calls from pastors saying, I heard your music. Could you come and sing at my church? And I’d say, no, I’m not a minister. I’m a failed bar musician. I had literally no, yeah.

Craig (23:34.466)
your confidence was not particularly high.

Steve Bell (23:37.115)
Yeah. And also, I mean, I grew up in these Christian environments where ministers or people that were confident, they, you know, they had held these big Bibles, they told people what was wrong with them and how to fix things. And I just didn’t have any of that. Like, I didn’t see the world that black and white, you know. And so I kept on saying no. And I was also nervous. I’d been playing for 10 years to people that for the most part didn’t really listen. Like in the clubs, you’re always looking for a table here or a table there that we’re paying attention.

Craig (23:49.283)

Steve Bell (24:05.307)
And that’s where you kind of focus. But to also go into a church where there’s no distractions, the people are actually listening to you, felt a little terrifying. But then this one pastor, he phoned me up, I was like over a period of several months, several times, he says, please come and sing at my church. I went, no, I can’t, I don’t do that. I’m not a minister. I don’t save souls. I don’t do any of that kind of stuff. And he finally just said, I’ll pay you 200 bucks. And that was the magic words.

Craig (24:32.866)
Magic words. Yeah.

Steve Bell (24:34.083)
Yeah, I just needed money. I was broke. And so I thought, well, if you’re stupid enough to give me $200 to play three songs, I guess so. And I went and it’s so hard to describe what happened. It was like, I don’t know, like pixie dust fell over me. I don’t know. Like I got up to the mic, I was terrified. But all of a sudden I had a story and then I had a song and I had a story and then I had a song. And something happened that I’d

Craig (24:41.794)

Steve Bell (25:03.423)
Like I just became something in front of my own eyes that I didn’t even know was there. And I remember crying all the way home. Like I felt like I actually did something meaningful. Yeah, something happened. And then I started saying yes to, yeah. So it was, yeah, I know back then, you know, like, you know, it doesn’t sound like much now, but it actually was significant at the time, you know.

Craig (25:14.082)
Like something happened.

Craig (25:19.21)
I mean, besides getting $200 because you could have been crying over that too, if you hadn’t gotten money in a while. I know I would be.

Craig (25:31.047)

Steve Bell (25:32.467)
And it was affirming and then I started to actually imagine that maybe this is what I’m here for. And then maybe I should start saying yes instead of no. And maybe all these years haven’t been a waste. Maybe they’ve been a preparation. And I started to look back over the bands I had been in, the things, the events, and I started to realize this has always been heading in a direction. I just didn’t know it. And that’s when things sort of shifted for me. And I started to become

Craig (25:56.942)

Steve Bell (26:02.059)
the Steve Bell I’m known for now, right?

Craig (26:04.866)
Man, that’s a great story. I got a bunch of questions. Okay, so number one, first question. When you first heard this voice that said, hey man, you need to put that down, there’s something else out there for you. Was that something that you heard in your head or was it something that you heard out loud? If you remember.

Steve Bell (26:08.345)

Steve Bell (26:18.301)

Steve Bell (26:25.548)
I do remember, I did not hear it in my ear. It was, the way I’ve described it, it’s almost like, you know, when they do, you know, the old monarchs or anybody that wrote a letter would do a wax sort of thing on the back and then, and they, they’re seal. Oh, do you really? Well, the only way I could describe it is that I heard it, but I didn’t hear it as that, I heard it as a seal on my heart, like that my heart was supple and that.

Craig (26:28.447)
Okay, so it’s in.

Craig (26:38.026)
Yeah, yeah, yeah wax seal sure I got one of them in here man Yeah

Craig (26:51.872)

Steve Bell (26:52.595)
whatever, I’m gonna say God, like pressed it on my heart. That’s, you know, I have something for you and here’s the, you know, like that’s how I, I can’t describe it, but that’s kind of what it was like. And I’ve had several since events where I felt spoken to, but again, never in the ear, more like this, all of a sudden there’s a soft wax and I feel the impress and I know what it means. That’s about the best I can describe it.

Craig (26:56.792)

Craig (27:04.791)

Craig (27:21.07)
reason I wanted to know that is I started this show because I was sitting here in this chair one day I had this white strat I was playing a jeff beck white strat and I heard a voice tell me you need to go interview guitar players and I was like I never you know I never heard you know the only time I may have heard voices is if I was really high or the sun

Steve Bell (27:37.525)

Steve Bell (27:43.171)

Yeah. There was no there was no substance involved in this. Yeah.

Craig (27:52.307)
Yeah, I was just sitting here and I was like, but here’s the ironic thing. I said, okay, I need to go interview guitar players. There was no resistance. I didn’t even question why. And what had happened was, I don’t want to make this about me, so I’ll be quick. A few years earlier, I had a really rough time of things. And at that point I said, I need to be more open to the universe.

Steve Bell (28:04.853)

Steve Bell (28:21.023)

Craig (28:22.002)
And I, so when I heard that voice, I said, man, this, I have to fulfill that commitment I made to myself to be more open to the universe. And I, and I just, I didn’t, I said, okay, so then I just, you know, I’m not going to go into the whole story. And I started this show for that reason.

Steve Bell (28:30.174)

Steve Bell (28:37.395)
And the proof in the pudding is what’s happened, right? Like it’s, I mean, you can’t, I mean, you can tell me this story and I totally understand, I 100% believe you. You can’t tell everybody that in a way that they’re not going, ah, really. But in the end, when you sort of obey that word, blessing flows from it.

Craig (28:58.974)
I want to hear more. I’m waiting for the next message man, ever since. To be honest with you, I’m much more open to this now.

Steve Bell (29:01.827)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think the older you get and the more it happens, you start to hear it in quieter and quieter whispers. I think at first God has to almost yell at us. But yeah, but the older I get now, I just realize I’m being spoken to all day. And so the work of sort of moving into, say, the wisdom years or the contemplative years that we’re kind of moving into now.

Craig (29:15.682)
hit you over the head, yeah.

Craig (29:22.238)

Craig (29:30.89)
Is that what we call it now? The wisdom? I hope there was the wisdom we have. Right? Yeah.

Steve Bell (29:32.383)
I mean, yeah, I think so. Yeah. Well, but it’s not wisdom because you’re smart. It’s because you didn’t check out, right? I mean, the only reason why we get to be in the wisdom years is because we didn’t check out years ago. And I don’t mean necessarily kill ourselves, but just resort to just entertainment and as.

Craig (29:47.627)

Craig (29:54.606)
No, you’re still in the game of life. Yeah. Yeah, you’re listening. Yeah.

Steve Bell (29:56.447)
Yeah, you’re listening, you’re listening. And so, you know, it becomes, the voice becomes quieter and quieter and quieter and to whisper, and then you realize that it’s whispering to you all day long. And that even in the most cacophonous place, you can hear it. And it’s a spiritual discipline, but it, and it’s not always asking you to do amazing things. You know, sometimes it’s just, you know, like smile at that person over there, you know, and you don’t know what that did. I mean, that…

Craig (30:06.253)

Craig (30:10.046)
Yeah, that’s such a cool.

Steve Bell (30:25.579)
that person might be the first kindly sign they’ve seen in 10 years, like who knows? It costs you nothing. And I just sort of realize now there’s no such thing as an ordinary moment. It’s all sacred, it’s all enchanted. And if I’m listening, I get to be part of goodness. So when I was a child, I remember I was about, I don’t know, maybe six, seven years old or.

Craig (30:31.23)
Sure. No, you don’t know and it cost you nothing and it’s pretty freaking easy. Yeah.

Craig (30:39.967)

Steve Bell (30:52.707)
somewhere in there. I remember going out the back deck for whatever reason, it was late at night and there was stars out, all that. And we lived in a small town, so you saw a lot of it. There wasn’t too much noise pollution. But I remember looking up into the sky, into the galaxies, and this amazing sense of wonder came over me. And I was sort of pouring out my wonder, and then I felt something pouring back into me.

And what it was goodness. I just felt there was a benevolence at the core of everything that was literally radiating towards me. I just felt that something good wanted good for me. Now I call that God now, I have other words for it, but at the time I just knew it was true. And so I realized that voice has been whispering to me my whole life.

And it’s not done me wrong. I mean, I’ve suffered like other people, people I love die or suffer, and all that, right? But, and I’m an idiot like anybody else, you know, and I cause my own trouble, sure, but at the core of it, at the base of it, I actually believe there’s a goodness that bottoms everything. And a benevolence, not just goodness, but something that

Craig (31:59.234)

Steve Bell (32:19.815)
wishes us well and is on our side. I just believe it.

Craig (32:25.166)
Thank you. Another question about that whole story. So your higher power, God told you, you know, whatever, I’m just going to put whatever context people listeners want to frame this in. There’s something out there for you when you were lingering in that whole sort of holding period. Did you think to yourself?

Steve Bell (32:39.487)
Yep, yep.

Steve Bell (32:44.235)

Craig (32:55.254)
God, I need the rest of the story here. I mean, I’m sure you had that. How did you, and when you thought, how did you manage that? Or how did you, you know, those are the kind of times where you’re like, question like, hey, man, I need you to show up here, man. Like what, you know, how did, so how did you, to whatever extent you’re comfortable, because I know it’s kind of a personal question.

Steve Bell (33:14.323)
Well, I mean, it’s a while back, so it’s hard to remember everything. I mean, there was no plan that was, you know, I want you to do something else, and here it is, and here’s year one, here’s year five, here’s year 10, like a good entrepreneur would set out. I mean, there was none of that at all. I think I, it was so strong and new, I had to do something. I just didn’t know what, but then things kind of, like it just unfolded, like the guy that comes along, for one, the song started coming, right?

Craig (33:27.658)

Steve Bell (33:42.043)
And then two, somebody showed up and said, you should record them and here’s $10,000. You know, and then fine. I’m still not really personally invested. I’m just, you know, I’m not, there’s no plan here. And then I put out the album and I put out a hundred copies and within a year there’s been a thousand and then within a couple of years there’s thousands and people are coming, can you come and sing? So it kind of unfolded before me and every time I said yes to the next stage,

it required a little bit of a risk, but it wasn’t unreasonable. You know what I mean? At no point did I sell the house and the car, you know, and that didn’t happen. It was just like someone said, could you come and play three songs? And I’m thinking, I don’t think I can do that well, but you know, again, if you’re stupid enough to give me 200 bucks, I kind of have to. And then that turned out. And so I thought, oh, you know, and so I said yes to the next thing and yes to the next thing. So it was a continual, like,

Craig (34:14.85)

Craig (34:18.839)

Craig (34:31.019)

Steve Bell (34:39.359)
doors opening, sometimes you had to give them a bit of a shove. But I’ve learned if I have to push too hard, maybe I shouldn’t go through it. Do you know what I mean? A little bit of risk, but I don’t know. Every time I really, really tried to make something happen, it was a lot of work for little gain. And every time I just sort of waited for the door to open a little bit, and I gave it a bit of a push, usually there was a little bit of effort for a fair bit of gain. And so.

Craig (34:45.93)
Man, I agree with you 100%.

Craig (34:57.206)

Steve Bell (35:07.759)
Again, you just kind of in the sort of the spiritual realm, you kind of learn

the language of how the divine or God or Christ, I’ve got all my specifics on that, but broadly speaking, how that operates. And I think it operates, people hear things in a different way, and you learn how it is that God speaks to you, and you learn how to respond to that. And it’s like anything else, trial and error. Keep listening, yeah. And here’s the thing too, is not to be afraid of a mistake. Like I remember,

Craig (35:34.402)
So just keep listening.

Steve Bell (35:41.607)
Again, here’s a dad story. When I got out of high school, I mean, again, I was brought up in like a fundamentalist environment, Christian environment, and everything was about, you know, God has a perfect plan for your life, and you don’t want to get that wrong. You know, and I was living in Winnipeg, and I got a call to ask if I’d go and work in a TV studio in Toronto, and I kind of really wanted to, but I didn’t know if that was God’s perfect plan for my life. And again, it’s way too much pressure, yeah. And you almost cower, and I remember,

Craig (36:05.742)
That’s too much pressure, man. I have to think about ever. Like, like, how the hell do you know how to answer that question? Was this? Ah, you know, it’s like you could book a meeting with him and saying, Hey, listen, just five minutes of your time.

Steve Bell (36:13.191)
exactly yeah but I go to my dad by yeah but I remember dad I was said to dad like should I go he goes sure and I said how do I know if it’s the right thing because you don’t and then he and then and then I said and what if I’m wrong he says come back you know yeah so like he and that’s it you the only mistake you can ever make is to continue in it once you realize it’s a mistake

Craig (36:27.458)

Craig (36:31.518)
Yeah, right, right.

Craig (36:41.006)

Steve Bell (36:41.619)
you know, or an error or a misjudgment. But at that point you have this, you can redeem anything by just changing direction, right? He says, just have the humility to say, oops, you know. So like dad was great in the sense that he sort of freed, like go make mistakes son, like, you know, the sooner the better. Yeah, and he never ever at any point said, you should have or this, you know, it was only like, well just.

Craig (36:49.166)
Sure, sure.

Craig (36:53.557)

Craig (37:00.458)
Yeah, your dad was awesome, man. Like, wow, this is phenomenal.

Steve Bell (37:09.587)
If that’s wrong, just change it and we’re good, you know? So yeah, he was really, he really did, he was a liberator. Right, yeah.

Craig (37:14.254)
It’s really amazing. Yeah, yeah. Well, that was the last question I had. During this whole period, did you seek counsel from your dad? Like, hey, dad, you know, I did this thing and like, I don’t know if like, I don’t know am I on the right path. I don’t know what the next step is. And what would he say?

Steve Bell (37:35.155)
Right? Well, he was, yes, I did all the time. Dad and I talked all the time. We were quite good friends. He was not an advice giver. Like, I realize in retrospect how gifted he was, but he just sort of had a way of talking to you till you found your own answer. So without sort of being all counseling or anything, he just, well, what do you think about this? What do you think about that? And he’d say, he tells stories. Well, I remember when I was a kid, when I was your age, you know.

Craig (37:55.584)
Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (38:03.167)
But he would never say, therefore, you should do this or should do that. He would say, I don’t know what you should do. But there’s some general life principles that we generally understand and apply them and make your best decision. Get the ship moving. And then once it gets going, avoid the rocks to best as possible. But if you hit one, there’s repair. So he just, how do I just, yeah. Yeah.

Craig (38:05.717)
Yeah, yeah.

Craig (38:25.158)
Yeah. Which is actually the best, the healthiest way of giving advice, honestly, man, because like I do that with my kids now when I was younger, I didn’t, I wasn’t smart enough and they come to me with stuff now and I do the same thing. I’m like, well, what do you think? And what is important to you? And oh, well here’s, you know, same thing. Here’s something that I could relate to that happened to me when I was younger. And here’s what I learned, you know, have, you know, have at it.

Steve Bell (38:36.296)


Steve Bell (38:43.559)

Steve Bell (38:48.624)
Yeah. And it was always, and it was always, you can’t disappoint me. Like, don’t worry about that. Do you know what I mean? I was never like, you know, is my dad gonna be ashamed or angry or reject or like, it was like, it’s like, his sort of thing is looking at me saying, you don’t have that power to disappoint me. Like, you know, like it’s, yeah, yeah.

Craig (38:55.694)
Yeah, yeah, right, yeah.

Craig (39:03.054)

Craig (39:10.434)
Yeah, right. Which is great. And that’s all the kids really want to know, you know, and it’s OK to make mistakes.

Steve Bell (39:15.399)
Well, yeah, and I learned it. Yeah, and as a parent, to set them free and be there to help them once they fall, that’s all.

Craig (39:26.338)
Very cool, man. Thank you for sharing all that. I really enjoyed that. Okay. So you step out on your own records, cassettes start selling, you start getting asked to perform, you start performing. What were some of the challenges early on as far as now you’re like suddenly, Oh my God, I’m a solo artist. What were your challenges as far as getting things moving?

Steve Bell (39:45.834)

Well, the hardest thing I think also is, I mean, this is before independent musicians. There was no set, like that phrase as almost a genre or a business genre didn’t exist, right? I mean, there’s only really one path. Get a record contract, get a management company, fall into line, and so like I’m sending out my cassettes to all the major record labels and booking agents, and I was always been a little bit off the center. I mean, my music isn’t weird or anything, but it was never, is it?

Craig (40:00.844)

Steve Bell (40:17.035)
Is it pop? Is it folk? Is it, you know, nobody really knew how to… Yeah, it’s not mainstream. It’s very listenable. But nobody, everybody would always say, like, you know, we love you, you’re doing a great job, but we don’t know what to do with it. And yeah, what category is this? Yeah. And so, and so I think for me, the hardest thing was to break out of the mold of how you do this and think differently. And the guy that helped me with my first record, Dave Zaglinsky.

Craig (40:19.37)
Yeah, it’s not mainstream.

Craig (40:28.842)
We don’t know where to put you in the record store. What category? Yeah, right.

Steve Bell (40:47.147)
I went to him and I said, boy, what do you think? And he, for one, he really thought I needed help with details, you know, and I’m not a detail guy and keeping business straight and all that. And so he came along and said, how about if I, you know, he helped pay for my second record? And he said, why don’t we become business partners on your music? And so we did. And so he started showing up to these little concerts and realized that the sound was really shitty. So he started bringing PA’s and good mics from the studio. And he started doing sound. And he realized that I was never getting back to the back to sell the cassettes.

because I’d be talking. So he set up a little table and he started to be there. And then he thought, oh, we should get a, one of those click, click credit card machines because people don’t always have cash. And then he said, Steve, why don’t we offer, if you buy two, you can have a third for free. And he just started thinking innovatively, even in terms of churches, like how do you get a gig? So this is not the same as sort of getting on like a folk festival circuit. There was no circuit.

Craig (41:20.556)

Craig (41:33.623)

Steve Bell (41:43.231)
So you’d phone up a church and say, can I do a concert at your church? And they don’t have any money and all that. And so Dave would say, well, how about if we don’t charge you, why don’t we come and why don’t you give us your support? And we’ll give you 10% of the door.

Craig (41:58.28)

Steve Bell (41:58.663)
Right? And so in biblical terms, that’s called tithing. And every pastor gets that. They kind of go, OK, I’m not exposed. Yeah. Well, then they say, but we don’t do posters. And OK, we’ll do them. We’ll print them. We don’t do tickets. Well, we’ll do that. And so Dave, he just like, just take away every objection and do it ourselves. And so we ended up forming what’s now Signpost Music, but we are the promotional company.

Craig (42:02.122)
Yeah, right, right.

So that was an easy yes. That was an easy yes.

Steve Bell (42:27.851)
company, we’re the marketing company, we’re the booking agent, we are the road management. Basically all those percentages that kind of go out for other people to collect, we just kept them in house. And then rather than hiring somebody for 20% of their time to do a poor job for us, we just started hiring people to work for us. And so now we have three staff and it kind of just rolls along.

Craig (42:41.278)
Right, right.

Craig (42:49.41)

Steve Bell (42:58.003)
of money, but enough. We have no debt. We have no, you know, and so, and so we kind of kept everything in house. And it was really kind of funny because I remember when was it like that, you know, the mid 90s, I started hearing about this, oh, this independent musician, what’s an independent musician. And we’re like looking, going, we’ve been doing this now for a long time. And so we kind of did it naturally. It wasn’t a strategy, but

Craig (43:00.942)

Craig (43:17.182)

Steve Bell (43:21.631)
But Dave had the ability to say, just because everybody else does it this way doesn’t mean we have to, or even that we can. And when we let go of the old model, you can start to imagine a new one. And…

Craig (43:28.514)
Yeah, yeah.

Craig (43:34.882)
Now, do you guys, the signposts, have you taken on other artists over the years?

Steve Bell (43:39.111)
Yeah, we eventually became a record label for not very long, for about five or six years, but it was right before everything started crumbling. Retail started crumbling, radio started crumbling, all that. And so there came a point where we just sort of realized we couldn’t invest in another artist and take a percentage back from them that could pay for our time and our effort and our investment that didn’t make it impossible for them to make a living.

Craig (43:42.483)

Craig (44:04.548)
Yeah, right, right.

Steve Bell (44:05.659)
You know, and so there was a point we just phoned up all of our artists and we said, we can’t, we can’t, you can’t afford to pay us and we don’t want to charge you. We can’t do it for free. So we’re giving, we gave everybody their albums back, which said, here’s all your stock, here’s your rights. We don’t want any of that. God bless you. If we can help in any way, we can do it as a, like as a neighbor and a friend, but not as a business. And so we went back to just now being Steve Bell.

Craig (44:27.298)
Sure. Yeah.

Craig (44:31.426)
So it’s probably, so you guys have made a career together, building out, what a great story, man.

Steve Bell (44:37.747)
Yeah, we’ve been traveling together for over 30 years. We stay in the same hotel room. Like we’re like an old married couple. Yeah. Like actually people say.

Craig (44:39.97)
That’s wild.

That’s, yeah. No, but how fortunate it is to that you guys, you know, clicked and it worked out.

Steve Bell (44:51.067)
Yeah, well, you know what, we have very different gifts and Dave seems to have gifts in all of my gap areas. Yeah, and I have gifts in his gap areas. And so, we don’t fight. He’s actually… Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know where his instincts are better than mine and I don’t really question them. And he generally knows where my instincts are better. So there’s never really much, he’s a brilliant recording engineer, this studio.

Craig (44:57.782)
which is the best partnership ever, man.

Craig (45:04.726)
You make your decisions, he makes his decisions, you probably bounce them off each other for a second opinion, but yeah, that’s great.

Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (45:19.987)
was his commercial studio and I just kind of inherited it in the deal. But I don’t know how to run it. I’m not going to tell him what microphone to use on the guitar or how to mix a record. But he’s not going to tell me how to do a song order for a concert, like a set list. So it works pretty good, actually. We never fight. We natter, but we don’t fight. And it’s been a really lovely, lovely relationship. Yeah.

Craig (45:25.526)

Craig (45:36.139)

Craig (45:43.018)
Yeah, yeah, of course. Of course. That’s just life.

That’s cool, man. Congratulations to you both. Um, I want, let’s talk about some of my favorite tracks of yours. I just went through your whole catalog. You got something called moon over Birkenau from your album, Symphony Sessions, very moving track. Yeah. Obviously Birkenau was the location of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. What’s the story behind that track? And, uh, did you do those string and piano arrangements as well? They’re very beautiful.

Steve Bell (45:57.815)

Steve Bell (46:16.779)
Thank you. I didn’t. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. The song itself, I was in Poland, boy, this would be early 90s, I guess. Doing concerts and, yeah, touring, yeah, touring. And we were close to Auschwitz.

Craig (46:19.104)

Craig (46:26.742)
Touring or vacation? Okay. Oh my god. So sorry to cut you off with that. So you guys are like You’ve really done great where you’re booking gigs all over Europe and everything

Steve Bell (46:38.227)
Well, that wasn’t a booking thing. That was, there was actually, there was a Catholic priest who was a friend of mine who was going to do some youth events over there. And he just knew he needed somebody to come do music. And so he basically said, will you come with me? And he was teaching, he was doing all kinds of stuff. And so it wasn’t like a gig, like nobody was coming out to Steve Bell gigs. They were coming to an event and I just happened to be one of the contributors.

Craig (46:52.554)

Craig (47:01.694)
Okay, I get you.

Craig (47:06.569)
The guests. Yeah, that’s cool.

Steve Bell (47:08.103)
Yeah, so we’re over there. Oh, I just pulled my nice thing out here, hold on. You there? Okay, so we’re over there. And at one point we were close to Auschwitz. And I remember saying to our host, you know, I’d like to go. I had always found the whole, all that morbidly fascinating. And so here I am, I would like to go. And he said, you really shouldn’t go.

Craig (47:29.546)
Yeah, I agree.

Steve Bell (47:35.147)
And I said, why? I’ve read the books. I know what happened there. He says, no, you don’t. Because something happens to your soul there. This is not about collecting data. He says, when you see it, it’s different than when you read about it. And I didn’t believe him. And so I went, and I just sort of went in there and walked through these haunted places. And having no idea how it would affect me, came home. I mean, it was devastating. I mean, I wept the whole place.

It is very different being there. But if you’ve been there, like in parts of it anyways, like the Nazis photographed everyone they killed. And so there’s these like eight by 10 black and whites of these gone pictures, and they’re all over the hallways and everything. You just see thousands and thousands and thousands as you kind of go down these different museumy kind of places. And so just keep that in the back of mind. So about six months later,

I sat down to the piano one day and I wasn’t thinking about Auschwitz at all. But this melody started to form and I’m not even a piano player, I’m just a hack. I can’t play the song you heard. So the song started coming and with it came like tears, like just massive emotional out, you know, and I’m like why? What is this about?

Craig (48:43.914)
All you guys say that, I’m like, you come out here with these arranges and I’m like, come on.

Steve Bell (48:58.131)
So the next day I sat down again to work on it again, like I had to stop, like the emotion was just, was really, really strong, but I didn’t have any idea what it was about. Third day I sat down, started to play it again. And just as the emotions were coming, boy, it’s like I started, you know, the, I keep on pulling my headset out. As I was starting to play, all of a sudden, bam, one of those faces, one of those black and whites was in my, and then bam, another one, then bam, another one, bam, and I started getting,

humbled by these faces that I had walked by in the, there’s your cat. And so, and also I realized, oh, this is what I’m dealing with the grief or whatever it is, the trauma of having been there. But within a few minutes, I’m literally on the floor holding my stomach, just in like, in pain, like from what I, so then I realized, oh, that’s, yeah. I kept on seeing these faces and I realized that this melody that’s coming out is trying to, my own psyche trying to work out this.

Craig (49:47.626)
You kept seeing these, you kept seeing these faces.

Steve Bell (49:57.847)
trauma event that I had experienced. So the song got finished, but a couple of nights later, I’m lying in bed and I haven’t told my wife about this experience, I haven’t told anybody. I’ve never been so overwhelmed before. We’re lying in bed and the moon was coming through the window and she’s asleep and she’s a very beautiful woman and this gorgeous light was on her face and she’s safe and she’s resting and she’s beautiful.

And I’m kind of looking at her and I’m looking at the moon and realizing that moon had been over Auschwitz about roughly 12 hours earlier. So the same moon that shone on the horror of Auschwitz is now shining on the beauty and the safety of her. And somehow that, so the song is beautiful, but you can sort of sense that there’s another thing to it. So that’s the moon over Birkenau, the same moon that’s over there shone on us and sort of realized by just by, you know, for no fault of my own or…

Craig (50:49.165)

Craig (50:53.294)

Steve Bell (50:57.139)
or blessing, I didn’t have to deal with that. Nobody I know has had that kind of trauma. And so you think even what’s happening in Gaza right now, like nobody I know personally has to deal with that kind of terror and fear and deprivation. So it’s just this weirdness about why us and not them and why them and not us. So there’s the song.

Craig (51:02.67)

Craig (51:11.266)

Craig (51:22.39)
I like that how you were able to frame that like wow, that’s the same moon that was over Birkenau 12 hours ago That was really clever that was

Steve Bell (51:28.635)
Yeah, yeah. But is it? Well, it just, it just happened. Yeah. And so then there’s the title of Moon over Broken Owl. Yeah.

Craig (51:35.914)
Yeah, great. Beautiful, beautiful track, man. Beautiful. String and piano arrangements.

Steve Bell (51:38.699)
Thank you, thank you. And the track was, yeah, Mike Jansen. So he’s my piano player. He’s toured with me for over a decade whenever I do band stuff. A brilliant piano player. And several years ago, well, 2007, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra asked if I would do a concert with them. And he was the guy that did all the scores for the symphony. Yeah, he’s brilliant.

Craig (52:00.534)
Oh, wow. The arrangements are, I mean, they’re, yeah, they’re first class, man. Really good stuff.

Steve Bell (52:05.679)
Yeah, I mean, he’s my piano player, but he’s Mike Jansen. He has his own career and his own, just did a concert with him in his band in Calgary last week to a thousand people. Like, it’s just like, he’s got his own thing going. He doesn’t need me, but we do like working together. And he is a brilliant, but he’s a jazz pianist, guy’s composer, singer, you know, but he’s got this.

Craig (52:15.719)
Oh, that’s so cool, man.

Craig (52:21.345)
Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (52:28.823)
serious, like he’s actually educated. Like he, not like me, you know, like I’m just sort of a hack that got good, but he’s actually done, but he’s done the work. He’s done the homework. He’s one of those guys. Yeah. Yeah, he’s brilliant.

Craig (52:33.826)
No, no, I know what you mean. Sure. Yeah, we did a great job on that. Next track, a good friend off your album kindness. So this is the opposite. It’s all very lighthearted, positive feeling track. What’s the backstory to that song?

Steve Bell (52:45.387)

Steve Bell (52:51.595)
Mm-hmm. That was, I had come out of a long, or I was in a long, it was actually, okay, try not to tell too long of a story. I’d experienced another trauma in my life, and that was going into West Bank in 2004. I went over to Israel, because I’d been starting to hear about, you know, what was happening to Palestinian people in that narrative. And I know this is a very tender topic right now.

But I did go into West Bank and I started to realize the horrible situation that those folks find themselves in. And it’s complicated, I’m not gonna pretend it isn’t. But a lot of innocent people suffer on that side of the story profoundly. And I came back and it kind of just, I didn’t know how to deal with it, I didn’t know how to talk about it here. And like people just hear one side of a story and think they know it and they don’t.

Craig (53:43.558)
was so politicized. That’s part of the problem. Yeah.

Steve Bell (53:44.999)
And it’s so politicized. Yeah, it’s just unbelievable. And it kind of shut me down. It really depressed me for several years. And I stopped writing. I didn’t, I wasn’t, I think for three or four years, I didn’t write anything. And yeah, yeah. And finally, a friend of mine, a woman, a singer-songwriter, you know, asked me how things were going. And I said, I think I’m done. I don’t think I have anything left of me. And she just says, no, I think you probably do. You just maybe need to get away. And she’s this kind of hippie chick that built the straw bale.

Craig (53:57.262)
three or four years.

Steve Bell (54:13.515)
cabin in southern Manitoba, you know, and so she gave me the keys and she says, it’s not fancy, there’s no internet, there’s no TV. She says, don’t take books, don’t take, you know, just, you know, go and sit. And she says, you know, don’t take booze, you know, water and bread and cheese and just stay simple and wait. And I went down for five days. Yeah, by myself, you know, by myself. And yeah.

Craig (54:15.84)
Ha ha.

Craig (54:31.254)
And you did that by yourself or with your wife. Really, that’s pretty open-minded.

Steve Bell (54:39.099)
And one day I was sitting out in the yard and as I sort of sat there and I just started feeling the goodness, the symphony of creation, and I started to notice little bugs and I started to notice birds I’d never noticed. And I started noticing the sound of the leaves in the wind. You know, a little frog goes over my feet, you know, and then there’s a little periwinkle flower. I just started noticing. And it just started to feel very,

Craig (55:07.679)
After how many days?

Steve Bell (55:09.415)
This is about the fourth day and this, yeah, yeah. And no songs had come. I was just sort of sitting there. And then I kind of sunk into a, I guess a contemplative state. I was just so gorgeous. I just sat and didn’t want to move. And I sort of felt that like my feet kind of grew into the ground and like I just sort of became part of it. And then as the sun went down at night, I just sat there literally for hours.

Craig (55:11.238)
So it was like time was almost.

Steve Bell (55:39.339)
The sun goes down, of course, then all of a sudden the moon and the stars come out. And of course, they’d always been there. It was just too bright to see. And you sort of realize how vast and gorgeous and symphonic this whole thing is. And then that song came. Yeah.

Craig (55:59.082)
You know, man, I’ve, I’ve had, you just inspire me because I’ve had periods of time in my life where, you know, I’m down about something and even my wife has said, Hey, why don’t you just go visit one of your friends or, um, do something like that. And I’ve never done it because I said, well, that’s, that’s not going to help me. But hearing this

Steve Bell (56:21.371)
Yeah, you know what, even better than going to visit a friend, you know, if you can get away somewhere where you can just, and again, it’s not, you don’t have to be like a mystic guru or anything, but just to be quiet, you know, and to be in, out in, and I’m not, like I don’t like bugs, I don’t like mosquito bites, you know, I don’t like exerting myself, I don’t like hiking, you know, but there’s something about sort of…

Having your feet on ground that’s been relatively undisturbed in an environment that’s been relatively undisturbed and being just quiet. And to realize, I mean, that’s when you realize that you’re part of something. You’re part of something way beyond anyone’s comprehension. Even the greatest scientist, even the greatest spiritual mind. You belong to this.

gorgeous cacophony, which is symphonic and all that kind of stuff. And there’s just something healing about that. And then to realize that you… Yeah, I think I took one… I did this a second time where I took a book on St. Francis of Assisi, and a song came out of that, the book and the experience. But not always. I find once you get into that state, you’re really not looking for an external input like a book. You’re…

Craig (57:17.73)
Did you even bring books with you?

Craig (57:39.422)
Yeah, that’s what I’m hearing from you. Yeah.

Steve Bell (57:41.219)
Do you know what I mean? It’s good if you’re, sometimes you sort of need it, because I’m very ADD, sometimes I just kind of need something to focus my mind. But just sort of be there and basically give yourself to the environment and let yourself become, feel the connectedness of it. Like when you, yeah, notebook, and for me, have your guitar. If the song comes, you want to have your guitar there, right? But I’ll sit there and try to write.

Craig (57:58.77)
You just had a notebook. You need a notebook with you. That’s all to jot down ideas. Yeah. Sure.

Steve Bell (58:09.639)
It’s more if it comes it comes but it doesn’t have to come because the experience itself is healing grounding It it brings some resilience and it there’s a restoration aspect to it It doesn’t mean that all your pain and anxieties go away, but there’s like, I don’t know You just you go back and it’s not you go back to the world that hasn’t changed at all but you have you you’re operating out of a different center, you’re not operating out of the

the anxiety of the modern age, out of the power struggles, you sort of realize, no, there’s a deeper benevolence, which I intuited as a child, like I told you about, that you’re part of. And that’s just a different way of looking at the world and engaging in the world. You have patience, you have empathy, you have more kindness, but you’re not trying to make it happen. It’s actually there.

Craig (58:40.941)

Craig (59:05.022)
Right, right, right.

Steve Bell (59:05.683)
you know, because you’ve had this. So I don’t know, like I don’t do it every year, but I try to make sure that at least once a year I get away for, you know, two or three days. And it feels indulgent, you know, especially since I’m away from my wife already a lot. And it’s a lot to ask, could I?

Craig (59:22.378)
Well, yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you. So you didn’t even speak. Yeah, you didn’t even speak to her, did you? Because like you said, there was no phone connection or no cell service.

Steve Bell (59:30.535)
Not that time. No, that was before. That time was before cell phones. Yeah, yeah. So you’re just gonna… Yeah.

Craig (59:34.602)
Oh, so you like literally like you give your wife a hug and a kiss at the door and said, honey, I’ll see you in five days. And then you literally, wow. Okay. Yeah. Sure. Right.

Steve Bell (59:40.843)
I’ll see you in five days. Yeah, yeah. But that was back when that was the only option. Now I do take my cell phone and I do phone every day if I do this, you know? And you don’t wanna do it all the time. I mean, you have obligations and duties and you don’t wanna leave life just to your partner to take care of everything. But if you’re gonna do output at the level that I have to or musicians have to, you’ve gotta find a place for input. Like you gotta, you know, and it…

Craig (59:57.23)
Sure, right.

Steve Bell (01:00:10.127)
Yeah, so to not create a space where the cosmos can feed you is probably just not wise.

Craig (01:00:19.122)
Okay. So man, you’ve inspired me and that, that I’m looking forward to the next time I get down or depressed, but, but at all, but, um, and it doesn’t happen a lot cause I’m a pretty positive guy in general. And I don’t, things don’t get me down really, but, um, but I’m human and I do get down once in a while. And I think next time that happens, I’m going to do that. Cause my, again, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:00:25.381)

Steve Bell (01:00:29.671)
Yeah, me too. I’m upbeat. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:00:38.631)
Okay, let me encourage you, do it before it happens. Like, do it before, preventative medicine, like go do it. Like, you know, like, I mean, I typically am not like you. Like I do it and I’m like, oh, I’m a mess. I’m depleted, I better go fill up. But a few times, a few times I’ve thought in advance, like, what if we just do it before I get to that point?

Craig (01:00:43.755)
Yeah, okay.

Craig (01:00:55.818)
Yeah, right.

Craig (01:01:02.517)
Yeah, like.

Steve Bell (01:01:02.535)
And that’s wonderful too. You kind of go and you can go sit, as long as you have the support of your business and your spouse and all that kind of stuff, you know, because you don’t want to feel guilty while you’re out there. But yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:01:08.341)
Yeah, yeah.

No, that’s probably why most of the time I didn’t go because I’m like, I’m going to go around, for me, be sitting on the beach somewhere or not even on the beach, but sitting in a relaxing, rent a small room on the beach. Yeah, right. Maybe I should do that. Yeah. Okay. This is good food for thought, man.

Steve Bell (01:01:18.473)

Steve Bell (01:01:24.187)
A little cabin somewhere. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:01:30.948)
It’s a good practice. Like all the mystical traditions, like the prayer traditions, whether it be Buddhist or Christian or Hebraic or Islam, the idea of the prayer retreat is getting away and it’s quite standard spiritual practice. And usually there’s some element of fasting. I mean, leave the booze at home, leave the toys at home. You’re there to work.

Craig (01:01:48.394)
Yeah. Okay.

Craig (01:01:55.808)
Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:01:58.603)
but it’s a different kind of work. Oh yeah, well of course you take the cigars. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I went through that.

Craig (01:02:00.25)
Right. I would bring cigars though. I can’t. Yeah, I can’t like, you know, yeah, I’m, I could leave booze. That’s not a big deal, but I gotta have a cigar. Yeah. Okay. Thank you, man. That’s a, that’s a good story. This is like therapy for me. Usually people get my guests come on like, Craig, this is very therapeutic. Like I feel like that. So thank you, man. This is like, I’m learning a lot. Um, Judy’s garden off the album. No words short.

track but man it’s really lovely this I hear the slide the Hammond B3 in the background and was that you playing two acoustic guitars over two separate tracks

Steve Bell (01:02:38.679)
No, this one acoustic guitar track, and then the slide is Joey Landreth. I think you know that, you know him. Yeah, so he just sort of came in with his Dobro and just played over top. The organ, the B3, he’s brilliant. He’s one of my favorite. I just saw the Brothers Landreth in Calgary a week ago with their new tour. It’s easily one of my top five concerts of my life. They just get better and better and better, you know? And Murray was in the band, so it was Joey, his brother.

Craig (01:02:43.346)
Yeah, I know Joey Adam on the show here. Yeah. Yeah, he’s a really good player. Nice guy, too

He’s a smart musician, good musician. Yeah.

Craig (01:03:02.055)
Really? Okay, cool.

Craig (01:03:07.395)
Oh cool those guys are all so nice yeah

Steve Bell (01:03:08.539)
Murray was a second guitar player. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Murray operates out of this studio quite a bit. He does a lot of his, yeah, you know, we sort of make it available to him and he brings a lot of his guests in here and records. But yeah, so he’s a sweetheart, yeah, yeah. And then the B3 is a guy named Brent Barckman out of Toronto. He’s just kind of a, yeah, he’s just one of the tastiest. You know, you can give an album to him.

Craig (01:03:13.821)
Oh does he?

Craig (01:03:18.974)
Oh, that’s cool. Love, he’s a lovely guy, man. He really is a sweet guy. Yeah.

Craig (01:03:29.438)
Okay, I love B3.

Steve Bell (01:03:35.815)
And you can say, and this is the thing, Brent, I want you to play on every song and I don’t wanna hear you once. And he can just pad out, not classic rock and roll B3 sounds, but he just knows how to just pad out stuff. We don’t really notice him, but man, there’s an emotional gravitas that comes. He’s brilliant. Yeah, yeah, it’s one of the most expressive instruments ever made, yeah. So that’s just the three of us.

Craig (01:03:41.678)

Craig (01:03:55.99)
That B3, it’s nothing like a B3, man. It just feels so good. Very, yeah.

Craig (01:04:06.434)
Beautiful, lovely track, man. What I had a question on that record in general, the engineering and mic placement was phenomenal. And I’m not saying the others weren’t good, but the recording on that one was just different, at least to my ears. Was it, is there a reason why or

Steve Bell (01:04:25.431)
Not that I know of. Dave Zaglinsky has done all my recording, but for a couple of projects. So I don’t know. I mean, it could have been the barometric pressure and the wood was sounding good that day, or maybe my fingernails were just… Like, it’s hard to… Like, you know what I mean. Like, some days, like, you almost can do no wrong, and other days, you can, like, nothing’s working. And that was just one of those days that just, it sounded good. There was a microphone, there was a guitar, there it was, you know? So, yeah, I know. Yeah, I wish there was a more scientific approach to how you can take a…

Craig (01:04:38.176)
Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:04:47.098)
Oh, it was really great.

Steve Bell (01:04:54.527)
previous success and replicate it, but we haven’t figured that out.

Craig (01:04:58.534)
Yeah. Uh, Steve, top three musical experiences you’ve had and what made them so memorable.

Steve Bell (01:05:06.215)
Well, I think any musical experience where I feel like a flow, like, you know, if I have a bad concert or a good concert isn’t really to me about whether I performed well or I sang on tune or I played well. It really comes down to did I forget myself and did something else kind of take over. And I can just talk about flow, like you get in the river and you float along. You know, at the end someone says, what was the third song? I don’t know.

Like, I don’t, you know, like, you know, what’s that thing you said after this? I don’t know. Like I just, you know, it’s sort of like, you know, remember when you were a kid and you had time and you could hang out with your friends till four o’clock in the morning, you talked all night long, it was the best night you ever had. And then someone says, well, what did you talk about? I don’t know. Like that really didn’t matter. And so in general, the best gigs are when the flow happens and the worst gigs are when the flow doesn’t happen. I can play perfectly and sing perfectly. But if I’m thinking about it.

Craig (01:05:35.796)

Craig (01:05:39.532)

Craig (01:05:46.058)
Yeah. Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:06:04.143)
that if I don’t at any point get into the river, I feel like I failed. So there’s

Craig (01:06:09.09)
So when you’re somehow automatically, like completely in the moment.

Steve Bell (01:06:12.731)
Yeah, yeah, you get into that moment and then you’re just running on instinct and you’re not you’re not measuring, you know, like how was that? Was that a 10? Was that a five? I don’t know, you know, half the time I don’t even like, you know, you’re not even looking at a set list, you just here’s the next song, you just kind of know what to do next. And so I’ve had several of those. But but specifically, one of the I did an album called Burning Amber. And that was the first album that I felt that was my third album, I think.

I’m with Dave and there was something about that record that just, again, flowed. I wasn’t stressed. Just everything we tried worked. And I remember listening to the, when we finished the mixes, this is the back of the day when you actually had your hands on the board. Like it wasn’t, you know, on the, you know, and even mixing was like a performance, you know, like, you know, I’m gonna boost the, you know, the snare drum here and he’s gonna boost the guitar section. He actually practiced a mix, you know, and then.

Craig (01:06:54.891)
Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:07:06.546)
Yeah, you weren’t on a screen where you could look, no, let me just have them automatically. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:07:09.039)
Yeah, you can’t save anything. You just actually have to practice your mix and then do it. And I just remember the two of us sitting here and there’s a song called Nevermind. And I just remember at the, like as it was happening, I just felt like it was enchanted, like the whole thing. So that was a major thing. Another one was the first symphony concert I did. I got asked by the Woodpeck Symphony to do a thing and that was nerve wracking. I just like, can I handle, can I?

know how to be myself on a stage with 70 people behind me, you know, all at the top of their game, you know. And there was a, from the very first note of that concert, it’s like pixie dust just came down and just became a magical evening. And I, that’ll be a life memory. Like I’ll, like on my deathbed, I’ll be remembering that one going, thank you. That’s a, that’s a moment of gratitude.

Craig (01:07:51.051)

That’s really sweet, man.

Craig (01:07:59.214)
Dude, let me tell you, that’s the most important things in life that you’re doing, you know, like, um, and I try to tell my kids that, like, if they’re, should I buy this or that? I’m like, it doesn’t matter. No, you know, and there’s nothing you’re going to buy that like when you’re, and I, sometimes I use that analogy when you’re on your deathbed, but when you’re thinking about what was good in your life, nothing’s going to ever come up. Well, that X, Y, Z that I bought, and I’m like, you’re putting

Steve Bell (01:08:11.367)
No, no. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:08:22.151)
Yeah. No.

Craig (01:08:27.658)
You’re thinking way too much about the value of the real value of this. It’s your time. You know, that’s what counts.

Steve Bell (01:08:28.032)

Steve Bell (01:08:31.335)
Yeah. But I remember a particular date I went on with my wife. And it’s like, there was the flow. And I mean, the conversation was there. And the wine pairing was perfect. And like everything just like, and you’re just like, taste this, no, you taste this. And what about, you know, all that. And you just have these nights where, yeah, you’re not making it work. You’re not working at all. Like you’re just, you’re in something. And those, boy, you don’t, those are the things you don’t forget.

Craig (01:08:39.426)

Craig (01:08:50.05)
That’s magic, man. Yeah, yeah, right.

Steve Bell (01:08:59.675)
And those are the memories that’ll sustain you if you get to have memory. Like when I have a mom who’s lost most of her memory. But I think even then though, I think those things are there, they have formed you. So even if you can’t pick up that memory, it’s still part of your makeup and that you had real beauty in your life. There was moments of real integrated gorgeousness and that could happen in a concert, that could happen.

Craig (01:08:59.814)
Oh hell no.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I’m sorry, man.

Craig (01:09:20.31)

Steve Bell (01:09:28.075)
in a conversation. That can happen to a mechanic that listens to a car and just knows exactly what’s wrong, knows if I just turn this knob, that thing’s going to hum. They don’t know why they know that. They just do like all that, you know, or the baker that just kind of knows that this time it needs a little bit more salt or a little bit less fat or whatever. And they can’t teach it. They can’t. If you write it down as a recipe, you can’t replicate it. It is what it is, you know? And so you just, those are the moments. And I think in our industry and our work.

Craig (01:09:39.202)

Craig (01:09:45.982)
Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:09:52.032)

Steve Bell (01:09:58.227)
you get moments of that. But other people do too, teachers. All of a sudden they’re teaching things they didn’t know they knew. That whole flow thing, sorry, keep on pulling up my headset, is just so magical and hard to explain, but you live for those moments, they’re the best.

Craig (01:10:17.354)
And you’ve been, how long have you been with your wife? How long have you been with your wife?

Steve Bell (01:10:19.507)
Sorry, one more time.

42 years of summer.

Craig (01:10:24.43)
Awesome, man. God bless you. That’s awesome. Man, that’s really, that’s cool. That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, you know what, man, I don’t think you survive a long-term relationship and if you’re still happy, unless you’re feeling that way, you know, otherwise it’s, it’s got to be pretty miserable actually, if you’re not feeling that way.

Steve Bell (01:10:26.267)
Yeah, yeah. She’s a pretty wonderful woman. Yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:10:37.255)
Yeah, yeah. No, she’s a room, she’s, yeah. No, there’s no, I mean, I haven’t always, like we haven’t always felt the most affectionate towards each other, like all the time, but I don’t think there’s ever been a moment where I didn’t deeply respect her. You know, she’s a good woman, you know, and a fine human being in general. And so, I mean, the respect kind of carries you through the times when the affection isn’t quite there. I mean, you just.

Craig (01:10:53.502)
Yeah, sure.

Craig (01:10:58.637)

Steve Bell (01:11:06.655)
And I’m not saying it’s not there, I’m just saying that everybody has those times. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But there’s a deep respect there that kind of carries you through until those feelings come back again and that’s always a lovely day too, yeah.

Craig (01:11:08.842)
Man, you have this life is like this, you know, as that’s just the way life is. Yeah.

Craig (01:11:21.838)
42 years, congrats, man. When we first spoke, you mentioned to me, you said something that was really interesting. You said, Craig, I’ve built a very loyal and dedicated following over the years as an independent musician. What do you attribute this to beyond the fact that your fans love what you do musically, obviously? More like the work involved, like that didn’t happen by accident.

Steve Bell (01:11:23.511)

Craig (01:11:50.478)
is what I’m saying. You had to do certain deliberate things in the building of your business or your fan base or the building of Steve Bell as an entity in music. What were some things that you did that you think helped you develop that loyalty and fan base?

Steve Bell (01:11:50.73)

Steve Bell (01:12:01.204)

Steve Bell (01:12:08.435)
Well, I think early on as my first instinct that you always kept in touch with anybody that bought anything for you, anybody that came to a concert, anybody that wrote you a check, anybody that said a kind word, like keeping email lists and even at concerts. In the early days, I remember the first, this was not a strategy, but the first, we started keeping like mail lists. This was before email.

Craig (01:12:22.178)

Steve Bell (01:12:37.863)
So we’d say to people at concerts, if you enjoyed the concert, if you wanna hear about the next one, would you give us your address? And so we started keeping these things. And then one year I started recording a bunch of Christmas songs just for friends and family. And I thought, you know, it’s not that bad. It wasn’t really that, I wasn’t thinking about it as being an album. And then Dave and I decided, why don’t we just send this out to everybody before Christmas? And so we made, I think we had, at that point, about 700 people on our little mailing list.

And so we made a five song cassette and sent it out to 700 people saying, thanks, thanks for coming to my concerts. You know, this isn’t a pro, it’s not a pro album. It was just a couple of guitars and a bass and a few like I’d say my own, like it was just very homespun. I mean, it was nice, but it wasn’t trying to win a Juno. It was just a gift, you know? And I tell you that probably did more than anything like

Craig (01:13:14.182)
Oh my God, I cannot imagine what that did for you.

Craig (01:13:28.17)
It was a gift.

Steve Bell (01:13:36.647)
We still have people that could not believe we did that. It wasn’t just a free thing. It seemed to actually matter. It seemed to be valuable. They loved it. That one, I know, but stuff that actually matters, you know? Ever. And again, it wasn’t a strategy. Like we honestly, and here’s the thing, you can’t, yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:13:46.926)
When do you get stuff for free?

Craig (01:13:51.923)
Right, but when do you get stuff like that? Never!

Craig (01:13:58.626)
Just say, hey man, we appreciate your support. Thank you. We’re gonna spend $3 of our time and money and it’s worth it for us to give it to you. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:14:05.019)
Yeah, gratitude can’t be a strategy. People sniff through that in a nanosecond. And I think if you’re going to be a public musician and you want loyal fans, boy, you better love them as much as they love you. Yeah.

Craig (01:14:08.444)

Craig (01:14:11.806)
Absolutely, man.

Craig (01:14:20.838)
You better sincerely love them. And because like what you just said, people sniff out bullshit right away. You know, you sent, you send them a, Hey, I sign up and I’ll give you my latest single for free. Well, like if you’re giving that to everybody for free and you don’t even know us, what does that mean? I mean, it’s a promo. We get it, but like, you’re better off just saying, Hey, not saying that’s not insane. Nobody’s signing up to your list to get your free single. You can go on.

Steve Bell (01:14:27.583)
Yeah, really fast. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:14:39.731)

Steve Bell (01:14:49.827)
Right. Yeah. No, no, but here’s what happens. Okay, so we started keeping a mailing list and we started, you know, we’d let people know, like we’d send them out a newsletter every year, and I’d make it funny. And, you know, there’s always an, oh, by the way, you know, if you want to buy my new record, here it is, or whatever. There’s always that piece of it. It is a promotional thing. But then what ended up happening is that in 2008, when the, you know, the, you know, the,

Craig (01:14:50.318)
friggin Apple or Spotify and get it

Craig (01:15:07.106)
Sure, of course.

Steve Bell (01:15:16.011)
finances went out when the economy crashed and all these Christian bookstores crashed. And then soon after that, everybody started going to online platforms for music. And we started losing a huge portion of our income generating world. Like, like all of a sudden there was like nothing there. We lost half of our income in a matter of about two years it all kind of came crashing down. It was unbelievable. But it also happened.

Craig (01:15:16.063)
When the economy. Yeah.

Craig (01:15:38.274)
That was like the worst recession we’ve had during our lifetime. That was brutal.

Steve Bell (01:15:44.455)
Right after that came online streaming. And so even when the economy came back, we had lost a whole income generating method, whatever. What are you going to do? And so then at that point, we have this mailing list. And here’s the thing. We were able to sort of say, hey, you know, I can’t do this.

Craig (01:15:54.585)
Right, what do you have to sell?

Steve Bell (01:16:05.767)
we can’t sort of generate the income we used to generate. If you actually like what I do and you’d like to see it continue, would you help? And people, I’ve got now people that give me 20 bucks a month. I’ve got hundreds of people who have loved what we’ve done all along and they see it as a partnership. They want other people to experience what they’ve experienced. They love me, they love their music, they want to hear Next Record. And I’ve got quite a number of people that send me a monthly donation.

Craig (01:16:23.777)

Steve Bell (01:16:35.871)
because, but it started way back the day when we sent them a cassette.

Craig (01:16:39.178)
Yeah. And I bet you you’ve had people that have been on that list since day one that are still contributing. Yeah. Let me tell you.

Steve Bell (01:16:42.931)
This is, yeah, yeah. And then of course, then of course you start meeting them at concerts, a lot of these people are now friends, you know, and then I sing at their kids’ weddings, and like it actually becomes an actual community. Like it’s, yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:16:55.478)
That’s cool. You know, um, I never understand. Well, first of all, what you did, I’ve been a marketing person for since 19, since 2000, back in the day, you know, I’ve written direct mail, I’ve written newspaper ads, you know, magazine ads and that working your list, that’s your most valuable asset. And, um, I mean, it’s great that intuitively you somehow said, well, let’s do this, because that’s magic.

Steve Bell (01:17:10.74)

Steve Bell (01:17:18.696)

Steve Bell (01:17:23.676)

Craig (01:17:25.082)
And I mean, hats off to you for doing that and for understanding that for someone who’s not a marketing person, you know, honestly.

Steve Bell (01:17:31.199)
Yeah, no, we didn’t realize at the time how important it was. It just, it was kind of a natural thing, but it’s really what’s carried us through. And it’s why we’re putting out our 23rd album when we have no debt and, you know, like, so it’s all part of it, yeah. Yeah.

Craig (01:17:34.892)

Craig (01:17:38.835)

Craig (01:17:43.798)
That’s awesome. That’s wonderful. Congratulations. What a, what a smart thing to do. Tell Steve, tell me something that you thought would be difficult to do, but in reality turned out to be easier to do.

Steve Bell (01:17:58.927)
A couple years ago, people started asking me if I’d ever give retreats. They wanted to hear my music, but they wanted more about what we’re doing, like how do you think about things? And I saw, goodness, no, I mean, I can’t do that. And finally, someone convinced me that I should do a day-long retreat, like a spiritual retreat. What have I got to say? I’m a nobody. I didn’t go to…

Craig (01:18:10.176)

Craig (01:18:21.198)

Steve Bell (01:18:24.007)
you know, theology school, like, you know, like I pretty have no business saying anything. But I was, but yeah, I did, I, so I finally did say yes. I just stressed so much of, I overprepared. I, I read books, I came up with a, you know, like a whole teaching thing and all that kind of stuff. And in the end, I’m glad I did all that work. But in the end, people just want to hang out and they just wanted to hear, like, you know, what are the nice things about getting older?

Craig (01:18:30.222)
What do you do if people want to hear it?

Craig (01:18:46.154)
Just wanna hang out, man. Ha ha ha.

Steve Bell (01:18:53.767)
is that you just naturally have something to offer and you don’t really have to think about it. You don’t really have to prepare. Not that much anyway. And that people just wanna hear what you think you know. And if you can offer it humbly, you should not say you have to think how I think. You’re just sort of saying, this is what I got after I’m 63 years old, this is what I got right now. And just offer that with an open hand like my dad would to me, what his wisdom. And people love it. So I was really, I remember I was almost

Craig (01:19:08.386)

Craig (01:19:14.218)
Yeah, right, right.

Steve Bell (01:19:23.211)
going to throw up, that people could give me fairly decent money to spend a day or two with me. I better deliver.” And realizing that all they ever wanted for me was what I’ve been giving them all along anyway. So learning to trust your own thing. Of course I do some work and of course I do some research and of course I try to really think through what I actually think is important or not. But in the end, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad. Yeah.

Craig (01:19:33.822)
Right, little PCU, man.

Craig (01:19:47.926)
That’s good, man. So do you do that annually now?

Steve Bell (01:19:51.291)
Oh, I just did one in Calgary last Saturday. I had 50 men from nine in the morning till nine at night and did four sessions and it was just really fun, yeah. So I do it two or three times a year, yeah.

Craig (01:19:57.943)
That’s cool, man.

That’s cool. That’s, that’s really cool. You know, it’s funny going back to, um, Bill, you know, saying, thank you to your fan base, you know, and I’m very, I’m a very humble like guy. Like I realized there’s a million things people could do at their time. If you want to listen to my show, man, I’m super grateful for that. You got a lot of choices out there. I went to NAMM back in 2020 in LA and

Steve Bell (01:20:24.914)

Craig (01:20:31.518)
To my surprise, people were coming over to me and saying, hey, Craig, I listened to your show. And I was like, oh my God, you know, thank you so much. And like, and I was part of me is like, why would you do that? Not like imposter syndrome, but like, you know, like, any it was.

Steve Bell (01:20:36.999)

Steve Bell (01:20:44.359)
Yeah, I know. But you know what?

Steve Bell (01:20:52.215)
Well, okay, here’s the thing though. I’ve thought about this, right? And so wherever you are, whatever stage you’re at in your gift, like so whatever stage I’m at as a guitar player, say, or as a songwriter, chances are I like work that’s better than what I do, right? And as I get better, I can actually appreciate greater work. And so the good stuff, the really good stuff is always in advance of you. You never get to the point where you think I’m now a master.

Craig (01:21:10.89)

Craig (01:21:15.317)

Steve Bell (01:21:22.459)
you, it’s sort of like, I’ll never arrive. Like, I’ll never become the great, but it’s because your catcher’s mitt for goodness is just growing, right? And so it should be that way, but it shouldn’t be imposter syndrome. That’s like, imposter syndrome would be, say, therefore I have nothing to offer, you know? But, no, but at this stage of life, you know, people like, we actually, we’re, I’m just gonna say it. We’re good at what we do, right? And we should be unabashed about that.

Craig (01:21:25.459)
Right. Yeah.


Craig (01:21:36.678)
Right, right. No, I don’t feel I have nothing off, but it was just like.

Craig (01:21:46.442)

Steve Bell (01:21:49.255)
I’m not the answer to everything. I’m not the best at the world, but I’ve put in the time. I’m good at what I do. And I don’t have to be arrogant about it. But I think I can say now, finally, I’m a decent songwriter. I’m a decent guitar player. I put on a good show. Like, you know, so it’s just, you know, but if you listen to what I listen to, you know, you’d realize I haven’t arrived and I should never arrive. Yeah.

Craig (01:21:55.65)

Craig (01:22:05.754)
Oh, dude, you’re a very good songwriter, man.

Craig (01:22:17.666)
never arrived. Yeah. But what I was gonna say is it really amazed me because there were people there that I went over to introduce myself to. A couple of people that I’m not gonna mention names that are pretty well known online that I think they had mentioned my show and I went over to thank them for mentioning the show. And I’ll never forget both of these guys did the same thing. It was like, I went, excuse me, you know, so and so my name is Craig Garber and I just started introducing myself and like they were like, yeah, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:22:19.05)

Steve Bell (01:22:30.74)

Craig (01:22:45.974)
Literally like that and then like, you know, a better offer came along. I was like, wow, how does he know? I wasn’t going to just say, Hey, I’d like you to speak at my next event and give you 10 grand or I mean, like, well, how do you be such a dick? Is what like, even if I look, you don’t have time, you’re busy. Fine. I get it. I’m not looking to become your best friend. I just want to say thank you for whatever you did. You know, it was just, I don’t get that. It’s a weird thing.

Steve Bell (01:22:55.952)
Yeah, I know.


Steve Bell (01:23:10.145)
Yeah. I know, but they’re like, yeah, but I, yeah. I know, I know, and it’s unnecessary, right? It’s just, it’s, yeah. Yeah. Like, I think a good spiritual practice in general is always the person in front of you is the most important person in the world right now. Like.

Craig (01:23:17.102)
It’s right. It’s just like, yeah, I’m not looking to exchange phone numbers and like, let’s go out with our wives. It was just to say thank you for mentioning my, you don’t know who I am. I don’t get that.

Craig (01:23:33.544)

Steve Bell (01:23:34.235)
That doesn’t mean that your grandkids aren’t who are not there or your friends are, you know, but right now this is who’s in front of me. This is who I am supposed to cherish. This is the mystery that I can actually see with my own eyes, you know, and so to attend to what’s in front of you is I think the most important thing. Of course, sometimes you have to say, hey buddy, I got to run, I got a meeting or whatever, and hopefully they, yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:23:42.701)


Craig (01:23:52.65)
Yeah, I agree.

Craig (01:23:57.254)
Totally cool. Yeah, of course. But just like, not to like, yeah, literally, the guy went, yeah, yeah. And like, shove me aside for the guy who had more value to him. And I was like, okay, like, I don’t care. It’s not personal. I mean, I didn’t really care. There’s none of my business really what’s going on. But it was just I always take note of these things. I’m like, hmm, interesting. And then, you know, I feel good. Like, I’m not like that, to be honest with you. But if nothing else, you know, you get to like, okay, well, I’m doing the right thing here, you know, but

Steve Bell (01:24:02.774)

Ew. Yeah. It’s just unnecessary. Yeah. Yeah, me too. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:24:22.009)

Steve Bell (01:24:25.451)
Well, yeah, and notice how that makes you feel and vow to never do that to someone else. I mean, it’s just like, so then that event actually becomes a gift to you. Right? Yeah, yep, yep. Noted, yeah. Don’t do that to someone else, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:24:31.737)
Of course. Yeah.

Craig (01:24:36.418)
Right. That’s and that’s how I took it. I was like, okay, cool. You know, I’m glad I, you know, I just participated in this and I got a note to self, you know. Yeah, I mean, that’s just not my nature. But like I would if I couldn’t talk, I just say, hey, excuse me, I’m right in the middle of something. Can I get back? Whatever, you know, it’s just a way of handling it. That’s all. Yeah, be kind. It’s like easy. Yeah, that’s what I really like about what you did with your fan base. You were kind and honoring and then it

Steve Bell (01:24:51.507)
Yeah, yeah. Be kind and yeah, yeah. Honor, be honoring, yeah. Yeah.

Craig (01:25:05.522)
worked. And not that you did it, it was sincere and that people picked up on that sincerity, man. And that’s what counts, you know, low points. What were some of the low points, Steve, or dark periods you’ve had to deal with in life and how did you get through them?

Steve Bell (01:25:07.099)
Yeah. It’s yeah. It counts.

Steve Bell (01:25:20.203)
Well, I mean, some emotional ones. I mean, I tend to be outwardly a cheerful person, but I actually feel things pretty inwardly. Like, I can get pretty low. And depression runs in our family. Both my mom and my dad suffered from chronic depression. I have been laid out with it. So I have those natural sort of things. I tend to be absorbed with the world’s issues, things that I have no control over.

So, it’s just sort of my nature, that’s there. But then the other thing is just those times when you just can’t see a way forward, and as a business. I remember Dave and I were doing a series of concerts out in the East Coast and we had traveled far and it was expensive to get out there and we had to think about five or six concerts in a row and nobody was there. It was like 25 people here.

Craig (01:26:03.149)

Steve Bell (01:26:17.759)
You know, it was just, you know, and, and we’re driving down the road after about the fourth, like unsuccessful commercially, um, you know, concert and just depressed. And third thing I’ve been doing this for years and years, like, do you think there’d be a breakthrough by now? And why do we have to work all the time so hard? And, and, uh, why do we have to pivot all the time? Every time you think you’ve got something down, then technology changes and you can’t sell a CD or whatever. And you know, Dave, Dave was driving down the road, we’re both quiet. And at one point it says, you know, man, I.

Craig (01:26:18.026)


Steve Bell (01:26:46.947)
He said, let’s give it another two or three months. And maybe if this doesn’t turn around, maybe we should just do something else. And I’m going, yeah, we’ll sit there. Then we just burst out laughing. What else are we gonna do? Like there is no plan B. Like they’re just, this is who we are. This is what we did. Yeah, you know, like what are we gonna do? Yeah, yeah, sort of. And it was kind of a funny moment when you sort of realized, no, that’s like, this is what we’re here to do, you know? And so let’s…

Craig (01:26:57.506)
Ha ha!

Craig (01:27:02.446)
up your ice cream store.

Craig (01:27:13.207)

Steve Bell (01:27:15.615)
Let’s be as good as we can back at home so we can be as good as we can out here. Let’s keep accounts short, let’s work hard. If we have to trim, we have to trim. But we’re here to offer the world our gifts in a good way. And that’s what we’re gonna continue to do until we can’t. So at a certain point, sir, realize this is the life you’ve been given. And so, yeah, we all suffer. Boo hoo, but.

Craig (01:27:38.743)

Craig (01:27:45.046)

Steve Bell (01:27:46.212)
You know, I mean, I don’t want to diminish anybody else’s suffering and also, I mean…

Craig (01:27:49.406)
No, no, I get it. But like, you know, you’re right, man, if you’re not prepared to suffer, you’re not prepared to be living to honestly. Yeah, right. Life’s life’s not easy.

Steve Bell (01:27:52.991)
This is, it’s…

Steve Bell (01:27:57.527)
Yeah, it is what it is, you know, and, and so you kind of have to have to take it all in. Yeah. And you also realize too, this all becomes the fodder for the work you’re going to do moving forward. Like, every event, depending on how you receive it, fashions you and forms you into a person that people want to be around or not, or want to hear, you know, and so even a negative situation, even a broken relationship, even when you’re an absolute idiot and you hurt people, to pay attention.

Craig (01:28:08.873)

Steve Bell (01:28:25.511)
grow from it and then that becomes even the negative becomes part of the positive eventually or can be yeah

Craig (01:28:29.482)
Yeah, if you make it that way, yes, it’s all up to you, which is a great thing. Thank you. Hey, I don’t want it. Let’s talk about your gear for a minute. Um, what is your go-to guitar and what other two guitars around out your top three?

Steve Bell (01:28:39.819)

Steve Bell (01:28:45.407)
Well, my go-to guitar that I play is a Stonebridge OM. And it’s a…

Craig (01:28:50.993)
Is that a Godan? Is that make stone bridge?

Steve Bell (01:28:53.831)
Nope, nope. So the guy that builds them, what’s the name? He’s from Eastern Europe there, he’s a builder. Can never think of his name, it’s a funny name. You probably know it if I, but they brand it as Stonebridge in North America. And I don’t know why, it’s a great instrument. I can’t tell you. Well, I was at a music store in Nova Scotia, and it was…

Craig (01:29:15.906)
How’d you get turned on to it?

Steve Bell (01:29:21.607)
you know, after concert, I realized my guitar cable was crackling, so I go to music store, my manager and I were gonna get a guitar cable. So he goes to get the guitar cable, I just look at guitars and I see Stonebridge. I’ve never heard of Stonebridge. So I pick it up and I started to play it and had an emotional reaction. This is my guitar. You know, but I have good, unbelievable. Yeah, like it’s just so me.

Craig (01:29:39.911)
Wow. How good does that feel though when you like connect with a guitar like that? It’s like, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:29:45.699)
And then I’m thinking it was like, you know, it was like three grand or something. I can’t justify it. I’ve got good guitars, you know, so I’m inwardly already kind of grieving that I can’t buy this guitar, you know. Well, what happened was Dave came around and the other thing is, is that it’s a business thing. So every penny I spend is half of it is his money. Right. So, cause we’re partners on all things Steve Bell.

Craig (01:29:57.194)
No, you got to change that. You got to inwardly start thinking about, I can get rid of this on reverb. My buddy wanted a… Ha ha ha.

Craig (01:30:10.657)

Steve Bell (01:30:14.387)
He comes around the corner, here’s it goes, that’s your guitar. And it’s the only time we’ve ever done this. We just bought it on the spot. And it’s been the instrument I play the most. Now, the reason why I play it the most isn’t because it’s the best guitar in all, it’s just the most well-rounded. It strums well, it finger picks well, it’s got a short delay, so for finger style, you don’t feel like you’ve got your sustain pedal down. It’s very percussive, I like it. But I have a Kevin Ryan as well, who’s a brilliant builder. I’ve had…

Craig (01:30:21.143)
That’s awesome.

Craig (01:30:36.267)

Steve Bell (01:30:43.307)
that guitar the longest. I would have to say it’s my favorite guitar of all time. It’s just been through everything. It’s just that I’m finding as my guitar, it’s a big one. Like it’s got the big sound, the massive bottom end. It’s just like when you’re in the room with it, it just feels great to play. I just sort of find that sometimes it’s a bit, it’s almost too much guitar.

And so the Stormbridge has some of that, but it also has a more sort of modest sound scape to it. And then I have, I just inherited a 1970 Martin New Yorker, which I’ve won from a studio in Vancouver that I’ve recorded at. And I just always, if I could have any guitar in the world, that’s the one I would want. And they just went out of business and they sent me the guitar. They knew how much I loved it, right? So that one,

Craig (01:31:23.049)
Oh wow.

Craig (01:31:36.79)
That is awesome. Congrats, man. That’s really cool.

Steve Bell (01:31:40.147)
That one stays home, it wouldn’t go out. And again, it wouldn’t do everything well, but for the stuff that it’s good at, it’s just like butter, it’s such a beautiful instrument. Like if you know the guitar, it’s just a tiny little, I mean, it was made for people like, it’s sort of for, it’s kind of for like, Joan Baez used to play one. It’s kind of, I don’t wanna say this, but it’s kind of the chick guitar. Like it’s small.

Craig (01:31:42.336)

Craig (01:31:51.554)
That’s nice, man.

Craig (01:31:55.43)
I don’t know the…

Craig (01:32:05.216)

Steve Bell (01:32:06.663)
Right? And it’s a kind of a folky thing that’s not meant to be too boomy or whatever. It could be the closest thing to perfect balance. It’s so gorgeous. But they’re small so guys don’t wanna play them. You know? Yeah. And who knows what conversations it’s had, you know? But it is really one of the most beautiful sounding guitars and playing, it’s got a short scale, so it really feels really gentle on the fingers. It’s just a really lovely. So that’s the one I pick up.

Craig (01:32:14.679)
That’s nice.

Just that it’s 1970, there’s something special about picking up an instrument that’s that old, man.


Steve Bell (01:32:36.431)
all the time when I’m at home. You know, that’s the one that makes me wanna play. The other two are gorgeous guitars, but they’re like my work guitars, and this one is, yeah, yeah. They’re all bright. I mean, if I got stuck with only one of them, I don’t know which one I’d pick, and I’d be happy with any one of those three. Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:32:37.59)
That’s cool.

Craig (01:32:45.346)
You’re a work guitarist. Do you have a plan?

Craig (01:32:53.866)
With either one, yeah. Do you ever play electric?

Steve Bell (01:32:58.279)
Yeah, I sound like an acoustic guy playing electric. It just, like, it’s just, I’ve had a Strat, I’ve got a Tele now, and I never really touch it. And every once in a while I pick up a new pedal thinking that’s gonna do something for me and stuff. Yeah, now I play electric, you know, nah, no, no. It just doesn’t sound right when I’ve got it in my hands. Yeah.

Craig (01:33:02.233)
What are you playing? You’re playing probably a Strat or a Telly I guess.

Craig (01:33:09.396)

Craig (01:33:13.906)
Now I’ll play electric. Nah, not really.

Craig (01:33:22.452)
I get that man. I totally get it. Yeah

Steve Bell (01:33:23.355)
Oh, one other guitar I have, just want to say is, there’s a Canadian builder named Josh House. And I’ve got one of his as well. He’s a really nice builder. That one just is a bit more of a compressed sound and so it has lesser possibilities, but what it’s good at is great at, yeah. So, yeah.

Craig (01:33:28.674)
Josh House.

Craig (01:33:41.302)
Very cool, man. Hey, do you have a worst gig ever story?

Steve Bell (01:33:47.675)
Yeah, yeah. Back in my bar days, I was in this jazz fusion band and we got booked at a military base to play the dance hall. And whoever booked us had no idea that we were original band. And, oh, it was awful. They thought it was a dance, it was supposed to be, like we get, this isn’t a club, this is a dance hall. It’s Friday night and these people are out there with their sweethearts.

Craig (01:33:48.642)
Tell me.

Craig (01:34:03.583)
Oh my god, they thought a cover band was showing up.

Steve Bell (01:34:14.655)
They want to dance, they want to hear the music that they love. And within two or three songs, it started to get a little hostile. And so and then by the end of the set, they were they were doing spitballs through big pens at us like, you know, and you get ping, ping. You know, by the middle of the second set, there was a guy up there with his hand around my saints, you know, threatening that if we didn’t start playing something that they knew and liked, there would be trouble. And we started.

Craig (01:34:23.426)
Was it like?

Craig (01:34:28.506)
Oh my god, no.

Steve Bell (01:34:43.635)
We start like, I remember my guitar player started doing da da, you know, spend the last year in Rocky Mountain Way. Couldn’t get, and I didn’t know the words, I knew the melody, and so I’m just phonetically singing this song like, da da, as long as you end up with ire, da da, ire, you’re gonna be fine, right? And so we did that, the place went nuts, so that was the best thing. Then we started making up like disco-y songs on the spot. You know, the bass player would just start with the

Craig (01:34:50.208)
Oh, right, right.

Craig (01:35:02.092)

Steve Bell (01:35:12.492)
we’d all fall in to a chord progression. And then I just started making that melodies and nonsense lyrics on the spot, but it was kind of in the zone that they wanted. We survived the night, but it was awful. And I was actually afraid. Yeah. Oh man. Yeah.

Craig (01:35:24.482)
That’s scary, man. Like a Blues Brothers. They’re throwing bottles. Hey, give me your top three desert island discs, no particular order and just for this moment because obviously that changes.

Steve Bell (01:35:40.571)
Yeah, I thought about this. And thanks for sending me the questions in advance, because that’d be a hard one to answer. But almost anything by Colburn. So I’d take his latest one, Bruce Colburn’s new Osano Moon. I think it’s at 78. I think it’s one of his best records. I’d probably take Emmylou Harris’s Angel Band, which is a bluegrass. That changed my life. I mean, the harmonies and the playing are so amazing.

Craig (01:35:44.866)
That’s a tough one, man.

Steve Bell (01:36:05.723)
And it’s not one of her big albums, just bluegrass gospel, like hardcore bluegrass. But, you know, okay, the name’s going on me already. And it was brilliant. The other one weirdly would probably be David Bowie’s Black Star. I love that record so much. And I…

Craig (01:36:22.13)
Really? That’s in a very eclectic record. I love that record too, but it’s not like Bowie really. It’s not mainstream Bowie, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:36:29.127)
It’s out there. Yeah, it’s out there. And I’m normally not that kind of guy, but the first time I heard it, I went out of my mind. I just thought it was one of the most great, I mean, it’s dark. I mean, it’s not, you know, yeah. And it was the album that he wrote when he was dying and he was the only one that knew, the band members didn’t even know. So there was this, and it’s sort of got his one foot in the nether world and this sort of this dark mystery and the other side is this sort of grief piece. And there’s just something about it. I don’t know.

Craig (01:36:40.278)
Very dark, yeah. Well, he was dying. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:36:58.123)
don’t know what it is, I just love the record, I love the playing, I love the arrangements. Whenever I put on the first song, that’s it, I know I’m in for an hour, I have to listen to the whole album. I can never listen to one song, I have to listen to the whole, it feels to me like one piece of work. And you’ll never hear anything from me that sounds like I’ve been listening to that. Right, it’s not my way, but I’m enchanted by it somehow. And if I couldn’t have those, I would, oh, go ahead.

Craig (01:37:01.675)
That’s a beautiful record.

Craig (01:37:09.166)
I’m gonna listen to it later today. It’s been a while. Yeah, it’s very it is like that.

Craig (01:37:18.446)
Hmm. No, it’s not your thing at all, at all. I’ve had almost, I think, no, God.

Steve Bell (01:37:27.527)
I said if I couldn’t have those, I’d take Alison Krauss’s, what’s it called, New Favorite or something like that. I just love the sonics, I love the playing, the delicacy of the musicianship and how they interplay. I just find it just absolutely magical. I think it’s really worth listening to over and over and over again.

Craig (01:37:48.022)
You just I’m going to listen to Darkstar again later today. I’ve had almost I think I’ve had every musician who played on that record with Bowie on the show, and all of them were like in awe of doing that record. They were all pretty blown away.

Steve Bell (01:37:59.683)
Oh man, I would love to talk to one of them about what that was like. Like what did they hear? How did these songs, like what, you know, like how does that start off? You know, like I just find it just amazing. And what great players they are too. Every everybody on there is like, wow. Yeah. That’s a magical record for sure.

Craig (01:38:10.646)
Yeah, it’s a yeah, really good, really.

Craig (01:38:17.962)
Alrighty. Tell me the strangest or most unexpected thing that’s ever happened.

Steve Bell (01:38:26.087)
I think the most unexpected thing was when I got a call from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra asking if I could do a concert with them. I think when I first… because I used to play clubs and I’m known around Winnipeg from those days. I sort of assumed they wanted me to do a cover thing like Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins. I used to do that stuff, some sort of memory lane.

thing. And I said, you know, I’m so honored. I said, but I’m kind of busy and I’ve got a lane now and that would be a lot of work for one concert. You know, it’s not what I do, you know? And they said, no, we want it to be Steve Bell songs. And this is a secular organization, you know? And I said, have you heard my music? And I said, it’s pretty Christian. I mean, I hope it’s not annoyingly so, but it is what it is. And they said, oh no, like

Craig (01:39:18.346)
It is what it is, it doesn’t matter.

Steve Bell (01:39:19.399)
Yeah, yeah, and they just said, well, no, symphony music and sacred texts, there’s like, there’s, you know, that’s fine. And that was a big surprise. And then I thought there’s no.

Craig (01:39:29.098)
You were just like, no, I need more convincing that you actually want my song. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:39:32.835)
Yeah, it just didn’t make sense to me, you know? And then it ended up being that when, and then Mike Jansen did those scores, which became that album that you heard, Symphony Sessions. And I’ve gone on now to do about 35 symphony concerts across North America since. And that was, okay, that was something that happened to us that was not on the radar, we didn’t plan it. It was, it came out of nowhere. Other things have happened because we strategize and plan, but that was just sheer gift. I had no idea.

Craig (01:39:39.647)

Craig (01:39:47.17)
That’s so cool.

Steve Bell (01:40:03.191)
And it’s been lovely. Like, yeah, we didn’t work for that. Yeah, it just, it was like, right. Yeah, we didn’t plan for it.

Craig (01:40:03.402)
Aren’t those the best things that come along though? Yeah. When it’s like, yeah. No, you worked for it. You just didn’t work. You know, it’s like, uh, w why do some doctors get to charge $10,000 or $40,000 for a heart surgery and the other ones get to charge, you know, seven. Well, there’s the reason, you know, you worked for it. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:40:16.987)
Yeah, yeah, you did work for it, I suppose, yeah, but it was certainly a surprise. And I didn’t know, like, can I carry a concert in front of like 70 brilliant music? Like, I could just, but it worked, it worked great. And those, yeah, and those have been highlights, you know, those would be deathbed memories for sure, yeah.

Craig (01:40:38.166)
Well, obviously, yeah, if you’ve done 35 of them, yeah.


Craig (01:40:46.702)
Awesome. Hey, tell me a fun fact not many people know about you.

Steve Bell (01:40:52.439)
I think, well, I don’t know, I’m shy. I’m pretty gregarious on stage and all that, but I’m actually essentially a shy person. When I walk into a room, I’m uncomfortable if, you know, I get, I mean, I want the attention in the sense that I want my business to do well, and so I’m glad if people think that I’m important, I guess, but I don’t like it, you know.

Craig (01:41:12.024)

Right. It’s not about you. It’s about what you’re doing.

Steve Bell (01:41:17.939)
Well, I have ego. I’m not saying I don’t suffer from ego. And I certainly do it as much as anybody else. But there’s a shyness in my inside. When I was playing clubs, for 10 years, I didn’t say a word almost. I never talked. Yeah, and I’m known now as a storyteller. And that wasn’t that at all. That sort of came out over the years. But yeah, I had to fight shyness a little bit. I mean, that’s not a dark secret. But you know.

Craig (01:41:30.795)

Craig (01:41:43.894)
Yeah. Well, congrats for doing a good job.

Steve Bell (01:41:47.979)

Craig (01:41:49.491)
Most important lessons you’ve learned from getting older.

Steve Bell (01:41:53.931)
I would say nothing matters and everything matters.

Steve Bell (01:42:02.)
You know, like whatever happens today, bad news, good news, you know, it’s not the end of the story. We have no idea what it means. So it doesn’t matter. But it all matters importantly. Do you know what I mean? So to pay attention, again, I think, do you know the name Simone Vey? She’s a French philosopher.

Craig (01:42:07.042)

Craig (01:42:12.023)

Steve Bell (01:42:23.483)
And yeah, so last century activist, a bit of a mystic, you know, but her whole thing is she’s fresh, she attend, you know, attend to what’s in front of you. What’s the thisness of the moment? What’s the thisness of the human being? What’s the thisness of that lake or rock formation? You know, and how you kind of, in a sense to impregnate the other with your complete attention.

and you realized how sacred every moment, every molecule, every engagement, every dialogue is. At the same time, no one’s gonna remember most of it. A few years after I’m gone, there’s gonna be very few people that are gonna remember. It is what it is, but it’s all been sacred as well. So nothing matters, everything matters. Yeah, I think, yeah.

Craig (01:43:04.868)

Craig (01:43:16.702)
Everything matters. Yeah, I like that.

What do you like most about yourself?

Steve Bell (01:43:26.169)

Steve Bell (01:43:30.219)
That’s really hard. I think I’m a lover. I think I honestly…

love things and love people, and at my best that’s without any personal need attached to it. I mean, that’s not always, but I think I actually do love what I see for the most part. I think that’s a good trait. And I think I’m somewhat affable. I think I’m reasonably likeable. Again, not all day, every day, but you know what I mean? So I think those are good qualities, but I think also, you know what? I’ll tell you what.

Craig (01:43:46.026)
Yeah. See? Yeah.

Craig (01:43:59.555)
You’re like convincing me.

Steve Bell (01:44:07.839)
Everything that I love the most about Steve Bell requires someone else for it to be true. I’m a son. I need my parents to be a son. I’m a father. I need my kids. I’m a grandfather. I need my grand, I’m a husband. I need my wife. I’m a neighbor. I’m a friend. I’m a public musician. Everything that I love about Steve Bell requires someone else for it to be true. And I feel that in my bones all day, every day.

Craig (01:44:12.453)
Oh, okay. Interesting.


Craig (01:44:22.603)

Craig (01:44:32.034)
So maybe that’s what you love most about yourself is that everything you do is connections or something like that.

Steve Bell (01:44:41.343)
Yeah, yeah, I think I could say truthfully, what I love about myself is Alfa-Marie Bell, Nancy Bell, Nitraub, Jesse, Micah, Sarah, and my neighbors and her friends. I think I love that about myself. I think, because that’s what constitutes really who I am ultimately, yeah.

Craig (01:44:55.062)
Your family. Yeah.

Craig (01:45:02.466)
Gotcha. Very cool, man. Oh, this is good. Tell me your best childhood memory.

Steve Bell (01:45:10.315)
Hmm. I mean, the one that just pops to mind is for Christmas one year, mom and dad got me one of these models, but it wasn’t a plastic, it was a wood model of a caravan. It was very complicated and it was pieces of wood and cloth and metal and kind of an old western sort of caravan thing and it had wheels that turned and swung and it was like, when I first looked at it, I think it was like seven or eight.

And I thought, I can’t do this. And then my dad says, no, I bought it so we could do it. And then my dad bought me a gift that required him to be part of it. Like he bought it so we could do something. I just remember. And then working with my dad on that, that was just fun. And then in the end, it just, and because my dad who worked with tools and all that kind of stuff, it ended up looking fantastic.

Craig (01:45:45.743)
Oh man, that’s like the magic words.

Craig (01:45:53.679)
Yeah, that’s really sweet.

Craig (01:45:59.006)
Yeah, that’s a cool thing.

Steve Bell (01:46:07.039)
and then I’d hear him brag to my mom, look what Steve did, you know, and thinking that I, you know, and in my whatever, you know, sort of half thinking that, you know, I was an important part of this, which I was but I wasn’t. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:46:17.142)
That’s a cool experience. Yeah, that’s good, man. That’s really good. Has your life been different than what you’d imagined?

Steve Bell (01:46:27.003)
Yeah, entirely. Yeah. I thought I was going to be a high school band teacher. Like, I played trumpet and played saxophone. I picked up later, but through high school, I was in the high school band. I was a pretty decent trumpet player and I was going to go to college and become a high school band teacher. That’s what I was going to do. And then what happened was I kind of had a bit of a depression episode in the end of grade 12. I was accepted to a music school.

Craig (01:46:36.407)

Craig (01:46:39.98)

Steve Bell (01:46:56.931)
that fall and I just couldn’t go. I was not in mental good shape. So I phoned the trumpet instructor of the university who had sort of recruited me. And I said, I can’t come this year, I’ll come next year. And he said, that’s fine, you know, sometimes you just need a break. And that was the year I started playing clubs. You know, just basically the past time. And then that just became my life. And so, yeah, so yeah, now I’d say, no, this is not the life I thought I was gonna have at all.

Craig (01:47:13.952)


Craig (01:47:26.528)
Interesting. Do you have any hobbies outside of music?

Steve Bell (01:47:30.679)
I wouldn’t call them hobbies. I mean, I love to read. If there’s one thing I do a lot that’s outside, but I don’t even consider it outside of music though, because I have to read to write. So when I’m reading, I do it because I would choose to if I didn’t have to, but I also know that I have to read in order to write lyrics. And so I don’t have anything I would say that has a hobby that’s divorced from, like it seems like everything I do is connected to.

Craig (01:47:43.063)

Steve Bell (01:47:59.151)
you know, my vocation as a songwriter. But I don’t play golf for, you know, if I have a hobby, if I have a hobby, I’d say it’s watching hockey with my wife. Like we love to watch hockey together. I call that a hobby, I suppose, yeah.

Craig (01:48:00.578)
Sure, yeah, sure.

Craig (01:48:05.438)
No, you’re playing guitar. Yeah.

Right. Is that a Canadian thing? Like you can’t really be Canadian unless you watch hockey.

Steve Bell (01:48:15.615)
Well, we weren’t hockey watchers till COVID. And then, you know, we got locked down and then we started watching hockey because we were home and had nothing else to do. And then we started really loving it. And now it’s a thing. I would say it’s a thing that we do. Like we talk about hockey, we watch hockey, we make time for hockey, we go to hockey games, we have hockey jerseys, yeah. Yeah, so, and it’s kind of nice because it has nothing to do with her vocation. It has nothing to do with mine. It’s kind of a…

Craig (01:48:19.259)
Oh really?

Craig (01:48:28.126)
Now it’s a thing. That’s cool.

Craig (01:48:34.288)
That’s really cool. That’s nice, man.

Craig (01:48:41.538)

Steve Bell (01:48:42.599)
something we could both come to from a different point and meet at this place. So it’s fun. It’s no stress. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I’m not responsible for them getting to the cup, right? Yeah.

Craig (01:48:45.718)
And it’s no stress. Yeah, it’s one of those just like no stress things is like, yeah, and like you’re not both mental hockey fans. Like if they, you know, if your team gets in and Charles doesn’t, this is a fun thing that you do together, yeah.

Steve Bell (01:49:01.219)
No, yeah. Yeah, it’s really fun. Yeah, it’s a lovely, that’s a lovely part of our later married life that I would never have seen coming, because I’m otherwise not a sports guy, yeah.

Craig (01:49:08.374)
Yeah. It’s funny because I used to watch basketball a lot, years ago in the 90s when which is the last time the Knicks were in the playoff, you know, and I would watch back because I’m from New York City. And because my younger son’s a jock. And so he would, you know, he started and then we started to watch. So we’ve gone through stuff like that. It’s kind of cool when you do that, you know, it is nice to do that. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:49:22.816)

Steve Bell (01:49:28.807)
Yeah. Yes. Yeah, it is fun. Yeah. Yeah, I love it.

Craig (01:49:35.15)
toughest decision you ever had to make or most difficult thing you had to do.

Steve Bell (01:49:40.679)
I think the most difficult things for me ever is, and we all experience, when you have to let a friendship go, something becomes toxic or, those are the hardest things, those just feel like failures to me. Or sometimes you have to let a friendship or relationship go and this sounds so bad, because you just don’t have time. And,

Craig (01:50:02.578)
No, you don’t have time for toxicity.

Steve Bell (01:50:05.119)
No, but even sometimes you don’t like, like there’s just only so many hours in the day, you know, and you have your work and you have your family and all that kind of stuff. And then there’s somebody who wants to be and that under other circumstances wants to be like a daily friend and you can’t do it. You just, it’s just not there, you know? And so I’ve had a couple of those, you know? And so when you have to, like, it’s not like I phone up somebody and say, I’m letting you go now. You know, that’s not, but.

Craig (01:50:21.718)

Craig (01:50:32.7)
Hey, I just wanted to give you an official notice you’re done.

Steve Bell (01:50:35.311)
Yeah, yeah. But when you sort of had to decide, I can’t nurture this relationship and it’s got nothing to do with valuing it, it has nothing to do with the other person. It’s just, it’s not that… And those are what it comes down to when you come up to your limits. And then especially as you get older, you got to set boundaries. And also the older you get too, like I just don’t have the emotional energy I had 20 years ago. Yeah. You got less time. Yeah.

Craig (01:50:51.362)
Man, you gotta set boundaries. You got…

Craig (01:50:59.09)
you get less tolerance for bull because you got less time. You better times your most valuable asset. You can make more money. You can’t make more time and you know, hell yeah.

Steve Bell (01:51:04.871)
Yeah, boy, that’s just really, really true. So I find that hard. I’m a people pleaser. I hate being a disappointment to anybody, which is my superpower and it’s also my curse. And so those are the kinds of things I find the hardest is relational decisions.

Craig (01:51:13.491)
I understand that, yeah.

Craig (01:51:17.527)

Craig (01:51:23.422)
Yeah, I get it. I get it. Just a couple of questions left. And thanks for everything. You’ve been it’s been such a joy to talk to you, man. And I appreciate you being so forthcoming. Thank you very much.

Steve Bell (01:51:31.471)
Oh, that’s very mutual. It’s just really nice to have a lovely interview that feels thoughtful. It’s part of why you’re successful, right, is because most of us don’t get this kind of interview. So thank you. Yeah.

Craig (01:51:36.963)
Ha ha.

Craig (01:51:43.374)
Well, thanks and thanks for saying that’s kind. Best advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you.

Steve Bell (01:51:51.955)
My dad on his deathbed, yeah, he was suffering really hard. He had a bad cancer and I’m, yeah, it was awful. Thank you. And to watch my father suffer was brutal. And I remember being by his bed and he’s just, as he breathes, he’s shuddering in pain. And I’m kind of in panic and I’m going, dad, let’s go online, maybe there’s some.

Craig (01:51:54.69)
What do you say?

Craig (01:52:00.898)
So sorry, man.

Craig (01:52:13.36)

Ugh, so sorry.

Steve Bell (01:52:17.875)
some doctor in South America that we can fight, like whatever, like maybe there’s an alternative thing else. You know, we could sell the house, we could sell cars, like this is your life, you know, my dad just looked at me. He said, Steve, he said, go away and make you peace with powerlessness.

Craig (01:52:33.042)

Steve Bell (01:52:34.615)
Yeah. And then he said, it’ll go much better for you. And then he said, as an addendum to that, he says, and by the way, he said, I’m not scandalized by suffering. And he said, some of the most beautiful things have happened to me in these last months because of my suffering. He says, people touch me that have never touched me. People tell me they’ve loved me that have never told me they’ve loved me. People kiss me that have never kissed me before. And then he said…

Like who wouldn’t wish this on their best friend? And he didn’t mean like who wouldn’t wish suffering, you know, but he was a guy that like, yeah, this has unleashed tendernesses that wouldn’t have happened, you know? So, I mean, that changes how you look at things, you know? Like when someone you love, you know, and the authority of that is that they set it in the midst of suffering, right?

Craig (01:53:07.543)
Yeah, but the joys.

Craig (01:53:26.858)
That comment, go away and make your peace with powerlessness. You know, I was always a guy that was very willful my whole life because I had to be. I grew up in a sketchy environment and everything was on me and I didn’t, I had no guidance about anything. So I just knew, okay, something’s going to happen. I got to make it happen. The problem is when you grow up.

Steve Bell (01:53:44.416)

Craig (01:53:50.394)
nobody’s there to tell you like, Hey man, you don’t have to act like that anymore. Things will happen naturally if they’re supposed to. So I never learned that lesson years later in my fifties, probably only in the last five to six years, I met a guy and he got me to work this program. It’s called adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families. It’s a 12 it’s based on a 12 step program and

We became, we worked with each other and he said something to me that was along this line. And this literally changed my life. He said, Craig, you know, don’t be part of the results committee. He said, just do the footwork because once you’ve, he said, once you surrendered, then you realize that you’re not in control. There’s a higher power in control of you anyway. And nothing in my life has changed it as profoundly as that.

Steve Bell (01:54:32.023)

Steve Bell (01:54:39.911)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:54:48.246)
because all of a sudden I didn’t have this million pound weight of the world on me to make everything happen. I said, you know what? I’m going to give this up to you. Whatever you think I should do, if it’s a success or failure, I’m good with it, but I can’t do this on my own. I can’t make all this happen anymore. I’m really good at doing the, I’m so welcoming to just do the footwork.

Steve Bell (01:54:48.573)

Steve Bell (01:54:56.299)
Right. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:55:10.047)

Steve Bell (01:55:14.171)
Yeah, but to take that, I mean, the whole Western modern project has been about controlling outcomes, right? I mean, that’s, you know, that’s what we want to do. And so we colonize and we do all kinds of things to control the outcome and the damage that ends up happening from that and the exhaustion and the breach of relationships. Yeah, your stress machine and the breach of covenant relationships, you know, what we’ve

Craig (01:55:22.075)

Craig (01:55:35.989)
And you’re a stress machine.

Steve Bell (01:55:43.559)
or whatever in the name of outcome control. And now, of course, we’ve got this huge climate crisis and all this, because we’re trying to manage it. And so I think the 12-step spirituality, which my father loved, by the way, he would say that if every church just used that as sort of a collective spiritual discipline, it would be a different world. Yeah.

Craig (01:55:47.403)

Craig (01:56:02.696)
It’s phenomenal, spirituality wise.

Craig (01:56:10.75)
everybody be so more mellow and so chilled out and so not in anybody else’s business and like just taking care of your own stuff, you know.

Steve Bell (01:56:13.553)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so it’s about surrender, it’s about honesty, it’s about confession, yeah, and making repair. Yeah.

Craig (01:56:21.995)

Craig (01:56:26.686)
Yes, making amends and it was just, this I identify more with this and like almost anything in life, go away and make, and it’s funny because I was always the guy in the family that was like the most uptight. And now I’m like the most mellow and I’m watching everybody else and I’m like, man, you guys need to chill out. And they’re like, you know, says, right, you haven’t.

Steve Bell (01:56:42.484)

Steve Bell (01:56:46.043)
Yeah. You of all people can’t say that. Yeah.

Craig (01:56:54.11)
But I am now because I’m told like I’m really and it’s it and it’s opened me for to become much more spiritual. Everything good in my life has come as a result of that comment of just like, Oh my god, thank you. You know? Yeah, man.

Steve Bell (01:57:00.851)

Steve Bell (01:57:04.331)

Steve Bell (01:57:08.407)
Okay, so if I could do this to you, my favorite Bible verse, and I know you didn’t ask, but in the Old Testament, there’s this… The prophet Isaiah has this experience where he gets whisked up to heaven and sees what happens there and then comes back and sort of says, this is what I saw. But it starts with the phrase, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw God high and lifted up. And I… Like, who’s King Uzziah? Why is that important? Why even document that?

Craig (01:57:13.875)
No, no, no.

Steve Bell (01:57:36.991)
And this one commenter said, there’s another way of saying, finally, when all false claims to authority are silenced, you see God, right? And it’s that surrender piece. Like, this is not the boss of me, this is not the boss of me, this is not, I don’t have control. All those false claims to authority, all those false claims to power, finally, the spiritual work is just to tell them to sit down and shut up. And then you can actually see what’s there.

Craig (01:57:46.59)
Right. Yeah.

Craig (01:58:03.128)

Steve Bell (01:58:06.215)
all along and it’s a lot easier. You know, yeah.

Craig (01:58:07.231)

Craig (01:58:11.65)
I mean, Steve, my life is infinitely better once I switched over to that. And it was like such a welcome thing. And I was like, yeah, I don’t need to be part of the results committee. And I’m good with what, because I’ve had successes. It’s, it’s a great phrase because look, I’ve had successes. I’ve had failures and I worked equally hard. My work has nothing to do with the, I mean, it does an extent, like if you don’t do the work, you’re not going to get anywhere, but

Steve Bell (01:58:15.475)

Steve Bell (01:58:21.031)
Yeah, I like that phrase. That’s a good phrase. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:58:37.588)

Mm-hmm. Yep, yep, yep.

Craig (01:58:40.678)
Sometimes shit doesn’t work. And instead of saying, well, you failed. It’s like, well, that wasn’t meant to be. Let’s go on to the next project. You know,

Steve Bell (01:58:47.687)
Yeah. Or that just becomes part of the fabric of how I make sense of life. Yeah, it doesn’t matter. It can all be marshalled into the next growth or the next thing. Yeah.

Craig (01:58:55.193)
It doesn’t matter. Yeah.

Craig (01:59:03.894)
The next thing, yeah, whatever, yeah. That was so great that your dad said that to you on his deathbed. What a wonderful, wonderful thing to say, man. You said a lot of great, your dad was like a, you know.

Steve Bell (01:59:09.219)
Yeah. My dad, if you see, if you see that, if you see that book, shit, my dad said, it’s a funny book about some guy who’s got a redneck dad, whose dad just said ridiculous things. And so it’s, yeah. And, and it’s, and so it’s all about these ridiculous racist or, you know, you know, whatever, you know.

Craig (01:59:18.338)

Craig (01:59:22.222)
Shit my dad said, I have to check that out.

Craig (01:59:31.306)
Shit my dad said.

Steve Bell (01:59:31.339)
things that the father said, or just dumb. But I’d like to write that book too, but just do all these wisdom sayings from my dad. My dad was full of those things, just these one-liners that kind of went, oh my, there’s a bunch of them.

Craig (01:59:40.032)

You know what I started doing? I started putting together this little, um, like, I like just, I called it life’s instruction book for my kids, just like the most important lessons I’ve learned. It’s not going to be like a book. It’s just going to be a few pages, but I just want them to have that. And I’m going to give, I’m not going to wait till I’m dead from the gun once I’ll give it to them. And once it’s done, you know, just so that they could have. So if, when I am gone, maybe there’ll be something in there. They could, when they’re having some problems. Yeah.

Steve Bell (01:59:53.159)
Yeah, good idea. Yeah.

Steve Bell (02:00:02.984)

Steve Bell (02:00:08.355)
Oh, do it. Yeah, yeah, do it. You never know. Like, I wish I would have written down more things my dad said, because there’s a bunch of them. And of course they get lost if you don’t repeat them on a regular basis, you know? Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what my friends used to call them in high school. They’d say, how’s Yoda? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig (02:00:15.783)
Oh, this is…

Yeah, your dad was like Yoda. This was really good. Very good, man. Yeah. I believe it. Hey, last question. What has been the biggest change in your personality over the last 10 years? And has that change been intentional or a natural part of aging?

Steve Bell (02:00:39.187)
Well, I think, well, you should probably ask my wife or my manager, you know, but however able I am to be self-reflective, I think I’m settled down a lot more. Like I think I’m less anxious. You know, we’re doing a kitchen renovation right now that would have just eaten me alive, you know, 20 years ago, you know. It’s going over cost or whatever, we’ll be fine. Like I think part of it is kind of like you, like things are what they are, you’ll get through them.

not without pain, not without suffering, not without damage, but you’ll still get through them. So I think part of me is more like what we’ve just been talking about, less trying to be the results committee and trying to do the work of peacefully engaging with what’s in front of me. But from someone said, I forget who it is, it’s probably someone very famous, but find inner peace and thousands of people around you will as well. And in the end, the greatest gift, I think,

Craig (02:01:19.979)

Craig (02:01:25.677)

Craig (02:01:33.762)

Steve Bell (02:01:37.271)
we have to offer the world is any piece that we can find internally. And if you can operate out of that, it just brings the temperature down. People could be more reasonable. Limbic systems that are charged up can kind of relax. And I think that’s what’s happening right now in North America with politics and all. The limbic system is just collectively on sky high. And so we’re all in… Yeah.

Craig (02:01:50.003)
Yeah, for sure, man.

Craig (02:01:59.91)
Oh, this place is like everybody’s on eggshells no matter where you are, what side you’re on.

Steve Bell (02:02:03.719)
You know, and nobody’s reasonable. I was just talking to this doctor the other day, as a friend of mine, who’s done a lot of work in brain science. And he says, it’s really funny. He says, when the limbic system gets activated, it’s that fight or flight thing, right? And it floods your body full of adrenaline, and so that you can have the energy to do whatever it is you figure out what you should do. He says, but then it sends cortisone. He says, what cortisone does is it shuts down the…

Craig (02:02:17.868)

Steve Bell (02:02:31.463)
So the empathy sides of your brain, because when that person is charging at you with a knife and that crazed look in their eye, this is not the time to be wondering if they had an unhappy childhood. Yeah, which is an important thing, right? But he says, culture right now, our collectively, our limbic system is up. And so we’re in fight or flight and we’re not being empathetic or analytical. And so when people are in that stage,

Craig (02:02:40.498)

Steve Bell (02:02:59.979)
This is not the time to have heavy debates or tell them that they’re stupid because they’re voting the wrong way or whatever. The thing to do is to bring the temperature down, be at peace. Cause if we can be at peace with each other, even those that we almost violently disagree with, you can get a breath. All that stuff can settle down and we can actually possibly start actually talking and actually dialoguing rather than yelling at each other.

So at this point in my life, I think even with my music, when I’m doing concerts and stuff, like even Bruce Colburn in his last tour, like he’s doing none of those angry songs anymore. He won’t do them. Cause like he’s saying, this is, yep, people are too, and he says, I can’t trust, I’m not gonna feed that. And so he’s not gonna sing Rocket Launcher. He’s not gonna sing these songs that we all went, yeah. You know, and, you know, against the man, whoever that is, and he’s now.

Craig (02:03:43.081)
People are too charged.

Steve Bell (02:03:56.287)
His fists are down and he’s more wooing us to peace. You know, like, can we just sit and chill? Like, you just feel this. And I think right now that may be the most important thing that maybe I can offer too, is just to not let myself be all rattled and offer my music as peacefully and quietly as gently and as, you know, as I can, and then go home. You know, and trust it’ll do its work, you know.

Craig (02:04:20.566)
Awesome, man.

Hey, I want to tell people what you come here, Hazel, you got to get down. Sorry. Come here. You see those picks though. Oh, she’s so affectionate, man. Uh, let me tell people you got going on. I want you to talk about your masterclass cause I know you put a lot of work into that. Please check out all of Steve’s music and you can find everything available on Steve Steve’s got a new album called the glad surprise is coming out October 20 October, uh, this year, 2024. What’s different about, or what do you got something?

Steve Bell (02:04:30.123)
That’s an affectionate cat.

Steve Bell (02:04:42.336)

Craig (02:04:53.055)
special on that record that’s coming.

Steve Bell (02:04:55.831)
I don’t know if it’s special yet, because I’m still recording it. It’s the new batch of songs. There’s an Eastery, kind of a springy theme, I think, running to it. The Glad Surprise phrase itself is from Howard Thurman. Well, Howard Thurman was Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentor, spiritual mentor. And he’s the one that basically, in a sense, said to Martin Luther King, if you can’t love your enemy, you have no authority to speak to them. Right? And so Martin Luther King Jr. and that…

Craig (02:05:07.243)
Yeah, what does that mean?

Steve Bell (02:05:24.351)
that whole group of people, they resisted tyranny, they resisted oppression, but it wasn’t dukes up. There was a love for the very people they were resisting and that has deep authority. And Howard Thurman, who was writing during Jim Crow era, he was writing during public lynchings, as a black man. And only someone like that can say this, but he says, in the end, he says, life is bottomed by a glad surprise.

Craig (02:05:55.499)
Oh cool, life is bottom line.

Steve Bell (02:05:56.175)
And this is me as a kid, looking up in the skies and realizing there’s a benevolence that underlines everything. So I connected to that phrase and I decided this is the title of the album. And then since I read the phrase, I’ve written a song called The Glad Surprise. So the title came first and the song came later, right? So that’s what’s coming out there.

Craig (02:06:05.076)

Craig (02:06:12.302)

Craig (02:06:17.782)
Very cool. And that’ll be out October, 2024. Talk about your masterclass, which you can find at Cause I know you put a lot of work into that.

Steve Bell (02:06:24.851)
Yep. Yeah, that’s an ongoing thing. So over the years on every album or so, I’ve put out a little acoustic fingerstyle. Mostly I’m singer-songwriter, but I got some fingerstyle skills and I’ve written some fingerstyles. Well, thank you. But I’m not Phil Keighley, I’m not Tommy Emmanuel, but I got a thing. I’ve got something to contribute. And so I realized if I’m ever gonna teach this, now’s the time. So we’re doing 10 lessons and each one.

Craig (02:06:37.342)
Man, you got fingerstyle skills for sure. You don’t have to say some fingerstyle skills.

Craig (02:06:45.233)

Steve Bell (02:06:52.523)
basically teaches a song of mine. I’m not teaching how to play guitar. I’m teaching how to play Steve Bell. And so it’s multi-camera. It’s this tab and all that kind of stuff. So you kind of sign up for the 10 lessons that are gonna come out every sort of second month for the next year, year and a half. And it’s fairly involved. And I don’t expect people can play everything, but I just like, you just always learn a little bit something from everything, right? So.

Craig (02:06:57.686)
That’s awesome.

Craig (02:07:12.334)

Craig (02:07:20.47)
Now, but if you learn, and I take guitar stuff all the time in addition to getting lessons, but if you just learn a little bit off each lesson, and now that you take that in to make it yours, man, and if you’re into fingerstyle guitar playing, that’s what you wanna do.

Steve Bell (02:07:27.187)

Steve Bell (02:07:30.995)
Yeah. Yeah, so I’ve got little things that are mostly right hand, mostly percussive things. My left hand is not all that interesting. I think I get, but I do a lot of percussive work with my right hand. There’s just things that are kind of me that I think are probably worth documenting, and so that’s what that’s about.

Craig (02:07:53.506)
Great, and so check that out. Is there like any videos or samples on the homepage or something? Okay.

Steve Bell (02:07:58.491)
Yeah, well, yes, if you go to, there’s that. And if you go to the homepage of the actual guitar master classes, there’s little things there that you can see, that kind of show. Yeah.

Craig (02:08:07.858)
Awesome. So check that out at It’s the masterclass. And anything else that you want to promote? What else could we pimp? What else, Steve Bell, can we pimp here, man? Come on.

Steve Bell (02:08:12.011)
Thanks man.

Steve Bell (02:08:15.407)
Oh, I think that’s… I think there’s probably no one left listening at this point. This has been a great and long conversation. So… But thanks. No, that’s good. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Craig (02:08:22.768)

Hey, listen, man. Good. Thank you very much for everything. I really appreciate your time. I knew I had a good feeling you’d be a really good conversation and you delivered in spades. So thanks very much for your time.

Steve Bell (02:08:35.767)
Well, okay, I’ll tell you, just when, it was Murray Pulver that turned me on to you, and he says, you’re gonna love this. He says, this is not gonna be what you’re expecting. And that’s absolutely true. I really enjoyed this, thank you. Okay. Ha ha ha. Mm-hmm.

Craig (02:08:42.882)
Ha ha.

Craig (02:08:47.254)
Well, thank you. The feelings are mutual. And thanks, Murray. Again, we appreciate it. Hey, man, hang on for a minute, Steve. Thanks for everything. Everybody. Thank you so much for listening. And I got I can’t believe I’m doing this with a little hazel on my lap here. This is what happens when you turn old. Your cat dictates your life. Everybody, thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy this, share it on your socials. We appreciate your support. Thanks, Steve Bell, very much for everything. And please check out Steve Bell dot com. If you haven’t checked out Steve’s music, are you not familiar with? Get familiar with these.

Steve Bell (02:09:01.191)

Craig (02:09:16.514)
great guitar, some amazing songwriter and he does everything the right way and check out his masterclass of your guitar player at And most important man, remember that happiness is a choice. So choose wisely. Be nice, have fun and we’ll see you on the next time. Peace and love everybody. I am out. Sorry, I keep looking at my cat. Take care everybody. Thanks Steve.

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