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Steve Key: News/Blog

Listen up! - November 24, 2010

I was a guest on Michael Gaither's "Songs and Stories" podcast:

New website: - January 20, 2010

For updates on the showcases I host in the San Luis Obispo CA area, go here:
I'll post info on my solo gigs here, and will post new songs too. I'm planning to write 14 songs in 28 days as part of the February Album Writing Month,

Listen to Windchimes on "The Eclectic Review" - March 13, 2009

While self-googling, I discovered a podcast called "The Eclectic Review". Hosted by husband-wife team Stuart and Glory Jaffe, the half hour show includes discussions of science, science fiction, and pop culture. Clips of my song "Windchimes" are heard on "Show #146 - Dangling Trophies" between segments on comedian Mike Birbiglia and a review of the Nicholas Cage movie, "Next".

I made the Top 20! - January 14, 2009

My song, "New Olde Town", charted at #11 on the December 2008 playlist of the internet radio show Acoustic Pie, hosted by Kelley Martin, San Diego-based folk music enthusiast.
I wrote the song with Erik Balkey, who recorded it on his Deadpan Alley CD. It's Erik's version that made the Acoustic Pie Top 20, alongside Damien Rice, Stacey Earle, Darrell Scott, Storyhill, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Acoustic Pie airs 24/7 on I'm honored to have my song on such a cool show. Thanks, Kelley!

Wish I Could Do More Shows Like That! - December 8, 2008

Last night's show at the Studio Theatre of the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande was great -- pro sound by Barry Hamlin, which included recording studio-quality mics; a concert audience paying attention to every note and lyric; and a lineup of performers who gave them their money's worth. The show was called the Second Annual Central Coast Songwriters Festival. I'm told The Studio Theatre can seat 225, but we had about 75 people there, and it was pretty cozy! I was the MC, also opened with a 3-song set (a recent ballad, "Windchimes", written at my Central Coast residence in Pismo Beach, then two songs from the House Blend CD, "Ree and Bull" and "33, 45, 78 (Record Time)." I sold 3 CDs, so I guess the strategy worked...). Devin Wallace followed me -- I love his "Great American Wall" song, a tongue-in-cheek promotion of the wall on the Mexican border as a tourist attraction "like Berlin in the old days." Nataly Lola closed out the first set, then the second set of Loren Radis, Tim Jackson (with lead guitarist Dave Miller), and Jody Mulgrew closing out. Jody came back for an encore sing-along, "Til My Peace Be Made", giving us that folk festival-style good feeling at the end of the night. I wasn't sure we'd get a crowd on a Sunday, particularly since I booked this show less than 3 weeks in advance, but we got a cover story in the Tribune and support from the family and fans of the performers. I'm still smiling here on Monday morning.

51 Things I'm Thinking About on my 51st Birthday - October 8, 2008

1. It's another perfect day in Pismo Beach, CA
2. I'm headed up to San Francisco today for a two-night stay with…
3. …my girlfriend, Bonnie, whom I love very much
4. This three-year-old laptop still works
5. My '97 Saturn still runs
6. I'm in relatively good health, no major complaints
7. No health insurance, but some free meds thanks to Rusty
8. I have a place to live, thanks to my Mom
9. I get paid to host a weekly songwriters showcase at the Clubhouse
10. I get paid to book music for Linnaea's Café
11. I'm starting a weekly showcase next week in Santa Maria
12. I'm starting weekly concerts next month in Morro Bay
13. I'm still writing songs on occasion, including two last week
14. I can still sing -- I performed three songs last night at the Clubhouse
15. Good strong coffee this morning from SLO Roasters
16. Fresh blueberries from Trader Joe's
17. Oatmeal -- regular, not the instant stuff
18. Enjoyed the Bonnie Raitt concert last Sunday
19. I'm doing additional booking work for the Clubhouse so I get…
20. …a trade account for dinners and drinks I can share with friends.
21. I can walk to the beach
22. Most of the tourists are gone
23. I love the Honeymoon Café -- Tofu tacos, strong coffee, funky vibe
24. I like the old Esquire news stand -- cash only
25. I'm reading a collection of Anthony Burgess short stories
26. I'm listening to an audio book, Ann Patchett's "Run".
27. Bonnie has satellite radio in her car; we often listen to The Village on XM
28. Got a birthday e-mail from Candy, reminding me of good times in Alexandria
29. Enjoyed seeing Ralph Nader last week at Cal Poly, plan to vote for him again.
30. I have dinner reservations tonight at Greens, my favorite veggie restaurant
31. It's been really hot lately, but the AC in my car still works, surprisingly
32. Typing -- one skill I picked up in high school, still use every day
33. I'm still proud of my most successful song, "Record Time (33, 45, 78)"
34. Heard Angela Reed for the first time last night -- what a voice!
35. JoanMarie is refreshing -- a positive presence on the showcase last night.
36. Anthony is there every Tuesday, setting up the PA, running sound all night
37. Rob the bartender is fun to banter with, even more sarcastic than me
38. Clubhouse owner Andy gives me that nod of approval at the end of the night
39. I enjoy talking politics with Dan, the dread-locked bartender
40. Glad I can drink one beer and stop, haven't been drunk in a long time
41. Bonnie and I have almost six months together, fitting together so well…
42. …in ways that I probably shouldn't discuss in public, enough said?
43. I can provide paying work for local and touring musicians
44. I can bring people together, create networks and community
45. I benefit from those networks, continue to find new places to play
46. Musicians play shows with me, on short notice, like Bishop Peak school last week
47. People appreciate my efforts to present live music
48. I get satisfaction from someone discovering a new favorite musician
49. I enjoy finding new favorites -- such as Tom Freund, Jon T. Howard
50. I had a good time last year doing my 50th birthday party, but this year…
51. …I'm content with finding 51 things I'm grateful for, and amazed I could do it.

Remembering Jay Votel - July 16, 2008

Today I read about the early passing of a friend from the DC area. I met Jay when I was hosting Monday open mikes at a club in Vienna, VA (DC suburb). He played often. He was also a writer for the Washington Times, reviewed many of the artists I sent to him. When I started a music non-profit in 2002, Jay was the first person I approached for membership, and he was very supportive. We had one of our early organizing meetings at his house.

I'm in Wainwright's YouTube video - June 6, 2008

Canadian singer-songwriter Wainwright (Mike, not Rufus) documented his visit to the Clubhouse in San Luis Obispo, "Guitar and a Car Tour Day 12", posted here:
http://www. youtube. com/wainwright747
I'm singing "Heinz 57 American", accompanied by JoanMarie on the drum. The duo, Great American Youth, are also featured.

Buy Erik Balkey's "Deadpan Alley" - December 6, 2007

Erik's latest CD includes our co-write "New Old Town". I started the song when I lived in Old Town Alexandria (VA), and I finished it with Erik in Old Town Frederick (MD). I love Tom Prasada-Rao's production, and Beth Wood's harmony. Buy it:

Read about the Tuesday showcase - November 19, 2007

Remember the woman who was shooting all those photos at the Jill Knight showcase? That was Candice Conti, and her feature about Tuesdays at the Clubhouse is in the current issue of SLO City News. (it's a little complicated -- there's a toggle on the left that will allow you to pick a page to view: look for "Musical Tuesdays" headline on page A8).

Two more on YouTube - November 15, 2007

Mark Ludmer of the Indie Music Show, broadcast on Santa Barbara's TV Channel 17, has added two of my performances to YouTube:

"33, 45, 78 (Record Time)"
"If You Can Walk"

I'm on YouTube - October 16, 2007

Christina Grimm posted two clips of my performance on her Santa Barbara Songwriters TV show. I did "Here for the Runnin" with Christina singing harmony, Bob Liepman on mandocello, and Tim Novoa on snare drum. Here's the link:
I also performed Michael Fracasso's "All or Nothing", with Bob, Tim, plus Wendy Liepman on harmony vocal. Bob & Wendy are touring with Michael Fracasso later this month, including a stop in Santa Barbara. I love Michael's songs, thought it would be fun to talk up Michael's tour and do a cover.

July is Media Month - June 26, 2007

I added two radio appearances:

Friday, July 6, 8:20am on KSTT-FM 103.1 San Luis Obispo, The program is called "The Coast Lounge" -- doesn't look like they do live streaming, but they do weekly podcasts and archive the performances at
Sunday, July 29, 10am-noon, KPIG 107.5 Freedom CA, KPYG 94.9 Cambria/SLO, This is a weekly show called "Please Stand By" hosted by Sleepy John. I won't know the exact time I play my three songs until the week before. You may be able to listen live on the website, too.

Media Month starts a few days early -- The Tribune newspaper in SLO is scheduled to run a feature on the Linnaea's showcase in the June 28 ticket section. Buy five copies for your mother, or read it online:

Second Place in MARS Contest - June 20, 2007

I placed second among eight finalists in the song contest held last night at the Britannia Arms Pub in Aptos CA. I got a gift certificate for four hours studio recording at Music Art Recording Studio (MARS). I was particularly impressed with my fellow finalists James Hurley, Amy Obenski, Amee Chapman, Lee Garland, and Chris Hanson.

I played "Exercise" and "Here for the Runnin'", both available as free downloads on this site.

"Chinese Embassy" is a winner - May 16, 2007

My new song, "The Chinese Embassy" won the "Best Song" prize last night at the West Coast Songwriters Showcase Competition at Mission City Coffee in Santa Clara CA. I won three hours recording time at Tone Freq Studios in San Jose, and I'll return for the South Bay Showcase play-offs in August. Thanks to guest judge Chuck McCabe and to showcase manager Deb Thacker. Mission City Coffee is a beautiful room -- big stage, great PA -- so I can't wait to play there again.

Big Fun at First Showcase - May 8, 2007

It was a wild night Sunday in SLO for the first in a series of monthly songwriters showcases at Linnaea's Cafe. Here's the press release I sent out the day after:

Former prison guard Don Lampson and college student Michael Shelton were the top award winners at the West Coast Songwriters (WCS) Showcase competition held on May 6 at Linnaea's Café in San Luis Obispo. It was the debut of a monthly showcase, which includes an open mic for songwriters, composers and poets, as well as a song contest for WCS members. A total of 18 performers filled the 3-hour show, hosted by Sonnie Brown of public radio station KCBX.

Lampson, of Santa Margarita, won "Best Song" for his humorous waltz, "Bakersfield Girl". The song was recorded on Lampson's CD "Years and Miles", a collection of songs written, as Lampson says, "throughout my rambles as a beach bum, factory hand, soldier, lumberjack, on into the newspaper biz and finally as a prison guard."

Shelton, an Orcutt resident, played in the modern "acoustic-pop" style of his musical heroes Ben Harper and Elvis Costello, and was named "Best Performer" of the evening. Shelton is a full-time student at Chapman University, and is the Sales Director for CFS Products, Inc. He and his wife Susie produce a concert series called The Acoustic Lounge at the Town Center in Santa Maria.

Each winner received a pair of tickets to the First Annual Songwriters Festival on May 10 at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande. The "Best Song" Award also included recording time at Painted Sky Studio in Cambria. "Best Song" winners will compete in an August play-off for a chance to perform at the annual WCS conference Sept. 7-9 at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

West Coast Songwriters is an educational non-profit organization based in San Carlos. WCS sponsors nine showcases a month, as well as songwriting workshops and seminars for its approximately 1,200 members.

WCS member Steve Key of Pismo Beach is the manager of the San Luis Obispo showcase. Professional songwriters Doug Clegg of Santa Barbara and Jill Knight of Cambria were the guest judges for the May 6 showcase. June 3 showcase judges will be Cliff Stepp, local blues performer and wine marketer; and Bent Myggen, a Denmark native who has recorded and published more than 300 songs, as well working as a soundtrack composer and documentary filmmaker based in Los Olivos.

Three Songs Added - May 4, 2007

I recorded some new songs at Sutton Sound in Atascadero last week. Thanks to engineer Rick Sutton for a smooth session. Three of those songs are now available here for free download: Suicide Shoes, The Chinese Embassy, and Clemency,

Oops, I Won Again - April 27, 2007

Tuesday night at the Britannia Arms Pub in Aptos CA, I shared top honors in the Songwriters Contest sponsored by West Coast Songwriters and Music Art Recording Studios. I was selected, along with an amazing young man named Seraphim Zupan, to advance to the semi-finals of the contest, which will be held in June. I played "Here for the Runnin" and "Broken Branches". Thanks to Ken Capitanich of MARS, the guest judges and volunteers for creating this opportunity. See you June 12 for my semi-final round.

Winning - April 24, 2007

Last night, I won "Best Song" at the West Coast Songwriters Showcase held at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley CA. I get 3 hours of studio time from the showcase sponsor, Studio 4D8 in Brisbane CA. I'll also return to Berkeley in August for the Showcase playoffs, to see if can represent the East Bay showcase in the Best Song finals. If I win there, I return to Berkeley yet again for the finals, where the top 3 winners perform in a special concert at the WCS conference at Foothill College in Los Altos this Sept. 7-9. The winning song was "Broken Branches", co-written with David Mallett. Thank you WCS guest judge Mary Watkins, showcase co-managers Phil and Nomi, and my college buddy Minerva for coming out to support me and for letting me crash on her sofabed.

Free download -- Shoeless Joe - April 13, 2007

I've added my 1991 performance of "Shoeless Joe Jackson" to the Songs/Lyrics section here:
It was written by Jeff Deitchman, who I met at the Washington (DC) Folk Festival in the late '80s. Jeff had given up on music, even though his songs had been performed and recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter, legendary British guitarist Nic Jones, Boston folk duo Rick & Lorraine Lee, among others. You can still hear DC acts like Magpie and Second Story doing some of Jeff's songs, and I've worked up several. Jeff is now a high school teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland. My version of "Shoeless Joe" was originally recorded for my "Record Time" CD (on Rochester NY's Local Folkel label, 1992, now out of print), re-released on "Diamond Cuts: Turning Two" (Hungry for Music, 1998), available at

Postcard from California - December 25, 2006

It's Christmas at the trailer park…I mean, Mobile Home Park…in Pismo Beach CA. I'm staying with my mom and her 19-year-old Himalayan cat, Simone. My lone sibling, kid sister Phyllis, is five minutes down the road in Grover Beach. Tonight she'll cook a pork roast for Christmas dinner, but lucky for me, my mom is making a vegetarian lasagna.

It's been almost two years since my father died -- we marked my parents' 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday morning with a visit to the bench on the Pismo fishing pier that carries a memorial plaque, "Enjoy the sunset, knowing you are loved. Bernie Hickey 1931-2005." If you're ever out there, it's on the right, almost all the way out on the pier.

Saturday afternoon, mom and I went to the big city (San Luis Obispo) to see a flick at The Palm, "For Your Consideration". It kinda sucked. Next on my list to catch is "History Boys". Anybody seen that?

Sunday we strolled on the boardwalk near the beach, close to the grove where the monarch butterflies come for the winter. My stay out here is open-ended; as they say, I'm taking it one day at a time. Today I'm OK, had some good strong coffee, oatmeal and banana; the skies are clear, and I'm fixing up a neighbor's mountain bike to borrow it for a ride, maybe later this morning.

I hope your holidays are going well. Keep in touch--SK

New recordings - September 12, 2006

I posted four new mp3's on my myspace page -- "We Harmonized", "Crawford", "Dream Song" and "New Hope". Lyrics are also posted, and they can be downloaded for free. All are from a demo session on Aug. 29, recorded by Scott Smith in Baltimore, with production help from Erik Balkey. It's my plan to include these songs on my next CD -- let me know what you think!
PS--I also posted three of the new demo's (except for New Hope) on this site, under Songs/Lyrics.

Smiling Through the Rain - June 25, 2006

Rob Hinkal of ilyAIMY caught me smiling onstage yesterday at the 12th Annual Mountville Folk Festival. Rain came down, lightning flashed, but I kept on singing. Thanks to Ron Goad, joining me on percussion; Pat Wictor, sitting in on lap steel; Andrew McKnight for hosting and inviting me to play; Jim Taylor for great sound; Judy for driving and bringing camp chairs, umbrellas, etc.

Five Days on the Road - May 10, 2006

Last week, I spent a few days visiting friends and visiting old haunts in Nashville, then played weekend gigs in Carbondale IL and Franklin IN. Got to Guitar Town Tuesday night, stopped by 12th & Porter to catch a few sets at Billy Block's Showcase. Full bands, rocking out, including one 20-year-old acting like Mick Jagger on speed. It was entertaining! Then I stayed with former DC diva Lianna and her new hubby Bill at their spacious digs down near the Natchez Trace. Started a new song with Lianna, hope to finish it on the next trip. I visited my old co-writer Tim Mathews ("If You Can Walk" and several more I haven't released yet, but maybe I'll post some demos soon) who is enjoying his new gig as a teacher. Jim Stephens took me on a tour of the new condos rising from the Gulch by the RR tracks, plus all the new ritzy clubs and eateries there. Sheri DiGiovanna (who recorded "Here for the Runnin'" and "Broken Branches") honored me with a guitar pull at her place -- great to see Janne Henshaw, Lisa Aschmann and other writers there. Then on to Carbondale, where I played four songs on the radio (thanks Gaye!) and opened for proud Grandma Laurie McClain. Vern Crawford has hosted the series, called Cousin Andy's Coffeehouse, every Friday for the last 12 years. Vern is also on the board of the Kerrville Festival. In Franklin IN, I played a house concert called the Soiree Musicale at Don & Jane's, and not only did I get to play two sets to a great audience, but I enjoyed listening to guest sets by Tim Grimm and other local musicians who sat in. It was an event! I felt so good about it all that I'm thinking I need to get back on the road and play more gigs. Anybody got any gigs out there? If you got the rooms...

In Memory of Anne Sucher - March 6, 2006

Anne Sucher, singer-songwriter with the Wammie-nominated folk group Water's Edge, died Feb. 27. I got the news on March 2 as I was preparing for the songwriters workshop that night at the WestSide. First think I did was to search for the song I'd written in 2004 with Anne called "Sum Me Up". We had agreed it needed a third verse, but we never got around to writing it, so I wrote it that afternoon, remembering the storyline Anne suggested. Then I wrote a song about Anne, "We Harmonized". I tried to include references to my memories of the brief time I knew her -- as a songwriter I admired for her quirky lyrics like "I am on the edge of smooth" and insightful ballads such as "Hard Road"; as a singer with a gift for harmony, and the one public performance at a cafe in Frederick where she sang on the chorus for my song "Change for You" while kidding me about some of the lyrics. This morning I received an e-mail from her parents which confirmed that Anne had taken her own life. "She had been fighting depression for many years and it finally got the better of her. It appears that she took an overdose of pills." Anne Sucher would have been 40 this Thursday, March 9. Friends have started a website in her memory: I have posted the lyrics for "We Harmonized" here:
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