If Not Now, When? 3:250:00/3:25
When I was 16, my band Red October recorded our first EP in the studio, in Cheyenne, WY. I can’t recall the name of the studio, but it was recorded on reel to reel, and contained original songs written by myself and Brian Leneschmidt. We went on to play a few live shows, with our final show with a band called Morbid Death. Kurt McCord got some quality photos from the show.
It would be 10 years before I recorded at another studio, however I continued to write lyrics throughout my time at UW and in the Army.
When I returned to college at UNT, I began playing live shows as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter. I would incorporate my originals in with my covers and those shows revived the hunger that I had when I was 16 and rocking the Joe Elliott mullet.
I had a novice music manager interested in me named Seth Luker who played football with some of my best friends at UNT. At the time, I was simultaneously enrolled in AFROTC.
Months before receiving my commission, I recorded a 2-song EP with a song called “16 Days” and another called “Day Turns Into Night” and you can still find that horrible sh&t out there online.
Upon graduation I was faced with a choice. Accept my Air Force commission and go back into the military until retirement (with my Army time it made sense), or go play music full-time. My Dad made himself pretty clear on his opinion…And I spent my life seeking his approval.
While attending flight training in San Antonio, I continued to drive back and forth to DFW, Waco, and Denton to play the acoustic shows.
I was fortunate to land (no pun intended) in Shreveport assigned to the B-52. The Buff has a compartment which is often used to transport bulky things like musical instruments to exotic locations on the DL, and thankfully there are a lot of musicians in the aviation community. While continuing to write and play solo stuff, some fellow crewdogs and I assembled a cover band called “47 Section” and it was a blast. We played NYE parties while deployed, played giant functions at Barksdale and Shreveport and Bossier City, and it again reminded me of my true passion for making music on a stage with other musicians.
While stationed in Shreveport, I recorded two more albums. One Live album from The Swanky Joint which will never see the light of day or be heard by human ears. The other one was called “Stripped” and contained all my singer/songwriter stuff. It was recorded at Indian Trail Recording Studio in Krum, TX. Harvey Gerst mixed and mastered and Scott Headstream engineered. I think Scott did a lot more than that…
It’s also still out there, but I think I sound like Mickey Mouse.
While stationed at Barksdale, I was selected to attend another special survival school (after SERE) at the Joint Recovery Center at Fairchild. While in Spokane, I played a couple of shows with a local songwriter the weekend before I went home. This would plant the seed that would blossom into The Black Doves
After two war deployments, marriage, four kids, and 5 years at KBAD, I was ready for a change of scenery.
In typical military fashion, I got to go see San Antonio again.
Before I headed back to SA, I took some leave and headed back to Spokane. On this trip, I would meet Bill Nieman who owns Rainbow Trout Studio and does sound for Everclear. At his studio, I would record 8 songs, and the 7 we completed became the core of Moments of Clarity. With Sammy Hudson from Everclear on bass, Dan Conrad Schmedding on guitars, the same aforementioned singer/songwriter playing some piano and acoustic when he showed up, and Bobby Hattenburg on drums.
After arriving in San Antonio, and upon completing those 7 songs, I posted a classified ad on MySpace seeking musicians that could play the songs. The first response I received from someone that could complete a sentence was Brent Arnold. Brent knew a guitar player named Danny Trevino, and a dude named Brent Lummus joined us on bass.
At work at Randolph AFB where I was instructing, I met another musician who was also recording an album while serving in the military. Kelsey McDaniel would become the only reason anyone ever heard of The Black Doves…he named us in a rush to tell a venue owner another band that could be added to a live show. Steve Wilson and The Black Doves would play their first live show ever with Moai at Sneakers in San Antonio. It was cold as sh&t and rainy and about 5 people showed. But it rocked. That takes us to 2008.
It has been said that I can be at bit of an a$$hole sometimes, and I cannot argue. In 2008, The Black Doves experienced a line up change with Frank J Rodriguez picking up duties on bass.
As the core band, we recorded one song at a local San Antonio studio owned by a friend. This was “Give It Some Thought”.
Unsatisfied with the tones and sound quality, we tried yet another studio, and recorded two more tracks “Beautiful Tragedy” and “Learn To Live” and released ‘Moments Of Clarity’ to the world as a 10 song album.
With some radio success on iHeart Radio, “I Wonder If She Knows” hit #1 surpassing Mumford and Sons on the charts. This would lead to playing some fairly larger events and stages, including a Nationally live-televised feature at the Rock and Roll Marathon, performing on the Vans Warped Tour, and in-store appearances sponsored by The Gap, and at UTSA. The Black Doves began to pick up the most steam, right around the time the military sent me to Pensacola, Florida.
While I traveled back and forth between Texas and Florida to play with the band, the balance was impossible to sustain. Eventually something would have to give way…
While stationed at NAS Pensacola, I would play the local scene doing the acoustic shows, I continued to write, and continued shows with The Black Doves.
Another trip back to Spokane would produce what was intended to be the foundation of The Black Doves follow up to Moments of Clarity. Instead, it became a solo EP called “Discovering Gravity”. This EP contained a track called Cold Steel Rain, which would lead to later opportunities with a non-profit organization for Veteran and Military songwriters called Operation Encore.
In 2012, I separated from the military, and we moved back to Texas. Back in the DFW area, I leaned forward into playing music and attempted to restoke the fire of The Black Doves. The beginning of the end of the band started with a disastrous show at Andy’s Bar in Denton, where Kevin Martin from Candlebox flew out to watch, and our performance was less than impressive. With a fill-in bassist, and sub lead guitarist, the formula just wasn’t even close. The last show The Black Doves would play would be in 2012.
Basically failing at life, 2012-2013 would find me at bottom. I wrote a lot, lost everything, wallowed in misery and nearly lost my life. Thankfully, a lifeboat arrived musically and my good buddy and the only guy I know to successfully destroy a multimillion dollar aircraft and walk away unscathed, Mr Jason Attaway, recommended my music to a fellow viper pilot and musician from a band called Dos Gringos. Rob Raymond was putting together a project that he didn’t have to worry about the base commander’s wife discovering, which would also assist in highlighting the musical talents of those associated with the military. The idea was to show the human side of the warrior, and further display the untapped talent that most never hear nor see.
In 2014, a group of veterans, a military spouse, and active duty military songwriters were flown to Phoenix, Arizona to record the first Operation Encore compilation album. Recording at Stem studios, owned by Curtis Grippe, Volume 1 features amazing tunes by some of the best people I’ve ever met. Many have become my closest friends and mentors over the years. Even in my fits of ignorance…
For that album, we recorded an Americana version of Cold Steel Rain. The album release was held at The WigWam resort, in Litchfield Park, AZ.
Over the next 6 years, I would play the majority of my live shows with Operation Encore, or with the assistance of Operation Encore.
In 2016 the follow-up album, ‘Monuments’, was released featuring an unreleased track I’d written sparked by the sight of my daughter listening to music. “The Words” would become, more or less, the musical autobiography of my life. The pinnacle of my music career this far, has been playing The Words live, with some of my fellow OE artists.
In 2017, post-divorce and living in an RV near the beach, I trekked back to Dallas to record with my good buddy Josh Franklin at fifty50studios. I was angry, dejected, and I wanted to make something harder. Calling Brent Arnold back up to lay down drums, and with me on rhythm guitars, we sketched out the skeletons of four new singles. I recruited an old musical friend named Matt Novesky from Blue October to play bass, and Marshal Dutton from Hinder would play lead on “Somewhat Different”, with Neil Swanson picking up lead on “Go Go Indigo”, “Affirmations of Superiority”, and “Chapter Two”. These would be released over the next three years as singles by The Black Doves. At the time, the possibility of reunification was still up in the air, so it made sense.
In 2018, I was delighted to receive a call to inform me that the OE Board would fund the creation of my EP ‘Ad Astra Per Aspera’.
I flew out to San Francisco in early 2019, and recorded 5 songs with Adam Rossi, Kevin Thomas White, James DePrato, and Vicente Rodriguez, including a song called “Coming Back To Texas” that was inspired by my childhood guitar hero, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Upon the release of ‘AAPA’, I would go on to play shows in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Telluride, Boise, Dallas, Washington D.C., and I continued to write.
In 2020, I was slotted to play on the big stage at The RNC, but due to hysteria it was cancelled. Along with everything else in 2020. Cancelled.
I sat around getting fat, ordered a lot of food delivered, and wrote songs. I tried to embrace the internet, and recorded many unwatched, poor-sounding videos. I did receive a beautiful guitar, handmade by Dr. Lloyd Smith from Davis, California. This was awarded to me by Operation Encore for “Most Prolific Songwriter” because I would assault their inbox with my weekly-penned (weakly-penned?) ditties. Maybe, but I love the guitar.
In 2021, I decided it was time to get off my roly-poly ass, and do something productive. Through my good buddy and Duo partner Jimmy Anderson, I re-established contact with Eric Delegard, with whom I recorded that horrendous live album 20 years before.
We scheduled some studio time, and I recorded a few songs with a drummer that I didn’t really know or had never played with before. Those sessions produced nothing useful musically, but they led to Eric’s recommendation to get Matt Thompson onboard.
After that, everything clicked like clockwork. We created 11 banging tracks, brought Daran DeShazo in to play lead guitar, and Eric played bass. After I finished lead vocals, it begged for another voice for background vocals. Eric’s good friend Droo D'Anna would lend his beautiful voice to the project, and MΔΤΤΕ BLACKE ’Bits And Pieces’ was born into the world in September of 2021. Unfortunately, Droo would never get to hear it. Rest In Peace Brother. You are so deeply missed.
This year, I have lost a relationship and some other excess weight. I have released an amazing album that I’m truly proud of, and I’ve been playing a lot more live shows again.
I’m learning how to be around people again, and I have unpacked and put away a lot of the rage that I used to live with. I don’t miss it. It creeps in again when I let it, then it’s like starting over sometimes.
There are a few singles that I’ve released over the past couple of years that weren’t mentioned, but they’re worth hearing. With music by my good friend and lost brother Jeremy Coan, “Riding Out A Hurricane” is one about Brink himself. “I Want It Back” is another haunting ballad about loss with piano by my good friend Adam Rossi. “This Journey Never Ends” is my first co-write with Guy Jaquier, and “Big North Wind” was penned by luthier Dr. Lloyd Smith.
I hope you’ll lend your ears to my musical contributions to the Universe.
I love you.
Deeply, and always.
Steve D Wilson