STEVE EULBERG
Between The Tracks
(Owl Mountain Music)

 

Based in San Mateo, California, acoustic guitarist Steve Eulberg released his ninth solo recording in August 2019. The 13-track, 44 minute CD, called Between The Tracks is a fine offering of relaxing, modern solo guitar magic that serves up a wide range of jazzy and bluesy acoustic instrumentals. On the inside of the tastefully packaged digi-pak artwork you can see a picture of Steve with his nylon string guitar. Guitars featured on Between The Tracks include a Huss & Dalton DS and a Cordoba Fusion 14 Maple. Steve’s track by track anecdotes are accompanied by his detailed liner notes, which describe early guitar influences such as Mason Williams, well known jazzy, guitar-centric artists including Earl Klugh and Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as finger-style, guitar-centric pop artists like John Denver and Jim Croce. In his notes, Steve cites the late great Pete Huttlinger, Tommy Emmanuel, Phil Keaggy, ragtime steel guitar ace Rev. Gary Davis and Leo Kottke. There’s also a classical influence and Steve cites reflective music from classical composer Debussy, while the lone cover here is “Guitar Etude No.3”, an instrumental track written by pop singer Dan Fogelberg. You can hear just about every type of solo guitar style, from folk and blues to jazz and even ragtime on Steve Eulberg’s superbly recorded 2019 solo album Between The Tracks. www.SteveEulberg.com




mwe3.com presents an interview with
Steve Eulberg


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and something about where you live now? Have you traveled to many states in the US and other countries?

Steve Eulberg: I was born and raised in Pemberville, NW Ohio in Wood County. I live in San Mateo, California in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have toured and performed across the USA including Hawaii and Alaska, Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland and Germany. Being 20 minutes from the ocean and 20 minutes from San Francisco Bay means that beach, and seaside and marine air are a huge part of our lives. The Mediterranean climate with wet & dry seasons has been adjustment, after living in the four-season states Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio... but it is one we are happy to make!

mwe3: Tell us about your early interest in the dulcimer and your mom’s ukulele. What was growing up like and did your mom get you interested in the dulcimer? On top of that, the Hughes Dulcimer Company was in your own town, yet you say you couldn’t afford one so you built your own. So how did you move from Ukulele and dulcimer to the steel and nylon string acoustic guitars?

Steve Eulberg: When I was bitten by the guitar ‘bug’ it was right after Jim Croce and Maury Muehleisen's plane crashed. The only instrument we had in the house with strings and a neck was my mom’s ukulele, which she had decided to start playing again. We ended up with a “hot seat” in the dining room and that ukulele didn’t stay quiet very long between the two of us!

I first heard both kinds of dulcimer while in college in central Ohio at Capital University. Both were played by touring musicians and since I was already playing guitar and mandolin, I was intrigued. The family of my duo partner, on banjo, built and gifted him with a mountain dulcimer for Christmas one year. I was determined to work it into our act but couldn’t figure it out. I asked him how to play it. He said, “You can’t. It isn’t like regular music.”

I saved up and built a FolkRoots mountain dulcimer kit, which was not only affordable, but at that time, in 1980, probably the only way to find a dulcimer in a music store in Central Ohio! Then I moved it with me around the country trying to figure out how to play it. Rural Michigan and Chicago provided few clues, but it was in the Mile High City of Denver when I say, “The scales fell from my eyes into my fingers” and I began to play music - the songs & tunes I already knew. The Hughes Dulcimer Company, purveyor of many different musical instrument kits, was down the street from my west Denver apartment.

After being transfixed by the sound of the hammered dulcimer the first time I heard it in college when I found that the Hughes Company had kits I began visiting every one of my days off from my work and began saving up my shekels to buy one for my birthday in February. I built it and played for an event at church the next week… I won’t say I played well, but I was in such a sensitive period that all I could do WAS play it!

mwe3: What pop and jazz artists got you interested contemporary music and traditional folk music? I ask because your bio says you were influenced by Tchaikovsky and Stevie Wonder as well as Jim Croce. That’s a pretty diverse musical background!

Steve Eulberg: I remember watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show… but couldn’t hear much because of the screaming teenaged girls! But they were just a part of the musical presence in my life. Music was what we did at home, in the car and at church. We didn’t listen to the radio, but mom played the piano and we sang. When I grew older, we lived in the radio range of CKLW, the Motor City station that broadcast from Windsor, Canada across the river from Detroit, Michigan… so MOTOWN was big on the radio, along with other pop music.

When FM radio began to get bigger I gravitated to that… “Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphy was on constant rotation. I watched Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and the Midnight Special on weekend television. Pete Seeger, Elton John, Jim Croce, John Denver, Leadbelly, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat & Tears, Doc Severinson, Bread, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt… along with Phil Keaggy and John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Carly Simon, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Seals & Crofts and Dan Fogelberg played the music of my teenaged soundtrack.

I always leaned toward the instruments I played: piano, trumpet, acoustic guitar... much more than the growing electric influences that were taking over. I also dreamed more of intimate venues rather a than stadium or arena setting. The harmonies of America, The Eagles and more had me singing along.

I was active playing trumpet in school bands, including the “Stage Band” which was a Big Band, which played for school dances and concerts. With them, I played in the outside venue of the Lincoln Center in New York for a jazz festival one summer.

mwe3: You also play piano and bass too? Did interest in dulcimer and ukulele inspire you to learn other instruments? Do you recall your first guitar and was it nylon or steel string? Nylon is easier on the finger tips but the neck makes the technique more challenging right?

Steve Eulberg: For me the progression was: Voice, piano, trumpet, harmonica, guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, banjo, bass, autoharp and more.

You bet I remember my guitars! My first guitar was a nylon-string classical guitar that was a Christmas gift. Since what I wanted was a steel-string acoustic, I took off those nylon strings as soon as the holiday was over and put on steel strings. After a very short time the bridge started peeling off the soundboard and I was embarrassed at the music store when they told me that what I had done was breaking my guitar. I went back and replaced the nylon strings; the bridge relaxed and I began saving for a bolted-on neck Epiphone 6-string that I played for 25 years, before that neck imploded.

Then I played a used Takamine for a time, my son now has that one until I began my quest to find an instrument I could truly love. I found it on the very first night of my quest in September… but in true Galahad tradition, I had to continue my quest until I convinced myself.

My Huss & Dalton, DS, slope-shouldered, modeled after the 1930s-40s Gibsons, but with radiused top, neck and extra large soundhole, is the one that grabbed my ear and heart and still has them.

Yes, there is different technique and some adjustments to make. The nylon strings can feel like walking on the driveway with water hoses under your feet compared to the thin, tighter steel that bites your fingers at first! The typical nylon-string guitar has a much wider neck as well, so a bit of finger stretching is required.

mwe3: Why did you call your 2019 album Between The Tracks and how would you compare it with your other album releases? Being an all-instrumental album, what did you set out to achieve on the Between The Tracks album?

Steve Eulberg: I grew up in a town that was bounded on east and west by the Baltimore and Ohio and the Chesapeake and the Ohio Railroads so the rhythms of the trains and their whistles played a large part in the landscape of my childhood.

This instrumental release is actually a return to some of my earlier focus. In 1999 I released my first all-instrumental album of mountain dulcimer ensembles entitled, Hark! the Glad Sound and followed that with ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime, an album of mountain and hammered dulcimer instrumentals, in 2003.

Most of my other recordings have been songs, or combinations of songs and filled with lyrics to convey the messages and themes together with instrumental interludes.

This time I really wrestled with what I could say, in this current world of noise and confusion, misinformation and clamor, and I realized that the thing that helped me navigate these waters was wordless music. Playing and composing these tunes helped me calm the voices in my own head and put my fears and anxieties back into their regular-sized beds to rest.

mwe3: How many albums have you recorded and released and are they all instrumental releases? I did hear your track “I Miss America” which is a vocal track. It’s interesting to hear that side of your music too.

Steve Eulberg: Between the Tracks is my 9th solo recording, but I have recorded two with my duo Fiddle Whamdiddle, an EP with my trio S-E-A-Folkgrass, and several with friends. I have 16 recordings, plus several singles, cassettes and 2 DVDs to my credit. In addition, I’ve been honored to be included in 3 national compilations of mountain dulcimer players and have composed for theatrical settings.

Thank you for mentioning “I Miss America”. That tune and “War Is Sweet” were written in the early months of this millennium and ended up being included in Neil Young’s “Living With War” webpage. “War Is Sweet” also topped the Independent Country Song chart in New York in September 2007. It is unfortunate that “I Said Nothing,” a vocal setting of Martin Niemöller’s famous quote continues to apply over a decade after I wrote it. One of the highlights of my career was being able to sing that in the church he served in Dahlem-Dorf, Berlin, Germany in 2006.

mwe3: Between The Tracks starts off with “Habits” and it’s a kind of bossa nova inspired track. I read that you were influenced by Jobim’s music too and I was then thinking a lot of your new album has that laid-back bossa style.

Steve Eulberg: “The Girl From Ipanema” continues to define a summer feel for me, now these many years after Jobim brought bossa nova style to the US. I love the tension between the rich, colorful chords and the smooth rhythms that make one lean back and sway. Once I got in that zone, I began to find more and more musical ideas that have been fun to explore and develop.

mwe3: Speaking of bossa nova style guitar instrumentals, track 12 “Guitar Etude No. 3” was composed by Dan Fogelberg, who is best remembered as a folk-singer. How did you find that track as it’s the only cover song on the new album?

Steve Eulberg: Dan’s father was a composer and conductor, so instrumental music was rich in his background. I think fewer people are aware of his instrumental recordings because of the pop radio system, which is tilted toward lyric-based music. His two albums with Tim Weisberg gave him room to expand and explore... and, thankfully, garner radio play which allowed hearers like me to be both transfixed and inspired by them!

“Guitar Etude No. 3” was recorded by Fogelberg with Weisberg on his Twin Sons of Different Mothers LP as a guitar-flute duet and I have been taken with it since first hearing it. I never envisioned how to play it as a solo. I recently heard a live recording of Dan playing it in Carnegie Hall where he sang the flute parts. Not long after I saw a competition video of someone who had worked it out as a guitar solo and I resolved to do the same. It is a delightful and challenging piece to learn and play. I am very pleased with the result.

mwe3: Can you tell us something about the way Between The Tracks was recorded? Was it all recorded live and then the percussion tracks were laid down? What tracks were recorded first?

Steve Eulberg: I recorded the guitars live in the studio with Grammy-winning engineer, Oscar Autie, in his El Cerrito studio in the East Bay. Often artists will begin with the percussion and then layer the other instruments. For this solo project, I began with the guitar tracks first, adding percussion later. Because I had been working on these compositions for such an extended period of time, we were able to record and mix them very efficiently, in a short period of time in March of this year.

mwe3: In addition to the bossa nova tracks, the Ragtime guitar sound is very much in evidence on Between The Tracks. What ragtime guitarists influenced you most? I still have my book “The Art of Ragtime Guitar” which I bought way back in 1974. Have you seen that book?

Steve Eulberg: I am not aware of that particular book/disc, but I still have several of that type of resources still in my library! Leo Kottke, Doc Watson, Elizabeth Cotten are some of the players who paved my path.

mwe3: Tell us about the guitars you feature on Between The Tracks including your Cordoba classical and your Huss & Dalton DS guitar. What do you like best about those guitars and what other guitars do you have in your collection? What strings to you use with those two guitars?

Steve Eulberg: I prefer John Pearse Phosphor Bronze Wound Light Gauge (Set #600L) for my Huss & Dalton, and D’Addario Pro-Arté Nylon Core Silver Wound nylon (Set EJ45) for my Cordoba.

What I loved from the moment I held and strummed both of these guitars is the tone that floats from them. The Huss & Dalton sounded like a concert hall in my lap with such a balanced and mature tone; the Cordoba just vibrated through my chest with such warmth of round tone.

I am also sort of particular about the feel of the neck in my hand. I don’t have long fingers, so generally I feel more comfortable with thinner necks, but I also notice that the I prefer a gloss finish on the back of the neck rather than a matte finish.

For a long time played a Samick half-sized body nylon-string classical guitar because it had an on-board pickup and I liked the round tone, but when I recently found my Cordoba Fusion 14 cutaway classical guitar... I decided that I had additional room in my heart for more guitar love! My 1970s-era Guild 12-String has a long-story of its own that I can tell you sometime.

mwe3: “Godspeed” is for the late great Pete Huttlinger. His passing was a loss for the guitar community. What influence did Pete give you as a musician? I remember Pete’s great instrumental Stevie Wonder tribute album from 2009 called Finger Picking Wonder.

Steve Eulberg: I always loved Pete’s lyrical arrangements and his warm and generous spirit. The first time I performed on stage at the Walnut Valley Festival he complimented my set as he was setting up to follow me. Those kindnesses really matter. I followed his career and health challenges and was so glad he returned to performing, and then felt devastated at his loss. “Godspeed” was my only way to respond. I composed and captured the first draft of that tune in one take.

mwe3: What other artists do you work with and record with? In addition to your recording career, you also produce and teach music as well as perform live concerts. What artists are you currently working with both as a performer and producer?

Steve Eulberg: I work with Colorado fiddler Vi Wickam in our duo Fiddle Whamdiddle, and with my other duo partner Erin Mae Lewis, a National Champion Mountain Dulcimer player, from Wichita, Kansas. She and I have also performed with her fiddle and banjo playing sister, Amber Rogers Clark as a trio: S-E-A-Folkgrass.

I enjoy playing informally with many musicians in the Bay Area, and especially with dulcimer players across the country. I am currently working as transcriber and typesetter for Deborah Hamouris and Lisa Sniderman (“Aeode”) from the Bay Area. I conduct the Berkeley Dulcimer Orchestra, which performs classical and popular multipart arrangements from my Dulcimer Orchestra Library Project.

mwe3: Have you recorded Dulcimer-based albums? What dulcimer players do you like and what dulcimer albums have you released?

Steve Eulberg: Dulcimers have been my niche for many years. Next year I will celebrate my 40 Dulcimer-filled years with my touring and performing. In 2010, a fan sponsored a concert in a nice venue for my 30 Dulcimer-Filled Years, which I had filmed and edited into my DVD, Steve Eulberg in Concert. I am planning a project with my daughter, Kaitlin, who is also a mountain dulcimer player and singer.

mwe3: What about your upcoming live shows and what music will you be featuring on the shows? Have you played in many states and have you done any shows overseas?

Steve Eulberg: I will be at the Pickin’ Porch in Townsend, Tennessee (Aug 31); Folkcraft Music in Indiana (9/14) for a day of workshops and concert; then I will play in some different settings in our local hospital and for my church. I will be featuring a sort of “greatest hits” from my career, together with the tunes on Between the Tracks. It is easier to count the states in which I have not yet performed: Montana, North Dakota, Maine, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

mwe3: What other plans do you have upcoming for the rest of 2019? Should be an interesting year for all of us coming up.

Steve Eulberg: I have taught guitar on JamPlay.com since 2006 and co-own DulcimerCrossing.com to teach dulcimers on-line, so I have several lessons to edit and more to recruit and record for those students. I have an Artist-in-Residency retreat planned for December in Alaska and then I have several festival bookings for next year to help me celebrate my 40 Dulcimer-Filled Years. I have several different recording projects that are lining up in my queue and now that this one is released, some new compositions are starting to flow out. I am grateful for my patrons on Patreon whose ongoing support pushes me to focus on creativity, and who also get the first access to everything I do.




 

 
   
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