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"I constantly hit dead ends, The cure is always to change the point of view." - Steve Morse 

Posted: December 17, 2023
The cure is always to change the point of view.  For playing ideas, try different keys, or limiting yourself to some fewer strings in order to force a linear approach, playing an acoustic instead of electric (not being able to now use bends), and different tempos.

Photo by: Michel De Pourcq

It's easy to get bored when we feel stuck in a routine, same old habits, going about our lives on autopilot. To break out of that routine, we don't always have to take huge leaps. One small step can be enough, doing one little thing a bit differently.

How does an artist who has accomplished almost everything in their music career avoid getting stuck in the same routine? While consistency is considered a positive trait, it can often set into motion habits that are unfulfilling. It can prevent an artist from moving forward. Some would also refer to this as “tunnel vision”.

Our guest today is Steve Morse. His Grammy award nominations reflect his dedication to creativity and versatility. Other than his Grammy award nominations he has performed with some stellar bands throughout the decades. Therefore, it is imperative that we draw from his experience, and wisdom to avoid getting stuck on autopilot.

ABOUT STEVE MORSE

Steve Morse is a guitarist renowned for his intricate compositions, innovative techniques, and versatility across musical genres. Having started playing the guitar around the age of 11, he later attended the University of Miami’s School of Music, where he studied classical guitar and jazz. Morse’s solo and collaborative work have netted seven Grammy award nominations. He has appeared on over 200 commercial albums.



A “guitarist’s guitarist”, he was voted “Best Overall Guitarist” in the Guitar Player Readers Poll for five consecutive years. He was then removed from eligibility to open the award to other musicians.

Steve has established himself in a wide range of musical genres, from classical guitar to jazz and fusion to country and bluegrass to progressive rock, pop-rock and hard rock, beginning with bands such as the Dixie Dregs, the Steve Morse Band and Kansas.

In 1994, Steve joined Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Deep Purple; he is the band’s longest-serving guitarist. In 2011, Steve became a member of Evans’ newly formed progressive prog/pop supergroup Flying Colors. To date, they recorded three studio albums and three live albums, including the #1 nationally charting Live in Europe. In between work with his bands, Steve appears and records with other artists, guesting on over 60 albums to date.

In February 2016, Deep Purple recorded a new album, their second one with producer Bob Ezrin. This follow-up to 2013’s highly acclaimed Now What?! is titled infinite and was released in April 2017. Flying Colors reconvened in December of 2016 and started writing for their third studio in 2018, there was a reunion tour of the Dixie Dregs Free Fall lineup. The decade concluded with 2019’s release of Flying Color’s Third Degree and Deep Purple’s Whoosh!

Morse began 2020 with a series of collaboration and guest spots, due to be released later this year.

Steve plays a series of signature guitars designed with Ernie Ball Music Man, outfitted with his signature DiMarzio pickups, and ENGL amplifiers, all of which contribute to his ubiquitous sound.

INTERVIEW WITH STEVE MORSE AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: I can say with confidence that it is our privilege to chat with you today. Throughout decades of hard work, you have amassed some valuable accolades. What has been a specific portion of your routine that has contributed to what you have accomplished?

Steve: Part of my routine is to have a set time for music, that is difficult to change.  Consistent work brings results.  I prefer the results of my writing that is done a little at a time, compared to doing a huge amount in one sitting, because you get a chance to listen objectively when you come back and listen after some time. 

Guitar Thrills: Getting stuck in a rut, or a non-productive routine, has often encouraged failure for artists in the music industry. Have you experienced a rut, and if so, what enabled you to overcome it?

Steve:  I constantly hit dead ends, such as not knowing which way to go for the 'next part' of a tune idea, or finding a better way to solo on a section.  The cure is always to change the point of view.  For playing ideas, try different keys, or limiting yourself to some fewer strings in order to force a linear approach, playing an acoustic instead of electric (not being able to now use bends), and different tempos.  The list goes on and on, but change the angle with which you see the challenge.

Guitar Thrills: What is your advice to artists looking to work towards a productive routine, and focus on changes that are conducive to their music career?

Steve: Consider your bid to be a professional as a job itself.  That means working 8 hours a day on writing, contacts, practice for technique, practice for ideas and expression, listening.....and learning to do what you say you will do!  That's one of the biggest ones: Don't keep your band mates waiting, don't ever show up empty handed when you had homework to do (transcribing, finished a song, lyrics, roughs for the band, gig possibilities, etc).



Guitar Thrills: Thank you for your insightful feedback. I am certain that are readers will make application of your suggestions.

Guitar Thrills: You have worked some very exciting bands. Undeniably bands, that have left their mark on music history and artists alike. Is there anything you would have changed in your music career?

Steve:  Yes and no.  Yes, I could have been MUCH more strategic to my benefit. No, what I did resulted in a long career with lots of great musicians.  I have to agree with the common wisdom that what you have done makes you who you are.  So, I shouldn't have regrets, even though, like many people, I sometimes do.

Guitar Thrills: Was there a specific band, that you felt a sense of awe performing with?

Steve:  At peak times, all of them.  It's like a football player that played with lots of teams has had those thrilling moments of scoring with all of the teams.

Guitar Thrills: I am almost positive that you have addressed your time with Dixie Dregs. The band broke up in the early 80’s. Was it the right time for you personally? Did you think it was time to move on? How did it help you with the other projects that you would soon take on?

Steve:  We were fairly young, and there were some issues with some of the members that caused it to not be enjoyable at the very end.  We existed for the music, and luckily, that went well. The band's mission is resuming at this very moment, as we plan another series of short tour legs. Dregs helped me with other projects because the band gave me a chance to bring in all my ideas and have them TRIED.  I mistakenly thought it would be that way with every group I worked with, so that's a lesson I had to learn on my own!  So, in that sense, I was less prepared than somebody who was used to the fact that one guy in a 5 man band shouldn't expect more than a 20% chance of getting his ideas adopted.  But the many years of learning that I could trust my instincts (because of the opportunity to always try and fine tune my ideas) was huge.

Guitar Thrills: Did you ever think there was just a different goal, or what each member wanted out their time together? Accomplishments, fans, creativity, etc.

Steve:  I was probably turning into a more introverted guy, working on my own studio, my first farm, and living some distance away from the city where the guys lived.

Guitar Thrills: Looking back, do you think changes could have been made that would have contributed to the longevity of the Dixie Dregs? If so, what were they?



Steve:  Yes.  We were always told that we couldn't get gigs in Europe because we weren't a big product selling band.  But the few chances we have had to get exposure showed the European audience to be incredibly receptive.  Same clues in many other countries.  So, we could have been finding new ground all the time instead of repeating our same circuit over and over.  It may or may not have kept the personal problems from taking front seat, since we would have been super busy all the time.  On the other hand, we would have had less time to practice and develop song ideas, and might have turned into a more typical band.  So, once again, we are a product of the way it was, not what could have been.

Guitar Thrills: The Steve Morse band was an excellent approach to the industry. What were some of your personal achievements from having a band named after you?

Steve: SMB is a lean, mean outfit.  For me, fixing up the truck, loading it from the building that Chuck Allen and I built, having hardworking, gifted members that would give heart and soul at every gig, getting to produce on my schedule, and having the ability to steer the dynamics of the music because there was always room for the guys to hear me.

Guitar Thrills: I know you were with Kansas for a bit. Were you enamored by their reputation and established pattern of success?

Steve:  I was friends with most of the members since we lived in Atlanta, where they had moved. I would say, yes I was a big fan, especially of Kerry's writing.  He and I were friends with pretty similar tendencies, so we had a lot of mutual respect.  Steve Walsh had helped me out on a recording (middle of Crank it Up), and we often saw Phil, Rich and Robby at shows in the city.

Guitar Thrills: With so many accomplishments, what’s next for Steve Morse?

Steve: I think some more 'bucket list' tour segments, and it's getting to be time to try to share some of what I think I've learned over the last half century.  So, I don't know exactly what form that takes, but probably a multifaceted one, such as what you're allowing me to do right now!

Guitar Thrills: I want to thank you for spending some time with us today. We welcome you back anytime. You are one of the top performing guitarists of all time. I personally enjoyed this interview and look forward to including it in the January issue of Guitar Thrills Magazine.

Steve:  Thank you for asking me and allowing another place for guitarists' voices to be heard!




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