William Steffey, the Chicago, Illinois, post-modern rock singer-songwriter returns with his just-released 11th studio release via his own Aquariphone label. In this exclusive, he gets intimate with Arena and shares the details behind the music
The first thing that you are going to notice when you listen to William Steffey’s new EP Accidents and Melodies that you have never heard anything quite like this before. Sure, you may have heard a lot of the influences, but the Chicago resident puts it together in a way no other artist can imitate.
At least two songs from the seven-track EP, “In A Town” and “Lake Effect,” are just as good and much more daring than anything clogging the rock airwaves today.
With a portion of the album’s proceeds going to Thresholds Chicago, Steffey making an impact on both listeners and the local community too. In this exclusive, he takes Arena behind the makings of Accidents and Melodies.
Arena: Accidents and Melodies is your 11th self-release. Quite the prolific songwriter you are! Being such a veteran at this, tell me what goes into releasing your own record once the songs are written and recorded.
William Steffey: After the songs are finished, I register them with the Office of Copyright and also with my performing rights organization, which happens to be ASCAP. At this point, I’ll send the wav files off to the plant if I’m making CDs. Then, the promotion begins.
Arena: So as an indie artist, take me into what you’re doing to promote this record and, following that up, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being your own label, as well as the artist?
William Steffey: Being your own label just means that you have to do everything on your own, or outsource it, and it also means you probably have less money to work with. For Accidents and Melodies, we’re doing a stripped down approach, utilizing social media channels and local press to get the word out. By the time my next project comes out — [tentatively scheduled to drop] late summer 2015 — I’ll have my live show up and running, so at that point we’ll do a bigger press push utilizing an outside publicist.
Arena: Is there anything special planned for the release of Accidents and Melodies?
William Steffey: I’d like to mention that for the first week of its release, I’m donating 100% of profits from Accidents and Melodies to Thresholds, a non-profit organization in Chicago that provides a variety of mental health resources to the underprivileged. Between Mayor Emanuel closing down half of the city’s mental clinics, and Governor Rauner slashing the social services budget, many people in our community have nowhere to turn. So buy the album or a t-shirt this week, and you’ll be directly helping these folks.
Arena: When someone asked me to describe your sound, I said, “Imagine if Steely Dan went to college in the 1990s and listened to a lot of Ben Folds and Nirvana.” That said, what would you describe your sound as?
William Steffey: You’re pretty right on. I like to call what I do “post-modern rock,” as it contains 70s style songwriting, 80s vocals, 90s guitars, and contemporary production that ties it all together. I’m not sure how I arrived here … [maybe because I was listening to] a lot of my dad’s records when I was a kid and a lot of radio in high school.
Arena: I have been familiar with you and your music for quite a while, and I feel that your new EP, Accidents and Melodies, on a writing level, is your best. What inspired the songs on the EP and how are you usually inspired to write a song? Or is there no usually?
William Steffey: First off, thanks for the compliment! It’s funny you ask about inspiration because Accidents and Melodies came out in a very unusual way. At the beginning of the year, my girlfriend told me about the “RPM Challenge,” where participants are invited to write and record 10 songs within the month of February. I accepted the challenge and indeed recorded the songs, seven of which ended up being Accidents and Melodies. In the past, I did just wait around to be inspired, and songs generally took three to four months to complete. Writing for the challenge meant I had to do a song every few days. It worked out well because I ended up writing about things without censoring myself. The end result was a very personal record.
Arena: You have a lot of music on Arena. If someone asked you which songs of yours they should listen to first, what would you tell them?
William Steffey: I’d say to start with the newest material and work backwards.