Musician

THE FULL STORY

Steve Azar was born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi at the entrance to the Mississippi Delta. His mother was raised above the family grocery store located on Highway 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi near the infamous “Crossroads”. “The Crossroads” is the intersection of Route 61 and Route 49, or the 61/49 split as they call it there, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, made famous in the Robert Johnson song, “Cross Road Blues”. This is where Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for mastery of the blues, or so the story goes. Steve’s mom’s younger brother grew up to be the mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Two of Steve’s cousin’s, Abe and Pat Davis, own and operate the famous Abe’s Bar-B-Q. Located right at the 61/49 split, Abe’s is also where you see the famous “Crossroads” sign with the huge guitars. Rock and Blues legends from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Clarksdale to stand at the Crossroads, and many stop in for a bite at Abe’s while they are there. Abe’s is famous, and delicious. Steve’s dad owned the first legal liquor store in the state. Behind that liquor store is where Steve first learned about the blues music of the Delta.

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“I was hooked on Eugene Powell (Sonny Boy Nelson) who made Blues records back in the 1930’s,” says Steve. “I would hang out behind my dad’s liquor store, sit on a crate and listen to Eugene sing about his day and about his night before. Those were some of my first lyric writing lessons, even though I didn’t know it at the time.”

“It was all around us down there, and I was hooked on what it was they were talking about. Little Milton, Sam Chatmon and Roosevelt (Booba) Barnes all lived, or hung out there. B.B. King was from Itta Bena and Albert King was raised in Indianola, both towns are out on Highway 82 from Greenville. When my early band started growing and we were up to three trucks to carry all the band and gear, Little Milton would say, You really gonna’ do this Little Azar! (that’s what he called me) It wasn’t a question, he was telling me, and he saw me actually doing it. He told me, If you’re gonna’ do this, you gotta’ make it your whole life, you gotta’ work hard every day at it!”

“I work hard at it everyday… I love the work I get to do!”says Steve.

“Where I grew up in the Delta, there was always something new that came into my life and inspired me to write music. Whether its pain, hope, joy, laughter or sadness, there are always emotions that you experience, we all do. I’ve written about those emotions since I was about 11 years old.”

While attending and then graduating from Delta State University, Azar was also busy touring with his band. Steve had become a regional headliner playing the biggest clubs in the Delta, was a regular on the college campus circuit, and played nearly every Blues Festival.

While attending and then graduating from Delta State University, Azar was also busy touring with his band. Steve had become a regional headliner playing the biggest clubs in the Delta, was a regular on the college campus circuit, and played nearly every Blues Festival.

It was a sweltering September afternoon during the Delta Blues Festival at Freedom Village in his hometown of Greenville. Steve was humbled to share the stage with Delta Blues music legend, James “Son” Thomas, in a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Upon finishing the set, Steve walked off the stage, where blues legend Mr. Albert King said to him, “Hey kid, you got it! …. Where ya’ goin’ with it?” Azar said, “Nashville Mr. King.” With a smile, and a bit of sarcasm, Albert exclaimed, “Ahhhhh, the Devil goes to Nashville!”

Azar did move to Nashville and within days had multiple song publishing contract offers. During the time that followed, Steve began working on his own songs, writing with the “who’s who” of Nashville great songwriters, and developing his unique way of storytelling that led to some classic songs in the following years. 

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It took a bit longer to achieve what Steve considers his first “real” recording deal, eventually signing as a performer to a major label, Mercury Nashville. His 2002 full-length release, Waitin’ on Joe really put Steve on the country music map. “I Don’t Have To Be Me ('til Monday)” was the first single from that record and reached #2 nationally on the country radio charts. “I Don’t Have To Be Me ('til Monday)” is still a power recurrent at radio today and is one of the Top 5 most played songs of the last decade at country radio. BMI has honored Steve with their “Million-Air” award and “Monday” has received almost 3 million spins on the radio since release. His next single was the title track from the record, Waitin’ on Joe. “Waitin’ on Joe”, the song, became a Top 10 radio hit and reached #1 on the CMT video charts. “Waitin’ on Joe” reached into Steve’s Mississippi roots for the story of life on the river, and featured his Mississippi friend, Academy Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, to help tell that story of life in Mississippi. There were several years of working radio and touring that followed the release of Waitin On Joe. The single “I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘til Monday)” lasted almost a year on the charts alone.

The next few years brought a down time for Steve Azar, due largely to throat surgery which sidelined him from recording and playing live. This hiatus gave Azar time to write songs and do some real soul searching about his career direction.

After a long recovery and new-found sense of direction, Steve arrived back with his first release, Indianola (2006). The album was released on Ride Records, a label he founded with Motor City business mogul and dear friend Al Wisne. 

Named after a town just down the road from Greenville and the birthplace of the great, Albert King, Indianola was the debut release from his own independent music label, Dang/Ride Records. “You Don’t Know a Thing” and “You’re My Life” both enjoyed success at country radio. The video for “You Don’t Know a Thing” featured golfer, John Daly, and was an instant favorite at the country music video channels. “You’re my Life”, is still a strong seller and fan favorite to this day. Indianola also received strong critical reviews and landed the album at #1 on the XM Radio “Country Outlaw” channel, bumping Willie Nelson out of the #1 spot, and then giving up the #1 spot to John Mellencamp the next week.

In 2007 Azar was personally chosen by Bob Seger to open his U.S. tour which was ranked by Pollstar Magazine the #1 Tour in America that year. Steve received many standing ovations from enthusiastic crowds, including one at Madison Square Garden. Reviews of Steve’s show were great, like the Columbus Dispatch reviewer who wrote, “Azar has the inflections and rhythms of a young Bob Dylan…”

Slide On Over Here followed in 2009 and represented the beginning of a new chapter of Steve’s musical journey. “Moo La Moo” was the first single from a 13-track effort and both the song and the video enjoy chart success, catapulting Azar back in the Top 40 on the country charts. “Sunshine” soon followed and won not only critical praise but set a record for highest charting song from a true independent label on the Billboard Activator chart. It achieved Top 20 success on all the country radio charts and landed the #1 spot on the GAC-TV Top 20 Video Countdown. It also was fan voted at #29 on the “GAC-TV Year End” favorite videos for 2010. Further still, “Sunshine” remained active on the radio charts for nearly 40 weeks, a proud accomplishment for both Steve and his young label. Still in recurrent airplay around the country, “Sunshine” proved Steve’s ability as a songwriter to reach listeners with his lyrics about human emotions. When asked to pick her favorite song of 2010 by People Magazine’s Country Edition, Taylor Swift picked Steve’s song, “Sunshine,” explaining “It’s so sensitive and sweet. It comes from a place of vulnerability, and I love hearing that from a guy”.

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On Memorial Day 2011, Steve released “Soldier Song” a tribute to our soldiers and their families. Instead of another song about war, “Soldier Song” speaks of the personal lives interrupted by those that serve, and their families left behind. “Soldier Song” was chosen by Fox News Channel and used as the theme music behind their Memorial Day Special on Special Report with Bret Baier which featured President Bush’s time spent mountain biking with a group of amazing soldiers. Steve dedicated a portion of the proceeds from this song to the soldiers by joining forces with his friend, NFL star Jared Allen and his charity, Homes 4 Wounded Warriors.

Steve has relocated home base back to the “Delta” of Mississippi. More than half of Steve’s live show has always been filled with music of his Delta home, and his songwriting and recording reflects his Delta music upbringing. Steve is especially proud of his on-going connection to Mississippi.

In 2003, Governor Ronnie Musgrove and legislature declared March 13 as Steve Azar Day in the great state of Mississippi.

Second Crossing: Mississippi’s Landmark Bridge is a Mississippi PBS documentary about the rebuilding of this historic bridge following Hurricane Katrina. Steve narrates the documentary chronicling the construction of this new crossing over America’s most storied river. Later, in 2016 his voice was used for a series of 12 short documentaries celebrating Mississippi Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) 100th Anniversary.

Steve was one of the stars of Mississippi Rising, a benefit event at The University of Mississippi for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He shared the stage with friend Morgan Freeman, plus Sela Ward, Samuel L. Jackson, The Mississippi Mass Choir, Faith Hill, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander and Lance Bass.

Steve currently records with his own label, renamed, Ride Records. The label name “Ride” is derived from some advice Steve received from his friend, Little Milton. He told me, “Little Azar, you’re in for the Ride of your life”, Azar recalls. Comprising a small team of experts with miles of music biz experience, Ride Records continues to go from strength to strength and blazes its own trail in the jungle that is today’s music industry. 

In early fall of 2011, Steve released Delta Soul Volume One, a collection of songs that are an exceptional mix of Delta blues and rock. The single “Doin’ It Right” (Delta Mix) was the feature track for Sony Pictures 2013 movie Here Comes The Boom starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek. 

Steve wrote “Fly”, the official song for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail. His performance at the opening ceremonies reached an audience of one billion households. “Fly” was also used as the feature song for Sony Pictures movie: Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 starring actor Kevin James.

Governor Paul R. LePage has requested that all the Governors in the United States use Steve’s song, “The Sky is Falling”, as a way to spread awareness about the serious issue of human trafficking in America.

In April of 2016, Steve became the first artist to record a full-length studio album at the legendary Mississippi landmark, Club Ebony. A long time in the making, and his first record in 5 years, Steve cut 13 new original tracks. The club, now belonging to the BB King Museum, was turned into a recording studio capturing the rich history and vibe of the room and in turn inspiring incredible performances on the record. The album, Down at the Liquor Store, was made with the participation of The Kings Men, a group of musicians who backed BB King, Elvis Presley, and other musical Kings. The combination of Steve’s Delta songwriting approach and the band's musical background has created a unique and soulful sound.  

Steve Azar & The Kings Men made their live debut headlining 2016’s BB King Homecoming Festival. The band headlined Mississippi Night At The GRAMMY’s in Los Angeles February 2017, and are the headliner of Mississippi’s Bicentennial Celebration in Jackson, Mississippi. The new record is accompanied by a full-length feature documentary combining the making of the record with the musical trajectory of The Kings Men and the Mississippi Delta’s important musical influence on the world music scene. The film, titled Something In The Water, was released in 2017.

Steve is an in-demand keynote speaker. His speeches highlight the importance of giving back and that it is never too soon to start. From the sports world to the world of entertainment, Steve has had success and has also had his share of trials and tribulations; his speeches are full of the lessons learned. 

2017 marks the bicentennial of the state of Mississippi. Steve has been appointed Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi and is working closely with the State of Mississippi in his official role. This position enables him to continue making a positive impact on the State’s tourism and economy. His Delta Soul Celebrity Golf & Charity Event and Mighty Mississippi Music Festival have added millions in economic impact to the state. As ambassador Steve is making an even larger impact. Steve is the recipient of the 2018 prestigious Mississippi Arts Commission “Governor's Choice Award”.

In January 2018, Steve began hosting his own radio show and podcast “In A Mississippi Minute with Steve Azar”. Steve takes on the other side of the interview asking the questions and talking with friends from all walks of celebrity sharing their stories to success and what’s going on in their lives now. The show is broadcast throughout the state on SuperTalk Mississippi radio network and available nationally online and via podcast.

In February of 2019, he co-founded and hosted his first Mockingbird Music Series.  A bi-monthly musical dinner series featuring intimate performances with some of Nashville’s best and prolific award-winning songwriters, telling the stories behind their hits and performing them as originally written.

He was named to the 2019 class of Mississippi Top 50 in the Business, Media and Culture category. Mississippi Top 50 is an annual list of the people who are judged to be the most influential leaders in the state. This bipartisan selection of leaders comes from the ranks of elected and appointed officials, economic development professionals, business, media and government affairs. 

In October of 2019, Azar was enshrined on the Mississippi Country Music Trail as the trail’s 32nd marker was unveiled in Greenville, Mississippi. Governor Bryant was in attendance and spoke at the marker unveiling ceremony. Azar's class also included the legends Jerry Lee Lewis (Nesbit, MS) and Marty Gamblin (Philadelphia, MS) as well as Johnny Cash’s “Starkville City Jail” track and Jimmie Rodgers’ Bristol, Tennessee music sessions. 

Also in 2019, Azar officially released the bicentennial anthem “One Mississippi" after a request from then Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant that Steve write the official song to commemorate the state's bicentennial anniversary. From slug burgers to The Muppets to the Natchez Trace Parkway, “One Mississippi” highlights the charm and history of the Magnolia State. The song was recorded at The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience (The Max) in Meridian. The official music video, filmed and produced by Azar’s son Strack, documents the recording session. 

Earlier this year Azar co-founded The Mighty Roots Music Festival. The inaugural event will be held October 2-3 on historic Stovall Farms, just outside of Clarksdale, MS and 70 miles south of Memphis, TN.  The lineup promises a wide-ranging array of performers and a unique experience on the site of the old Stovall Gin Company cotton gin complex, which is being reinvigorated as a concert venue. 

Steve is currently working on two record projects to be released summer and fall of 2020. The first is a 6-song EP to be called the Okra Sessions, made with Steve’s band in collaboration with the talented students of the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University.  Additionally, he will be putting out a compilation exclusive vinyl and digital release titled “My Mississippi Reunion” which will feature some NEW and some OLD songs, all about home.

 

WHAT IS DELTA SOUL?

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It’s a style of music born in the people that come from the Mississippi Delta. It tells the stories of a hard life, the mixing of cultures and race, poverty and pride. It’s about earning a meager living from the cotton crop, or the long hours on the Mississippi river. The music of the Delta has influenced some of the greatest rock and blues music of all time. Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and so many others have been inspired by the sounds that resonate deep in its very soil.

Delta Soul is the music from a man born and raised in the heart of it all. It’s a mix of the sounds and musical lessons he learned growing up in Greenville, Mississippi. It’s honest and pure, the lyrics are a journey through the places he’s been and the people he’s known. It’s the stories shared by family, friends and blues legends.

Azar mixes his Delta roots with blues, rock and soul, and a little touch of twang to create his sound, Delta Soul. It’s a collection of songs that take you along on Steve’s musical journey through his life in the Mississippi Delta.