This is our first part of our video interview with Canadian singer-songwriter, Steve Taunton. Steve is originally from Montreal and has called Barrie, Ontario home for several years. We sat down one rainy afternoon in late March 2023, and chatted about several topics related to his guitar playing, his history as a guitar player, and of his love of music and writing music. There are moments in this interview where Steve’s honesty and candor are remarkable and frankly, took me by surprise. I respect his courage in willing to share such deeply personal issues with me, in our first ever in-person meeting, while being recorded on video.
His struggles with mental illness have left a mark on him emotionally, professionally, and artistically. But as is often the case, the best art comes from deep pain and struggle. His music often has a darker edge but is always personal, hopeful, and honest. It is a big part of who he is and who he was but it’s not by any means all he is. He is first and foremost a songwriter and guitarist.
The story of how he started his guitar playing journey is quite humorous. It was a great way to start the interview. Steve is friendly, open, and very personable. He was a great interview and was very easy to speak to and to get to know. His recounting of his early childhood in a musical family was heart-warming. It is very touching for him to tell us how he bonds with his father through music and playing guitar.
He was quite busy in his high school days perfecting his craft, playing with various bands up until his early twenties, until he eventually moved to the Toronto area from Montreal. One of his early bands was a tribute to the band Extreme, where he developed a deep admiration for their guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt. His adulation for Bettencourt continues to this day, which is not hard to argue with since he is one of today’s monsters of rock guitar.
He talks about the formation of his band Nothing Box, which endures to this day. It is at this point that he gets very personal and talks about his bipolar disease diagnosis that he received at about the same time, in his early thirties. My few psychology courses in university marketing and management studies don’t come anywhere close to qualifying me to talk about such issues. These are sensitive and serious topics that cannot be taken lightly. I admire him for being so forthright about his struggles and only whish I could better empathize and converse about the topic of mental illness.
It is somewhat tragic that the medications that helped cure him also negatively affected is guitar playing. But they were a blessing in disguise for his music career, as they made him improve his songwriting. His mental health issues unfortunately also lead to a destructive drug addiction, which fortunately he has found a way to overcome and control. This part of his journey has also formed part of his art.
We moved onto an area where I am far more conversant and knowledgeable: guitar players and music. Steve shares with us his influences, including Ace Frehley, Randy Rhoades, Jake E. Lee, David Gilmour, Zakk Wylde, and Nuno Bettencourt.
I love Steve’s take on Gilmour’s melodic guitar-playing, where he says, “he serves the song.”
David Gilmour was the long-time guitarist for the rock band Pink Floyd. Two of his most notable guitar solos are found in the song Time from the album Dark Side of the Moon and in the song Comfortably Numb from the album The Wall. Comfortably Numb features a fantastic and touching guitar solo halfway through the song and an epic outro that has captivated listeners for decades.
Ace Frehley was the band KISS’s first lead guitarist and was one of its founding members. His guitar work is world renowned. Detroit Rock City is an excellent example of his work.
Jake E. Lee was the guitarist on Ozzy Osbourne’s album, Bark at the Moon, whose title track features one of the best (in my opinion) guitar solos in eighties era heavy metal. The guitar work on the whole song is simply other worldly.
Randy Rhoades, was of course, Ozzy Osbourne’s first guitar player when he went solo after leaving Black Sabbath. In my last interview, Mike Tessier also credited him as a big influence. Rhoades’ guitar playing is outstanding on both Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman, Osbourne’s first two solo albums.
Zakk Wylde also played with Ozzy Osbourne and had is own band called Black Label Society. Some his greatest guitar work in my opinion is on their song Suicide Messiah and on the Ozzy Osbourne song No More Tears.
As mentioned above, Nuno Bettencourt is the guitarist for the rock band Extreme. My favourite examples of his guitar work is featured in the acoustic heavy song Hole Hearted. It is incredibly intricate acoustic playing.
Steve tells us that Bettencourt is his “guitar god” and says that he is the best guitarist alive in the business. I’m not sure I completely agree but there is no doubt that he is in a class of his own. I hope you enjoy the video and come back for Part 2.
As is typical of my articles, I have to credit Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube as resources for me to check details and do research.
Please click on the link below to watch Part 1 of our interview.