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Dolly Varden at Simon’s – Sunday April 7th

Yep, we’re gonna cram the full band into the corner at Simon’s in Edgewater and play 2 full sets for free to celebrate my birthday. We’ll be putting all the songs we’ve ever recorded into a hat and pulling them out randomly. We haven’t rehearsed since December. It’s gonna be awesome.


Well, hello! Happy 2019. It feels good already, doesn’t it? Time to recommit and move forward. Lots of plans and stuff for the new year. Here’s a rundown of sorts. First off: Funeral Bonsai Wedding with String Quartet Parapluie at Constellation on Feb 2nd. Secondly, Dolly Varden is coming to the UK in Sept, 2019. We have a private booking near Reading on Sat Sept 7 and we are looking to build a tour around that date. Anyone of you in the UK wanna host a house concert with Dolly Varden in Sept? If so please write to me at steve at dollyvarden dot com and we’ll talk! In 2018 I grew my hair out, traveled a lot and wrote a bunch of songs about forgiveness. I didn’t play many shows but the shows I did play were pretty much all wonderful experiences with great musicians and friends (thank you Tommi Zender, Jenny Bienemann, Natalie Gaza, Michael Miles and many others). A short tour to Germany with Adam Reichmann, John Wendland and Andy Ploof in October was really something special and we plan to do a few shows together in the Midwest in the spring. More on that soon. Our end-of-year show with Dolly Varden at SPACE was one of the best in recent memory and if you were there, thanks for coming! What a fun night. One big highlight of 2018 was the On Big Shoulders release show at the Old Town School in December. Especially thrilling was having blues great Barbara Carr join us for her song from the Chess days, “Shake Your Head,” and an outstanding version of the soul classic “Your Real Good Thing (Is About To End)” that blew the roof off of Maurer Hall and had the audience on their feet. A video of that performance is below. What fun to be on stage with such a powerful singer from the classic soul era! I’ve spent hundreds of hours in my home studio, Kernel Sound Emporium, trying to figure out how to best represent these new songs. I think I’ve worked harder on these songs than any in my lifetime. I’m not sure why. I guess I figure I have the time to make them exactly as I want them to be this time around. In June I spent a week learning from Richard Thompson and Patty Griffin at the Frets and Refrains camp in the Catskills. That, too, redoubled my resolve to dig down and get to the deep dark heart and soul of the new songs. Patty Griffin, in particular, is such an inspiration for her uncompromising artistry and passionate dedication to her songs and performances. Spending time with her discussing songwriting and music was one of the best experiences of my life. So almost by accident I’ve made most of a new solo album. It began as a way to work out ideas but as I went it became clear that this was the way I really want present these songs. It is not finished and I don’t have a release date but I hope to get it out this year. Over the years I have been asked how it gets decided what songs will become Dolly Varden songs and what songs will end up on solo albums. From the band’s beginning through 2003 I wrote only for Dolly Varden, so as long as we all felt it was a good song, it would be a DV song. The band took a hiatus in 2003 and at that point I started separating songs into groups of “DV” and “SD” based on a gut feeling, I suppose. But there’s also something about speaking as the voice of a group of people – the band – as opposed to speaking only as myself. Hard to describe. I’m also really just enjoying the obsessive process of making recordings by myself and playing all the parts. And I am willing to drive myself to keep working and working for hours and days on a part until it feels just right. I’m not quite willing to put others through that kind of drudgery. So that’s where we are, friends. These ones really feel like a group of “SD” songs. Dolly Varden has done a fair amount of recording over that last 3 years and some of the results are quite nice. We’ll get a the new DV album happening before too long as new songs that feel right for the band arrive. I also very much hope to record Funeral Bonsai Wedding with Strings this year and release it, possibly as an EP. Yahoo!

Fall 2018 Update – a bunch of shows coming up

Coming up on a busy couple of months as 2018 comes to a close. I have been laying pretty low performance-wise this year up til now. I’m just back from a wonderful short tour of Germany with friends from St Louis, Adam Reichmann, John Wendland and Andy Ploof. Super cool to play songs for such good listening audiences! Here’s what’s coming up: Oct 22 (M): Acoustic Explosion at Sylvie’s: I’m playing a set at 9:30, trying out a bunch of new songs live. 1902 W. Irving Pk Rd. Also on the bill are a bunch of the all stars of the Kernel / Old Town School songwriting community: Rob Lambert, Kathy Greenholdt, Chrissy Johnson, Natalie Gaza and Jack Higgins. Wow! You won’t want to miss ANY of those great songwriters. Show begins at 8 and it is FREE! Nov 3 (Sa): Pig and Weasel House Concert with Tommi Zender: wonderful music listening room in Skokie / Evanston with the very talented Tommi Zender. Swapping songs from both of us. $15 suggested donation. 7:30pm 8933 Forestview, Evanston, IL Nov 16 (F): Front Porch Music in Valparaiso with special guest Natalie Gaza. Solo set at this wonderful listening room in northern Indiana with great singer songwriter Natalie Gaza opening $15 8pm 505 E. Lincolnway, Valparaiso, IN Nov 30 (F): An Evening With Dolly Varden at S.P.A.C.E.  A full evening of songs from all our albums and more. This is our only show in 2018. How’d that happen? Sheesh.  Doors 7pm, Show 8pm. $15 – $28 1245 Chicago Ave, Evanston Dec 2 (Su): “On Big Shoulders” release concert at The Old Town School of Folk Music: I was fortunate enough to be part this album project of Chicago-related music played by a bunch of incredible Chicago musicians.  Check out the first single, “It’s Just That Simple,” here. $20 Advance tickets recommended  7pm 4544 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago