Most of my fandom friends and pretty much my entire twitter timeline have been listening to the new Radio Company album on repeat since it dropped last night — shortly after midnight here on the east coast U.S. (Yes, I ended up staying up far too late doing that same thing). I love the new CD so much, and it reminded me of not just how much I love Jensen Ackles’ voice and singing, but how much I also love Steve Carlson and the way the two of them harmonize together – and have for a very long time.
So I thought I’d share some chats I’ve had with Steve over the years about his music and making music with Jensen, as we all enjoy their latest collaboration.
I was introduced to Steve’s music way back in 2007, when my friend and Fangasm co-author Kathy and I fell head over heels in love with Supernatural and Dean Winchester, and impulsively flew to Fort Worth Texas to see Jensen Ackles in a community theater production of A Few Good Men. We met and bonded with other fangirls there, and somehow ended up driving around listening to music in someone’s jeep and singing along – to a song called ‘Wasted Jamie’ by Steve Carlson, with Jensen singing backup vocals. I was hooked on Steve’s music from that memorable day, and also on Jensen’s surprising ability to do yet another thing really well – go figure!
Steve used to come to many of the early Creation Supernatural cons, so we often were treated to a Carlson concert as the precursor of the Saturday Night Special. (Jensen never got onstage to sing with him like he did at Asylum with both Steve and Jason Manns, but oh well). My LA friends often went to hear him play at the Hotel Café, and sometimes we joined them, always a little dismayed we lived on the ‘wrong coast’ so we couldn’t be there more often. One of my favorite Steve concerts was in Vancouver, during one of the very first Creation cons there. Back in the day, we often enjoyed the shows alongside Danneel and Jensen, and pretty much every show was amazing. I am SO hoping Radio Co. starts touring because it’s been too long since I’ve been treated to a live Steve performance!
We first chatted with Steve when we were writing ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls,’ over dinner in a bar at a convention hotel in LA. He told us about his journey to playing music — he started playing coffee houses and backyard parties when he was in high school and played in a few cover bands, then moved back to LA and played with Kane (with actor and musician Christian Kane, who did a guest spot on Supernatural in its last season). It was then, he said, that he started writing music that wasn’t as ‘country’ and started recording.
This was back in 2008, so we were actually talking about MySpace, believe it or not, and how it was to interact online with fans.
Steve: My passion in life is to be a successful musician and artist, not to be famous. I really enjoy my privacy when it comes to my family and friends, so exposing everything about myself like a lot of artists do is not very appealing to me.
He was appreciative of his fans, though, and of the Supernatural fans (like us) who had discovered his music through that show.
We asked him if the SPN fans were different.
Steve: Yeah, they’re definitely different, and I think proudly so. The music business is very saturated, and however word can spread about your work, is embraced.
At the time, Steve said he was enjoying playing with different people.
Steve: Music is a language and I enjoy speaking with all kinds of people. I hope to do more of that and broaden myself, and my craft, as much as possible.
(I think he’s certainly done that!)
He also told us how he met Jensen (who he mostly calls ‘J’), and how they recorded a song together for the first time.
Steve: I have a lot of friends from Texas, so we met through mutual friends. We were going out on the town one night and he met me at my house and I was working on a song (Come Around More, Alabama) and Jensen heard it and came over and said I love this song. I said I’m just about finished, give me five minutes, and he started singing a line in the background, a harmony, while I was working and I was like, that’s cool, do you want to lay it down real quickly? So we ended up postponing whatever we were going to do and spent the next hours recording and singing.
By the time we chatted with Steve again later that year, he said he had opened up a lot more in terms of interacting with fans, though he still considered himself a private person. He explained that he loved connecting with people through his music.
Steve: I love the experience and the interaction and the interrelationship I have when I’m on stage performing. My personality away from that is different, more inconsistent, but I usually use that when I’m on stage to evoke an emotionally intense performance.
At the time, Steve was missing his friend who was very busy shooting Supernatural in Vancouver, but even then they had music in common.
Steve: J loves music. He’s a really good singer, he sang at church when he was young and he’s great at harmonizing and he has great taste in music. We were constantly turning each other on to music, and I still get texts from him, like have you heard blah blah blah? We have a lot of things in common too. It’s tough because I’m happy he’s working and the show is doing well, but deep down it sucks because he’s my friend. He’s a funny guy, but more of the time he’s kind of serious. He takes his life seriously. He has an inner child but he doesn’t walk around acting like a child. Like you have to be able to carry yourself in a mature, professional fashion and also sometimes let your inner child come out.
I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but Carlson also had a song on Supernatural (in the episode ‘Provenance’), so of course we asked him about that – and it turned out to be an unlikely and amusing story.
Steve: I had seen my friend Chris, who co-wrote the song, one night at a birthday party and he was dancing using the drink as his prop and I was like, that would be a great beer commercial! We put the song together and I got back and played it for Jensen and he asked me to burn him a copy. He was playing it in his trailer one day and a producer was like oh, who’s that? He said it’s my roommate, Steve, and the producer said, that would be perfect for the bar scene in our next episode. Their people called my people and negotiated it and worked fast to get it in and sign a contract, and the next thing I know I was flying to Boston and it aired. I was on the phone with someone because I couldn’t watch it live and he was watching and telling me oh, it was loud (on the show) – I was going through security and the guy was like, you have to get off the phone, so I threw it in the Xray machine and then grabbed it back and was like, so it was loud? And he was like yeah, and it’s still on! I had it on Tivo but it sucked because I was in Boston and no one I knew had Tivo so I had to wait a week to watch it when I got home – that was the first thing I did!
(It was 2008 folks, hence the Tivo…)
Talk about back in the day… (still by Chris Schmelke, though!)
I wish I’d taken more photos back in those early days when I was first introduced to Steve (and Jensen and Supernatural), but cell phones didn’t take decent photos and nobody ever taught me how to be a photographer, alas. So I’ve included here a few at the top from actual photographer Liz Sisson, who took the photos for our first two books.
Also way back in 2008, in our very first chat with Steve, he talked about how eager he was to record his next record.
Steve: And I can’t go long without being on a stage singing, so I’ll be scheduling shows in between recording.
Here’s hoping he still feels that way, and that he convinces his Radio Company collaborator to join him in some sort of concert tour! (I spoke to Jensen a few weeks ago and he said he wouldn’t say no, but they don’t have any plans – but hey, that’s not a definite no!)
For now, I’m going back to listening to Vol. 2 and singing along – stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversations over the years with Steve Carlson and some memories of Jensen’s first times performing as a singer instead of an actor, and some of his most memorable performances. Check back for more!
You can find the beautiful new Radio Company music here – https://smarturl.it/radiocompanyvol2. Enjoy!
You can read Jensen’s chapters about what
Supernatural and the fans have meant to him
In Family Don’t End With Blood and
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done –
Links on the home page or peacewhenyouaredone.com