Radio Company Vol 2! A Look Back at Steve Carlson and Jensen Ackles’ Musical History

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!

Photos Lizz Sisson

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.

Photos Lizz Sisson

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!

— Lynn

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

Things Get Stormy On Walker’s ‘Fine Is A Four Letter Word’ – In Multiple Ways

Last week’s episode of Walker was the most eventful one ever, with many of the emotional story lines laid out in the first seven episodes getting put to the test as that time honored raise-the-stakes moment of television and film takes over – a tornado! As much as a sudden storm and people being caught in it, allowing us to find heroism in the show’s characters, is a common way to bring suspense and danger, somehow being in the middle of a real life pandemic and the very real effects of climate change make it all seem a bit more serious. That worked in the show’s favor, because the sense of danger was palpable. Kudos also to the show’s writer Katherine Alyse and director Stacey K. Black for keeping the pace slow enough to let that sense of danger build, at first from newscasters warning of the coming storm (a warning mostly missed by the characters caught up in their own emotional challenges) and later from the flurry of phone calls back and forth, which seemed a realistic way of depicting what we all would do in that kind of situation.

This was a complex episode, with serious emotional arcs playing out within the context of a natural disaster – the lingering effects of Abeline’s infidelity, Trevor caught between his feelings for Stella and his loyalty to his father, Micki still trying to avoid the reality of Adriana’s revelation by keeping it from Trey, Cordell making his first awkward and tentative steps toward envisioning a new relationship, and a guilt-stricken Liam wanting to come clean to his brother but trying to protect his fiancé and hurting him in the process. Somehow the writer managed to weave those stories in and out of the storm context deftly enough that they all spooled out realistically.

Watching this week was extra fun because Jared Padalecki and some other cast members live tweeted along with the fandom, adding some behind the scenes insights and some priceless dad jokes. For those of us who watched Supernatural for many years, Walker sometimes feels like a fandom reunion, since many Supernatural fans are now watching and interacting around a new shared TV show.

The episode opens, as it often does, with the core family – Walker and his kids. It’s a brief scene but it shows the progress Cordell has made in keeping to his resolve to be a dad to his children, as he makes pancakes and even flips them deftly.

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His newfound comfort in that role is contrasted with what Liam is explaining to Micki about how his brother was after Emily’s death.

Liam: You didn’t know him then…constant driving obsession that sucked the life out of every second of his day and consumed him. He was convinced that Carlos didn’t kill Emily. We said that there was no conspiracy. We were wrong.

Liam, as Micki points out, looks like shit. Consumed with guilt and the burden of the secrets he’s been keeping from both his fiancé and his brother – that Carlos isn’t the killer and that the bad guys who probably did kill Emily are now after him and Capt. James. And willing to blow up their car to get to them. He’s avoiding Bret so he can keep up the lie, sleeping in his office, unshaven and hollow eyed. Keegan Allen really made me feel for Liam, his guilt and indecision showing in the way he holds himself, his expression, his physicality as well as his words.

Liam insists he won’t risk putting anyone’s life in danger and is terrified that they could have been followed back to Austin. He does have a confidante in Micki now, though. Her research shows that forensics on the bomb matches Northside Nation’s MO. (I’ll admit that name for the gang makes me want to either roll my eyes or giggle each time someone says it, especially after that weird truck round up of kids playing soccer scene, but it is what it is).

Micki: It was them, Liam. I understand how hard it is, but this isn’t your secret to keep. Walker needs to know. That person is now targeting his brother and his captain.

Liam promises that he’s going to tell Walker the truth, and we can all imagine just how difficult that conversation is going to be – for both of them. And Liam is much too preoccupied with his own stormy relationships to listen to the news warning about the actual storm coming.

The rest of the family misses the warnings too, wrapped up in something much more pleasant – the school dance that Stella and Augie are both going to. Abeline helps Stella get ready, a little scene that touched me with its melancholy (Emily not there) but also its resilience (her grandmother stepping in).

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The One With The Killer Truck – Route 666 in Supernatural Rewatch

Route 666 is an interesting episode. It’s not a fan favorite, and the whole ‘killer truck’ thing doesn’t entirely work for me. Up until this point in Season 1, Supernatural had pulled off being pretty damn scary, and this episode tries hard with lots of the big truck looming out of the mist, but when it revs its engine and puffs smoke it just ends up looking a little silly.

That said, there’s a lot to appreciate in this episode. It tackles some serious themes that weren’t seen in media that often in 2005, calling out racism overtly and not within some sort of monster metaphor.  That was a rare thing in 2005, certainly on the WB. It’s also one of the relatively rare episodes where one of the brothers has a relationship that feels real and understandable. I’ve often said that Jensen Ackles has chemistry with just about everyone and everything, but he definitely did with guest star Megalyn Echikunwoke. I wasn’t really in the fandom in Season 1, so I don’t know what the fan reaction was to Cassie at the time, though I’m guessing the idea of Dean Winchester being ‘taken’ in any way, shape or form was not a welcome idea. I’m also fine with the show concentrating on the brothers, but I really liked the way Cassie and Dean’s relationship was explored in this episode. Once again, it gives us a chance to see Dean’s vulnerability. Faced with the loss of the only other person who had shared and really understood his life when Sam went to college, Dean opened up to Cassie — and was reminded that most people would not understand the kind of life he lives. That must have made being on his own even harder. Knowing how hurt he was by the break-up, it makes his insecurity with Sam once they’re back on the road again even easier to understand.

The open is the scary truck chasing after a car in the dark somewhere in Cape Girardieu, the radio gone staticky. The driver, a black man, skids to a stop and suddenly the truck is right in front of him, ramming into the car, windows shattering, until it drives him right off the road in a fiery crash. The truck pauses for a minute, ‘breathing’ hard through its exhaust pipe, and then drives off.

I think it’s the anthropomorphizing that makes it not work for me – before that part, it was scary, and also disturbing as the guy is killed in a more realistic way than most of the deaths on Supernatural.

Cut to the Winchesters, Dean on the phone and Sam reading a map finding a route to Pennsylvania.

Dean: Problem is, we’re not going to Pennsylvania.

He says he just got a call from an old friend whose father was killed the night before, and that it might be their kind of thing. When Sam questions it, Dean says she never would’ve called if she didn’t need them.

Dean: Never.

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Sam has good instincts already when it comes to his brother.

Sam: And by ‘old friend’ you mean…

Dean: A friend that’s not new.

Sam’s surprised to find out that Dean dated someone for more than one night, and Dean is evasive, uncomfortable with his carefully constructed devil-may-care persona being called into question, with Sam of all people.

Sam quickly figures out that she’s calling them and saying it’s their kind of thing because she knows what their kind of thing is, and then he’s angry.

Sam: How does she know what we do?

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Dean doesn’t answer, but that’s answer enough.

SM: You told her. You told her? The secret. Our big family rule no. 1 – We do what we do and we shut up about it. I lied to Jess and you go out for a few weeks with a girl and tell her all about it?

Dean: Yeah, looks like.

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Supernatural Spring Break – Photo Post No. 3 of Kim’s Favorites!

For our final photo retrospective for Supernatural Spring Break week, Kim has put together her thirty favorite photos from Supernatural cons over the years. I have no idea how she was able to do this, because narrowing it down to 30 from so much incredible beauty? I would give up. If you’ve ever stood behind her and looked over her shoulder in a convention hotel room at 2 am and watched while Kim edits her shots and tries to decide which of the hundreds (from one con) to post, then you get what I mean.

Most of the time, my contribution on those late night editing sessions is to periodically distract her by exclaiming OMG GUH!!! when she gets to a particularly gorgeous one. Kim, for some reason, does not appreciate this.

So I’m paying her back by NOT rearranging these photos before this posts. You’re the photographer, Kim, so you get the final say on which of your photos bring you the most joy. I’m just grateful for every single photo you’ve taken, and that you put together the color photo spreads for both Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. The books would not be nearly as pretty if it wasn’t for your contributions, and the photo and art contributions of other talented fans you coordinated too. (Also you wrote a powerful chapter!)

So here, in order of ability to spark joy, are Kim’s Supernatural cast faves – along with her commentary below and some of mine I couldn’t resist adding. Enjoy!

#30 – Misha at the convention in Jacksonville 2016.

Lynn: And Misha Collin’s blue blue blue eyes too!

#29 – Nashville 2019. I love their riffs.

Lynn: Me too. And their smiles. Jensen Ackles and Rob Benedict aka Robsen definitely sparks joy.

#28 – Louden Swain concert in Austin, Texas, 2020. I’m pretty sure this is “Rock Song.”

Lynn: The Swain show in Austin as 2020 began was one of the last times we got to see them play and be with our fellow SPNFamily. It was a charmed trip in so many ways, and the Swain show on my birthday was the perfect way to celebrate. And, I’m in my feelings already…

 

#27 – Saturday Night Special, Nashville 2019. She just has so much fun at these concerts, and it shows.

Lynn: Kim Rhodes putting her inner rock star out there at the Saturday Night Specials is one of the best things to come from Supernatural conventions.

#26 – Literally the best emcee Ever. Dallas, 2019.

Lynn: Hands down. I remember Richard Speight, Jr.’s very first con and how his personality came through loud and clear. When Creation had an actor cancel for their next con and were wondering who could replace him, I said they should call that Richard Speight guy (who we’d interviewed for our first book) because he was a natural for the convention stage. They did, and the rest is history. And the conventions became something they might not have without Richard’s guidance and incredible ability to improvise onstage at the drop of a hat.

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Supernatural Spring Break – Photo Retrospective Part 2

Continuing our week long spring break celebration of that little show we miss, here are some memories of the Supernatural cast over the years, seen through the lens of Kim Prior’s trusty camera – and her photographer instincts!

First up, some pics from Vegas Con 2015. I remember the first time Gil McKinney stepped onstage and started singing and everyone kind of stopped and went WHAT? Because damn, can he sing! The song he wrote for his dad is a favorite of mine – if you haven’t heard it, check out his album with that beautiful song and more.

Rob with the perfect tee shirt and almost clean shaven at that con!

I can hear the harmonies on Seven Bridges Road just looking at this photo…

“Seven Bridges Road” with Louden Swain, featuring Richard Speight, Jr. and Jensen Ackles.

Jensen looks as excited as all of us were to have both Winchester parents onstage at the same time with him!

Here are a few from Jacksonville 2016 – Ruth Connell and Kim Rhodes with smiles that light up the room, and Mark Sheppard doing one of the things that clearly makes him happiest – playing drums.

Nashville 2016 Matt Cohen when his hair was really long, which I’d almost forgotten. Matt can pull off any look, and I love how much he’s bringing to Entertainment Tonight these days – all his experience helping host cons with Rich and Rob have been put to very good use!

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