Steven Courtney: he’s not just for kids anymore

By on January 11, 2017

A few weeks ago, Steven Courtney was performing at Mad Chef Craft Brewing in East Petersburg when he noticed a young man fixated on him.

Courtney later approached the gentleman, who told him he went to Farmdale Elementary School and remembers Courtney performing there as a children’s musician 15 years ago.

“Just to see that energy in him light up… and he’s like, ‘Oh man, the roots and blues thing, I’m just lovin’ this,’” Courtney says.

That “roots and blues thing” is the Steven Courtney Band, which the seasoned children’s musician lovingly refers to as his “grown-up thing,” a project separate from his work as a children’s music performer.

The Steven Courtney Band has two upcoming shows: Jan. 14 at 8:30 p.m. at Stoner Grille, Lancaster; and Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. at Quips Pub, Lancaster.

Courtney was born in Nashville, raised in Michigan and attended college in Indiana, where he met his now-wife, who is from Pennsylvania. They moved to Pennsylvania in the early ‘80s and have lived here ever since, save for two brief stints in Arizona and Montana. They currently reside in Manheim.

Steven Courtney (center) isn’t just performing for children anymore. He and The Steven Courtney Band have a number of gigs planned in the Lancaster area this month.

Steven Courtney (center) isn’t just performing for children anymore. He and The Steven Courtney Band have a number of gigs planned in the Lancaster area this month.

He performed odd jobs while trying to make a living as a singer-songwriter. After his daughter Brooke was born in 1986, he found himself exploring a new genre.

“I just started writing some little lullaby and sleepy time songs for her,” Courtney says. “And then, I made a little cassette of that so she could listen to it at night when she went to bed.”

His nieces and nephews heard the music and requested copies. Courtney’s niece brought the tape to school, sparking teachers’ interest and leading to Courtney’s first gig as a children’s music performer.

Courtney’s worked as a children’s musician for 15 years, sometimes performing 300 shows a year. He’s earned a Parents’ Choice Gold award for “Sunflower Road,” his latest children’s music release.

Still, Courtney never stopped writing songs for grown-ups, too. While the frequency of his pub and bar gigs as a roots and blues musician have ebbed and flowed throughout the years, it was never his intention to leave it behind completely.

In June, Courtney got together with some of his longtime collaborators to play new original “grown-up” songs he wrote. To document the band’s beginnings, Courtney decided to record the rehearsal and upload it to Facebook.

“A thousand views later after three days, I was like, wow,” Courtney says. “I’m just going to keep filming these little rehearsal videos of us kind of putting this band together.”

Some of the band’s rehearsal videos garnered more than 17,000 views. The band’s recorded an album of originals written by Courtney, “American Road,” due out in 2017.

Courtney was influenced by blues from the ‘20s and ‘30s while writing the record.

“In song structure, I wanted us to kind of have that as the nucleus of what we’re going to build on,” Courtney says.

Courtney says his song “Just Can’t Let You Go” was inspired by Willie Dixon’s blues standard “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” Both songs express an undying devotion to someone.

“I’m not afraid to write that stuff,” Courtney says.

Despite his new album with his “grown-up” band, Courtney has no plans to abandon his career in children’s music.

Two months ago, while at a school for a performance, Courtney posted a photo on Instagram of a large Ludwig bass drum next to his suitcase kick drums. He altered a Supertramp lyric as the caption, writing “Goodbye suitcase… it’s been nice. Hope you find your paradise.”

Some fans misinterpreted the post as Courtney’s farewell to children’s music.

“I have no desire to move away from that… I actually feel privileged to be able to do that, to be trusted to do that,” Courtney says of performing children’s music. “Those little faces just smiling… It’s overwhelming.”

Courtney hopes to continue expressing himself through music and connecting with audiences, whether they be of single-digit age in a school auditorium or of legal drinking age in a dimly lit pub.

“The intention for me is to be able to be an artist in both of those fields, and have people go, yeah, that’s the same guy,” Courtney says. “That’s good.”

Jenelle Janci is an entertainment reporter for LNP. She can be reached at JJanci@lnpnews.com or 291-8647.

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