I apologize for the tiny photo of Steve and Joy Guiles to the left. I’m not positive, but I think that, in real life, they are actually taller.
Anyway, I heard about Steve Guiles just recently, and I wanted to pass him along to you guys. Steve has been recording music for a while now, with various groups and under various names. As Friction Bailey, it’s Steve and his wife Joy pulling off some folky, acoustic pop stuff. As Pushstart Wagon, it’s Steve, Eric Shouse, and Ben Eggehorn doing power pop, college rock kind of songs. As The Vegas Nerve, it’s Steve and a bunch of his college friends. As Steven Wesley Guiles, it’s… uh… Steve.
I really like all of Steve’s projects. They’re all different but very good. Friction Bailey’s Christmas album The Silent Night is phenomenal. The vocals harmonize and mesh really well, and Steve provides some excellent guitar arrangements that bring familiar songs to life. Listening to the album makes me think of sitting at a local coffeehouse and sipping a peppermint mocha.
Pushstart Wagon’s new album LA Was Our Alamo is totally different but again very good. More along the lines of power pop and college rock. The songs are catchy and singable and the music is good and solid. Overall, the album is really fun to listen to and sing along with. It’s one of those albums that would work great to crank up on the car stereo as you’re cruising down the highway with the windows open. Listening to it makes me happy.
My favorite stuff by Steve, though, is his solo stuff you can only find on MySpace at this point. I’m going through a phase where I really like songs with just one guy on his guitar singing songs that tell stories. Steve’s solo stuff caters to this current phase in my life really well.
Before I go too much further, though, I caught up with Steve and did an e-mail interview, so I’ll let him do more of the talking himself.
The Blah Blah: Who are you, in as many words as you want to use?
Steve Guiles: I am a follower of Jesus. I am the son of Chester and Nancy Guiles. The husband of Joy. The father of Silas and Fiona. A musician and songwriter. A teacher. I am driven and goal oriented, but I can also be spontaneous. I sit on my computer more than I should, but I’ve made a real effort this year to spend any extra time writing music. I take naps.
TBB: You’ve got at least three musical projects going on – Friction Bailey, Pushstart Wagon, and solo stuff. Why all three?
SG: Really I’ve got more than that, but those are the most active in terms of output. I’m also the guitarist for The Vegas Nerve.
In the past, before I had kids, there was a point where all three groups existed and performed at the same time. It was crazy. I have since learned that my brain explodes when I try to do that.
Why all three? Well, each gives me a different outlet. I write some songs specifically with Pushstart Wagon in mind. Drums, bass, and guitar. Some songs are more singer-songwriter and don’t work as well with a band. I try to write as much as possible. If I feel like writing heavy metal, I write it. It may be really BAD heavy metal, but I write it to get it out of my system. Sometimes I get songs that I like from trying something that seems weird or out of place.
TBB: Which of these three is your favorite?
SG: Hmmm… that’s like asking me if I love my son or daughter more. I appreciate different qualities in each of the groups I play in. In Pushstart Wagon, I get to be the lead singer and primary songwriter. I focus on bringing a certain type of energy to a live show and I play and perform differently than if it’s just me on stage with an acoustic guitar. Pushstart Wagon has released two great albums that not only have good songs, but good sounds as well. I feel that anything on those albums could stand beside anything else out there that’s musically similar. The guys in the band are very dedicated to making something that’s excellent.
Friction Bailey is more of a studio-only project for the time being, so it’s an outlet for my wife and I. It’s much more sporadic. We’re both are really proud of our Christmas album. We recorded and arranged the entire album by ourselves, mostly in the evenings when our son was sleeping. And I love doing my solo stuff because I put no expectation on it and do whatever I want without having to fit it around other players or expectations.
And The Vegas Nerve is great too! It’s all friends from college. I get to be a guitarist only, which is the only time I can be more of a “sideman”. I like it a lot. And the guys have so much fun playing together. We’ve actually started rehearsing together again because Pushstart hasn’t been very active lately.
TBB: What’s the story behind the band names? Any deep meanings there?
SG: Pushstart Wagon is simple. We had two VW beetle vans that both had bad starters. We needed a name to go under for our first show, and since we had to pushstart the wagons, we decided on Pushstart Wagon.
Friction Bailey came from Joy and I driving along the freeway and combining sign names until we found a combination that sounded unique and unlike a metal band name. Very undeep band names.
TBB: How did you meet your wife, Joy? And how did the two of you start making music together?
SG: Joy and I met at Azusa Pacific University in music theory class. We were both music majors for the first two years of college and then we both switched majors our junior year. She switched to social work and I switched to English. Now we’re both teachers. She teaches 2nd grade and I teach Middle School. We both were involved in various music activities and performances on campus, from the worship team and choirs to the on campus coffee house performances.
TBB: What’s the best thing about being in a band with your wife? What’s the worst thing about it?
SG: Joy and I really don’t perform together anymore. Having kids really changes you ability to sit down and rehearse. That said, the best thing about performing with my wife was traveling with her and being able to share creativity in a way that I don’t get to do with many people. She is one of my main sounding boards when I finish a song.
The worst thing about being in a band with your wife is when you have musical disagreements. It’s hard to have to tell your spouse that they’re out of pitch or that they need to resing a line to get it right. We both had to learn how to talk to each other nicely all over again. Recording was probably the hardest part. But we eventually figured out how to do it and since it didn’t kill us it made us stronger. 🙂
TBB: How did you get started making music?
SG: I first considered being involved in music in junior high. My history teacher was in a band and one day he brought his band and a full sound system and did a special assembly for our class. It was pretty cool and I thought that that might be something I’d like to do. My youth pastor played keyboard and led a youth worship band when I was in junior high. He let me play harmonica in the band. I later realized that this is like telling someone to play deep left in baseball. But I didn’t care. I just liked sitting there and creating music. Later the drummer in the band taught me a basic beat. He knew how to play double kick and was into bands like Celtic Frost and other really heavy groups of the time. From there I found an acoustic guitar in my youth pastor’s office. I asked if I could borrow it. I’ve had it ever since.
TBB: What were you like in High School?
SG: I was a skinny, Jesus-freak kind of guy. I wore a lot of slogan-y type t-shirts and Christian band t-shirts. I was really into Undercover, The Altar Boys, The Holidays, L.S.U., Petra, and U2. U2 was right on the edge of what was considered Christian at the time, but they were also one of the bands that I really connected with. The Joshua Tree album changed my life
I spent most of my time at church, playing my guitar, or being involved with the speech team. Yeah, I was on the speech team.
I had (and still have) two really good friends, Brad and Jeff, that I spent the majority of my time with. They were really good guys (and they still are really good guys). We all had common beliefs and were all pretty vocal about our faith. One of them is currently the pastor of a growing church in the midwest and the other has been a missionary all over the world.
I didn’t have a lot of girl friends. I had several girls who were interested, but honestly, it kind of freaked me out at the time. I guess that turns out to have been a blessing, because my wife is the first woman I kissed and we have an amazing relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Ok. I DID kiss one other girl, I think, in 6th grade because some kids pushed our faces together…but I don’t think that really counts. 🙂 [Editor’s Note: my wife was the first woman I kissed too… other than my mom, and I think it saved a lot of problems.]
TBB: I think, of all your music I’ve listened to so far, my favorite song, for whatever reason, is “Tammy Faye I Love You.” What’s the song about?
SG: It’s about Tammy Faye Mesner, wife of the infamous televenagelist, Jim Bakker. I watched a documentary on Tammy called The Eyes of Tammy Faye. It’s a great documentary and really gave me an entirely different outlook on her. I used to see her as the wife of a get-rich-off-the-ignorant-masses televangelist, but after watching this documentary I saw her as a person with a heart of gold and true love for all people. She really had a gigantic heart for people. I wrote this song for her after watching the documentary and then realizing she was battling cancer. I was very sad when she passed away. This song was for her.
TBB: Could you share a little about when you started to follow God, when you became born again?
SG: My mom’s parents were missionaries, so she had a very strongly ingrained faith when she raised my brother and I. She led me to the Lord when I was four. You can argue whether or not salvation “takes” at that age. I spent a lot of my junior high years going down to the altar and recommitting to make sure that I did it right. I truly believe that I was born again at age 4 in a little town in South Carolina, but I think I began following Jesus and his teachings actively as a junior higher. I have continued to grow and see God work in my life ever since. He truly has been faithful to me in so many things. I understand mercy and grace more. I may have been a Christian many years of my life, but I still did many things that I’m not proud of. I realize that we’re all sinners. I also realize that I live each day by God’s mercy and grace. I try to treat others as God treats me. That’s much harder said than done.
TBB: Could you describe your process of writing songs?
SG: I actually made a youtube video that covers a little bit of my process. It’s not like that every time, but it’s one way that I write songs. Click here.
For example, the Tammy Faye song came shortly after watching the documentary. I just had to write something because I felt strongly. The song Mary on the second Pushstart Wagon album came directly after I had been watching reports on the Columbine shootings. Many times strong emotions draw songs out of me, but other times the songs come from sitting around and just playing chords I like and singing nonsense until something sticks (see the youtube video to get an example of that type of songwriting).
I’ve also written a lot of love songs for my wife. Country Star on Pushstart’s second album is a great song that came out of my yearly Valentine songwriting for my wife. (I’ve written her a song every year since we were engaged. We’re on 13 songs now. 12 years of marriage and 13 songs. Crazy. I have an album’s worth of Valentine’s songs!)
TBB: What do you do when you’re not making music?
I hang out with my kids and my wife. As a dad of a 5 year old and a 2 year old, I find that a majority of my time is not making music, it’s playing in the front yard, breaking up fights, giving time outs, helping pick clothes, giving baths, brushing hair… you get the picture. [Having 2 kids myself, I totally get it…]
When I’m not home being daddy, I teach 6-8th graders basic computer skills. I’ve found that occasionally I can slip in my love for music at school. I’ve had my kids design music videos and when the mood strikes, I right some really ridiculous song on the spot and record it onto the computer using a free multi-track program called Audacity. My favorite song written like this is called Unicorn: The Other White Meat. It’s embarrassing. Here it is. My brother made the accompanying music video. [Editor’s Note: this song could be HUGE!]
TBB: What’s your goal with your music?
SG: I guess I really hope to move people with my music. Make them FEEL something. I guess I measure everything against those first albums that really moved me. Joshua Tree was one of those albums. I felt something. I felt a connection with God. I felt a strong sense of purpose and hope. This is very hard to articulate…
I want to make music that inspires other people. That brings healing. That makes people cry. I want to write the song that people miss their exits too. 🙂 There are many songs that I’ll be listening to in the car and I’ll take another lap around the block before I pull into my driveway because I don’t want to break the mood. That is something I hope to achieve with my music.
I’d love more people to hear my music. I’d like to be able to do some short mini-tours of the entire coast. I’d like to play out at Cornerstone again. I’d like to release a solo E.P. before summer of 2008.
TBB: So you play almost every instrument known to man on your albums. What’s your favorite?
SG: Actually, I really can’t play any of the wind instruments (like Sufjan “Band Geek” Stevens). My favorite is probably drums. I love playing drums, even though I’m only barely passable on them. I think many lead singers are really repressed drummers. They were my FIRST instrument. Guitar is my primary instrument. I can do the most on guitar and find myself always returning to the guitar, so I guess guitar is my first favorite, with drums falling in a close second.
TBB: What artists are you currently listening to?
SG: The Arcade Fire, Death Cab For Cutie (the Transatlantacism album), Radiohead, and Feist.
TBB: What books are you reading?
SG: Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster and The Rifle by Gary Paulsen.
TBB: What’s your favorite movie?
SG: Tough one. I recently watched Big Fish for the second time and loved it all over again. I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy geek, so Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are all some of my favorites. My latest guilty pleasure was Blades of Glory.
TBB: What do you think of the MP3 downloading revolution? Bad for artists or good?
SG: Good. Well, good for some and bad for others. I think it’s especially good for active, touring musicians because it helps promote them even more. If you’re really about the music, than having it downloaded and listened to shouldn’t be a bad thing. The flip side is that many people make their living from their recordings… and so illegal downloads of their music takes money out of their pockets. For someone like me, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’d much rather have more people here the music and come out and see me live than have my music sitting on a shelf doing nothing.
TBB: I’ve been trying to figure out what to make of this whole “Christian Music” thing lately. See my posts here for more on that. What does the term “Christian Music” mean to you? Like it or hate it?
SG: Boy, it’s a loaded term. Christian music to me has more to do with marketing than the artists’ beliefs or the content of the lyrics. I grew up listening to Christian music, but I also am really happy that artists like Sufjan Stevens, The Innocence Mission, Bruce Cockburn, U2, and others are out there representing people of faith, but aren’t completely digested into the Christian bubble sub-culture. I read some of your post and the posts at Colossians Three Sixteen and found myself agreeing with most of what I read. I’ve played a majority of my music in coffee shops, bars, and concert venues. I’ve also played at churches, but I’ve found that there were always some weird expectations when playing at churches… and I want to be sensitive to those things, but it felt more and more wrong, so I haven’t played many church shows of late. I love the church and am an active member, but I don’t always agree with how things are done.
TBB: Now for a really deep question: If you could ask God one question, and be guaranteed an answer, what would you ask Him?
SG: Why is it sometimes so hard to believe? Why can’t it be easier? I’m sure I could think of better questions, but that’s all I’ve got off the top of my head.
TBB: Pushstart Wagon has been nominated for Christian Music Superbowl I (Vote on Round 1 here). What are you gonna do if you win?
SG: I’m going to Disneyland.
TBB: What’s in the future for Steve and Joy Guiles and Pushstart Wagon?
SG: More recordings. Hopefully a few short tours. I’d really like to work with a producer outside of the band just to try it. I like the idea of having someone else come in and give some direction and guidance. As a solo artist I find that I need that help every once in awhile.
I ultimately hope to grow as a person and as a musician. I hope that that is reflected in my music and in my life.
Steven Wesley Guiles everyone! Download some samples of his music here, and if you like what you hear, buy some stuff so he doesn’t have to hunt unicorns in order to keep his kids fed. If you don’t get that joke, then you didn’t watch Steve’s Unicorn: the Other White Meat video here.
Steven Wesley Guiles – Tammy Faye, I Love You
Friction Bailey – Angels We Have Heard on High (from The Silent Night)
Friction Bailey – A Lover Like This (from Tengo Yellow Pedal)
Pushstart Wagon – songs from LA Was Our Alamo
The Blah Blah – serving up the best in Christian music MP3s.