Interview With Steve Bello
Shannon W - For my readers who don’t know you, can you give an overview on what you do and what your music sounds like?
Steve Bello - “I started playing guitar when I was around 9 years old but I got into music when I was around 4. I heard Led Zeppelin and that pretty much ruined me. I had a couple friends in grade school who played guitar and my grandfather was a jazz guitarist back in the day, not famous or anything but I would watch him play. I thought what he was doing was cool but I liked Deep Purple and Aerosmith more. I just lacked patience in the beginning. I got bit by the heavy metal bug and decided I had to play guitar for life. The best way I can describe my music is instrumental funk metal. I could also describe it as Living Colour without vocals. I like to leave it up to the listener. I usually get very different opinions and reactions.”
Shannon - Can you tell the story of the first concert you played and how it went?
Steve Bello - “I need therapy after that. I played a backyard party when I was 15 with my first band in high school. We were just terrible, absolutely awful. The singer couldn’t sing but the drummer was great and I will give him that. We just weren’t a good band. It was for a Sweet 16 for a girl in our class and it wasn’t really a concert. I could talk about the first real show but this was the beginning for me. The singer took a break and asked me to play a guitar solo. The rest of the band walked offstage and I said ‘Okay well I guess I’m playing a solo’. So I started riffing playing Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore, Randy Rhoads, Ritchie Blackmore. I was playing with the pedals and making all these sounds. People who wouldn’t give me the time of day even said ‘Wow, you’re really good’. So I started to believe I could play music for a living. That was what made me realize I’m weird enough and stupid enough to do this for a living.”
Shannon - Was it a decision of yours to make all your music instrumental or is that just what happened naturally?
Steve Bello - “Well, it’s a bit of both because when I was trying to find bands to play in, I would make instrumentals to showcase my chops. I could write a funk song, I could write a metal song, I could write a blues tune - I just wanted to show that I was pretty versatile. I was told that to make it in music, you needed to be in a band with a singer, you needed to sound like this, you needed to dress like that and I got tired of it. Right around 2000, I walked away from the band I was in. In 2003, I scored my Ibanez endorsement. They asked if I would do clinics for them and if I had any CDs out. I said I didn’t have anything released. They asked if I could get something together in two months. Before then I had never done an instrumental like for real. I did my first CD called ‘Twisted Metal’ in 2003 and I figured I’d sell it at clinics and be happy. Then everyone loved it and said ‘You might have a career with this’ and I’m like ‘You think so?’ I’ve been doing it ever since. It was kind of an accident and kind of intentional.”
Shannon - Can you tell the story how some of your endorsements came about?
Steve Bello - “Well the Ibanez one was funny. I had played Ibanez guitars for many years. Before Chris Broderick was in Megadeth, his band was doing a show in South Jersey and my buddy who was with me said, ‘Why don’t you tell Chris to play Ibanez guitars’. I was like, ‘Yeah like he is gonna listen to me’. We got into the show and Chris was playing and Ibanez. NOt only that but he was playing a guitar that I had. I happened to be walking to the bathroom and on my way I saw Chris was signing autographs so I met him and I told him I had the same guitar. I mentioned to him I had some friends at Ibanez because I used to work in a music store. He said, “if you could drop my name, that’d be really cool.’ I said, ‘I’d love to man, you’re one of my favorite players.’ So I talked to my rep and he got me in contact with someone out in L.A. He said ‘This is really weird, you’re a local calling in about a national, usually it’s the other way around.’ I said ‘Look, I’m in my 30’s, my ship has sailed, but if you could hook up this guy, that’d be sweet.’ So they hooked him up and said, ‘What can we do to thank you?’ and I said ‘Well you hooked him up, that’s how you thanked me.’ Then they asked what guitar of theirs I’d like and then told me I’m endorsed with them. They were like, ‘Look, we’ve never had anybody do this for an artist before.’ Most musicians are selfish and he said I am the most selfless musician he’s met and my rep said great things about me. They told me they’d pay me to do clinics and I told them I would do it for free because I love their guitars. I didn’t get that endorsement because I was touring and famous, I got that endorsement because I helped somebody.”
Shannon - What typically inspires you to sit down and write a song?
Steve Bello - “The best answer I can give is experiencing life. I know that sounds very bland. I can only work when I’m inspired. I have to write what feels good. I could be on a walk or grocery shopping and something will just hit me. It’s really bizarre. Something has to hit my gut and make me feel like I have to act on it. I never want my music to feel forced. Whoever is listening to it should say it sounds genuine. I’m lucky that people have said that. If it feels good, it is good.”
Shannon - You recently signed with a new manager. Can you talk a bit about how that all came about?
Steve Bello - “She is actually a promoter in Tennessee, KCO Promotions. Her and I had been talking for a while. She noticed I was feeling frustrated. She promotes Kip Winger (Winger) and Mike Tramp (White Lion) when they go through her area. She told me how frustrating it is to even get 40 people to a show, it’s a nightmare. This past March I sent her a Facebook message and asked her if I could call her. So I was talking to her and out of nowhere I just asked her if she was interested in being a manager. Then I said she would be a great manager for me. She said she’d never managed before, that she’d only done promotions, but that I definitely needed someone in my corner. So she asked for time to think about it. About 2 weeks later, she said my music was never promoted properly. She admitted she was on the fence about it and I said I would help. She said she was playing my music and her son thought it was a Steve Vai record. Then she found my target audience. She said people my age don’t understand that kind of music and I need to be marketed differently. Then I made sure it was cool that I announce she’s my manager and the flood gates opened. All I care about is that my music reaches more people and that people like it.”
Shannon - Where do you plan to go with your career from here and what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
Steve Bello - “If you asked me a few years ago I would’ve said I’d love to be on tour. Right now my path is teaching. It actually always was but I never realized it. I had always taught private guitar instruction on the side but then I started teaching at Music and Arts at two locations in New Jersey. When I played my last show in May of last year I was opening for Michael Angelo Batio, I was sitting backstage and I was like ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I’d rather be teaching. I love encouraging people. I’ve played some great shows in the past but I feel like it’s always an uphill battle. There was always someone who didn’t like me. I just found I’m happier teaching. I still want to do a new album, I have 23 demos. I could probably do three albums haha. I would like to put out new music, I want people to buy it and hear it and enjoy it. I’m at a point in my life where I feel I don’t have to impress people anymore. Music is still a huge part of my life but teaching is where I belong.”