Ten years ago, Stephen Chopek was performing songs in the New York City subways.
He treated it like a full-time job – heading out in the morning, picking a spot, and sticking to it. He’d pack up his guitar, head home, and do it all again the next day.
It's clear when Stephen tells this story that it doesn't strike him as unusual. He was a professional drummer learning to play guitar and sing – what better way to hone your skills? He refers to his time playing underground as casually as he talks about his life on the road or studying with drummer Billy Martin of Medeski Martin & Wood. Stephen is a perennial student, as disciplined as he is curious.
Long before those subway sets, Stephen's apprenticeship with legendary jazz percussionist Leon Parker led to touring and recording with guitarist Charlie Hunter from 2000 to 2002, which opened the door to a world tour with John Mayer and the recording of Any Given Thursday. He’s kept the beat for Marc Broussard, Jesse Malin, The Alternate Routes, The Pimps of Joytime, Todd Carey, The Everymen, Amy LaVere, John Paul Keith, Shannon McNally, and many others.
Not surprisingly, his stories tend to be about what was learned from every adventure; each tour, each artist, each session, was a prerequisite to the next. It is this collection of his experiences that laid the foundation for Stephen’s career as a solo artist.
His debut album, See Through, was recorded and released in the spring of 2012 - just him and an electric guitar. Over the two years that followed, he created an ambitious series of recordings that featured full-band treatments of his new material, every instrument tracked in the studio by Stephen himself. The songs were released throughout 2015 - the two EPs and a culminating full-length album, Things Moving On Their Own Together, earned Stephen critical praise for both his songwriting and his musicianship (“A skillfully crafted tapestry of punk, pop, folk and roots” - Skin Back Alley). He spent the better part of the next two years on tour in support of the album, thousands of miles logged in route to a dozen or more cities at a time.
Stephen released Talk Will Tell in 2017 — a solo acoustic six-song EP, recorded outside of Raleigh, North Carolina while on tour the previous year. Stephen’s latest release (April 2018) is a 45 RPM record featuring two new songs, “Radio Caroline” and “The Ballad of Cash & Dean”. Alongside a nod to history, these songs are rich in catchy hooks and dynamic melodies.
This release is a bit of a preview of what fans will hear when his next full length album, Begin The Glimmer, comes out later this year. Recorded in Memphis at 5 & Dime and mixed by Doug Easley (Cat Power, Ben Nichols, Frazey Ford), the album finds Stephen increasingly comfortable and confident in his songwriting, both lyrically and melodically. While rhythm was at the heart of the writing on Things Moving On Their Own Together, melody takes centerstage on this new effort to great effect.
Look for these albums - and look for Stephen Chopek on the road, in a town near you.