The Kramer Interview: David P. Stevens
All of us at Epiphone are grateful for our long friendship with jazz guitarist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist David P. Stevens. Watching a talented artist rise to prominence is one of the best aspects to our side of the music business. And David not only stands by his Epiphone Les Paul Standard but can now be counted as an avid Kramer fan, too. Growing up a disciple of local hometown Philadelphia artists as well as greats like George Duke and George Benson, David is now himself a leading jazz artist. He has been a regular at national festivals and on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart for most of his career. David’s latest album, Rogue, featured two charting singles which inspired his recent move to Los Angeles. It will also come as no surprise to longtime fans that he even found time to earn a degree at the Berklee College of Music. Plus, David will be a featured artist at the Long Beach Jazz Festival in August. Don't miss him! We caught up with the legend in the making—ever enthusiastic, kind, and out of breath--after a breakthrough session in his new hometown.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with Kramer, David. Talk about your recent move to the west coast.
Yes! I’m actually very excited. I just moved to L.A. a few weeks ago. Before that I was in Philly. It’s been non-stop. Every single night is jam-packed with music. There is something to do or somewhere to play all the time…plus studio sessions (laughs). I just left a session actually. It’s incredible here. The biggest difference compared to Philly is that Philadelphia just doesn’t have that many venues that feature instrumental music. Maybe one or two places at most. Here, there are so many more musicians and so many opportunities. And people are really into it.
West coast jazz fans—since the days of Stan Kenton and Charlie Parker’s first visit--have had a reputation for supporting musicians with a new point of view. Do you find that to be true today?
Yes, definitely. Especially because I play contemporary jazz which has flavors of rock and stuff like that. This is the place for it. The live scene here is incredible. It’s non-stop. That was one of the shockers. It can be Monday night or Tuesday night and in the clubs, it’s like a Saturday night. People are out and places are packed. I believe live music is not gonna die anytime soon. Not here (laughs).
Congratulations on the success of your latest album, Rogue, which included “For the Win” which made the Billboard Top Ten Smooth Jazz chart and “Move With You” which featured Marcus Anderson. Those are beautiful cuts.
Thank you! The basic premise of the album was I was doing the smooth jazz thing for a long time because it has been a great platform for me. But I wanted to see if I could branch out to something that was a little bit more on the musician’s side to show my production abilities and other playing styles. And that’s been great. It’s actually met with a great response.
You are a multi-instrumentalist. Has guitar always been your first choice?
Well, I grew up playing in church and going to jam sessions. And a lot of the older guys happened to have that flavor and that feel and they passed on to us. A lot of the guys from Philly had that sound which made a big impression on my tone I think.
And in addition to moving to a new city, you are also finishing a degree at the Berklee School of Music.
I’m one semester away—it just started today (laughs). Whew! It’s been an amazing program and I’ve learned so much. But the work load is unbelievable--an unbelievable amount of reading. What I did was go for a master’s degree in music business. It’s a program they just started. It has been phenomenal because it teaches law and it teaches policy as it relates to marketing and management and all those things. So, it’s been great.
Why did you choose to go in that direction rather than focus on an instrument?
I‘ve been always been interested in the production side. And writing and production are actually two of the biggest parts of what I do. I write and produce with so many artists that I wanted to make sure the artists were actually getting their songs where they needed to be so they could ultimately make a living from that.
The playing aspect—as an instrumentalist--I have been working on for many years. But I wanted to be able to control the business part, too. And the crazy thing is, the program has opened me up to so many other areas. I’ve started managing somebody now and I’m seeing her begin to take off which is really cool. And then I’m consulting with different artists. I find myself consulting a lot. I didn’t think that was anything I would be interested in.
I know you’ve been an Epiphone fan for many years and now you are a Kramer fan, too. What are you using most in L.A.?
Right now I’m playing the Les Paul Standard
– which is a a great guitar. I’m about to customize it a bit. And I’ve also been playing the DC PRO
. And man! It’s packed with so many different tones. It’s crazy. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be just a Les Paul double cut. And when I took it out of the case I thought: Ok
, it’s kind of light
. But when I plugged it in, I discovered all the different tones it has. The DC PRO can sound like any guitar you can think of. It’s really cool.
At the same time I got the Epiphone I was curious about Kramer because I really wanted something that had a classic “Strat” single-coil sound. So I picked up the SM-1
. The Kramer has been getting a lot of attention. Every time I play it, people are like, “Man…when did Kramer come back out?
I didn’t have to do anything to it. Right out of the box it was perfect. You talk about tone—it has so many different options. It’s great.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I like Cory Henry, Isaiah Sharkey, and Snarky Puppy. In L.A., I’ve been doing a lot of the jam sessions. Today, in fact, I was at a mix session and I’m slowly getting into the studio world. If it is busy like this already, I can only imagine what it will be like in a few months. And I also just performed at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival and I will be at the Long Beach Festival August 9. Plus, I also have two songs on the charts. I’m the featured artist on Phil Denny's “Feel Alright.” It’s up to #3 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz
chart. And my single “Get In Step” just got added to the charts, too. I used the Les Paul Standard for that. It’s been so much fun. L.A. is going to turn out all right I think.