Americana Roots: Caleb Stine

Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US.  It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores.  Caleb Stine is the child of the renegade-cowboy-poetry of Townes Van Zandt and the sweet, rough and tumble sound of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’.  He creates music he calls “Mystic Country.” “To me, country is wild, natural, and communal,” says Stine.  “I like wood and acoustic sounds – music that could be made in any century – and the mystic part gets at the poetry and impressionism in my songs.”

Name: Caleb Stine.

For Fans Of: Jason Isbell, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Justin Townes Earle.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD.

Website: www.calebstine.com

Discography:  ‘October 29’ (2006), ‘I’ll Head West Again’ (2008), ‘Outgrow These Walls’ (2008), ‘Eyes So Strong and Clean’ (2009), ‘I Wasn’t Built for a Life Like This’ (2010), ‘Maybe God is Lonely’ (2014), ‘Time I Let It Go’ (2015), ‘Moon’ (2018), ‘Mystic Country’ (2019)

Background:   “It was like it was preordained,” remembers Stine about his musical start as a child in Colorado.  “My parents are sort of hippies, they are out in the woods, doing their thing. They are lovers of ideas and life.  One summer day when I was twelve I saw a guitar case in my parent’s room and I asked if I could get it out.  My mom who played a bit of guitar showed me four chords.  She left to go to the grocery store and I just kept playing and it just seemed natural to me that I was going to write a song.  It wasn’t even a thought; I just wrote a song with those four chords the way she showed me.  I was just very lucky, it was just there.”

As a young developing songwriter, Stine began honing his storyteller’s eye to a sharpened, honest edge, at open-mic shows at a local coffee shop that slowly transformed into happening events that found more and more people coming each time he played. This connection to people and the music Stine developed was a deep one and still informs his songwriting to this day.  That songwriting writing is an intensely personal look at the life around him, about relationships and people, deftly delivered with a storyteller’s touch.  “I think that is what resonant with people,” says Stine, “the idea of music being something real and human, and a craft and an art that is tied to that human experience.”

For Stine, his approach to music is something he believes requires complete commitment, and in that way becomes more than just the simple operation of playing a guitar and singing.  “I spend time every day working on the craft, the mechanical stuff like practicing the instrument and writing so that wherever the road leads my skills are sharp enough to rise to the occasion,” says Stine.  “Reality is never like the magazine fantasy, in fact it’s way cooler and funnier, but if you’re stuck in some version of how things are supposed to be, you’ll miss all the nuance of where a musical life is actually taking you.”

Stine eventually left his home in Colorado and landed in Baltimore, Maryland over a decade ago and has since become the heart and soul of the city’s music scene with his confessional-storyteller-style of music. Since his arrival in Baltimore, Stine has become deeply woven into the fabric of the city.  His music reflects the vibrant, troubled passion that is Baltimore, and that passion is reflected in Stine’s songwriting.

“I think that’s one of the best parts about music, it is so vast and has such a deep history that you could spend five lifetimes getting new inspiration,” explains Stine.  “Some of the recurring beacons for me are Townes, Willie, Dylan, Van the Man, people who have given themselves fully and left behind their honest impressions of human life.  Also just taking a cue on how to devote a whole lifetime to something.  But you know, a lot of musical inspiration comes from things outside of music, like painting.  That’s a great way to get inspired in your medium, to study artists in another field and learn about their work.”

Stine, who is an almost compulsive songwriter – continually writing new songs, and tinkering with old ones – that compulsion takes life not just on albums but in his live shows, with Stine’s upfront personality seeking to make a personal connection with everyone in the venue.  “That is the coolest thing possible,” he says, “to meet and play for even just one person who says, ‘your music resonates with me and I want to buy your album.  I have built my life on playing music – all the time, so I am never going to sacrifice that.”

What He Does Live:

Author: Tim Newby

Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found barefoot at a festival somewhere. 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019)

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