Time. Life and Love - Steve Baumann

Photo of Steve Baumann, photo credit Jasen Hengst

Ellis Kell’s influence can be seen in the children’s programs and live music events at River Music Experience, but occasionally we run across unexpected personal stories of how he touched people’s lives. Such is the case with Steve Baumann, who will be celebrating the release of his first full-length album, Time. Life and Love at a dual-release show with BEEs on Saturday, February 24th.

Baumann's dad brought home a second hand guitar when he was 11. He was thrilled to play, and nearly played his fingers off. All through his teenage years, he played in basement bands and wrote music. But Baumann became occupied with other things as he grew up. Things like building his own construction business took the forefront, but he never stopped thinking about music through that period of his life.

A move to the Quad Cities from the Twin Cities in 2008 changed his trajectory. Baumann stayed at the Radisson when he interviewed with Russell. He decided one day to wander the downtown to check things out. As he passed the River Music Experience, Ellis Kell was playing on the community stage at Mojos. Baumann turned around and went inside. Ellis sat down and chatted with him that day. They talked about the community and about the local music scene.

That conversation played a big part in his decision to move to the Quad Cities. Baumann made himself a promise to become immersed in music and in the community. And he knew he wanted to be connected to the River Music Experience. But how?

Then one day Ellis Kell called, “I need you to come down to the next board meeting.”

Meanwhile, Baumann put together a basement band with a coworker, and continued to write music. Then, about five years ago Ellis helped him record his first song at Dave Cox’s studio. A cast of familiar characters joined him on that recording: Terry Hanson on drums, Tony Hoeppner on guitar, Dave Cox covered bass and Steve Elliot joined in on pedal steel.

Time lapsed. Baumann continued to write music and play in the basement. And he continued to talk with his friend Ellis about recording. One afternoon they were sitting in Kell’s office, discussing RME board business. He describes the moment like this:

“Ellis leans across his desk and looks at me, puts his eyebrow up and says ‘When are you going to do it Steve?’

It was like a light switch.” He says it was intimidating in the beginning, getting the nerve to take that plunge.

6 months later it began to come together. Sean Ryan joined Baumann on the project. They worked with Patrick Stolley at Future Appletree’s studio. Members of the River Music Experience family of musicians joined them. He says it is through the RME that these relationships have been built, with everyone just opening their hearts to him. He’s thankful for that. “You couldn’t have hand picked a better collection.”

He’s right. The contributors section on the CD cover reads like an RME family roll-call:
Bethann Heidgerken, Chrissy Boyer, Esme Haferbier, Bret Dale, Daniel Olds, Bob Rosenstiel, Nick Vasquez, Joe McKinney, Matt Sivertsen.

About the music: His favorite, the one he sees himself playing the most, is “You”. It’s a song about that initial connection and is dedicated to good friends who were so well suited for each other. Many of the songs are love songs and have stories behind them. He’s had a lot of life experience to draw on. The most difficult piece for him is the final cut on the album, “She’s My Angel”, a song about his mother and her influence on his life.

Baumann is more interested in collecting experiences than things in this life. His motivation for playing music is the balance it gives to his analytical work. Music pulls him out.

The future looks bright too. This venture is leading into collaborations with Bret Dale and BEEs (Heidgerken, Haferbier and Erin Moore). And there is more to come. He’s already writing more music. Expect to see Steve Baumann doing sets in places like the Grape Life or Wide River Winery, or sitting in with other local musicians. “Stay tuned”, he says.

Ellis – he did it.

Photo credit: Jasen Hengst