A voracious truth seeker who has been on what he calls a “spiritual journey most of my life in one form or another,” veteran singer-songwriter Steve Larsen chose a unique route to share the insightful, emotionally hard hitting and socially conscious material he’s been working on the past five years.
A decade after releasing his debut album Beyond Belief as a solo artist, he brings a fresh sense of flexibility to his creative palette by assembling a band called Powered by Joy with longtime collaborator Chris Leonard (owner and engineer at Gremlen Studios in Aurora, IL) on guitar and bass, J-Man (drums), Larsen’s son Thomas Larsen (drums, lead and backing vocals) and Thomas’ wife Ally Larsen (backing vocals and keyboards). Larsen lays the foundation for PBJ’s upcoming full length debut album Eyes Wide Open with the release of a power-packed two track EP featuring the politically charged title track and the poignant ballad “I’ll Be Waiting.”
Because of the era in which he grew up, his musical sensibilities naturally gravitate towards the classic pop-rock era from the 60s and 70s with a bit of 80s in the mix – drawing inspiration from his greatest influences, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Moody Blues, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Pink Floyd and his all-time favorite band, Steely Dan.
Though there is not one specific narrative arc over the course of the potentially 15 songs that will be on the album, some common themes emerge throughout – starting with the concept of awakening, questioning what the powers that be tell us and learning to follow your heart. The raw, rootsy and propulsive “Eyes Wide Open” is a blistering history lesson that gets to the heart of Larsen’s worldview in the first verse: “I used to think we shouldn’t question/Authorities and their good intentions/But then I got this sinking feeling/There’s a lot they’re not revealing, Now I see what life’s about/Living with my eyes wide open…” The song takes us through a 60-year sweep of American history and government deception that includes references to the JFK Assassination, the British Invasion, Vietnam War, the Disco era, Jim Jones, Neocons, the Patriot Act and the Wall Streeters who escaped prosecution despite deceptive behaviors leading to the Great Recession.
Very different in tone, “I’ll be Waiting” is a soulful, wistful acoustic ballad that Larsen penned when his son told him he was thinking about joining the military. Though that never came to pass, the loving bond between father and son and sense of longing for reconnection is something many will easily relate to.
“Generally speaking,” Larsen says, “I think Eyes Wide Open definitely reflects my spiritual and political sensibilities as a number of the tunes on the album either directly or indirectly pertains to the process of waking up or questioning the status quo. I consider myself a so-called ‘truther’ and I do not look to the mainstream media or the elites of this world to find truth. Instead, from an early age, I’ve had a desire to do what I can to help people see beyond their current mental boxes and perception filters, to search for something higher as that is something that I myself am constantly striving to do. I thought a good way to reach people is through music, rather than write say, classical, theatrical, or new age music. Nothing wrong with those or any other genres, as I’ve pretty much written in all those styles at some point throughout my career. But I thought I had a better chance to reach audiences with more popular types of music, or at least popular music as I understand it.”
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