Love At First Song: Featuring Dylan Stewart
In Episode 13 of Love at First Song, I sat down with Dylan Stewart outside of JJ’s Alley Bricktown Pub in Downtown Oklahoma City, and had a conversation with him about his deeply rooted love for music.
Can I just say - what an episode? Leading up to the day of recording, I was slightly nervous about meeting with Stewart, because he was the first artist I didn’t know personally or know quite a bit about prior to recording. Meeting and firing up the episode conversation took off with ease, and it was a true pleasure laughing and chatting with the Ringling, OK, native.
Just like how Ringling, OK, got its name from the peculiar and intriguing, circus-extraordinaire, the Ringling Brothers, Dylan’s sound has built a reputation of being intriguing, a blend of many genres, and unique. Stewart brings energy and sound that makes people stop and listen.
Stewart first picked up guitar at 16-years-old and put his first tune to paper at 18. He grew up in a household heavily steeped in love for music, and found an inspiration from the music his father exposed him to, such as Bob Dylan. Stewart’s parents even named him after Bob Dylan.
Today, Stewart has four albums under his belt; his most recent being “Scarecrow Sessions”. This album comes from the depths of upheaval and despair Stewart experienced three years prior and leading up to its release.
In this episode, we dove into his love for music and his motivation behind continuing to be a singer/songwriter. Due to unforeseen circumstances and the previous co-host, Coco, leaving the show, this episode is being released in article format, with the exception of the song Stewart performed and some funny tidbits that will be released on the Love at First Song YouTube channel.
So Dylan, at what point in life do you remember falling in love with music? Was it a band, a song, a record?
It was a mixtape. “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band. Every time I got in my dad’s truck, I’d find the cassette. I knew how to fast forward and get right to it. Yeah, it was “Fly Like an Eagle” for me for sure. I started taking lessons from this old man. He taught me about six chords and how to tap my foot to keep time. Then I quit and started learning more chords. I got bored with that, so I started trying to play rock and roll, like Rage Against the Machine, and I sucked at that.
When did you first start really playing the guitar?
I was 16 when I picked a guitar up and didn’t put it back down after that.
When was the first time you played in front of people? 18?
I played in front of three people when I was 14, but my first true live performance was when I was 18 or 19. I shared the set with another guy and we each played about 11 to 12 songs. About half of my 12 were originals and they weren’t very good.
Why do you think that?
They were just kind of cheese ball songs.
I get what you’re saying. I think a lot of young songwriting comes from a very “cheesy” state where you’re writing about love and heartbreak and things that seem huge then that don’t feel so profound to you later.
Okay, so past that cheesy songwriting phase, you just released your fourth studio album, Scarecrow Sessions. How did you get from that moment of falling in love with music through “Fly like an Eagle” to here?
I quit a lot of things. I quit going to college, I quit trying to be an optimist all the time, and I quit my day job. I felt like everything else besides writing songs was me swimming against the current. At some point, if you’re passionate about something, you have to say “fuck you” to everything else that isn’t what you want to do.
Okay, you quit a lot of things you probably didn’t see yourself letting go of back when you first started playing guitar. What are your motivators for keeping at music? What’s you’re why?
Everything I’ve tried doing has felt like a struggle. Music is the only thing that feels like something I’m meant to do. I hate to be like “Oh, I was destined to be a songwriter,” but I was listening to Bruce Springsteen talk about the first time he held a guitar. He held it and he said he posed with it and at that moment he knew that is what he was going to do.
And songs are great. They can save peoples’ lives.
I agree. They do every day.
They do and sometimes they can open doors in your mind to show you injustices that maybe you didn’t see.
Gary Clark Jr.’s new album will do that.
That’s good. I haven’t listened to it yet.
It’s pretty political…
Well, this is a political world we live in.
I think that is really what music is for - to bring you out of your world a little.
Or maybe sometimes it makes you want to dance! You know I used to be that guy that would stand on the side and watch other guys ask beautiful girls to dance, and I’d just watch them dance and be scared to try it because I didn’t know how until like 2017. Then a girl asked me to dance at The Deli at a Mike Hosty show and I decided to do it and we both had a great time.
Now when I see other people doing the same thing, I’m like, “Well, why don’t you? Because you care about what other people think or because you feel stupid?”
Sometimes feeling stupid is the best feeling. It takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to learn.
Absolutely, you don’t have to be great at dancing to dance, just try it.
You’re right! Don’t knock it ’til ya try it. What song are you going to play for us today?
“Scarecrowed” from my recent record, Scarecrow Sessions.
Great, thank you for coming on the show. Let’s get the tunes started.
Photo of Dylan Stewart Courtesy of Patricia Isbell: patriciaisbellphotography.com/archive