Throughout his career, Steven Dayvid McKellar has proven his prodigious ability to observe the world around him and poetically translate the human condition into emotionally moving pieces of art. Now, the frontman of Civil Twilight, has courageously entered a new chapter of his career as an independent solo artist. Fully embracing his creative freedom, he has set forth on a new path exploring a more intimate and personal side of his art.
Steven Dayvid McKellar gave us the first taste of his solo work last year with the release of The Belleville Demos, and now has released his magnificent debut full-length solo album, ETHIO. Released in two-parts, ETHIO comes together to form a complete and seamless work of art that shines a bright light on many complicated and relevant topics of our time. With his smooth tenor voice occasionally sliding into a perfectly toned falsetto, McKellar delivers song after song that will stop you in your tracks, beckoning you to pause, listen, and feel.
Steven was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions on ETHIO, his songwriting, his painting, and more. Here’s what he had to say:
The music you’ve delivered with ETHIO is powerful, stunning, and impactful. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind ETHIO and some of the overall messages you hope listeners take away from this collection of songs?
Thank you. The writing of the record was fueled by this feeling I got when I landed back in the states in Jan 2019, after being in Europe for 5 months. I moved to America 15 years ago, to pursue a dream, like so many others. Cause it’s everyone’s country. The nation’s nation. A place to start again, to dream big. But, landing back here this time was weirdly heartbreaking to me, what I felt in the everyday person around. And so I just started playing music to that feeling. There wasn’t a plan for an overall message. I guess the closest one would be, ‘Look around you. Observe your world. OUR world. Look what we created. Face what this has all become, stop being in denial, so we can move on.’
Throughout ETHIO you valiantly touch on weighted topics such as society, politics, spirituality and more. In the unprecedented times we’re living in, do you find it challenging to write about these subjects or do you feel compelled and empowered to share your perspective through your music?
Well, I’d never try and directly address the topics themselves. That’s….not for me. But, I’m a human being, so I can relate to the feelings of other human beings. And so I can express what it FEELS like to live in a place like this, surrounded by all that is going on. I can, at least, be honest and truthful about THAT. Even if it grinds against my conditioned sense of false patriotism or religion, or challenges everything around me. I must express what it feels like to be a human. That’s what I believe we all can and must do. Otherwise, what the fuck are we doing here?
How has your creative approach differed as an independent solo artist as opposed to previous projects you’ve been a part of such as Civil Twilight?
Man, I’m actually very new to the independent, solo artist thing. So, my observations and experiences are quite limited in that regard. But, I will say that after doing everything with a team for so long, it’s been a real adventure and really challenging and rewarding having to face myself in all of these new creative endeavors. It’s forced me to ask myself the question ‘what do YOU want?’ , which has terrified me. Actually I think the deep, deep truth of that question terrifies most people.
In addition to your music, you’ve also proven your multifaceted artistic abilities through your painting. In what unique ways does painting allow you to express yourself?
It’s very therapeutic for me. I love what it teaches me and how it helps me process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve journaled every day since I was 20, and painting is kind of like that. Like music, the act of it is so simple, yet the possibilities within that act are infinite. And I’ve discovered such freedom within it. A freedom that has manifested in my everyday life and honestly, changed everything for me, in a beautiful way.
We’d love to know what’s next on the horizon for you. Do you have any concerts, art exhibits, or more music planned for later this year?
Yes, for sure. Once this season has passed I plan to do some art/music exhibitions. Some in galleries and some in more unique settings. Not sure what it will all look like yet. I’ll just keep creating. Now that ETHIO is out, I’m getting ready for the next thing.