June 20th, 2024

ToneGym Hero: Steve W. Vera

ToneGym Hero: Steve W. Vera

Seamlessly blending his love for music with his diverse talents and relentless determination, balancing a career as a Michelin restaurant captain with a passion for Kung Fu and writing novels, Steve W. Vera is this month's ToneGym Hero.

How did you first find your way into making music?

Aside from the usual suspects of teenage angst, childhood fantasies of soloing on stage in front of a kabillion people; music is my inspiration for writing. I hear a song, I see a scene. From there it’s just figuring out who the players are, why somebody’s hanging from the hood of an ice cream truck barrelling down a highway, and what I’d like people to take away from the story. 

Music makes writer’s block impossible. 

As for actually making music, well, I’d always assumed that was beyond me. Pie in the sky. Some people can dance, some people can draw, and some people can make music, definitely not me. Or so I thought—dun dun dunnnn. 

A dear friend of mine, who also happened to be my stepfather, as well as a vivacious uncle–both of whom were accomplished musicians–believed in me and took the time to show me a few things, even got me my first guitars. I quit. Twice. For those of you who might now know, a guitar will contort your hands into ghastly shapes while cutting slender chasms into your fingerpads. Notta so much fun. I guess there is something to that whole “True artists make it look effortless.” 

However, I am a child of the 80’s, a la Rocky, and just like writing a book, the most important attribute for becoming a musician–or in my case an aspiring campfire hero–is good old fashioned doggedness.Tenacity. One more round. I didn’t hear no bell. Yadda yadda, or is that the 90’s? At any rate, I may be a slow learner, and you can rest assured that I will smack, bump, and careen into every obstacle and pitfall there is along the way but in the end…if I want it, I do tend to get back up. Gimme another couple of decades and who knows, maybe I’ll write a song. 

Aside from music, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

I practice a few martial arts though Kung Fu is the only one I’m halfway decent at. I also double as a captain at a Michelin restaurant so wine and cuisine are rather significant parts of my life. I’m also a big fan of cat-petting. 

My agent would definitely smack me upside my head for not plugging my books but we’re talking music today. Perhaps another time. If you’re just dying to know what kind of novels I write, however, I’ll leave some links. 

What’s something you're surprisingly good at that has nothing to do with music?

I am a natural born Dungeon Master. 

If you could play or create with any artist, who would it be, and why?

Geez, great question, one of which I’ve never actually given much thought to. Excuse me while I consult my favorite playlists. Okay, I’m back, and this answer surprises the hell outta me. I would have figured I’d have gone with a lil’ Jimi action or some Stevie Ray or maybe even Robert Plant but… *drum roll please* 

I’m going with Prince. Yep. That man could dance, shred, write, perform, had style, presence, the gravitas of a neutron star, and he wasn’t merely proficient at those things–he was a master. A true renaissance man. Plus, he just looks like he would have been fun to work with. Who knows? Tomorrow my answer might be Chuck Berry.   

What musical instrument do you love the most, and what makes it irreplaceable for you?

Hands down the guitar, though interestingly, if I had to choose what instrument I should be playing, I’d say drums. I have natural rhythm, but unlike a guitar or a piano (and I’m sure there are others) you can’t really play solo with drums. Plus, guitars are magical. They possess infinity. 

What daily or weekly habits do you have in place to keep you creating?

Now this is where ToneGym really shines because I am waaaay too easily distracted. If I’m in my procrastination protocol, I can downright become fascinated with a blowdryer manual. Having a tailor-made workout everyday, even if it’s just for five minutes, is utterly invaluable to me. Plus, I love being exposed to aspects of music I wouldn’t even have considered. Kinda like ordering an eight-course tasting menu where you're not sure what comes next but you know it’s gonna be awesome, even if you don’t necessarily like it. 

Simply by staying consistent, I find myself bantering music theory with one of my fellow captains who used to teach music at NYU and is an accomplished pianist. The lightbulb really went on when one of our other workmates listened to us go at it (I was begging him to teach me the secrets of decrypting inversions) and I assumed that because she was a dancer she knew what we were talking about. She didn’t. But she was fascinated. And that made me feel cool. Hoo-ya again. 

What keeps you motivated to continue making music?

I breathe, I eat, I write, and I play. If I miss a day there’s a disturbance in the Force that can only be rectified by carving out a spot of time just to strum some chords, hum a song, or even just hold my guitar.  

What song would you choose as the soundtrack of your life?

This one is surprisingly easy. It’s a song I’m betting most of you probably never heard of, because I had never heard of it and I grew up in the 90’s: It’s THAT SONG by Big Wreck. It’s all about the vibe. The lyrics are irrelevant. Open highway, sunny skies, and the promise of things to come. 

It’s funny because the only reason I even know it exists (I don’t even think it hit one-hit-wonder status) is because I heard it on one of those Flashback Fridays when people actually listened to the radio and pterodactyls ruled the sky. I’m sure I’ve listened to that song at least a thousand times, though I actually had no idea what the lyrics were! That ever happen to you? 

What's your favorite feature on ToneGym, and how has it helped you in your musical journey?

Wow, wow, wow, alright, Tone Gym for me is a classic case of under-promise, over-deliver. All I really wanted was to be able to hear a key, identify it, so I could play along a few notes or chords with my buddies who are all in a band. That’s it. Googled how to identify a key by ear, found some cool British dude who was being sponsored by ToneGym, figured what the hell, and voila! Here I am eight months later being featured. Speaking of features, I think I like MELODIX the best–it’s the whole reason I started in the first place. Plus, trying to figure out what notes are being played is like blind-tasting wine.

Feels so good when you nail it. 

What’s something exciting you're working on or looking forward to?

Wrapping up my latest novel. Working title: THE SPOON & THE SWORD. Figured I’d blend my favorite worlds–fantasy and restaurants, sprinkled with some newly acquired musical lore. One Liner: If Anthony Bourdaine set up shop in Middle Earth.

Links for Books: 
Last of the Shardyn trilogy

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