Interview: Stef Burns

Guglielmo Malusardi: So Stef, you told me in our last interview in the spring 2006, "I have started recording some songs with Juan and Walter. I hope to complete the rest this fall and release early next year. I am working towards releasing something with Ultra Records in Milan and Family Affair Dist." Just little bit late... but you did it!

Stef Burns: I feel great! I'm so happy that is is finished. Playing the songs live is a thrill because the songs get stronger as the band gets better.

Guglielmo Malusardi: "World, Universe, Infinity" Quite an impressive title for a CD. Are you referring to the expanding target marketing area for your CD, or talking more seriously... what did you want express with this title?

Stef Burns: It's nothing more than my address and your address, because we all live in the same home, this planet.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You included on this album vocal tracks, in fact, your debut on vocals. What exactly pushed you in this direction?

Stef Burns: I have always sang, mostly back up vocals, but I haven't recorded lead vocals before, and I was inspired to write lyrics about things that I had on my mind. And I really enjoyed writing with my friends including my brother Josh, who wrote the lyrics for "Space Time".

Guglielmo Malusardi: Can you comment on, or describe for us. the various vocal tracks on the record?

Stef Burns: "Begin" is a rocker and is basically about optimism. "In Your Room" is a love song. It rocks with an R&B flavor. "Her Brightest Sun" is about someone in a difficult situation, yet full of hope - 6/8 groove and infused with jazz. "Space Time" is a funky jazz/pop song with horns and killer solos.
"Little Wing" is a beautiful Hendrix song that I have always loved and we recorded live.

Guglielmo Malusardi: "Her Brightest Sun", and even more, "Space Time", both gave me the sensation of a kind of tribute to the Steely Dan golden age, not just the structure but also your way of singing them. Are you a fan?

Stef Burns: I love Steely Dan. They are remarkable. Sometimes the flavors of my favorite musicians flow through the music.

Guglielmo Malusardi: We already discussed your inspirations as a guitar player - what are your reference points as a singer?

Stef Burns: I don't really have any, I just sing and try and hope for the best. I am in awe of good singers.

Guglielmo Malusardi: There are some new musicians in your band. Would you like to introduce them?

Stef Burns: Yes. In Europe we just finished a tour with Juan Van Emmerloot on drums, Fabio Valdemarin on keyboards and Walter Latupeirissa on bass. On the CD there are many musicians and guest artists, those in the live band plus Huey Lewis, Bill Champlin, Sean Hopper, Peppino D'Agostino, Lyle Workman, Abe Laboriel Jr., Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Campitelli, Marc Russo, John Seppala, Benny Rietveld, Josh Birnbaum, Paolo Muscovi, Giovanni Toffaloni, Rob Sudduth and more."

Guglielmo Malusardi: Here and there appear some of the Bay Area's top musicians collaborating on several tracks.

Stef Burns: Indeed, I am fortunate to know and play with some of the most amazing musicians.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Talk about Peppino D'Agostino's participation.

Stef Burns: My dear friend, duo partner and awesome acoustic guitarist plays on two songs and co-wrote the single "Begin" with me. He plays beautiful guitar on "Begin" and "Isle Mystique."

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Guglielmo Malusardi: How did you hook up with Lyle Workman for his participation on the album?

Stef Burns: My dear buddy Lyle is so talented, it is scary. He can do so much, composing, arranging, playing, recording. We recorded at his studio near Los Angeles. I love his solo albums and I have wanted to work with him for a long time, finally I had the chance and the results are wonderful.

Guglielmo Malusardi: On the instrumental side of the album, in my personal opinion, you did a terrific job man! So melodic and inspired, such as the first one, the live and tasty "Burns' Blues". In my opinion you pushed yourself as never before in search of the "beauty in music". I would like a comment from you about each of the tracks.

Stef Burns: Thank you so much. "Burns' Blues" is inspired by one of my favorites, Jeff Beck. It's blues with a twist. "Mepukori" is based on another song entitled "Spasimo" written by Mario Riso from the "Rezophonic" album in Italy. Lyle and I rearranged, rewrote, and added a new middle section that is gorgeous. Then we got to trade guitar solos.

"On My Way Home" was co-written with Walter and is a very feel good track with lots of atmosphere. "Isle Mystique" I co-wrote with Juan and it has a cool feel. Juan is another multi talented guy who writes, plays and records so very well. He is also an excellent driver!

"Shine" I cowrote with Fabio and might be the most emotional track on the album. He is such an incredible piano player, and if you go to his web site, you'll see and hear he plays bass, guitar and drums very well. Also trumpet!

Guglielmo Malusardi: I'm curious about "Mekupori", what does the title mean?

Stef Burns: It is a name that means "he who feeds the hungry" in the Maasai language.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Why you choose to put out a live version of "On My Way Home"?

Stef Burns: I love live performances. If they come out well, they capture the beauty of improvisation. That is one of the things that I love about music and this band, the moments of improvisation that change from gig to gig are wonderful. There are two live recordings, "On My Way Home" and "Little Wing".

Guglielmo Malusardi: Why did you decide to do a cover of "Little Wing"?

Stef Burns: I have loved it since the first time I heard it. It is a little masterpiece. When you play it live it is perfect for improvising with the soaring changes and slow tempo.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Have you ever considered doing a live DVD?

Stef Burns: Yes, we have a couple of ideas brewing right now.

Guglielmo Malusardi: It isn't just musicians that support a musician's successful career, but also dedicated people working doggedly to reach the same goals. The unstoppable Elisabetta Galletta for example and her teammate Alberto Pietrapertosa.

Stef Burns: My label and agency. They are my guiding force through Italy and I love working with them.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk about the guitars, amps and effects you used in the recordings.

Stef Burns: I used my '91 Strat on everything except acoustic parts. Amps include the Marshall JCM 900 and JCM 2000, Fender Hot Rod DeVille and a Bruno. Also on "Mepukori" an early '70s Marshall Super Lead. Effects were minimal: Advance Cat Drive Boost, Boss compressor, Pro Tools plug ins for delay and reverb, Whammy pedal, wah, etc.

Guglielmo Malusardi: We opened this interview referring back to a part of the previous interview in which you were talking about future projects, and your intention to sing. Where exactly are you at musically at this time?

Stef Burns: I feel very comfortable, but not sedentary because there is always room to grow and change. I will never give up the instrumental tunes that I love. I enjoy singing and writing so there is still more to do there.

Guglielmo Malusardi: After a bunch of successful dates, you are extending your "World, Universe, Infinity" tour in Italy. How is the feeling inside the band and with the fans?

Stef Burns: It is wonderfully intense. The fans in Italy feel so passionate about the music that it is contagious and we, the band, rise up to a higher level with that energy.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's close out the interview with your projects for 2008.

Stef Burns: Spending time with my family between and while touring with Huey Lewis and The News and Vasco Rossi. Hopefully some gigs with my band in the US and back in Europe, and writing more music for many things including my next record and the next record with Peppino. Enjoy my time on the planet.

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Stef Burns has always been a busy, working musician and an inspiration for many artists who someday hope to make music their full-time career. He has just completed a new CD entitled "World, Universe, Infinity", which features, in addition to a number of instrumental tracks that he in generally known for, his first lead vocal opportunities.

Guglielmo Malusardi got in touch with Burns and had a chance to follow up with him after his first interview in 2006.