At a time in life when most musicians think about slowing down, Stephen Lawrence is just getting going.
The 45-year-old St. John’s singer/songwriter is determined to make it big in the music industry and will soon embark on an Atlantic Canadian tour — one he hopes will kick-start his career.
“I’m excited, but nervous at the same time,” said Lawrence, a native of Stephenville who moved to St. John’s in 2012. “I’ve played in a lot of places with cover bands, but this is my first time going on tour to promote my own music.”
“I’ve played in a lot of places with cover bands, but this is my first time going on tour to promote my own music.”
— Stephen Lawrence
Last year, Lawrence was pegged to go on a tour that would have seen him perform at various venues across Eastern Canada. However, due to issues with his booking agent at the time, he had no choice but to cancel.
“That was a huge downer for me,” said Lawrence, who went through a bout of depression after that. “I thought that was it for me.”
But with a new, organized booking agent, Artillery Music, Lawrence has a renewed outlook and is set to play solo acoustic shows at several venues, including at Thingamajiggers Lounge in Gander (Dec. 27) and Top Shelf and Games Room in Springdale (Dec. 28), along with almost a dozen January stops throughout New Brunswick. Shows in Nova Scotia are in the works.
It’s a big opportunity for Lawrence, who chose not to take chances in music years ago, opting instead to spend time with his family.
Now that his kids are older, he has no regrets and believes the time has helped him mature as a musician and songwriter.
“Some people think I’m crazy, doing this at my age, but it’s a passion,” said Lawrence, whose country roots with rock influences can be heard in his songs.
His debut solo EP “Make You Believe,” earned a 2016 MusicNL nomination for Country Recording of the Year, while the single, “Far From Where you Are,” was chosen as a regional finalist for the CBC Searchlight competition that same year. It led to him signing with Rosner Management Services and obtaining a publishing deal with World Music Stage Records.
Having recently been re-released, “Make You Believe,” along with his second EP, “Country Style,” released earlier this year, has been streamed 250,000 times online.
His new single "Only You" — co-written with Kelly Rose and recorded with Greg Tobin at Fresh Ear Productions — will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music and all other online retailers Friday.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t play guitar or become a lead singer until his early 20s, when the regular lead singer of the band Primal Instinct couldn’t make a show.
“I just used to sing harmonies for others. I was too shy to sing lead. I was really insecure about my singing,” said Lawrence, who played bass guitar from the time he was 17 and learned to play guitar as a tool for songwriting.
“But once I stepped up, came out of my shell and heard the applause, I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I can.’”
He’s had many ups and downs throughout the years, believing he’s never really fit in with the local music scene for original artists.
“It’s been frustrating for me to get my music out there because it seems wherever you go, all people want to hear is Wagon Wheel. You’re told not to play your original stuff,” Lawrence said. “There’s not many venues out there for original music unless you’re in a certain group. You can get discouraged.
“But I feel I have so much more to offer. Playing bars for cover bands is never going to satisfy me.”
Lawrence is not giving up on his dream and is crossing his fingers there are good things on the horizon.
“At my age, not saying it’s my last kick at the can, but I’m really going to give this my best shot,” said Lawrence, a safety officer by trade. “Maybe this will be the start of something. Maybe it’s the end of something. Who knows? But I’ve got to try.
“At least I’ll know I did my best, and I can’t go in the grave saying, ‘What if?’”