Interview with Roosevelt Collier: Sacred Steel, The New Stew, & more!

Photos by Jeff Myers

Roosevelt Collier’s warm sounds of the sacred steel provide a soulful layer to any group he’s playing with whether it is The Lee Boys, onstage at a festival, or with his newest project, The New Stew. The band will be performing this Tuesday at the Hamilton in Washington, DC (Tickets & Info). In celebration of the tour and the upcoming event we caught up with Roosevelt Collier. Roosie talks his influences growing up, Bill Withers, live music and much more.

What is it that makes the current state of the live music scene so special in an era where the concert (rather than albums) is so important?

It’s the visual and connection… People dig the records and music all day long… But when people a visual to what they are hearing, it makes it even better that’s why live music will never die… There’s a certain energy release that comes with catching live music of what ever genre it is you prefer.

What steel players did you look up to in church growing up? What role did they play in spiritual growth in church as well as your development as an artist?

My family was my biggest influence. Learn directly under my uncles and grandfather. I was coached by uncle The Great “Rev Glenn Lee” (Maestro G), they taught me hardcore style while being young. Watching my uncles “Glenn and Alvin Lee” all day everyday..You can say I was born into the Sacred Steel sound. So many other steel players like Calvin Cooke, Henry Nelson and Chuck Campbell played a role. Also, Robert Randolph was a major influence in my playing… He is the steel guitar ICON of this day.

You practice and warm up in the hotel even after soundcheck. As a musician, what are you doing right now in your life to make yourself a better player. What music are you listening to and studying to improve and explore new sounds?

Man you can never STOP learning… Constantly trying to re-invent myself, I find myself listening to a lot of percussionist, and great bass players… Needless to say, that I always listen to Jimmy Herring 🙂

The soulfulness of the sacred steel fits the heart of Bill Wither’s music, how did you incorporate your steel playing in the context of this album?

Oh man Bill Withers is all soulful stuff and rootsy also… I will bring my steel as a voice to accompany the cast of great players that’s on board ..

How did you determine to write out the parts to an instrument that isn’t really present on the album?

Man there’s no writing out parts :)… This is Bill withers… You just have to feel it… It’s gonna be very unique to have a steel guitar on this album …. My approach is to enforce the live feeling of this record.

This album came out in October 6, 1972, when did you first hear this particular Bill Withers album?
I didn’t get into Bill Withers until the late 90s… Growing as a church boy, I was exposed to a lot of other genre thru my uncles.

Photo by Jeff Myers

Did you actually translate these songs on the pedal steel growing up or is learning his catalog a more recent endeavor?

For sure a more recent project …. I’ve played many of Bill Withers tunes , but to play this particular record is gonna be such a great….

What do you enjoy most about playing with each of these musicians. What are your favorite things each artist brings to the table that makes this such a special collaboration?

Well first and foremost, I’m playing with friends … Some whom I haven’t seen in years so I’m super excited to reconnect with them. Each guy is great at what they do with musicianship. Nothing less than top notch is what this collaboration of guys are.



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