Interview – Steve Cole

Steve ColeSteve Cole

Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
August 13, 2012

 Bassist for the popular Missouri band, Smooth Down Under, makes for an FBPO salute to those hard-working Indie bands!

Steve Cole is the bassist for Smooth Down Under, a popular Indie group, based in Branson, MO.

FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.

SC: I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and am the youngest of five kids. Being from a family of musicians, it was natural for me to be interested in playing music. I studied all the regular public school music classes and started playing long before getting out of high school.

FBPO: What made you decide to become a bass player?

SC: I knew at 10 years old that bass would be my instrument. I’d have to say, I did not choose the bass; the bass chose me!

FBPO: Who were your influences when you were learning how to play the bass?

SC: My earliest influence was Stanley Sheldon. He used to jam with my oldest brother at our home back in the 1960s in Kansas City. During the 1970s when I started playing, I was influenced by all the current rock and blues/rock greats, like Gene Simmons, Chris Squire, Donald “Duck” Dunn John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, John Paul Jones… The list goes on and on.

FBPO: Do you think people have any misconceptions about the music scene in Missouri? Do they assume it’s all blues or rockabilly?

SC: Not really. Some people have misconceptions about what a band based in Branson might be, but we are breaking all those rules by being a Rocking Roadhouse Blues Band! It really depends on an individual’s musical taste, where they grew up and what has influenced their personal favorites.

FBPO: Tell me about Smooth Down Under.

SC: I started the band in early 2010 with some local guys, playing clubs. Yes, there are some nightclubs in and around Branson! [Laughs] As what typically happens with bands, though, memberships change, the sound evolves, etc. The original concept came about from me and a guitarist from Australia, hence the name. I’ve been called “Smooth” for some time because my primary instrument is a handmade fretless bass.

FBPO: Who else is in the band?

SC: Eric Sokol is our drummer. With a jazz background and a degree from Cal State Northridge in Jazz Performance & Composition, Eric is the backbeat driver of our groove. Richard Lee Wilson handles the guitar and vocals and is our primary songwriter.

FBPO: It looks like you’ve got a pretty loyal following.

SC: It’s taken some time to build, but we are extremely grateful for the fans and venues that have been supporting us at the live shows, as well as online.

FBPO: What sort of gigs has the band been doing lately?

SC: We have been traveling the region between KC into Northern Arkansas, playing nightclubs, events and any place we can get booked. One recent show was the “Salute To America” event at our state capitol in Jefferson City on the 4th of July. Another place in Leslie, Arkansas, called the Drop Zone, has been very supportive. It’s an alcohol- and smoke-free venue. They have acts from all over the USA that make stops there while touring. We also recorded a live show in July 2011, which has been very well received!

FBPO: The music industry has changed so much in the last couple decades. What’s it like working as an Indie band, as opposed to the way things used to be with the major labels?

SC: The Internet has become quite a blessing in disguise for Indie artists like us. The Internet stations that have sprung up have been a great outlet for building a wider fan base and generating sales.

Major labels just don’t do A&R like they used to, so it takes breaking ground as an Indie artist before a label will even pay attention anymore. It’s up to the band or artist to show a proven track record with bookings, promotions and product sales before a label will invest the money. Years ago, as I’m sure you know, it was the other way around.

Being self-managed and produced brings its own challenges, too. I’ve been manning the administrative duties, including managing all the bookings, social networking postings, etc. It’s really a group effort, though. We all bring our strengths together as a tight band, not only on stage, but behind the scenes as well.

Steve Cole, Smooth Down Under
Smooth Down Under
L-R: Eric, Richard, Steve

FBPO: What lies ahead for the band?

SC: We’re working on ideas for a second CD of original material, along with a few covers of crowd favorites – and ours! We’re keeping the calendar filled up as much as possible so we can continue to meet new fans and perform for them. Hopefully, we’ll be getting more high-profile shows like festivals, but also continue in the club market to stay close to the fans. Basically, we’ll be continuing our mission to keep the blues alive!

FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

SC: I’d probably be working in a factory or at an electronics repair shop, since I have an education in electronics technology and repair.

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