Steve Key is an award-winning songwriter, performer and recording artist, best known as the writer of "33, 45, 78 (Record Time)" recorded by country music star Kathy Mattea. He recorded for New York's Fast Folk label, which is now part of the Folkways collection at the Smithsonian. His songs have been compared with those of Jim Croce, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, and Steve Earle. Key played the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Canadian folk festivals at Winnipeg and Owen Sound, and three times on the main stage of the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. Since returning to California in 2006, Key has played the Live Oak Music Festival, and house concerts in Santa Rosa, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Orcutt, Santa Barbara, and Bakersfield. He hosts events under the banner, Songwriters at Play
A native of Brooklyn NY, Steve grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and studied journalism at San Jose State University. He alternated working day jobs as a reporter and editor of weekly newspapers, with playing 4-hour gigs at night, covering the likes of James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell, John Denver, the Eagles, the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater.
After a stop in Portland OR 1983-5, Key returned to New York in spring 1985 and joined the circle of singer-songwriters at Folk City and The Speakeasy in Greenwich Village. He recorded four songs for Fast Folk, the 'musical magazine' founded by Jack Hardy which brought out the first recordings of Suzanne Vega, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin and Tracy Chapman. Those recordings are now enshrined in the Folkways division of the Smithsonian.
"Between Trains," Steve Key's debut album, was released in 1989 and brought much critical acclaim and radio airplay throughout the Northeast. He signed with the Local Folkel label in 1990, which released his CDs New Hope and Record Time. Also in 1990, Steve moved to Washington DC. He helped produce two volumes of Capital Acoustics, CD samplers showcasing local folk performers.
Key toured frequently in the early '90s, played the Philadelphia Folk Festival (which included a humorous songs workshop hosted by the late Gamble Rogers), Canadian folk festivals at Winnipeg and Owen Sound, and three times on the main stage of the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. Key also opened shows for Richard Thompson, Christine Lavin, Patty Larkin, Cheryl Wheeler, Ellis Paul, Livingston Taylor, James McMurtry, David Mallett, Taj Mahal, Rory Block, Claudia Schmidt, Jonathan Edwards, Bill Staines and Tom Paxton.
Country music star Kathy Mattea heard Key's song "Record Time" at Fast Folk's 10th Anniversary show in 1992, and decided to cut it on her Lonesome Standard Time CD for the Mercury/Polygram label, released Oct. 1992. And so that song was heard all around the world, performed by Kathy at major venues like Wolf Trap, and also with orchestras and on TV shows such as the Nashville Network's "American Music Shop".
Steve moved to Nashville in 1995. He co-wrote with such touring artists as David Mallett, Sally Barris, Pierce Pettis and Kate Campbell. His songs were recorded by several independent country, folk and blues artists. He returned to DC in the summer of 2000, releasing the Scatter Seeds CD and performing at regional folk venues. Steve also hosted open mikes, presented concerts in churches and arts centers, and produced a third volume of the Capital Acoustics sampler of folk performers from the Washington area. He performed on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, at the Takoma Park Folk Festival, and the Washington Folk Festival.
Since 2006, Steve has lived on California's Central Coast. He was featured at the Live Oak Music Festival in 2014. He now produces a live music series called Songwriters At Play, www.songwritersatplay.com
Photo by Jenny Sebring. Hat by Pi Jacobs.
Thanks Sara Petite for the booking. Photo by Dennis Andersen.
Photo by Matt Vargo. Sculpterra Winery, my weekly gig for many years.