A lifetime performing musician living in Asheville since 1996, Stephen Evans plays with his band the True Grits, as part of a songwriters’ collective, and as a solo artist. As live shows begin to return to the region, folk-rocking Evans has scheduled an April 3 solo performance at Guidon Brewing. It’s one thing to perform as part of a group. But a solo show places all of the responsibility on you. How do you engage the audience, especially when you’re playing at a venue like a brewery, where people might not necessarily be there specifically to see and hear you? I don’t force it; I do my thing and joke around to lighten the mood when I know I have captured some attention. I focus on playing as well as I can, and let the performance grab people. Connection with an audience is a big high for me. For many years you were part of the live-music scene in Atlanta. How is playing solo there different from gigs in WNC? Atlanta was a lot more competitive back then, but Western North Carolina was and has always been more welcoming and less cutthroat. The scene here was a lot smaller than it is now, lighter on the amount of venues, and more concentrated with bluegrass, old time, folk, and jam music. But now, the spectrum is much wider and there is an overflow of great talent. And the scene in WNC has a great community feel. Your early immersion in playing music centered around the trumpet and performing in musicals. How did that background affect your approach to making your own music? My background with musicals and trumpet influenced my desire to write strong melodies to sing. A good melody with some tasteful harmonies is very important to me. For you, what are the hallmarks of a great song? A strong melody, creative and almost poetic lyrics that tell a story or touch the minds and hearts of others. A fun beat doesn’t hurt either. If a tune holds its own with just a vocal and a guitar, then you have a solid song; everything else is color and dressing to make it extra cool. You’ve talked about how music helped lift you out of depression. How does music heal? I had given up on music because it was so difficult to get the ball rolling into the gig scene; I was disheartened and afraid to try again. But after my dog, Angie, had passed away in 2014, I just got fed up with being sad; I decided I was going to make a record and focus on that. In 2015, I released my debut album, Something to Bleed. It was a moment of pure joy — it so felt good to have a goal. Music is my way to connect with myself and something divine, as well as release emotions and thoughts that have been spinning around in my head. Stephen Evans plays a solo acoustic show at Guidon Brewery (415 8th Ave. East, Hendersonville, guidonbrewing.com) on Saturday, April 3, 7-9pm. For more information about the show, call 828-595-7976. For more information about the musician, see stephenevans.com. ” - Bill Kopp

Bold Life Magazine

Evans is noted for leading Stephen Evans & The True Grits, a folk rock band out of Asheville. In addition to performing throughout the region, they have produced a CD in 2015 and an EP in 2017, both receiving high praise from music critics and radio listeners. More recently, Evans joined the newly formed Western Carolina Writers, a singer-songwriter group that performs “in the round,” meaning each performing takes a turn singing something he or she has written. So far, there have been three he’s: Nick Mac, Jesse Frizsell and Evans. This is true listening music: you have to listen to and hear the lyrics to truly appreciate the performances, which is known to be deeply emotional, passionate, and rib-sticking. Evans’s strong melodic songwriting style is a blend of creative imagery of darkness and hopeful optimism.” - Steve Wong


Stephen Evans and the True Grits revisit the past with a new EP   Twenty years ago, Stephen Evans wasn’t sure if he’d ever play with a band again. The breakup of Mean Season, the rock group with which he’d hoped to make it big, had driven the singer-songwriter from Atlanta to Asheville in search of a new start. Evans dove into hiking, classes at UNC Asheville and bartending work — music became a sporadic hobby of informal jams and open-mic nights. That change didn’t last. “I got into some pretty serious depression because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, otherwise,” says Evans. “I needed something to get my juices flowing again, and I decided to give music another try.” At The Grey Eagle on Sunday, Sept. 24, Evans and his current band, the True Grits, release an EP claiming those troubles are (in the words of its title) under the bridge. The new record revisits songs that Evans first crafted during his transition between cities. “After the band broke up, I played solo for a while, and I was writing a lot of songs during that time,” he says. “I was in the middle of relationship stuff, as well, so I had a lot of material,” he adds with a laugh. The music on Under the Bridge does show its roots in the middle of the 1990s. Although the instruments are mostly acoustic, the jangle of guitar and Evans’ expressive tenor evoke the era’s grunge aesthetic. The results on songs such as “Waiting” give a vibe not unlike Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged set, or the Foo Fighters’ Skin and Bones acoustic album. Other tracks on the EP reveal how Asheville worked its way into Evans’ songwriting after his move. “I was just impressed with the surroundings here. When I got into hiking in the mountains, I found that it was very peaceful and relieved you of the stress of your day-to-day stuff,” he says. “Cherokee Hills,” in particular, recounts the healing he found in his new home. Evans sings, “Mountain laurel, you glow like a pearl / how you open my eyes / Mountain laurel, your flowers unfurl / and take me to the sky,” as a heavy, folksy waltz backs up the sentiment. Throughout the record, Evans’ bandmates in the True Grits pull the sound in the folk-rock direction they first explored in their 2005 debut, Something to Bleed. Brian Shoemaker (bass/lead guitar/backing vocals) and Sam Hess (drums) make a steady, unfussy rhythm section, while Woodstock (mandolin) fills out the music’s high end with tremolo lead lines and complementary chords. For the EP, Evans also drew from two other bands. The first is The Floating Men, the Nashville-based indie group in which his older brother, Scot Evans, played bass. “My brother’s band influenced me a lot with their writing, especially through my younger years,” he says. In tribute to that early influence, the True Grits cover The Floating Men’s “A Rose for Emily,” based on the short story of the same name by William Faulkner. The second band is Mean Season — the group whose breakup originally led Evans to make the Asheville move. Former Mean Season guitarist Shawn Duxbury is featured in the lead acoustic part on “Waiting,” contributing an intricate lick over his old bandmate’s strumming. “That’s kind of a salute to my past too because it led to where I am now,” says Evans. “Shawn was a big part of my musical growth, so I wanted to have him there.” Reflecting on his development between when he first wrote the songs on Under the Bridge and now, Evans says the years have mellowed his approach. “Fame isn’t really the goal. We just want to keep making better and better records and having fun with it,” he explains. That goes for the style of the music as well. When asked how his self of two decades ago would have responded to the new EP, Evans says, “I think he would be a little surprised that I went in this direction — he was definitely more of a rock guy.” But, he adds, “I think he would still like it.”” - Daniel Walton

The Mountain Xpress

“Posted on October 18, 2015 by Alli Marshall Stephen Evans There are two main moods to Something to Bleed, the new 10-track album by local musician Stephen Evans — the energetic folk-rock found on lead offering “The Ghost” and the more wistful, lilting melodies of songs like “1000 Roses.” Evans’ tenor is emotive and more concerned with ache and character than with polish. His vocal is matched at many points by poignant violin. The local singer-songwriter does a nice job of crafting imagery and matching instrumentation to poetic temperament. That’s on recording, but what about the live act? Evans and his band, The True Grits, perform a free show at French Broad Brewery Saturday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. frenchbroadbrewery.com.”” - Alli Marshall

Mountain Xpress

Local singer-songwriter Stephen Evans is preparing to reunite with his band, The True Grits, for the first time since last fall. The folk-rock group will perform new songs from its forthcoming EP during a show at The Town Pump Tavern in Black Mountain. You can expect Evans’ signature soulful guitar and roots-oriented accompaniment from the band. Evans is eager to share his new tunes but equally excited about the performance space. “So many great musicians have played there while passing through Western North Carolina. It will be a pleasure just to be on that stage,” he says.  ” - Emily Glaser

Mountain Xpress

““I became somewhat disillusioned with the music biz,” says singer-songwriter Stephen Evans. “So music took a back seat to my relationship, school at UNCA and working as a bartender.” But in June 2015, after several years away from the industry, Evans released his debut album, “Something to Bleed.” On Tuesday, April 26, he will be performing songs from the album at Pulp in an intimate solo acoustic set. With solid vocals and dancing melodies, those in attendance can anticipate humming these tunes long after the final number. The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.”” - Thomas Calder

Mountain Xpress

Stephen Evans would have to be number three on my list of Top 5. His songs are melancholy soliloquies that speak of broken hearts, woes and unrequited love. The track that I liked the best was “The Ghost.” The vignette is about a scorned, disembodied soul that haunts the conscience of the woman who rejected him. These lyrics work either figuratively or literally. The track features violin as does “Lasting Lover’s Spell,” other recordings by Evans."...” - Fredrick Gubitosi

Shutter 16 Online Magazine

“After years of putting his music career on hold, Stephen Evans has finally released his debut CD, "Something to Bleed". This record is a sweet blend of dark, brooding rock and fun, uplifting grooves. With solid vocal melodies and delicious dancing counter melodies, one will find themselves humming these tunes long after the music has stopped playing. The lyrics are creative and pull you into dark, romantic scenarios then send you spiraling upward with hope.””

The Loafer

His songwriting style is a blend of darkness mixed with hopeful optimism. There is no denying the heart that shines through his powerful vocals and lyrics. Songs like ‘Bleed’ and ‘Shining Star’ are beacons of the human emotional experience expressed through his songs." - The Loafer, Johnson City TN”

The Loafer

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