Steve Arvey is a Chicago-born musician who has been playing the blues since the age of 18. When starting his career, Arvey worked as a sideman on the Chicago blues scene playing bass guitar, guitar, and drums behind such legends as Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, Big Smokey Smother, and many others. He went on to found the famous blues band West Side Heat, and toured around the world for over a decade.
Arvey has been visiting Costa Rica and playing along with Costa Rican band The Blind Pigs for about 20 years. He returns this week for a June 25 gig at the Hard Rock Café, during which Arvey and Dave Scott, backed by The Blind Pigs, will record their first album together, entitled “Ballads & Blues.” The other members of the Pigs include Carlos Dominguez & Greasy D on guitars, Franco Torterolo on bass, and Francisco “The Fats” Alvarado on drums.
The Tico Times asked Arvey about his career, love for the blues and visits to Costa Rica. Excerpts follow.
Why did you choose the blues?
Actually, the blues chose me. When I was growing up in Chicago, we had a place called Maxwell Street where musicians would perform in the street while people would be selling items to the public. I heard the sounds of blues music, which just hit my heart and soul with an incredible feeling. I was hooked. I had to play this music. I started playing drums with John Henry Davis and we made money by passing a jar for tips. Eventually I ended up playing nightclubs with John and became a professional musician.
What’s the special ingredient in your music?
My main ingredient in my style is blues, then jazz. Both of these styles reflect in everything I play. Let’s say I play a Brazilian song live at a show – I end up putting a lot of blues feeling into that song and using jazz improvisation. [What I want to communicate] is a feeling with a message.
How would you describe your feelings while playing your music onstage?
First and foremost, I play for God. Then I perform for myself. I know people are in the audience and I am aware they are present. Those people want to see someone enjoying himself onstage.
What do you think about Costa Rican blues artists and the industry here?
Very good scene. Ticos and Ticas love the blues. I have been performing in your country for over 20 years, and I have met some great artists. I have been playing with the Pigs since 1995, and it is always fun. A great group of musicians. I’m also proud to say that José Ramirez is in the United States now and is touring with the Lauren Mitchell Band. He is one of the best blues guitar players I know, and Costa Rica should be very proud.
What is the best part of being a musician?
Peace. I was just in Cuba; as your readers know, both our governments have had a rocky relationship for the past 50 years. When I performed for people and jammed with musicians, we shared a common bond through music. Our musical styles were very different, as are our attitudes toward governmental approaches. But we shared music, and people saw that I am a man of peace and wants to bring the great feeling of music around the world.
I will bop till I drop!
Steve Arvey will perform with the blues band The Blind Pig at the Hard Rock Café, across the General Cañas Highway from Plaza Real Cariari, on Saturday, June 25 at 9:30 pm. For more information call the Hard Rock at 2239-2828.
Read more “Weekend Arts Spotlight” interviews here.
Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.