Stephen Tafoya is a 27 year old Native American Americana/Country Singer-Songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. In 2016, After visiting RCA Studios in Nashville, Stephen had an unexpected and yet inspiring conversation with grammy award winning producer, Dave Cobb. Dave is known for producing some of the best songwriters in Nashville, including artists like Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Brent Cobb, Zac Brown Band, Amanda Shires, Sturgill Simpson, just to name a few.
Stephen wanted Dave Cobb to produce (at the time) a christian record for him. The well known producer kindly said he would not produce a christian record due to the lack of honesty in current modern church music. Stephen saw this as an opportunity to shift gears in his career by saying goodbye to writing church music, and embracing Americana/Country style songwriting.
The story behind "Wild Horses"
"During the time I was in the studio tracking my EP in Franklin, TN I was listening to folks like, Justin Townes Earle, Andrew Combs, Jason Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton. I wasn't really happy with the way I was writing church music. I didn't feel I was honest enough. And the past couple years, I have really enjoyed listening to Americana/Country records. Guys like Stapleton, and Isbell aren't afraid to write about the pain, heartache, or missing home. I wanted to write like that.
I wanted to try and get into Studio A at RCA studios where Dave Cobb works on incredible records, and of course Studio A has a rich history in itself. I know it was incredibly ignorant of me to want to just waltz right into RCA and say, "Hey Dave, I want you to produce my record." But I was driving through Brentwood or Franklin, TN. I can't remember which, but I called my wife and said, I am going to try and meet Dave Cobb at RCA. She thought I was crazy! But she knew that I would figure out how to meet him. Because once I set my mind on something, I do everything I can to make it happen. Long story short, When I first arrived at RCA, every single door was locked. No way in to the studio.
A bit disappointed at my first attempt, I was walking back to my car, and was cutting through the parking lot of RCA. There was a greek food truck in the parking lot. I ordered some food, and talked to the woman who owned the food truck. She asked if I was a songwriter, I showed her some of my christian music. She liked my material, and she happened to have a key to RCA! So, she let me in and introduced me to a producer in Studio B and we kind of interrupted a songwriting session. But they were kind. I ate with the producer, and his co-writers from Texas. I had to have been at RCA hanging out in their parking lot for an hour or more. I had to go pee, and asked if I could use the RCA bathroom. As I am finishing up, and washing my hands, Dave Cobb walks in the bathroom! So While he is peeing, I try and remind him that I met him once. Our family just happened to be on the same flight as Dave and Stapleton's band after they had just won the grammy for the 'Traveller" record.
My wife took a picture with Dave, myself, and our son Ben. He actually remembered me. And that's when I had asked him about producing my debut record. He didn't want to record a christian record because of the lack of honesty in most church music. I actually couldn't agree more with him. I can't stand listening to christian radio. But then again, I can't stand listening to anything that is on the radio these days. So, I decided that I would stop trying to please my producers, record labels, and people in general. I wanted to write the best I could for the sake of being a great songwriter.
I couldn't be more happy with the way I am songwriting. I left the christian music scene, and I am pursing a career in the Americana/Country world. I feel I am more honest in my lyrics. My melodies are more catchy, and I am writing music the way I want. Not the way a label or producer wants me to write. I want to write music like the records I love listening to. I want to be okay with writing for example, "Tired of wondering, if you're still near, cause you promised you'd be there." That's a verse from a new song I wrote called "Guide me home." It's about experiencing the pain of pursuing my music career. It's hard, and life can kick you in the rear pretty hard sometimes. And there are days I feel like God isn't there. I want God to know what I really feel and think at times.
And it's not that I hate God because I don't. It's about getting real with yourself, and real with God. Because there are people out in the world that are feeling exactly what I feel right now. So I hope ya'll enjoy by debut record called 'Wild Horses." I just recorded the acoustic sessions of "Wild Horses" in our 1988 Vogue RV on my phone. Eventually, I will have a follow up record of the same songs, but with an incredible band in Nashville. I am looking at Skylar Wilson or Dave Cobb to produce that record. But for now, I wanted to make a very raw sounding recording with just me, and my 1958 Harmony Archtop named Maggie. I am impatient, and didn't feel like campaigning and asking people for money to record. It takes too darn long, and I want these songs out in the world. So I will publish the acoustic sessions of this record on iTunes, Spotify, etc. in September of 2017. Hope ya'll enjoy this new chapter with me!"
The Early Years
Born & raised in California, Stephen's parents introduced him to the music of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, & many Southern Gospel & Country records early on in life. He didn't have a genuine appreciation for americana and country roots music until the age of 19 with his first visit to Nashville, TN. Stephen was given an acoustic guitar from his grandmother at the age of 5, but he didn't seriously start to play guitar until the age of 12 when his parents decided to purchase him a guitar.
At the age of 13, Stephen started to sing and play guitar at Church where his family was heavily involved in. Throughout his teen years, he would lock himself in his room and practice guitar and singing anywhere between seven to nine hours a day. He was given his first job from his guitar teacher at age 13, and would clean the trash around the apartments where his family lived for a time for ten dollars in quarters that was always wrapped up in a plastic bag. As soon as Stephen was payed, he would head to a local music store in town that sold used cd's. He started to purchase B.B. King and Eric Clapton records to learn more about blues styles for guitar.
At the age of 19, Stephen attempted to live on his own in Music City and decided to head back home to California after he felt it just wasn't his time. He became good friends with Phil Keaggy (who just happened to sit right next to Stephen in the Nashville Airport.) Phil wanted Stephen to send him some songs that he could listen to. Inspired by his first attempt in Nashville, Stephen would start writing his first songs, and eventually met his future wife at the church he grew up in and continued to be involved in. Stephen sent Phil his songs, and Phil sent it to EMI Publishing in Nashville that has now opened up many doors for Stephen and his music.
Fast forward to February of 2016, Stephen, his Wife and 2 year old son headed out to Nashville for Stephen to record with Grammy Award Winning Producer, Ed Cash and well known Producer/Drummer Paul Mabury. He recorded a 4 song EP that is now available on iTunes & Spotify titled "Calmer of the Seas." After spending most of the year in Nashville in 2016, Stephen was even more inspired by the Americana sounds he heard from Jim Lauderdale, and other great artists.
Stephen is planning on releasing his Debut record titled "Wild Horses" Acoustic Sessions in September of 2017, with a follow up album of the same songs, only with a full band that has a strong Americana/Country flavor to it.