Songwriter Pete Stein feels at home on Steamboat stages
Steamboat Springs — The young Pete Stein was a sandy-haired Virginia farm boy who found a smoky, musical retreat in the country folks living down the road.
He recalls tortoise-shell guitar picks and a musically driven baby sitter who lived there, inspiring him to mow extra lawns and do a few extra chores on the farm to earn money to buy his first guitar.
But a mean music teacher in grade school had discouraged him from a musical path, so he kept his hobby to himself.
The night before he was supposed to perform for the first time — a showcase in a college songwriting class — he couldn’t even play guitar and sing at the same time.
Maybe it was the pressure of the deadline, but when he woke up that morning, something had clicked.
“I was terrified,” he said about his first performance. “It was awful. I can’t even tell you. I’ve come a long way.”
The college English major once was intent on his creative writing education but realized he could channel his fiction and nonfiction into concise prose through songwriting.
Now, he gets paid to play his own songs.
“I don’t play very many covers because I didn’t learn music so I could play my favorite songs,” he said. “I would try to learn them and be like, ‘I don’t sound anything like these people, and people are going to laugh at me.’ So I quit trying to learn people’s songs.”
With connections to the Yampa Valley, Stein plays often in Steamboat Springs, including a concert at Carl’s Tavern at 10 p.m. Saturday and another Aug. 18.
Stein’s parents moved to Steamboat Springs several years ago, and Stein used their house for a snowboarding retreat while he lived in Florida and Tennessee and toured the country with a band and on his own. Two years ago, he ruptured a disc in his back on Mount Werner and went to Boulder to recover. He never left.
He’s lived on the Front Range for about a year but plays shows in Steamboat Springs several times each month when he visits his parents.
His quiet Americana folk style and thoughtful songs fit right in.
“That rural landscape influenced my music,” he said. “It’s made me more of a country artist. It’s the fact that I can play those sort of two-beat country songs for a bunch of those ranchers and down-to-earth people up here.
“And the people that come to Steamboat seem to come because they’re drawn to that Western vibe, that country vibe. My music just seems to fit.”
While playing one of his first shows in Steamboat at Old Town Pub last summer, local guitarist and songwriter Jay Roemer happened to overhear a few songs. Roemer invited Stein to the home base of his band, the Old Town Pickers, across the alleyway where a backyard Fourth of July party was going on at the same time.
Without any kind of rehearsal, Stein played a few bluegrass favorites with a host of local musicians backing him up.
Roemer said Stein isn’t a limelight kind of guy.
“When I’m on stage with him, he doesn’t take any solos,” he said. “He can rip a solo, but you have to ask him to.”
Roemer said it’s Stein’s songwriting that stands out to him.
“When we play together, the crowd — and even myself — will say, ‘Whose song is that?’ and he would say, ‘I wrote that.’ That’s kind of a compliment.”
Stein bartends and plays music in Boulder now, having traded in his cross-country troubadour life for a community of Colorado mountain towns. During the day, he rock climbs and takes in the Rocky Mountain environment.
At night, he takes his solo show across the state, celebrating the road with his original songs of loneliness and wanderlust.
“It’s the most beautiful place in the world to work at night,” he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com
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Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.