Steve Poltz | One-Man Musical Comet

Laura Partain

Believe it or not, the ageless wonder, musician and multitalented entertainer, Steve Poltz, turns 60 next year.

“Age ain’t nothing but a number,” says the effervescent artist originally from Nova Scotia. “It really means nothing. I’m walking up the stairs at the house right now and I’m asking myself, ‘Am I just tired or old?’ In my mind, I still feel like I’m 20.”

Hangtown Music Festival | El Dorado County Fairgrounds
Oct. 25 | 2:15 p.m. & Oct. 26 | 6:30 & 9:15 p.m.

It’s true. Keeping up with Poltz on tour, around the house, on the phone or during one of his many concerts across the world each year will compel you to dig deep into your physical and spiritual energy reserves. He doesn’t seem to waste a second, like some force of nature blowing through this weary world in an unaltered biological state, intent on leaving joy and creation in his inescapable path.

“My personal life is in total disarray. I tour way too hard. I’m way out of balance, but I love it. Everybody tells me I’m crazy and insane, but … it gives me energy.”

— Steve Poltz

“The people with me get tired,” says Poltz. “They hate me. My personal life is in total disarray. I tour way too hard. I’m way out of balance, but I love it. Everybody tells me I’m crazy and insane, but I really like it and it gives me energy.”

Poltz truly wants to meet you, get to know you, try to understand you for even one twinkling instant and, most likely at the very least, sing a song with you. His intimate live performances are chockful of stories to make you laugh and cry, masterly crafted songs from any of his 13 albums and group sing-alongs on classic tunes we all know and love. Chances are by the end of the performance he won’t be on stage, but in the audience with you and your 100 new friends making magic and laughter together.

“I look at younger bands that go out once a year for a month,” he says. “They look at my schedule and ask, ‘How are you doing this?’ I still get excited when I see these upcoming gigs. Most people get jaded but not me.”

In fact, it’s Poltz’s organic condition to be stoked.

“I get excited about stuff,” he says. “I’m not posing doing it. I wonder what kind of cool hipster coffeehouse there is where you live. What records stores are there? Who are we going to meet?”

In a past life, after Poltz’s family had left Canada for California, he befriended a barista named Jewel and co-wrote the song, “You Were Meant for Me,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Charts in 1996.

“When I was younger I was getting huge checks, stupid checks that I had no business getting,” he says. “I once got a check for $155,000.”

While those days are over, Poltz was recently delighted to wander out to his mailbox and find a $120 check of royalties for “Million Miles.” It’s a song that he and Jewel wrote more than 20 years ago, which was recently discovered and recorded by virtuosic bluegrass guitarist Molly Tuttle for the opening track on her critically acclaimed sophomore album, “When You’re Ready.”

Poltz calls friends and collaborators such as Tuttle and 27-year-old Billy Strings, who live nearby his East Nashville neighborhood, “super-virus kids, the kind that you can’t get rid of, that can outlive the penicillin,” he jokes. “A lot of them never grew up not knowing there wasn’t YouTube with all these songs at their disposal. When I was growing up, all we could compare it to was putting on a Beatles record and playing along to it over and over. They’re Beatles mixed with Oasis mixed with Led Zeppelin. They’re learning at a quicker clip. They’re like larger, faster athletes — kind of like Tiger Woods was raised to play golf or [15-year-old tennis phenom] Coco Gauff. You can grow up into skating and punk-rock music and also into loving Doc Watson.”

Since moving to Tennessee three years ago at the encouragement of his girlfriend, Poltz has been writing and recording with other artists more than ever. And it looks like it’s all uphill from here.

“It’s a really exciting time to be in music,” he says. “We’ve got everything at our fingertips. We don’t sell CDs. No one is going to be living off royalties. We gotta go out on the road and earn it. A lot of people don’t want to work that hard, but I picked the perfect job. I still care so much.”

He will perform at the ninth annual Hangtown Music Festival at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville, which runs from Oct. 24 to 27, alongside artists such as Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Anders Osborne, The Wood Brothers, Lindsay Lou and many more. |