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Steve Azar (right) with Sid Rosenberg, March 2009
|Stephen Thomas Azar|
April 11, 1964 |
Greenville, Mississippi, U.S.
|Singer-songwriter, recording artist, producer, philanthropist, Music and Culture Ambassador of Mississippi|
|1996, 2001-2004, 2005-present|
Stephen Thomas Azar (born April 11, 1964) is a 4th generation American Americana music artist of Lebanese descent. Azar is a modern-day Renaissance man, hit songwriter, recording artist, music producer, golfer and philanthropist. He likes to call his own breed of music "Delta Soul," a mixture of country, rock and blues.
Azar's hit single "I Don't Have To Be Me, Til Monday" received three Million-Air awards from BMI and is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio.
Azar has been honored with "Steve Azar day" in the states of Mississippi (on March 13th) and South Dakota (on August 10th ). He is the co-founder of Ride Records and co-founder of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, dubbed "A Southern Gem" by the American Blues Scene magazine and included in Acoustic Guitar magazine's 2014 Roadside Americana: 50 States 50 Must-Attend Events. The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival has also been featured in the third edition of 1,000 Places in the United States and Canada to See Before You Die.
Azar has also been recognized by the Mississippi Senate, and on Jan. 25, 2017, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Azar as the Music and Culture Ambassador of Mississippi. Bryant is celebrating Mississippi as the birthplace of American Music in 2017, and he was inspired by Azar's latest album, Down at the Liquor Store, which was recorded with The Kings Men, musicians who played with B.B. King, as well as by the financial impact Azar has made on the State through various events.
"I am delighted my longtime friend Steve Azar has agreed to serve as Music and Culture Ambassador for his home state of Mississippi," Bryant said. "Steve has spent his entire career promoting Mississippi, and I know he'll continue that good work in his new role." Azar will be working closely with the State of Mississippi in his official role, and he is writing a song for the state's bicentennial, which is being celebrated in 2017.
Azar was born and grew up in Greenville, Mississippi. He began writing songs at 10 years old, which led him to develop as a guitarist. Azar had his first Nashville recording session when he was 14. After high school, Azar attended Delta State University where he played show after show, including the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans. Mississippi native Faith Hill remembers being at his shows as a fan in the front row. Graduating with a degree in business-management, Azar moved to Nashville in 1993, and in two days, he was offered three song-publishing contracts.
After graduating college, Azar was working 200-plus shows a year all throughout the southeast and southwest of the United States.
Azar has written, recorded and released four full-length LPs since 2001, including Waitin' On Joe, Indianola, Slide On Over Here and Delta Soul Volume One.
Growing up, Azar was influenced by Delta Blues legends such as B.B. King, Sam Chattom, Little Milton, Albert King and Roosevelt (Booba) Barnes.
After moving to Nashville and landing a record deal with Mercury Nashville, Azar released Waitin' on Joe, his first hit album on country charts. His first single on that album, "I Don't Have to be me 'Till Monday," reached No. 2 on country charts across the nation and is still one of the top five country songs played today. Another single from that album called "Waitin' on Joe" reached No. 1 on the country charts and enlisted the help of actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman to help tell a story about life along the Mississippi River.
Taylor Swift told People Magazine in 2010 that her favorite song of the year was Steve Azar's "Sunshine." Slide On Over Here, featuring the hit single "Sunshine," was spotlighted in Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine in her Top Things to Buy At Christmas edition in 2011. "Sunshine" was also featured in US Weekly Magazine in June 2012 as one of the most popular celebrity wedding songs.
Azar has written and recorded songs for film and has been music supervisor for a number of movies. "Doin' It Right" (Delta Mix) off of the 2011 release Delta Soul Volume One was the feature track for the Sony Pictures 2013 movie Here Comes The Boom, starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek.
Azar wrote "Fly," the official song for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail. His performance at the opening ceremonies reached an audience of one billion households. "Fly" was also used as the feature song for Sony Pictures movie Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, starring Kevin James.
Governor Paul R. LePage has requested that all the Governors in the United States use Azar's song "The Sky is Falling" as a way to spread awareness about the serious issue of human trafficking in America.
Azar's latest project is performing and recording as Steve Azar and The Kings Men.
In April 2016, Azar became the first artist to record a full-length studio album at the legendary Mississippi landmark Club Ebony when he and The Kings Men spent a week recording Down at the Liquor Store, Azar's first new record in five years, which features 13 new, original tracks. The Kings Men are a group of musicians who backed B.B. King, Elvis Presley and other musical kings, and they include David Briggs, Elvis Presley's keyboardist, who has played on about 1,000 No. 1 records; bassist Regi Richards; drummer Herman Jackson; saxophonist Walter King, BB King's nephew; guitarist Ray Neal, who previously played with Little Milton; Alphonso Sanders on alto, saxophone and trumpet; keyboardist Jimmie Lee Jr.; and Jason Young who plays percussion and provides background vocals.
"This is about the most authentic thing I've ever done and the most honest thing by far because I had no box. I just let it all hang out and let it be," Azar told the Delta Democrat Times newspaper.
A film crew, as well as Azar's son Strack, filmed the recording session to use in his documentary "Something in the Water," which is commissioned by the Mississippi Film Commission. The full-length feature documentary combines the making of the record with the musical trajectory of The Kings Men and the historical musical influence of the Mississippi Delta on the world music scene.
In 2006, Steve and his wife Gwen started the Steve Azar St. Cecilia Foundation. The foundation raises money for charitable organizations, particularly in the Delta region, that help sick, disadvantaged and abused children and also supports the promotion and growth of art and music programs within educational and cultural institutions. Since its inception, the foundation has disbursed more than $600,000 to many worthwhile organizations in the Delta and beyond. The foundation's main fundraiser is the annual Delta Soul Celebrity Golf & Charity Event, held over three days in June in Greenville, Mississippi.
Azar has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes through the auctioning of songs, which are written for the highest bidder's charity of choice. Many of those songs have turned into successful fundraisers for a variety of causes.
In early 2015, Azar released the song "The Sky is Falling (Patti Jo's Prayer)," accompanied by a video produced by Waynflete School senior Mike Rodway.
A song was auctioned off at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota YMCA Afterschool Program fundraiser in 2014, and the winner asked Azar to write a song about human trafficking. The song and video were created with help from South Portland Detective. Sgt. Steve Webster, a longtime advocate for victims of sex trafficking.
Proceeds from "The Sky is Falling" support anti-trafficking efforts. At the end of the video is a link to http://www.nothere.me, the website for the Not Here Justice in Action Network, a Maine non-profit co-founded by Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell Jr.
In 2014, Azar wrote the song "Our Castle is Your Home" for the Sanford Children's Hospital. Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft donated to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota YMCA Classic and asked Azar to write and record a song for the children's hospital.
In 2011, Azar released "Soldier Song," with proceeds from the song going to Jared Allen's Home 4 Wounded Warriors. The song appeared during Fox News Network's No. 1 cable news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, on May 30, 2011.
In late 2015, Azar became the Spokesperson for Certified AG Business Program and his song "The American Farmer" became the official anthem for the program. "The American Farmer" celebrates American farm families, and Azar wrote the song for Swenson Investments and Commodities of Sioux Falls and Huron, South Dakota, and proceeds from the song benefited the South Dakota Future Farmers of America (FFA) Foundation.
With a strong interest in mentorship and giving back to the Delta, Azar shares his experiences in the music business with students as the artist in residence at the Delta Music Institute, part of Delta State University, his alma mater. In 2013, Delta State University and Azar announced the establishment of the Steve Azar St. Cecilia Foundation Scholarship Fund to benefit selected Delta State students in a partnership between the Delta Music Institute from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Entrepreneurship from the College of Business, as well as offering scholarships for qualified students from each of the 10 high schools in Washington County.
Sports have always been an important part of Azar's life.
An accomplished athlete, Azar was a three-time state high school tennis doubles champion while attending St. Joseph High School in Greenville, Mississippi. He was inducted into the St. Joseph Catholic School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.
Azar has been ranked one of the top five musicians who play golf by Golf Digest Magazine numerous times.
He is a frequent guest at charity golf tournaments across the United States, such as the Annual Murray Bros. Caddyshack Charity Golf Tournament.As well, he has played in The Monday After The Masters, The BMW Celebrity Pro-Am, The Frank Sinatra, Golfers Against Cancer, The Bob Hope Desert Classic and many other prestigious tournaments.
Cooking is another interest of Azar's. He started a weekly cooking segment on the e-zine ThreadMB. The blog reaches millions of readers each month and allows Azar to have fun in the kitchen while promoting the farm-to-fork lifestyle.
Azar shares his favorite recipes through his own website, and he was featured in the 2013 cookbook Ellamarie Cooking Along With Celebrities and their Kids, written by chef Ellamarie Fortenbach and benefitting the charity A World Fit For Kids.
Azar has lent his voice to numerous documentaries. In 2007, he narrated "Second Crossing: The Making of The Mississippi Bridge" for Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). His connection with MDOT continued in 2016, when he voiced a series of 12 short documentaries celebrating MDOT's 100th Anniversary.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart
|US Country||US Heat|
|Waitin' on Joe||
|Slide On Over Here||
|Delta Soul: Volume 1||
|"--" denotes releases that did not chart|
|"I Never Stopped Loving You"||50||--|
|"Nights Like This"||--||--|
|2001||"I Don't Have to Be Me ('til Monday)"||2||35||Waitin' on Joe|
|2002||"Waitin' on Joe"||28||--|
|2003||"One Good Reason Why"||--||--|
|2005||"Doin' It Right"||47||--||N/A|
|2006||"You Don't Know a Thing"||49||--||Indianola|
|2008||"I Won't Let You Lead Me Down"||--||--|
|2009||"You're My Life"||52||--|
|"Moo La Moo"||39||--||Slide On Over Here|
|2010||"Sunshine (Everybody Needs a Little)"||27||--|
|2015||"The Sky Is Falling (Patti Jo's Prayer)"
(featuring Sophie Young)
|"--" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1996||"Someday"||Steven R. Monroe|
|"I Never Stopped Loving You"||Chris Rogers|
|2001||"I Don't Have to Be Me ('Til Monday)"||Eric Welch|
|2002||"Waitin' on Joe"||Steven Goldmann|
|2005||"Catfish Christmas"||Steven L. Weaver|
|2006||"You Don't Know a Thing"||Peter Zavadil|
|2007||"Dancin' in the Clouds" (with Namrata Singh Gujral)|
|2009||"Moo La Moo"||Eric Welch|
|"Moo La Moo" (dance video)|
|2010||"Sunshine (Everybody Needs a Little)"|