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Stephen Babcock
Friday, January 11th • 10 p.m.
Juggling Gypsy
1612 Castle St.
www.stephenbabcockmusic.com

ROOM FOR ONE MORE: After hearing John Mayer’s ‘Room for Squares,’ Stephen Babcock’s love for playing the drums opened up to allow a new instrument, the guitar. Courtesy photo

ROOM FOR ONE MORE: After hearing John Mayer’s ‘Room for Squares,’ Stephen Babcock’s love for playing the drums opened up to allow a new instrument, the guitar. Courtesy photo

His guitar intros welcome audiences like a familiar mid-‘70s rock song. When his voice kicks in, the tempo changes and an upbeat vibe overtakes the melody. Whether his lyrics flourish with optimism or heartache, Stephen Babcock’s music infuses the listener with an all-encompassing positive feeling.

When Babcock was 3, he began experimenting with different instruments. His young endeavors led him to the drums at age 13. “I just loved the rhythm of drums,” he recalls. ”I love that drums are the backbone to music and help give it a shape to fill out a song.”

In high school he joined a band called Subject to Change. Though fame and fortune weren’t bestowed upon the group, Babcock realized he loved playing live music, and it was a defining moment in his life.

With his passion solidified, it was a Grammy Award-winning artist who pushed him to pursue another form of song-making: the guitar. “I remember when my older brother bought ‘Room for Squares’ by John Mayer,” he says. “It was something that, as soon as I heard it, I couldn’t stop [listening]. I felt so drawn to the songs and particularly the lyrics. John Mayer made me want to become a songwriter because he was able to craft emotional lyrics that weren’t cheesy, and music that felt new but was also exciting. I still look at John Mayer as my biggest inspiration toward songwriting. He has been able to stay relevant for so long, and his music is still a wonderful blend of excellent guitar playing and quality lyrics.”

Taking on the guitar opened a new realm of possibilities for the New Hartford, NY-based artist: He could sing along to the music and share his words with the world. As a teenager, the creative outlet was freeing. “I enjoy the guitar because it allows me to take my ideas and express them melodically, which is something the drums don’t necessarily do,” he affirms.

Yet, the thrill of a beat still shows through in Babcock’s music. Like Colbie Caillat, his songs bring about images of an oasis; they’re beachy and reminiscent of a ukelele. His youthful vocals parallel those of Jason Mraz, as does the cadence of his songs.

“The drums play a big part in this because I find rhythm is the most important part when crafting a song,” Babcock shares. “Without a distinct rhythm, the listener loses interest. My background in drums makes me want to give my songs a percussive element, which I feel benefits the song overall. When listeners can tap their toes, nod their heads, or clap along, it allows them to feel more a part of the song.”

For a handful of years Babcock has been touring the northeast around his home state, and 2011 brought his debut release, “Dreams, Schemes and Childhood Memories.” (Currently, the album is available at www.stephenbabcock.bandcamp.com for a “name your price” rate, just $1 or more, as a thank you to fans.) This year, he is fresh off a tour in the United Kingdom.

“While in the UK, I was able to play in some small venues, as well as busk and play in Hyde Park,” he tells. “The thing about playing the UK is that they are very open to young and upstart talent. Crowds in the UK come out each night and are interested in what the local music scene has to offer. It was very easy to feel comfortable playing in the UK, which is why I found it so appealing.”

Now that 2013 finds Babcock stateside again, the guitarist will embark on his first southeastern US tour. “When I have been to the South in the past, I could see the interest people had in local bars and music venues,” Babcock explains. “I also saw how people seemed to really care about music of all different genres and styles. I personally feel comfortable in the South. I like the lifestyle, and it is always someplace I aspired to live when I got older. Even my idol, John Mayer, started his career in Georgia after he left school. To me, the South is a comfortable place to explore music that still feels right at home, even if I am from the Northeast.”

Given his similarities to such widely renowned acoustic pop artists, Babcock should face no trouble fitting in regardless of his setting. While his lyrics harp on the same subject—love—as perhaps all artists, the words genuinely remain his own. His blog to fans shares certain inspirations, such as 10 p.m. phone calls and makes one wonder who was on the other line. “Shallow Heart,” despite its buoyant comparability to The Kooks, echoes a lonely soul: “Even though I’ve already won/It’s not the same when you stand there/holding the smoking gun.”

“I think I have grown now that I have left college,” Babcock, who studied at Syracuse University, tells. “I feel that I have entered a new chapter in my life and music is a big part of that. I am ready to really pursue music and make things happen with my music. Still, the growth I have had so far has not satisfied me because I know that there is still a lot of growing to do and still a lot of work ahead of me. I am ready to prove that I am the next best thing out there when it comes to singer-songwriters.”

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