Steve Azar has an infectious kind of positive energy. When he’s excited about a project or a song, he practically bounces off the walls and you wonder if he ever sits down – or finds time to sleep.
Azar was born in the Mississippi Delta – the birthplace of the blues. When he was ten years old, he walked behind his dad’s liquor store and found this guy playing the blues.
“I didn’t know what he was talking about, but he was making everybody smile about it,” Azar recalls. “That’s the mark of the blues, it makes you feel good about your pain.”
From that moment on, he knew he wanted to be a singer-songwriter and began writing.
“I Don’t Have to Be Me ’Til Monday” was such an immediate hit, it shot to the top of the charts and continues to be one of the top five most played country songs on terrestrial radio, closing in on four million airplays. To put that in perspective: “American Pie” by Don McLean was released in 1971 and has around five million broadcast performances. And earlier this year, BMI recognized Dolly Parton for her iconic songs like “I Will Always Love You” (10 million plays) and “9 to 5” (5 million performances).
The funny thing about “I Don’t Have to Be Me ’Til Monday”: “It’s not something I ever would have said, but for some reason it came out of my mouth,” Azar laughs.
He wrote it down and the rest is history.
Azar credits that right phrase for coming to him at the right time because he was writing every day. Even when he wasn’t writing, he says his subconscious mind was working on song lyrics.
“The most important thing you have that got you started is your imagination, stuff just falls out. But you have to learn the craft and skill. Every day you write. Every day. As you’re doing that, you’re getting better,” Azar explains. “Great songs don’t just come as much, but the magic moment comes from all the work you do.”
It’s something he coaches up and coming musicians.
In addition to being a singer-songwriter, the Music and Culture Ambassador for Mississippi, charity event organizer, radio show and podcast host, Azar is a mentor and coach.
“People with talent can take it all the way if they work hard enough and have the right people around them. I get a charge out of believing in people,” Azar said.
He only mentors a few musicians at a time, and only those with the drive to succeed.
“It’s easy to spot when someone wants it. They work hard, are dependable, do what they say they will.”
Something he strives to do every day.
Azar spent 20 years in Nashville, but decided to move back to his hometown of Greenville, Mississippi so his kids could have the experience of growing up in the Delta. He also spends his time working with the Delta Music Institute and raising money for the arts in the Delta through his Delta Soul Golf Tournament every year.
When asked to describe himself in one word, he says he’s a “believer”.
“I’m a believer. I’ve always been that guy who believes you can overcome and accomplish things in your wildest dreams,” Azar said. “I was told in the business – ‘you can’t do that, it’s too hard’ – but I couldn’t believe that. If you show me something great, I’m all in. There are no obstacles. There’s only one result – success.”
Azar’s latest song “Coldwater” is a collaboration with two-time Grammy Award-winning artist Cedrick Burnside. It was released August 20.
Dawn Dugle is an author and keynote speaker.