HONESDALE, PA — I had never met Steve Faubel before recording him for The River Reporter’s music series, The River Recordings. Through reputation, I knew him only as a local …
HONESDALE, PA — I had never met Steve Faubel before recording him for The River Reporter’s music series, The River Recordings. Through reputation, I knew him only as a local pianist/keyboardist who plays in jazzy and jammy rock groups throughout the area. So, I was caught a bit off guard last Tuesday evening when he sat down in front of the camera and microphones with a ukulele in hand and warned me with a laugh, “There’s going to be some white-boy rapping in this first song.”
When he finished the tune, “Not Too Late,” and prepared to perform his second, “Second Fiddle,” he told me, “So this one—there’s no rapping, but I do a little yodeling, for something completely different.” Surely enough, the hip-hop-infused “Not Too Late,” with its modern, loopable melody bore little resemblance to the old-school country honk that was “Second Fiddle,” with its John Prine-esque word play and—as promised—cowboy yodeling.
Faubel’s proclivity for experimentation and genre-bending is understandable for how long he’s been playing. “I don’t really remember not doing music,” he said when I asked how he got started.
Faubel grew up in Hawley, PA and has been in touch with music from the beginning. His mom took him to children’s music programs when he was just 2 years old and he started taking piano lessons at 4. His church gave him opportunities for singing and the boarding school he attended was centered around songs. He’s been surrounded by it his whole life.
“I hated practicing, like any kid, but I loved it,” he said, surmising the paradoxical relationship so many young people have with art: having disdain for the long, repetitive hours of work that go into it, but feeling enamored with what those hours yield.
In the third and final song that he performed for The River Recordings video, Faubel sang the lyrics, “How is it every time I go, every road leads me back home? Seen every land from coast to coast, this is the place I love the most.”
He has ventured away from Hawley several times, but Faubel is always drawn back there and Northeast PA in general, he said. After going to school for music at the University of Maryland, he came back to the area facing the question, “How am I going to do music? It didn’t seem like an option.”
The answer, as it turns out, was to “diversify.” Faubel’s first steady gig was playing piano and organ for a church and he also became a regular at The Settlers Inn. Even though he knew he never wanted to teach music in public schools, Faubel eventually began giving private lessons. As a teacher, he’s had as many as 50 students at one time, but has scaled that down to around 10 to 15. Today, Faubel is still performing in Wayne County and often Scranton, while also looking to expand to venues farther away.
“It’s like carving out your own path, and it’s not easy, it takes a lot of time,” he said, adding that he’s also worked many manual labor jobs to stay upright while he carves out that path. “Tree work, landscaping, painting—I worked for a subcontractor doing water and sewer mains… whatever it took.”
Faubel calls himself a “jack of all musical trades,” a moniker that fits him two ways: his willingness to pursue several different avenues of the industry at once, as well as his openness to all styles and genres.
“Every style is like its own culture,” he said. He went through a phase during which all he wanted to do was play jazz piano. Guys like Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett are all heroes to him in that respect. As a songwriter, Faubel looks up to Bob Dylan.
“[Dylan’s music] showed me that anything’s possible,” he said. “It doesn’t have to fit in a box, you can create your own box.”
Faubel didn’t start writing his own material until relatively later in his life, after a nearly fatal car accident at age 25. Before that, Faubel was so critical of any of his own musical ideas that he would “totally destroy” them before they even had a chance. Surviving that car accident was a “turning point” in his life.
“I came out of that… I was like, ‘I’m just living for now, living life to the fullest,’” he said. “I think it was just that mentality of not caring what anybody thinks and just letting it rip, and that’s how I wrote my first song.”
Faubel writes his songs like chapters in an unfinished memoir. Even though he admires songwriters who can make fiction through their music, he can’t help but be personal and honest in composing.
Despite tending to look inward for inspiration, Faubel said his goal with music is to project it outward. “I’m not doing it for myself as much as to share with others.” This attitude often leads to him giving away CDs of the album he recorded in 2016, “Serenity,” because he “just wants people to hear it.”
“This is not the go-getter attitude at all,” he laughed. “I do this for fun, and it’s a personal therapeutic experience and hopefully someone can get something out of it.”
Faubel was scheduled to perform his River Recordings showcase at Here & Now Brewing Co. in March, however, the event has been postponed in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Check The River Reporter’s Facebook page for updates on where and when to see Faubel perform his showcase.