We had the good fortune of connecting with Steven Lee Tracy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steven Lee, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
For the most part, its all I’ve known. I started my first business when I was 19 as a grocery delivery service for elderly, and disabled folks. My motivation was simply that 19 year old me didn’t want a boss. Now that I’m an adult music producer, I still don’t want a boss, but its now in line with something I love and that I’m good at. I’ve been offered some jobs along the way based on work I’ve done, but they didn’t last. It really just confirmed for me how much I love self employment. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but I’ll take the (sometimes) additional stresses and complications as a tradeoff any day.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I understand the concept of a “brand”, but I also think the biggest mistake an artist can make is assuming that people can’t sniff out something inauthentic. Your brand should just be who you are when no one is around. I love what I do, and I think about it constantly; not out of compulsion but pure love and curiosity. Its not a show, and there isn’t an off switch. I hope that comes across to the artists I work with. If you start chasing what some blog is toting as the next big trend, you’re already irrelevant. By the time you’ve reached what you’re chasing, its no longer a trend, its old news. This will keep happening over and over because there is a sub-economy based on it. The industry is fickle and currently not set up for artists to thrive financially. While this is of course troubling, it also offers freedom. There is the old question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t lose?”, but what if it was, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t win?”. I don’t mean that in a fatalistic way, but just to say that if you’re approaching art like a sport, you probably won’t have the success you’re looking for. If you approach it out of love, there is perhaps a living to be made.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I grew up in Tucson, but have lived elsewhere for almost as long as I’ve been here. I currently feel like a tourist in my home town, so this question is easy. (assuming this is post pandemic:) Food would be, Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress, Penca for fancy Mexican food, and Rosa’s for Wednesday lunch kind of Mexican. Time Market has amazing slices and plenty of other food, coffee, and wine options. When you’re wrapped at Time Market you could spend the afternoon bumming around 4th Ave and pop into Wooden Tooth records to get your vinyl fix, Popcycle to get your rad, local weirdo Tucson home decor, and Che’s lounge for the perfect dive nightcap. At some point we’d make our way to Bisbee where there are endless shops filled with antiques, local art, rad fashion, and fantastic food. Its a turn of the century mining town built into the side of a mountain. I’ve been there more times than I can count, and its always a good hang. There are plenty of Tucson tourist spots that are absolutely worth checking out. Saguaro National Monument and The Desert Museum are two that come to mind. You wouldn’t need me to find them though. I’ll meet you at Hotel Congress after you’re done.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My whole family for sure, and I’m going to include Robbie Williamson in that as well as he’s basically family. I remember being pretty anxious about telling my dad that I was going all in on music. I was nervous as I was a high school dropout and really had no verifiable reason why I *had* to pursue music. All I knew is that it made me feel life, and hope in ways I really needed at that time. Additionally my dad’s experience was with a more traditional job. When I told him he said, “Do what you love, and I believe you’ll find a way to make a living.” I’ll never forget that, and as a kid, I needed to hear it. While it was eventually true, it took a long time for that to happen. Music was all I ever wanted, and that love got me through the (very very very) lean times. When it came time to build my first studio, Robbie Williamson was there every morning with me at 6am swinging hammers until the whole thing was done. He’s a killer music producer now, but I’ll always remember him with a tool belt on.