Steve Bell’s career began with a music-making family, grew into a personal fascination with playing guitar, evolved into the lifestyle of a working musician and found its fruition in the musical niche of singer/songwriter.
In the late 1980’s, deep in the midst of a significant spiritual re-awakening (and a career crisis), Steve realized that his passion for crafting artful songs was incomplete without a profound connection to his Christian spirituality.
“However, art isn’t good or valid simply because of the faith claims of the artist. True art is good and valid because it reveals some aspect of truth in a nuanced manner – and in a way that enlarges a person’s capacity for reality – despite the faith claims of the artist.”
This realization produced a wave of songs. The recording and sharing of those songs has in turn unleashed a flood of affirmation and accolades.
Fifteen albums and tireless touring over 20 years have resulted in numerous awards (including JUNOs in 1997 and 2000), the sale of over 300,000 units world wide, and thousands of loyal fans. Larry Leblanc (Billboard Magazine) calls Steve “A Canadian musical treasure”.
For many Canadian independent artists, this would be a track record sufficient to suggest that it was time to rest on the laurels of the past. Instead, Steve’s inspired beginning and accomplished mid-stretch is leading him into a season marked by growing vision, passion and skill.
On the musical front, this stage of Steve’s career has been deeply impacted by his collaboration with symphony orchestras.
Bell says, “It wasn’t on anybody’s radar that I would be doing concerts with orchestras or recording an album with the symphony. When the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra contacted my office to ask if we would consider doing a concert with them, I was a little stunned. My first thought was that perhaps they didn’t know what kind of music I did. As it turned out, they were familiar with my music, and following the recommendation of some of the orchestra members they had concluded that doing a concert together would be a good idea. Once we got past the shock of being asked, we realized that we were very excited about the proposal. Mike Janzen did a brilliant job of setting my songs into stunning orchestral settings, and six months later we performed the world premiere of thirteen of my songs together with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.”
As it turned out, the collaboration was a very good one. The Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall was sold out, the concert received excellent reviews, and before the night was over plans were being formed for a series of Christmas concerts with the WSO the following year. The surprise invitation from the WSO led to an orchestral album (Steve Bell – Symphony Sessions) and an initial thirteen-engagement tour with major Canadian symphony orchestras in 2007. Since that time Steve has continued to perform concerts with various orchestras, both within and beyond Canada.
Steve’s latest album, Devotion, is the first project of his discography that is entirely comprised of songs written in the context of and for the purpose of community worship. The majority of the songs on the project were written by Gord Johnson for communal worship at st bens, the church Steve where Steve and Nanci also worship. This album’s musical style has been described as “bayou taize” by some – an engaging blend of roots, southern folk idioms. The lyrics draw on scripture and other ancient texts, offering a unique combination of depth and sing-ability for worship.
Never content with the work already done, Steve is looking ahead for new terrain. As his music has provided a passport to the wider world, his conviction about the value of good art has deepened. He has added his voice to select organizations calling for an end to extreme poverty, and has brought a renewed energy to several “in-house” projects directed to caring for those in need.
Captivating stories, crafted songs, poetry from and for the soul, evocative vocal offerings in settings of musical artistry; these are standard fare from Steve. All this, infused with a growing compassion and renewed energy, mark the ongoing musical ventures of Steve Bell.
Steve lives in Winnipeg, Canada with his wife, Nanci. Their adult children are Micah, Jesse and Sarah. Sarah and her husband Steve are the proud parents of Luca, Steve and Nanci’s first grandchild.