A New Way to Fret

Meet Steven Ray Liedlich, upright guitarist.

In early 1995 Liedlich left the library and moved to Portland, Maine, simply because he'd always wanted to live there. But the depressed nature of the New England economy made it difficult to make ends meet. Casting around for other possibilities, he landed a summer position with the Colorado Music Festival--and when that ran its course, he decided to stay in the area. Last month he joined the staff of the Boulder Philharmonic, and he says he's interested in pursuing work in arts management; in fact, he's been accepted to study just that at Boston University. But he's putting off a return to college for now in order to keep plugging away on Colorado's open-stage and coffeehouse circuit. He's been performing locally since last September, and the experience has definitely thickened his skin. "There's one coffeehouse I play in Denver, and a lot of times there's nobody there," he relates. "It's just me and the coffee girl. So when that happens, we just go outside and smoke cigarettes." Has this situation led to a blooming romance? "Not yet," he answers, laughing. "Although it's not like I haven't tried."

Fortunately, even the shows nobody sees allow Liedlich to sharpen his already formidable technique--and a recent meeting with guitarist Michael Hedges (among the few players whose guitar methodology is in any way comparable to Liedlich's) has inspired him anew. He's produced a tape featuring two self-penned tracks ("Faith" and the aforementioned "Supermodel") and another pair ("The Rain in Oregon," "Spanish Influenza") he put together with lyricist Jordan--and while the production values are modest, the cassette still serves as an impressive introduction to his percussive, overtone-rich guitar gymnastics and pithy worldview. Liedlich is hoping to parlay the demo into a full-length CD project and the opportunity to headline actual concerts rather than merely provide a soundtrack for someone's dessert. "At this point, I don't really expect to be paid for playing music," he says. "But it would be nice to find out what it's like.

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