Steve Varney of Kid Reverie Opens up About Stuttering

Kid Reverie
Kid Reverie Scott McCormick Photo and Design

Lately, Kid Reverie's Steve Varney, a longtime Denver musician known for his work in Glowing House and with Gregory Alan Isakov, has opened up publicly for the first time about the stutter that has plagued him since he was a boy.

A recent Kickstarter video shows Varney stuttering for the first time on camera, where he also admits the impediment has begun to rear its way into his singing. This vulnerability and frustration has been instrumental in helping him release some of the best music of his career with Kid Reverie.

His new, self-titled album, released September 8 at Lost Lake, is a fever pitch of emotions that shows Varney thrashing and posturing lyrically while banging away at his electric guitar in hopes that the strings contain answers to his personal dilemmas.

Part soul music and part punk rock, Kid Reverie, fleshed out by drummer Michael John McKee (Strange Americans), bassist Neil McCormick (Safe Boating Is No Accident) and keyboardist Murry Mercier (Strange Americans) is a breath of fresh air for music fans who are searching for songs that are honest, sincere and cathartic.

We caught up with Varney and asked him about his new album and how he's coping with his stutter.

Westword: This new record sounds like a response to your past. Is that accurate?

Varney: Whether it is a response or not, I had to move on. When [Glowing House] ended, it was really just asking myself, like, what do you want to play? What are you into right now? And I was a lot more into electric guitar than anything else.

What kind of music are you mainly into right now?

It wasn't really folk anymore. And so I began to write as I've always written, but on electric guitar. I mean, that probably led to a lot more choices than I will ever realize, but it's just moving away from folk, but not because Glowing House was ending. It was just wanting to try something a little different. I've always turned to songwriting when I'm down, and then it was just a matter of what do you want the music to be like now? So whether it was a response or just moving on, it just had to be done.

click to enlarge Kid Reverie - NORA LOGUE
Kid Reverie
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Since this music is so personal, why the decision to call it a band name and not use your own name?

I have such a different view of that, because I have a hard time saying my name because of the stutter, so I don't really treat it as an option, because I don't want to have to deal with that all the time. My emotions on my stutter really developed earlier, but to invite that kind of repetition of my name to people doesn't work for me. I wanted to come up with a name from the beginning without really even thinking about it. It's like, 'So what am I going to call myself?' My name was never an option for me, but not for the reason that anyone would really think. Stutterers almost always have the hardest time with the letters that begin their first name. They don't know why.

Does the stutter come out when you're singing?

Well, it didn't for a while, and then it did, which was what landed me in speech therapy for the first time in my early twenties. Singing was actually used in therapy as the way for people to connect with being more fluent. One night I was singing the word "soldier" in a song, and I just couldn't get past it. I had never stuttered while singing once, and then it just happened. It's a thing that thrives on attention. I couldn't get past that word on there for two years. While I was in college, I wrote songs for other people to sing. I had some very understanding teachers who watched it happen. They were just like, "This is just a thing now?" I guess so.

We tell ourselves that those things don't matter, and unfortunately, it's not until you're there and more self-aware, self-confident, tired of feeling that way, whatever it is, that you actually deal with it. So now I'm really trying to embrace it instead of hiding it because I don't have another great option. If you can't hide it and have it occasionally come out and confuse the hell out of people, addressing it is all I can really do.

Did this contribute to some of your decision to switch from acoustic to electric guitar, to help cover it up?

I gotta say, maybe, I guess. It's probably driven more decisions than I'll ever know.

Kid Reverie album release with Turvy Organ, the Patient Zeros, Sydney Clapp, 8 p.m. Saturday, September 8, Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, $10 to $12, 303-296-1003.
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Andy Thomas is a music journalist who hopes other music journalists write nice things about the music he performs. He lives in Denver with his wife, their two cats and a massive pile of unfinished projects.
Contact: Andy Thomas