Steve Brown, aka Uncle Steve the Enigma, is a Denver-based executive health-care consultant, songwriter, producer and singer. "In that order," he clarifies.
Growing up in Colorado Springs, he always dreamed of being a musician. "Our house was the sort of place where we would have the parties, and you would hear James Brown playing a lot and all the favorites back then, the Temptations and all that," he says.
He was the seventh of eight kids, and his family couldn't afford instruments and music lessons, he remembers. Around age thirteen, he started writing lyrics on any surface he could get his hands on — even his mother's encyclopedias. But he soon focused his energy on school and football, only performing at the occasional talent show or family party.
"I went away to college. After college you get into work, and work turns into corporate routine, and life just took over," says Brown. "But it was always in the back of my head to put my own music out."
It took the loss of several of his musical idols to push Brown to finally pursue his long-deferred dream.
"The day Prince died is the day I wrote 'Heroes,'" he explains. "We were celebrating my mom's birthday with my brothers and sisters, and my niece is like a Prince superfan, and that night I was writing, and I was feeling for her, because he was like a musical hero to her. I started thinking, Michael died, Whitney died, Kurt Cobain is gone, Muhammad Ali, a lot of our other pop heroes, so I was just thinking, 'What am I experiencing right now that I need to put on paper?' And that's kind of where that song came from."
"Heroes" became the first track written for Brown's debut album, Forever and a Day, produced by Creative Mood Entertainment. It also was the first single released off the album, along with "Everlasting" (both are available for streaming and purchase now).
As he prepared to drop the tracks, Brown searched for a solid stage name. He thought of his nieces and nephews. "I've always prided myself on being the best uncle the world has ever seen," he says. "But with that, I'm not quite sure they know who I am, really. They know me as Uncle Steve the protector, the one who's going to be there if they need you...but I don't think they really know me on the inside. So this album is a way to give people a glimpse of what my life has been like so I'm not such a mystery to people." Hence, Uncle Steve the Enigma emerged, with an album to de-mystify himself.
Forever and a Day is a seventeen-track narrative-driven experimental album that pulls from many different musical genres.
"This might sound weird, but when I think of my music, I think of country-Western fused with classic R&B with sort of a techno twist to it," he says. "It's a hybrid of a lot of different things, but ultimately I like to say it's more of a modern R&B that's personal. That speaks to how I see life."
With influences ranging from Michael Jackson and Bob Marley to Sting and Billie Holiday, Brown's album includes recurring themes from his personal life. Following the mantra "Write what you know" helped Brown find focus, infusing autobiography with daily observations.
"It turned out to be more of a journey from my early days, in my early twenties, being sort of that carefree kind of an asshole guy, all the way through growing up as an adult and finally ending up in a place where you respect life a whole lot more," he says. "I was able to take myself on that journey and get to the point, too. At the end of the album, it feels like I'm connecting more to the people I love, and in particular the women in my life who have struggled so much. I just wanted to be able to show them how much I appreciate them."
Forever and a Day embraces and explores the role of storytelling in music, interspersing instrumentals with sounds from daily life, such as rain, crashing waves and the chatter of children on a playground. There are segments of spoken word, skits and coded references to Brown's personal history — like Camille, a stand-in for his mother and a symbol representing the influential women in his life, on the track "The Evolution of Camille."
But this memoir has a futuristic twist. You can hear the nod to futurism in the album's atmospheric sound, robotic sound effects and the presence of Remi, Brown's "digital sidekick" introduced in the opening track — a sort of R2-D2-meets-Siri character.
"I envisioned this being in the future somewhat, and being gone for a really long time, and then coming back to Earth to see some of the same things happening, reflecting on my life — and then at the end of the album, I leave," Brown explains.
Now that he's finished his debut album, Brown has another big goal: starting a nonprofit. He is currently putting together a business plan for a nonprofit tentatively titled AccessGranted, which would benefit underprivileged high school students, especially student-athletes like himself. All profits from Forever and a Day will go toward launching the organization.
"We hope to find some kids like me — broke, in high school, but [who] have all the talent in the world," Brown says. "We want to find kids that need that extra help transitioning from high school into college."