Share “His songs have stories to tell

His songs have stories to tell
Singer-writer Steve Poltz bringing his quirky blend to city storytelling festival

By Brandy McDonnell Modified: February 15, 2008 at 12:51 pm •  Published: February 15, 2008
And you know, probably when I was a kid in school, they probably said ‘has trouble focusing.' So, I think that's why I genre hop.”

"Traveling,” released last month on his independent 98 Pounder Records, demonstrates his assorted songwriting sensibilities. "Stay Away a Little Closer,” his favorite track, is a perky pop confection about adultery. A bopping beat contrasts with the depressing tale of a scarred Iraq War veteran on "Street Fighter's Face.” And the unexpected, atmospheric opening track, "I Think She Likes Me,” has only bolstered Poltz's reputation as a quirky guy, a description he doesn't mind.

"I don't like the word ‘wacky.' I can't stand that word. The way some people hate clowns, I hate the word ‘wacky.' But I like the word ‘quirky,'” he said.

"I just got described as fidgety. ... Somebody, they called me the fidgety pop singer-songwriter. Quirky, fidgety, I like that. Wacky, I don't like. I don't know why.”

The Canada-born and California-bred musician also created a companion compact disc for "Traveling” called "Unraveling,” which is aimed at his hard-core fans and sold only at his shows.

But Poltz is best known for a song he didn't record. In the 1990s, he struck up a friendship with a struggling singer-songwriter named Jewel. They wrote the song "You Were Meant for Me,” which was a hit on her debut album "Pieces of You.” It set a record for the longest stay on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

"When the song is born, if you will ... they become my kids. And maybe you have one like ‘You Were Meant for Me' that goes out and get its Ph.D. and earns a lot of money for you, but you also have another one that's really silly like "Sugar Boogers,” which is this crazy, weird song that's on my CD "Answering Machine,” and that might be just as fun to play, too, and it never earns you any money. But it's this crazy child that you had that you're just as proud of as the other one that was the overachiever,” he said.

Poltz, who will lead a songwriting workshop at WinterTales, said part of the secret is "being available to the muse that's out there.”

"My advice is that there are no rules and let your freak flag fly. And songwriting is like a muscle — you have to work at it all the time. And the more you work at, then that one song that you might not like will lead to the next song that you're going to end up loving. ... You just need to work at it and don't let somebody tell you there's any rules.”

Audio: Interview with Steve Poltz

Steve Poltz
When: 7:30 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at WinterTales Storytelling Festival at Stage Center, 400 W Sheridan. Tickets to evening performances are $12; matinee tickets are $3. Information: 270-4848 or

When: 8 p.m. Sunday at the Blue Door, 2805 N McKinley. Tickets are $20. Information: 524-0738 or

WinterTales Storytelling Festival
•9 to 10 a.m.: Registration, Stage Center lobby, 400 W Sheridan.

•10 to 11:30 a.m.: "Storytelling 201-Part 1” workshop with Syd Lieberman, Stage Center.

•11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Lunch, open mike storytelling in the Cabaret, free event.

•12:30 to 2 p.m.: "Storytelling 201-Part 2” workshop with Syd Lieberman, Stage Center.

•2:30 to 4 p.m.: Songwriting workshop, Steve Poltz, Stage Center.

•6:30 to 7:25 p.m.: Opening reception in the Cabaret.

•7:30 p.m.: Evening performance in the Tolbert Theatre: "Humorous Stories” with Steve Poltz, Nancy Donoval, Syd Lieberman and Dovie Thomason.

•10:30 p.m. Late Night Ghost Stories in the Cabaret featuring Nancy Donoval and Dovie Thomason.

•9 to 10 a.m.: Registration in Stage Center lobby.

•10 to 11:30 a.m.: "Find Your Own Voice” workshop, Stage Center, featuring Syd Lieberman, Nancy Donoval and Dovie Thomason and their take on the story "East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”

•11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Lunch, "Oklahoma Olio” presented by Territory Tellers, Cabaret Theatre, free event.

•12:30 to 2 p.m.: "Storytelling: At the Heart of the Art of Leadership” workshop, Nancy Donoval.

•12:30 to 2 p.m.: "Telling the Story to Teach History and Touch Hearts” workshop, Dovie Thomason.

•2:30 to 5 p.m.: WinterTales special event, Oklahoma City Stories at the Oklahoma History Center, 2401 N Laird, featuring Gus Palmer "Telling Stories the Kiowa Way.” Information:

•8 p.m.: Evening performance in the Tolbert Theatre: "Inspirational Stories” with Steve Poltz, Dovie Thomason, Nancy Donoval and Syd Lieberman.

•10:30 p.m.: WinterTales closing reception in the Stage Center Cabaret.

•2 p.m.: Family Matinee at Stage Center, featuring Syd Lieberman, Nancy Donoval, Dovie Thomason and Steve Poltz.


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