Steve was playing for about 30 people and when he started talking about Faial, a pretty little island in the Azores, I realized this guy had traveled the world playing his music. And when he sang "Faial" he painted such beautiful imagery with his words and sounds that I was blown away.
It was my first experience of seeing a musician playing four different instruments simultaneously. He was singing, playing harmonica, playing baritone guitar and slide while drumming with his footboard. He was nothing short of amazing. At that moment I knew I had to do a documentary on him. At the break I talked with his life partner Alda, who grew up on that "pretty little island' and for whom he wrote "Faial". She told me they lived in the town where I live. In fact we were neighbors just houses away from each other. That really struck me as a universal coincidence meant to be.
Erik Swanson, my director of photography and I shot Steve in May of 2008 at an annual concert he played in San Diego called the Adams Avenue Root Festival. This is the first time I saw Steve on a stage, actually an altar at a church, and his congregation was captivated. I was really moved by this and I felt that everyone in the audience was experiencing music in a way they'd never heard music before. I know that I was. And it was another magic moment like the first time I heard him.
After Adams Avenue Steve went to the Czech Republic and Germany on tour and I didnt see him for a few months. When he came back they had to remove his larynx due to esophogeal cancer. Steve rallied and never stopped playing. They did a benefit concert for him in December of 2010 at the Encinitas Library and he played in public for the first time since the surgery. He couldn't sing any more but he found other ways to sing. One day I was invited to an art gallery showing. Steve said his paintings would be on display. I said, "paintings? I didn't even know you painted". He not only painted but he painted a lot. And he did it well and mostly in pastel. And later, sketches.
We became friends and I met and became friends with many beautiful people through him. But I never met anyone so humble, so talented, and so real in my life. This was a gift to be able to tell his story. And he trusted me to do so. I want to take my film, his incredible story and share his art and music around the world which he loved so much.
This film couldn’t have been done without Tom Zizzi whose skills as a writer, producer, photographer and filmmaker collaborated tirelessly with me to craft this unique story. He drove thousands of miles over the course of almost two years and always brought fresh ideas to try out or incorporate into the film. I'm truly grateful for his friendship and support in telling and making this important story come to life.
Hope you check out Amazon or Itunes soon for "Steve White: Painting the World with Music."