Idaho's Curtis Stigers Sings Of Heartbreak And Hope

Sep 14, 2012

Boise based jazz musician Curtis Stigers and his band perform tonight in Idaho’s capitol city. He’ll sing tunes from his new album which came out earlier this year. Stigers says the songs on Let’s Go Out Tonight tell a story that evolved from working with producer Larry Klein in Los Angeles.

“For a couple of months I just got on a plane and I flew down to L.A. and I sat in Larry Klein’s studio with him and we just played records for each other like we were in 8th grade,” he told Sadie Babits in a recent interview.

For the first time in years, Stigers latest album doesn’t have any original songs on it.  He says the record reflects the ups and downs of the last couple of years in his personal life.

Curtis Stigers makes his home in Boise.
Credit Courtesy of Curtis Stigers

Let’s Go Out Tonight features songs by Bob Dylan, Eddie Floyd, Richard Thompson and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. “Most of these songs are songs that I’ve lived with for many, many years and have loved for many years,” Stigers explains.

He calls his latest album “thematic” in that it tells a story. “The album tells the story of loss and heartbreak and then finding a way out of it toward renewal and finding a way to get past heartbreak,” he says. Stigers points to the song You Are Not Alone – a song written by Jeff Tweedy for Mavis Staples – as an example of how that story unfolds.

“Before I ever recorded this song,” Stigers says “I would send a copy of this song to my friends who were going through hard times.”  

You can read more about Curtis Stigers’ journey to become an internationally recognized jazz musician from this excerpt from his biography.  

“Though jazz has been integral to Curtis Stigers’ musical vocabulary throughout his career, his transformation from rock/pop headliner (of the sort that filled stadiums and made Leno and Letterman appearances) to jazz vocalist is barely a decade old, dating from the release of his debut Concord album Baby Plays Around in 2001.

“Stigers is often placed at the forefront of post-millennial jazz singers, but isn’t a pure jazz artist in the tradition of, say, Mark Murphy or Mel Tormé. Nor does he want to be. Critical to his unique vocal style and his inimitable interpretative skills is his ability to draw upon his checkered professional past and his wide-ranging musical tastes to synthesize myriad influences, coloring tracks with various shades of pop, country, folk, blues and classic R&B. Asked about his staunch refusal to be compartmentalized, Stigers laughs and says, “I keep poking my foot through the side of the box. I’m interested in finding a place that’s a no-man’s land between the genres. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I think it’s my greatest strength, but in terms of the marketplace, it can also be considered a liability.  Still, I’ve gotta be me!”

Never have Stigers’ genre-blurring instincts been more sharply defined than on his latest album, Let’s Go Out Tonight

Stigers also describes it as, “probably the most autobiographical album I’ve ever made. It hits so many places I’ve been and things I’ve gone through and am currently going through.” Ironically, given its deeply personal nature, Let’s Go Out Tonight is the first album since 2003’s You Inspire Me that includes no original Stigers tunes.

While shaping the playlist with producer Larry Klein, Stigers says he, “played him a few songs I’d written, but I hadn’t been writing that much. It’s been a tumultuous year, and I haven’t been able to focus on songwriting. He didn’t think the ones I played for him fit in with what we were going for, and I had to agree with him.”

Working with Klein is a big departure for Stigers, who has self-produced or co-produced all six of his previous Concord albums. “It was,” he says, “a totally different experience. On my recent albums, I’ve gladly given [keyboardist] Larry Goldings and [trumpeter] John “Scrapper” Sneider co-producer credits, but because I’m a perfectionist and a control freak, usually it was me calling all the shots while greedily tapping into their geniuses for arrangements.”

Stigers’ collaboration with Klein is, in fact, more than a dozen years in the making. “I first met Larry years ago,” he says. “We talked about making a record back in 1998. I had just left Arista and went over to Columbia for one album [Brighter Days], and talked to Larry about maybe producing that record.

But he’d heard my jazz tapes, which eventually became Baby Plays Around, and was already thinking in terms of a jazz record.  I wasn’t ready for that, I wanted to make my singer-songwriter record.  Now, 14 years later, we’ve finally made an album.” ~

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio