The Official Taylor's Angels Weblog

Taylor Hicks Fans Taying it Forward One Soul At A Time

Seven Mile Breakdown

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stephen….aka Taylor Hicks’ “Merch Guy”

Everyone who attended one of Taylor Hicks’ concerts over that last seven months surely encountered the smiling face of Stephen, the wonderfully friendly man usually positioned behind the merchandising table. Stephen’s effervescent personality always drew us into the area, whether it was to purchase more Taylor Hicks memorabilia or to simply say “hi” and receive a hug from a dear friend. One of the guys who traveled with Stephen during the long seven month Taylor Hicks tour described him in this manner: “The one thing that is very interesting about Stephen is that he is extremely intelligent and well versed on a variety of subjects. During the down time on tour, he was always reading a book. This is what makes him such an interesting person and so well-suited for his job. He can relate to others on so many levels. He is extremely conscientious and always goes the extra mile to help the crew and the fans as well.”

Stephen was gracious enough to answer some questions for Taylor’s Angels and to allow us all to get to know the “Merch Guy”.

TA: Most of the Soul Patrol knows you as the “Merch Guy”, but we know very little about you personally. Where did you grow up, what are your hobbies and do you have any musical abilities?

Stephen: I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Elvis’ birthday the year he died. My family moved around quite a bit when I was young. We moved from Louisiana to California to Florida then back to California, where we settled in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. I lived there until I was 22 years old and then moved to the Bay Area for a couple years. Now, I have ended up in Virginia.

Since I was nineteen years of age, my hobbies have pretty much involved being a part of the live music scene on as many levels as I could get myself into. Obviously, the easiest way for me to start that was going to as many shows of as many different bands as possible. I was initially drawn to the jam band scene for their supposed sense of community and family. I didn’t really find what I was looking for because the hippies of today are not the hippies of the past. But what it did instill in me was a love of being part of the live music experience and traveling the country to experience as many different adventures as possible.

I don’t have any musical abilities as far as playing instruments. Call this what you will, but I feel like it is an ability to be able to contribute your vibe and appreciation for music when it’s exceptional, because it is infectious and makes the live music experience better for everyone you are around as well.

TA: We read that you were the tour manager for Robert Randolph and Vusi Mahlasela. How does that compare to merchandising and which do you prefer?

Stephen: Being a tour manager was great. It was a completely different experience with the two bands. I was able to learn a different part of the industry which I’ve been able to apply to merchandise and touring in general, and that has been invaluable. Truthfully, I prefer merchandising because it allows me a higher level of interaction with the people at the shows that are being affected by the music. That is one of the major reasons why I love working in this industry. At the same time, I don’t close myself off to anything in the future because this whole experience has been very serendipitous, and everything that has happened to me has happened because it was supposed to.

TA: Have you been the "Merch Guy" for any other groups?

Stephen: I have done merchandising for Pseusopod, North Mississippi Allstars, Medeski Martin and Wood, David Gray, and Taylor Hicks. I also do merch for local venues in Charlottesville, Virginia when I’m not on tour.

TA: How did you get the gig with Taylor Hicks and what was it like working with him?

Stephen: I got the gig with Taylor through Musictoday, the company that was handling Taylor’s merchandise. I had worked there in the past and still have good friends there. Word came down that Taylor was looking for a merch manager. So someone let me know about it, I sent over my resume, and after a phone conversation that was that.

TA: What was your favorite city or cities during the Taylor Hicks tour? Did you get to do any site seeing?

Stephen: During the Taylor tour, we obviously went all over the country, and I had such great experiences most places I went. My favorites every time I go through are Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles. Some places I thought were great that I went through for the first time on Taylor’s tour were Orange Beach, Alabama, Vicksburg, Mississippi and Omaha, Nebraska.

I always try and get out and especially see the cities that I haven’t been to before, or cities that I have a particular affinity for. It’s also always nice to put yourself in spots where you can really get the local flavor of where you are, so I make it a point to make that happen if I’m able.

TA: Were there any inspirational or touching moments on the tour?

Seeing the way that Taylor’s music touches so many people of every different walk of life and how that music brings joy into their lives has been awesome. Since I am out talking to people every night I meet and hear so many great stories. It makes me thankful to be out with a guy like Taylor who cares so much about his fans and makes a difference in so many people’s lives.

TA: What is the funniest thing that happened to you on the tour?

Stephen: I would have to say that it was hanging out with Clay Conner and our friends at the FloraBama/ LiMBO show. If you were there, you know!

TA: What does the future hold for you?

Stephen: For right now, it looks like I’ll be staying with Taylor for a while. The music, the fans and the man himself are all great and it’s a good organization to be a part of.

TA: What are your duties at the Taylor Hicks Headquarters and what are your plans to improve the site?

Stephen: As far as my duties at THHQ, with Musictoday I am developing new and fun features for the site to hopefully keep people interested and coming back to see what we are going to add. It’s been a long process but I think the site has improved greatly over the past few months. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves that are on the horizon and we think once we roll them out there will be a lot of excitement and hopefully it will bring the community as a whole closer together.

TA: Do you have any surprises in the works regarding merchandise for the Soul Patrol on Taylor’s next tour?

Stephen: Of course I do, but if I told you what they were they would hardly be surprises!

TA: What is your overall opinion of the Soul Patrol?

Taylor’s fans are some of the kindest and most supportive fans that I have ever encountered in the live touring world. The Soul Patrol truly helps me remember why I am part of the live touring world and have taken this road in life.

Taylor’s Angels thanks Stephen for answering our questions and for allowing the Soul Patrol to see him in a different light. We wish him much success and look forward to seeing the exciting changes coming to the Taylor Hicks Headquarters. We also look forward to seeing Stephen’s smiling face on future Taylor Hicks’ tours!

Written by Tina Shaddix (DidNotExpectThat)

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Annie said...

Stephen, it was great to meet you in Niagara Falls. I've seen you several times before, but you were always too busy to chat, but this was nice when you came outside before the show, and we were able to just visit for a few minutes, then you had to leave cuz the doors were opening. It's great to get to know a bit more about you, and you're doing a fantastic job, both in AND ot of the concert/tour scene. Keep those surprises coming- we'll be watching for them!! *hugz*

Gypsee said...

Great interview! Stephen is a major part of Taylor's music scene and one of the coolest guys around. He's great to fans and takes good care of Taylor also. Loved reading this!

Gypsee said...

Loved reading this about our merchguy. Stephen is such a dude...great to fans and wonderful for Taylor. Good Interview...great read!

KarenK said...

"He is extremely contentious and always goes the extra mile to help the crew and the fans as well.”
Stephen, I think this is a misquote, I would hope they meant to say "conscientious" cause that better describes the Stephen I've met many times. Can't wait to see you at Pearl River.

PBoyers said...

Stephen - thanks for sharing a little about yourself. You were great during the whole tour and made my experience as a Soul Patroller a much better one.

Thanks for supporting our Taylor and for being here for us.

I'm glad to hear that we didn't frighten you off. Keep on touring and I totally get what you are saying about live music. It just gets into your blood.

I can't wait to see what Taylor has for us in the next chapter! Glad you are coming along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Stephen.

Clay Connor...Flora-Bama/LiMBO...that was WAY too much fun! ;)

AH said...

Thank you for this interview, enjoyed it very much.
First spoke with Stephen at the Boston and Hampton Beach shows and thought then that he was a great "front man" for Taylor. As I went to more shows I realized just how special a young man he really is. I am very pleased that he is staying with Taylor.
And Stephen, if you read these comments, thanks for recognizing that we "aging hippies" are indeed a different breed.
Love ya kid !

Tish said...

What a great article! I was fortunate to meet and have time to talk with Stephen at the Marksville, LA concert. He is a special person.

Anonymous said...

Thank you KarenK for pointing out the error! We know our Stephen is very CONSCIENTIOUS - lol!!! ( SORRY STEPHEN).

Stephen has been one of the highlights of everyone's concert experience. He is like the "Welcome Wagon" for Taylor!! Thanks for visiting us Stephen!


Jax said...

What a great interview with a really great guy.

Stephen, I am thrilled to hear that you will be with Taylor for a while!!

Someone said "Stephen has been one of the highlights of everyone's concert experience. He is like the "Welcome Wagon" for Taylor!!" How very true ...I had a chance to talk to Stephen in Charleston and he could not have been more gracious and kind. Really funny too!

Taylor and all of Taylor's fans are very lucky to have Stephen in our "family".

DidNotExpectThat said...

Stephen, we all have enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to seeing your smiling face. Thanks for allowing us to get to know you better and for taking good care of us all. We are looking forward to the next tour and to those surprises you have! Take care.

maryann1 said...

Stephen, it was nice to meet you at several concerts and talk to you, if only for a very brief few minutes at the merch table. Your are very gracious and polite to everyone who came by and your wonderful and warm smile made the moment all that more endearing.
We look forward to seeing you again on the next tour.
Take care and have a nice day!!

Anonymous said...

Stephen was a great addition to Taylor's team! I always enjoyed stopping by the merchandise table to say hi, see what was new, and just shoot the breeze for a couple of minutes if Stephen wasn't too busy! And I love his sock puppet!

R ;)

purplebutterflies said...

Stephen, thank you for doing the interview.

Bloom said...

Stephen you have played such an important part in our concert experiences. I have many fond memories and miss your smiles, your hugs and the jokes about my shoes!
Tina thanks for the great interview and for the opportunity to say hey to Stephen!
Please give him a hug for me in Pearl River!

LaurenSilk said...

Stephen, meeting you was certainly a highlight of going to the shows. You exude such a positive energy. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself and your insight into the touring world. We are all looking forward to the exciting 'surprises' you have up your merchandising sleeve.
Much love, Wanda

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephen,

Nice interview. I share your sentiments about being a supportive force to the music community. We met at the Toms River, NJ concert. I really appreciated the time you took to look at my drawing portfolio. You indicated that you might be interested in my putting together some concept ideas for new merchandise. I've tried to contact you through other venues but never got a response. I'd like to share my ideas and designs with you. If you no longer have my card, you can send me a line over at the TMS forum. I look forward to hearing from you.


Claire said...

What a great guy, ofcourse I knew that already from meetings at the shows! The Clay Connor Florabama/LiMBO show was indeed a hoot!!! It did make me order his CD and I love it!! Looking forward to next year but can't wait for Pearl River this weekend. See you there. Woohoo!
Claire Moseley
Blakely, GA

Lmo said...

Hey, Stephen! Thanks for taking time out of your day for answering our questions. And, thanks for all that you've done for all of us! We know we can always count on your smiling face at one of the shows!

Sue in Maryland said...

Thanks so much for the interview. I'm so glad that you are part of Taylor's "family". Hope to talk to you during the next tour.

themerchguy said...

thanks for all the love and attention, you guys! for someone who is just a guy named steve, you all make me feel pretty special. thanks again!