Kercher, Steve : Open Wide
During the summer of 2006, while Israeli forces occupied Lebanon, Steve Kercher, an American Pop-Rock singer-songwriter, was on a concert tour in Turkey with his four-member band. The tour brought them to Antakya, just 20 miles north of the Syrian border. "It was a tense time in that area." Kercher recalls. "The Turks were very sympathetic to the people of Lebanon and very critical of Israel and America." But the band experienced a different sentiment from their audiences. "They really embraced us. I think the fact that we were musicians performing concerts in their country softened their hearts toward us." Since returning, he has referred to the tour as The Peace and Hope Tour, as many of the songs and anecdotes were about peace and reconciliation. One moment that stands out for Kercher is when he introduced his song, Kill Them With Kindness, at a show in Selcuk, Turkey. "I told the story behind the song of a time when I was bullied in high school. Instead of lashing out and seeking revenge I gave the kid two boxes of M&Ms as a gift. He never bothered me again and we were friends. After telling that story the audience erupted into cheers and applause and we hadn't even played a note of the song yet." Kercher stayed closer to home in 2007. But his summer wasn't void of travel. The recording artist began The Friend of Africa song project that has brought him to studios in the Boston area as well as a studio in Los Angeles and one as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, of all places, to record vocal parts he wrote for the African Children's Choir. The young choir, who recently appeared on the season finale of American Idol, was touring Alaska. Kercher simply booked a studio in Anchorage and arranged for the choir to participate on the recording. "It was a fast and furious trip." Kercher says, "But I captured what I needed. They sound amazing." The Friend of Africa is a song Kercher co-wrote with Kevin Belmonte, the award-winning author of Hero For Humanity, the Life of William Wilberforce. The song celebrates Wilberforce's victory over the slave trade in the U.K. that inspired the abolitionist movement in the U.S. in the 19th century. (The motion picture, Amazing Grace, starring Albert Finny, is also based on Wilberforce's life. Belmonte was the Historical Consultant to the producers). Belmonte is an old buddy of Kercher's from his days at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Belmonte was also Kercher's Best Man at his wedding. For the Los Angeles session of The Friend of Africa, Kercher brought together two studio legends - bassist Abraham Laboriel and drummer John JR Robinson. The two musicians are among the most recorded in history having worked with some of the greatest recording artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Steve Winwood, k.d. lang, and many others. Also at the session was Kercher's co-producer, Marty Walsh, who is a former Supertramp guitarist that most recently recorded on hits for Leann Rimes including the platinum selling, I Need You. "These guys were so fully engaged in the song while recording." Kercher remembers of the session. "They gave 110 percent." And if the summer couldn't be more exciting and filled with activity, Kercher's wife gave birth to their fourth child - a daughter - Anna Magdalena, named after J.S. Bach's wife. Kercher refers to Bach as his musical father. "Since I began studying classical guitar six year ago, particularly Bach lute suites, I have an affinity for his life and his music." This is Kercher's second daughter. He also has two young sons. But that's not all. The songwriter received a call on his cell phone while in Alaska that his song, The Love That Lasts Forever, was chosen as a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition. The song was written in March of 2007 and was also originally entered in the American Idol Songwriting Competition. He wrote it particularly with the voice of Melinda Doolittle in mind and had a female singer friend of his record the vocals. "I knew the song was really good, even when it didn't make the top 20 at American Idol." Kercher recalls. "So I entered it in the JLSC." Steve Kercher credits much of his musical success to his time at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied voice performance, songwriting and music business. "My musical passions thrived at Berklee," Kercher recalls with fondness, "although it was a very difficult time as well. I always tell prospecting students that it's easy to get in to Berklee but it is very hard to stay. You have to work hard and stay focused. It's very demanding." The lessons of perseverance are just as important, it seems. Kercher looks to the future with hope. "I intend to continue this musical journey wherever it takes me." It is a journey that has already taken him half way around the world.