In China, he found self, fame
Living and performing abroad has taught musician Steven Franssen a lot about himself.
After earning a master’s in education from Western Oregon University and releasing his 2010 debut album “Volatile,” the 2004 Mac High grad set his sights outside the Northwest. In just a few years, he’s accumulated a lifetime of stories.
He’s has eaten fried octopus at 3 in the morning in Bangkok’s Red Light District. He worked on the set of “The Hobbit” in Wellington, New Zealand. He accidentally stumbled into an opium den in the foothills outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
As a result, “I have interesting things to say,” Franssen said.
Franssen and his girlfriend spent most of the past three years in the Beijing area, where Franssen, who goes by Steven Summerstone professionally, formed a three-piece band with percussionist Philip Crimmins and guitarist Skeeter Skinwalker.
Franssen described the band’s sound as upbeat Simon and Garfunkel meets the Beatles. Their song “Henhouse Brawl” conjures Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young harmonies with a feel-good groove.
However you describe the sound, it was a hit in China. Franssen’s group earned minor celebrity status playing the Beijing club scene. Gigs also included a performance for a bikini runway show in Datong and a private party during which the host businessmen led a party-wide toast to the band.
He said he found similarities between China’s and the States’ popular music scenes, although theirs is still in a nascent stage.
“There’s a serious shortage of musicians there,” he said, adding that the same goes for many other professionals, like journalists.
Another standout difference, he said, is crowd behavior at shows.
“The crowds there don’t yell and sing along. They’re mainly straight-faced, and really no clapping,” he said. “It was strange to get used to the first few times on stage.”
Just before leaving, Summerstone was featured in China Daily, an English language daily newspaper with a circulation of half a million.
“Performing and recording in China,” he told that paper, “has allowed me to express myself in all the strange, uncomfortable and brave ways I was too scared to before.”
Franssen is back in town just for the week. Before heading to Alaska to work at a sled dog lodge, he will play a show at Cornerstone Coffee Roasters Friday night along with local musician, painter and 1980 Mac High grad Rob Leathers.
Franssen hopes to release a followup to “Volatile” later this year. He already has a title, “Time Healer.”
Watch Franssen and Leathers on Friday at Cornerstone starting at 7 p.m. To view videos of Summerstone performing, go to www.reverbnation.com/summerstone. To learn more about Frannsen’s music, philosophy, poetry and life endeavors, visit www.stevensummerstone.com.
Contact Ossie Bladine at firstname.lastname@example.org.