Steve Azar is a popular singer/songwriter who has blended his Mississippi delta roots with an individualistic Nashville style.
The next-to-youngest in a family of five children, Steve Azar had music in him from an early age. Home was little Greenville, Mississippi, where his father owned the state’s first liquor store. Tutored by local blues musicians, Steve began writing songs when he was just 10 years old. That led him to develop as a guitarist. He had his first Nashville recording session when he was 14.
The teenager’s early tunes were strong enough for Buddy Killen and Donna Hilley of Tree Publishing to encourage him. One of the songs, “Livin’ Life to its Fullest,” was performed by its young composer on Danny Thomas’s national telethon for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. While still in high school, he made two more trips to Music Row.
Azar was chomping at the bit to make music full time, but his parents insisted he go to college. By the time he graduated from Delta State University with a business-management degree, he was playing 200 shows a year and was a regional headliner who played the Delta’s biggest clubs and festivals, including the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. Mississippi native Faith Hill remembers being at his shows as a fan in the front row.
After moving from Mississippi to Nashville in 1993 to pursue a career in music, Azar released his debut album in 1996. Heartbreak Town featured the successful country hit "Somebody." Steve then took some time away from his music to be with his family and pursue other interests.
In 2001, Steve released what he considers to be his first “real” album, 2001’s Waitin’ on Joe. Its breakout single “I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘Til Monday)” has been played more than three million times on the radio to date. Azar made headlines again when Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman agreed to guest star in the chart-topping 2002 video for “Waitin’ on Joe.”
Steve Azar worked so hard to promote his first hits that he developed vocal problems in 2003 and underwent surgery in 2004. In 2005, he again hit the popularity charts with his Mercury single “Doin’ It Right.”
In 2006, he formed his own independent label and hit the charts in 2006 with the rocking “You Don’t Know a Thing.” The song also appeared on his acclaimed 2008 CD Indianola. That collection took him back to his Mississippi roots and included “You’re My Life” as another Steve Azar radio single. The Indianola CD subsequently reached No. 1 on XM Radio’s “Country Outlaw” channel.
In 2009, Azar created a new imprint for his music, Ride Records. Slide on Over Here, which includes the hit “Moo La Moo”, is the new company’s first release.
An avid golfer, Azar has staged golf tournaments to benefit his Steve Azar St. Cecelia Foundation. The organization aids charitable organizations in the Mississippi Delta as well as Nashville. Its priority is Catholic organizations that help sick, disadvantaged or abused children. Steve’s four-day annual “Magnolia” celebrity event highlights the arts, music and food that define Delta blues culture. During any given year, Steve also conducts toy, clothing and food drives and puts on fund-raising shows for his Foundation.
If you don’t catch Steve Azar in concert this year, you might see him co-starring on The Golf Channel’s series, Playing Lessons, where he is teamed up with PGA professional Kenny Perry. The magazine Golf Digest ranked him as one of the top-five golfing musicians, alongside his fellow country entertainers Rudy Gatlin, Marty Roe (Diamond Rio) and Vince Gill, plus saxophonist Kenny G.
When I was asked to participate on this project, it really meant a great deal to me. Anytime I have the opportunity to give back to my Mississippi Delta homeland, I jump at the chance. It is where so much of my songwriting inspiration comes from and where my identity as an artist was born and nurtured. "Indianola" is a song I wrote the very same night of being honored with my own day in Mississippi, which later became the title track to a record I felt was extremely important for me to make. I have many friends and family members who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. I have watched them bounce back with such resiliency and determination. So I am truly honored to be a part in helping those who are still living the storm and fighting to put their lives back together.