DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Only days into their first regional tour, The Steppin Stones are navigating through Florida like longtime rock and roll pros – right down to the flooded hotel room.
OK, so that wasn’t their fault (the room above theirs had the problem and gravity did the rest), and neither was the double booking of their Orlando show, or the rain that fell on an outdoor gig, or drummer Ryan Tye’s mid-show broken kick pedal, but those events still could have shaken any band.
“The first two days of the trip we were biting our nails, like, ‘Oh s**t, what did we get ourselves into?’” said Hannah Wicklund, leader of the blues rock trio based in Hilton Head, S. C. “It went from one extreme to the other. Everything’s been going great now.”
By the time Friday night’s show at Boston’s on the Beach in Delray Beach rolled around The Steppin Stones took the stage with the swagger of rock veterans, which is impressive considering the band’s oldest member, bassist Andrew Ottimo still has a few months to go before he can drink legally.
“We’re not really one of those party bands, crazy bands,” Wicklund said. “This is what we want to do for the rest of our lives.”
Despite their youth, The Steppin Stones can be counter intuitively classified as music veterans. Wicklund, the group’s founder, started the group nine years ago when she was in third grade. Tye has been a part of the group for all but a couple of months of its existence.
Wicklund is no ordinary front person. The 17-year-old guitarist, singer and lyricist is one of the most intriguing new faces in the music business. She graduated high school two years early but instead of heading for the Ivy League, she dedicated herself to song.
Her work defies her years. On guitar she rips through classic rock songs, ranging from Led Zepplin to Aerosmith to Jimi Hendricks. With a powerful, soulful voice that couldn’t possibly come from someone so young, she’ll belt out the likes of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, then switch to Robert Plant and Steven Tyler.
The Steppin Stones may be young, but that’s where comparisons with bands like Hanson or the Back Street Boys end. Their music has a bluesy soul that can be appreciated by an audience twice (three times?) their age group.
At Boston’s The Steppin Stones blazed through three sets of classic rock, mixing in enough originals to easily fill one full set.
The trio already has two albums under their belts and are about to head into the studio in January to record a third. When not on stage they are working to finish the songs for the new album. It will be the second with bassist/vocalist Ottimo, who Wicklund plucked from a rival Savannah, Ga. band 15 months ago.
“We’ve basically become a new band since he started,” Wicklund said. “We still do a lot of the same songs but since he joined the band we’ve been able to start traveling and focusing on original music.”
Ottimo joked that he normally isn’t too interested in bands fronted by a female, but this group is different.
“Hannah is just a fantastic singer and I’m glad she’s fronting us,” he said.
On Friday they debuted a song so new it has yet to earn a title. If it is any indication of what will appear on the new album, the CD won’t be released soon enough.
Most of the originals played Friday night are found on their second album, Looking Glass. It’s an album that gains vigor as it advances. Play the final track, “Keep Me Around,” for anyone and ask them to guess the age of the artist. You’ll win many bets. For those who don’t believe the answer, the video for the song is below. Enjoy it.
The Steppin Stones continue their tour this weekend in South Florida, before heading back to Savannah and Hilton Head.
After completion of their forthcoming album, the trio intends to hit the road again.
“This is the most fun thing in the world,” Wicklund said. “I literally can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.”
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