Ona Stewart loves music. He plays four to five hours daily, and is always writing new songs. Fortunately, he has a popular local band, the Naked Bootleggers, which gives him a platform to play his tunes in front of local crowds. But because he doesn’t want to burn people out, he keeps the Naked Bootleggers gigs to a minimum. So he also gigs as a solo artist.
There are other advantages to playing solo shows. For instance, the Naked Bootleggers are a bluegrass-oriented band, but Stewart has a number of other influences that he can bring to his solo work.
“It’s nice to have another outlet. There are so many other songs that I can’t necessarily play with the band, because it doesn’t fit into the sound we’re going for,” Stewart says. “I’m definitely influenced a lot by old R&B, like Otis Redding and Bill Withers. Just different directions, like Tom Waits. I grew up listening to punk rock, so I have a lot of anger to get out as well.”
He plays some shows backed by friends, others just him and his guitar. It can be a challenge to make sets work as a one-man acoustic band, but Stewart does it by twisting and convulsing his voice in unique and interesting ways, or going really quiet when he needs to. It’s all about dynamics.
“Each crowd is different. Some audiences are listening audiences. There are times you go soft and sweet in the delivery. Some you need to slap in the face to get them to acknowledge it,” Stewart says. “I love singing. I love it when people want to hear it, but I sing all day long by myself. I just love to sing.”
INFO: 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 28, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.