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Introducing Greg Sczebel
Welcome to the world of Greg Sczebel, a twenty year old jazz/urban artist from Salmon Arm, British Columbia, whose Christian lyrics and music are redefining how we judge excellence in music. Yet in the wake of his numerous awards and stellar CD Here to Stay, which he produced with his father Jerry, he has remained a really humble, sincere and ministry focused individual.
Next month Sczebel (the c and z are silent) will find out if he is the recipient of a Juno Award for Contemporary Christian / Gospel Album of the Year. He is nominated in the same category as his friend Aileen Lombardo, another bright young star on the Christian music scene. In 2004 he was nominated in four categories for the Canadian Gospel Music Association’s Covenant Awards (similar to Dove), including being awarded the Male Vocalist of the Year award. In addition, his song “Lights are Coming On” was named song of the year in another category. In 2003, he was named the top emerging artist by the Shai Awards (voted on by fans).
A partial list of who he has already shared the stage with includes David Foster, Michael Buble, Jars of Clay, Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer), Bebo Norman, Jars of Clay and Out of Eden.
The song “Here to Stay” was featured in an episode of UPN’s Kevin Hill series. He says he wrote the song to keep himself in check with his faith and beliefs. "I think it is so easy when you meet someone or you know someone and they say your songs are really cool but if you just leave out some of those words God and Jesus, your songs would be more accessible and more people would listen to it, more people would embrace it. I think it’s easy to kind of let that slip and it would be easy to say okay well leaving out a few words would be fine.” He says he simply wasn’t prepared to let people, “Fill in the blanks with whoever they feel like.”
Recording the song “Here to Stay” provided some challenges and pleasant surprises for the usually silky smooth voiced Sczebel. “It needed to have a little more grit to it. It needed to have a little more attitude.” Laughing, he said, “God just kind of opened my mind up and all of a sudden I found this grungy voice in me. It was the coolest thing to find this voice for the first time that I had never used. That was a really cool moment.”
About the number three track on the CD, "Lights are Coming On," he says, “I always have wanted to make sure the message was clear and up front. I think “Lights are Coming On” is very in your face.” He says the words are meant to warn of the dangers of compromise, “Just the other day somebody told meTo make it I would have to swayAnd the offer can be so enticingBut I don’t want to go that wayCause I’ve seen enough to know the outcome…..That compromise is not the way”.
Singer/songwriter Carolyn Arends says, “Greg Sczebel floors me. He sings with “soul” in every sense of the word. He writes insanely hooky, deeply moving songs about important things. It’s tempting to use phrases like “Next Big Thing” but Greg Sczebel isn’t the next anything. He’s now, and his music is truly great.”
What is even more startling about the CD Here to Stay, which was produced in New York at Sterling Sound, is ten of the eleven tracks were written solely by Sczebel and the eleventh was a collaborative effort with his father Jerry.
It is difficult to believe that he once thought of becoming a physiotherapist or pediatrician. He says he always wished for a career in music, “But I never really believed it was going to happen. I kind of looked at it as though it was one of those far fetched dreams.” Even when he finished high school he mapped out a two year plan that included returning to school if after that period of time music didn’t look like it was going to take him anywhere. Well it is reasonable to assume that outcome is no longer in doubt.
Fellow recording artist Joel Geleynse says, “In my opinion Greg Sczebel has emerged as one of the most gifted musical talents in Canada. When I listen to his album I’m overwhelmed at the maturity of the lyrics and his polished sultry and expressive vocals.”
Toronto’s Aileen Lombardo refers to him as, “a phenomenal talent.”
When listening to Sczebel’s music it is so easy to forget he is only twenty years old. It’s not only his music that has a mature sound that belies his age but his sincerity, humility and deep-rooted faith that make ome sit up and take notice. He says, “The only reason I am getting known is the hand of God has just opened so many doors and so many things that I could not have opened by myself.” Oh and how is that Greg? “It just blows me away sometimes and I just take a step back and look at my life in the past two years and it’s like hey it’s not something I could have done it’s something only God could have orchestrated.” “It’s been really cool allowing him to take the reins and I really believe that he’s got all the connections. He’s the best manager you could ever hope for.”
How does Sczebel relax? Well he would really like to relax drinking more Coconut Crème Frappuccinos, but the nearest Starbucks is thirty minutes from his home in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. He enjoys a variety of music including; Hillsongs, Toby Mac, Delirious and Switchfoot. He refers to one of his newest CDs by the Blind Boys of Alabama, Let There Be a Light as one of his favorites. He says, "I am a big fan of Matt Kearney.”
When he was growing up Sczebel had very little in the way of formal music training. He had a few piano lessons which he described as tedious and admits to being relieved when his music teacher moved away because the piano lessons had to discontinue. He credits his both of his parents with fostering his musical development. He learned to play by ear and through assisting his father with leading the worship at his local church. It is only recently that he has once again turned to studying piano so as he puts it “I can continue to learn”.
Greg Sczebel's website is http://www.gregsczebel.com/>www.gregsczebel.com.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
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