Perhaps even more impressive than the rich and thriving creative community of Southern Illinois’ music scene is the sense of camaraderie shared by fellow musicians when it comes to support, encouragement and working together.
Whether it is hometown heroes banding together for melodious money-making endeavors for charities, a person in need, or any one of a plethora of community organizations — or even just coming together to appreciate and celebrate each other’s growth and successes — Southern Illinois is home to as rich, heartfelt, and fulfilling a musical landscape as is the literal life of the lush and verdant Shawnee National Forest growing throughout the area.
Returning to his hometown of Murphysboro for a CD release party this weekend at Big Muddy Brewing, musician Brent Stewart knows this more than most.
Stewart — who now resides in St. Louis — grew up in Murphysboro, and is happy to return to celebrate the release of his latest studio album, “Here’s to the Now.”
Noting that he returns regularly to visit family and friends, Stewart and his gaggle of talented friends will be playing a selection of older material as well as new songs from the latest album, all of which were written for his wife, Maggie, to celebrate their love and union.
“A lot of the songs were already written by the time we got married last April,” Stewart said, explaining how the album was recorded both at home and with co-producer Mike Lescelius of Misunderstudio in Murphysboro.
“We’d started work on it in the winter, but the release kept getting pushed back by one thing or another,” Stewart said. “I thought at first the date for the album release would coincide with an anniversary of ours, but here it is, apropos of no special date in our life.”
When stopping to consider the nature of the album — life, marriage, love, etc. — the seemingly arbitrary nature of the release date is perfectly fitting.
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“They’re not all sappy,” Stewart says of the songs on his latest album. “Just like life and love; it’s not all easy. Not everything is a fairy tale. This is about our lives together, and the story of our relationship.”
Pointing to the track, “Somebody Loves You,” off of the upcoming release as an example, Stewart explained how even those of us surrounded by love and support need reminders when day-to-day life leaves them feeling alone. “When you struggle with anxieties or mental health, it’s really hard to remember (somebody loves you) even if you’re surrounded.”
“Playing music is always fun,” he said, “but this time around is even more special because of where I am in life and because I wanted Maggie not only to enjoy the album, but also to know how much all of it truly means to me.”
Bill Carr and Dan Tejada will open the album release show at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at Big Muddy Brewing, 1430 N. Seventh St. in Murphysboro. The show is free to attend.
Stewart will be joined by a full band during his set to play a selection of songs both old and new. Lovers of music, beer, fun, friendship, love and life, and free shows are welcome to attend the celebration. Patrons must be 21 to drink.
CDs will be available for purchase, and can also be found online. For those interested in checking out Stewart’s releases along with more info can direct themselves to www.brentstewartmusic.com, as well as being able to stream his albums on most online platforms.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to give more details about the show Saturday night.