Steve Hornbeak left his hometown of Tamms shortly before his 20th birthday with dreams of a career in music.
About four years later, he happened upon an iconic American musician and set down the path of turning those dreams into reality. At age 24, he began touring with Lee Greenwood, best known for his “God Bless the U.S.A.” He did so for six years.
The time that followed saw the singer/songwriter’s career really begin to prosper. He embarked on a 10-year touring stint singing back-up vocals for country star Faith Hill and played alongside Tracy Lawrence, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton-John and an array of others.
Two years ago, he decided to pack up and move out of Music City, returning home to Southern Illinois and opening a recording studio, 326 Productions, in Anna. His goal now is to help local artists put together professional recordings and share their talents with the world at large.
“When I was their age, I didn’t know what I was doing, either,” he said. “You start playing with a band and hope it goes somewhere.”
He helps with all parts of the recording process, collaborating with top Nashville musicians on projects for local performers. He also promotes concerts in Southern Illinois and Cape Girardeau. It’s a labor of love, and one he enjoys doing from small-town Southern Illinois.
Hornbeak said he always knew he’d return home someday, as he enjoys the family atmosphere and laidback life of the region. But he does want to help improve the area, bringing a little culture to Anna. His efforts were recognized last year when he was named Union County Citizen of the Year.
“I’ve played on the Grammys, I’ve played Letterman 12 times, I’ve played on ‘The Tonight Show,’” he said. “But there’s something really special about being recognized in a small town. That’s my Grammy.”
The vocal recording booth at Hornbeak’s studio has been used by several local musicians looking for their break in music. Hornbeak helps upcoming artists with writing, production and the rest of the process. The studio is available to rent.
Hornbeak’s studio has a few couches and armchairs, as well as a big-screen television and a Nintendo Wii. He and others meet there for writers’ nights or to brainstorm ideas. ‘It’s just a little hangout,’ he said.
The drum set in Hornbeak’s recording studio was used on the Spontaneous Combustion tour featuring Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Hornbeak traded one of his keyboards from the tour for the set, which is now the house drum at 326 Productions.
Hornbeak has received several commemorative albums through the years marking sales milestones for the various projects he has worked on. One of those milestones was Faith Hill’s ‘It Matters to Me,’ the first song Hornbeak was involved with that reached the top of the charts. He provided back-up vocals. ‘It’s cool to have your voice at No. 1,’ he said. ‘When I’d be at a stoplight and the song would come on, I’d want to roll down the windows and tell people “That’s me.”’
This equipment sits on Hornbeak’s desk. One of the most surreal moments of his career was sitting at his engineering station with Jonathan Cain of Journey. ‘I saw them back at SIU and thought, “That’s what I want to do one day,”’ he said of the band’s influence on his early career.
Hornbeak is currently touring with singer/songwriter Richard Marx. The tour will take the duo, as well as the rest of the crew, around the world. Hornbeak has several pieces of autographed memorabilia from all of the different people he’s toured with.
The back part of Kiki’s Coffeehouse offers musicians a place to perform. Each person who has played the venue has signed the back wall.
Hornbeak plays several instruments, and this little figure on his workstation pays homage to his keyboarding career.
This picture of Hornbeak and his wife, Kathy Bryan, sits atop his computer dock. The couple married last December. Bryan opened Kiki’s Coffeehouse in the front part of the 326 Productions studio earlier this year. The venue hosts concerts and open mic nights, which Hornbeak can record within the studio for live albums and other projects.