Folk Singer-Songwriter Steven Gellman Releases Tenth Studio Album “All You Need”

The beary talented folk singer-songwriter Steven Gellman chats with us about his tenth studio album and more!

Steven Gellman is a quintessential folk singer-songwriter with “insightful original songs and homespun stories [that] provide a soul-warming folk rock respite in a busy, chilly world.” (Donn B. Murphy, The National Theater) His songs tell stories of everyday life wrapped in notes that will have you humming along in a style that Billboard Magazine has described as “intensely sensitive and impressively intelligent at the same time.”  

Armed with a dime store guitar and the sheet music to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Gellman taught himself to play with one thought in mind – he wanted to be in a rock band. But his rock n roll dreams came with a “John Denver-ish voice” (Music Monthly) and Gellman soon found his passion for folk music founding the ‘90s folk-rock trio, Diamond Rose.

When the band broke up, as first bands are apt to do, Gellman struck out on his own releasing a solo, full-length album to critical acclaim. Photobook (1997) was nominated for four Washington Area Music Association Awards (the Wammies) and by The Gay/Lesbian American Music Awards (GLAMA) for Debut Album of the Year.

Photo by: Renee Ruggles

His follow-up release, Return to Summer Lake (2000), was hailed by Billboard Magazine as “essential for fans of sensitive acoustic music.” In 2022, Gellman was a Wammie Award finalist for best folk artist. His song “Twenty-nine,” from the album All You Need (2023), won the silver award for country/bluegrass in the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest presented by the Songwriters’ Association of Washington. 

“Gellman’s sensitive song craft incorporates simple but evocative slice-of-life imagery, homespun folk warmth, keen pop instincts, and crisp, first-rate musicianship.” (Taylor Guitars) Never has this been more true than on All You Need (2023), Gellman’s 10th indie release. In this follow-up to Cold Harbor (2021) – a dark, but necessary, album tackling the impact of mental illness – All You Need emerges on the other side with hope, levity, and, of course, acceptance. 

Gellman has traveled near and far to perform at renowned acoustic music venues throughout the United States and Canada including the Birchmere in Alexandria, the Ark in Ann Arbor, the Blue Bird Café in Nashville, the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and Club Passim in Boston. In Washington, DC, he has performed at the venerated National Theater and the most sought after venue of all, The White House. Steven has had the honor to open shows for Dar Williams, Cheryl Wheeler, Richie Havens, Richard Shindell and Al Stewart among others.

Cover Art for “All You Need” by Steven Gellman

On his tenth studio album “All You Need,” Steven draws upon his own influences from other forms of music, art, and literature. From his favorite songwriter, Kate Wolf (“California”), to gay music pioneers Romanovsky & Phillips (“Lost Emotions”) to his special needs dog (“The Bear Prince”) and books like Art Matters – Because Your Imagination Can Change The World (Neil Gaiman); he has done the work to challenge himself to stand tall in this world as a gay man.

Steven says “it’s not a coincidence the album begins with the track ‘Wintering,’ a song about transition and emerging in a better place-propelled by Chinese dulcimer expertly executed by Chao Tian. The album closer, the titular ‘All You Need,’ is intentionally positioned to leave the listener with strength and positivity.”

After just one listen through the album, it filled my heart and soul with gratitude and left me feeling introspective. With his catchy choruses and heartfelt lyrics, it was easy to relate and connect with. I thoroughly enjoyed the instrumentals and vocal melodies Steven brought to the table with this project, making it an easy add to any indie folk music playlist. I also really enjoyed watching the music video for the fourth track on the album titled “Twenty-Nine” where there are clips of Steven playing the song live with his guitar along with joyful clips of younger and older generations alike.

Check out our interview with Steven below!

Bryce Quartz: Hey there, Steven! It’s a pleasure to speak with you, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. How are you feeling now that your 10th studio album is out on all platforms? 

Steven Gellman: Super excited! This album, All You Need, was such a joy to make from start to finish. I’m so happy it is out in the world where everyone can hear it. 

I got to work with a Grammy-winning producer and finally recorded the all-acoustic, country and bluegrass album I’ve always wanted to make. In fact, I recently learned that “Twenty-nine,” the first single from the album, won the Silver award for Country/Bluegrass from the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest. It’s a great honor. 

Bryce Quartz: Let’s dive into some more details from your career. When did you first start creating music and what inspired you to do so?

Steven Gellman: I started playing guitar in high school. I had a crush on a cute blond named Will and I wanted to be the bad-boy of rock for him. Ha,ha! I already had some basic music theory knowledge from being in chorus and used that to teach myself to play guitar. However, being young and naive, I didn’t go about it the best way. What I should have done was buy a how-to manual for playing the guitar. Instead, I bought the sheet music to “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett. I felt so empowered when I eventually learned how to play it. After that I tried to play in rock bands for several years, but no one was ever as dedicated to it as I was. It seemed like my musical aspirations were going nowhere so I shifted gears and turned to the acoustic guitar. I think it was the heartache of unrequited love from my blond, but straight, crush that made me pick up the acoustic guitar and write my first song about love and loss. I fell in love with folk and acoustic music and that love affair continues to this day. 

Bryce Quartz: 10 studio albums is a lot of work by the way, you should be proud of how far you’ve come! What are some of your favorite songs / moments in your music career over the years that you can share with us?

Steven Gellman: Well, for sure this new album All You Need is my favorite – from working with my dream producer Jim Robeson, who worked with Mary Chapin Carpenter, to all the amazing musicians I collaborated with, and, of course, the batch of songs I wrote this go around. “California,” from the new album, is my favorite. I wrote it for Kate Wolf, a singer/songwriter who passed away in the ’80s. Her voice and her songs have been so comforting to me over the years. Getting Kate’s guitar player, Nina Gerber, to play on the song, and also on the track “Hygge Night,” just brought it full circle for me. It’s a special song for me personally. Other favorite songs of mine from my body of work include “The Voice In My Head,” (Cold Harbor, 2021) and “The Choice” (Return to Summer Lake, 2000). A few career highlights have been opening shows for Al Stewart, Dar Williams, and Cheryl Wheeler. Though my favorite was opening for Ritchie Havens at the famous music hall – The Birchmere. He broke a string on his guitar during his set and I got to change it! What a thrill that was. He opened Woodstock, after all!

Photo By: Tony Durborow

Bryce Quartz: Let’s talk about the new album. I really enjoyed several of the tracks on the album and adore your voice. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this album and how it came to fruition?

Steven Gellman: That’s really kind of you. Thank you! I wrote all the songs during Covid. It’s funny though, when the Covid years started I just couldn’t write. I tried several times but I think it was such a scary and uncertain time I gave up trying to write. So instead, I would sit in my music room and play and sing old Paul Simon songs. It brought me a lot of comfort. One day, my friend Elizabeth sent me a card in the mail. I make my living from music so I was out of work and my husband and I were worried about paying the bills. This card had a quote in it from a book called Wintering. I loved the quote so much it turned my world around in a positive way. I sat down and wrote my first song, “Wintering,” inspired by this quote. After that, the songs came to me quickly – one after another – until I had written an album’s worth of new material. I called my friend Mike in Nashville who mastered my previous albums and asked if he could recommend a producer for my new album. He referred me to Jim who invited me to his studio to play him my songs. I went to Jim’s place with my guitar and my dog, Oscar. He liked the tunes , believed in their potential, and agreed to produce the album that became All You Need.

Bryce Quartz: What does an average songwriting session for you look like and how do you go about translating your vision in the studio?

Steven Gellman: Songwriting takes place in my music room surrounded by posters, photos, and memorabilia of my favorite musicians. I can look up from my guitar and see Ann & Nancy Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Stevie Nicks and so many others. It gives me strength. I’m still very old school and write with just simple pen and paper, my guitar, of course, a cup of tea, and my audience of three dogs and a cat.  The songs take on new life in the studio with Jim’s genius for production ideas and suggested musicians to play on the tracks.

Photo by: David Choy

Bryce Quartz: If our readers could only listen to three tracks of yours from your entire discography, what would they be and why?

Steven Gellman: Wow, this is a hard one! But, OK, let’s give it a go…“Twenty-nine” (All You Need, 2024)This song is about getting older and acceptance. Accepting where we are in this stage of life and how we may not look the same as we once did, or be able to do the things we once did. This is OK, but it is easier said than done.

“Family” (Cold Harbor, 2021)Many of us in the LGBTQ+ community don’t quite feel at home in our blood families. Sometimes, just going back home for Thanksgiving, or say a wedding or funeral, can be a challenge for many of us.

“A Love That’s Only Mine” (Love Loss Longing, 2003)I believe the universal search for love and that special someone who truly gets you and sees you is something all of us strive for.  

Bryce Quartz: You have quite a few videos on YouTube showing your live performances and I think it’s awesome how well you can play the guitar and sing at the same time. What have been some of your favorite moments from live shows over the years?

Steven Gellman: Well, playing live in front of an enthusiastic audience is my greatest joy. There is nothing better. Getting to play at iconic venues and stages like The Birchmere in Virginia, The Ark in Michigan, Club Passim in Massachusetts and the BlueBird Cafe in Nashville have certainly been a few highlights. But one old simple memory just came to mind from a long time ago. I was playing in a Borders Bookstore in support of my second album, Photobook. A young, blind woman in a wheelchair was in the audience. She came up to me with her mother after the show and had me sign her CDs. A week later, I was playing at a different Borders and she showed up. This time she had learned all my songs and sang along with me on every tune. Her name was Jenifer and she became one of my regulars until she passed away a few years later. I wrote the song “A Little Bit Fine” about her and performed it at her memorial service. I later recorded the song and it appears on my Return to Summer Lake (2000) album.

Bryce Quartz: Can you tell our readers a little bit of detail about how your lyrics and songs can relate to other bears in the community?

Steven Gellman: Many of my songs touch on topics of not always fitting in, feeling different from others, and finding ways of being that are authentic to who we are. When you find your tribe—your community—it’s a wonderful thing. But for many of us, finding community is a journey filled with twists and turns. My songs are always based on lived experiences and it is my hope that others will see themselves in the lyrics of my songs. 

Photo by: Tony Durborow

Bryce Quartz: Do you have any advice for other bears who might want to start a music journey themselves but might be hesitant to?

Steven Gellman: Starting anything new is always scary and I certainly get why someone might be hesitant. But, if you have a passion for music and a fire in your belly, you just gotta do it! Writing songs, performing live, and connecting with an audience is the best therapy you could ask for. Don’t worry about singing out of tune, playing the guitar badly, or writing a subpar song. You just have to start. You’ll learn and improve over time. If there is an artist you admire, dig a little deeper. What is it about them you love? Their songwriting? Their voice? Their look? Identify what it is about them that makes you feel something and strive to be like them. This will help you figure out the type of artist you want to be. Once you figure that out, try to sing or write a song in the vein of the artist, but take a left turn. Don’t try to sound or look exactly like them. Take inspiration and go in your own direction and you will find your own unique sound. 

Bryce Quartz: What can we expect next from you on your music journey as far as new music, music videos, and live shows?

Steven Gellman: I’m in the early planning stages for the video for my next single, “Just Like You, Just Like Me.” I want to have it out for Pride month in June and I want it to be a celebration of our vibrant, diverse community. I am always playing live in the Mid-Atlantic region and I hope to get back to touring. It’s been a while.

Also, at some point, I’ll return to songwriting and the process will repeat itself for my eleventh album. Although, I may take a detour and record an album of traditional Irish music. I always include a few Irish tunes in my setlists and audience members have been asking for an all-Irish album for years. I’ve been called the Jewish Leprechaun and at Matt Molloy’s in Westport, Ireland, the locals gave me the moniker Pavi Denver because they thought I was a cross between Pavarotti and John Denver. So, maybe I will call the album…Pavi Denver: The Jewish Leprechaun. Ha, ha!

Bryce Quartz: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! Anything else you’d like to add for our readers?

Steven Gellman: I just want to say thank you for this interview and the feature in Bear World Magazine. It’s a wonderful opportunity to speak directly to my peers and community. If your readers would like to learn more about me, and hear my music, they can visit my website at and find me on all major streaming services. Thanks again, Bryce, for your thoughtful questions and kindness. 

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