Steve Bell is a songwriter, storyteller, and troubadour for our time. Over the course of a 30 year solo career, he has been sharing a message of love, hope and faith through songs, stories, and writings. He is a purveyor of truth and beauty and champion of kindness, on a focused mission for “refreshing Christian faith and spiritual tradition for the weary and the wary.” He is a mentor to many, and an advocate of numerous meaningful causes.
Steve Bell is a resolute Christian pilgrim; a spiritual sommelier; a ‘deeper-life’ troubadour…” Jim Van Eerden, award-winning film producer
Raised in a musical recording and touring family, Steve learned to play guitar in Drumheller Prison when he was 8 years old (father was a federal prison chaplain).
Member of Winnipeg’s acclaimed Elias, Schritt & Bell in early 80’s and active in Winnipeg’s studio and night-club scene throughout the decade
Since 1989 has independently released 20 solo CDs with combined sales of over 400,000 units.
CDs have been awarded 3 JUNOs with another 3 nominations (includes Roberta Hansen’s win for best packaging design on Steve’s 4-disc boxset Pilgrimage).
CDs have won 4 Western Canadian Music awards, numerous GMA and Prairie Music awards including Producer of the Year in 2002.
Since 1989 has performed over 2000 concerts to over a half million people in 15 countries including Ireland, Bulgaria, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Poland, and throughout the US and Caribbean.
Symphony concerts (30 and counting) have played to sold-out and capacity crowds in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Burlington, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Nashville and with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Massey Hall.
Advocacy work has raised significant support for organizations like World Vision, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Compassion Canada, and the North End Family Centre (Winnipeg).
Recipient of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded to select Canadians who have “made a significant contribution to their fellow countrymen, their community, or to Canada over the previous sixty years.”
Recipient of the WSO’s 2013 Golden Baton Award
Co-authored book on Psalms with Jamie Howison.
Has won 3 Word Guild Awards for song lyrics, poetry and published articles.
Authored a seven-book series on the spirituality of the Christian calendar year called Pilgrim Year. The books are accompanied by a 2 CD compilation set of the music highlighting the Christian calendar year songs that Steve has produced over his career. Steve has also developed a corresponding retreat.
Steve Bell | Short Bio
Rarely does one come across an artist whose career has been as varied as it is focused. On each journey his music takes him, Manitoba-based singer/songwriter Steve Bell consistently plumbs the depths of beauty and truth while maintaining a humble generosity—a robust kindness—that has profoundly impacted the lives of countless individuals. More than a quarter-century since the release of Steve’s first solo album, his accomplishments continue to demonstrate his commitment to excellence and creativity, as well as his marked dedication to the performing arts within Canada and beyond.
A modern-day troubadour, Steve composes eloquent songs and sings them in his charming vocal style, accompanied by rootsy guitar riffs and storytelling prowess that are uniquely his own. He uses these remarkable gifts to share a message of hope that resonates deeply within the hearts and souls of fans, providing both solace and inspiration. It is this connection, rather than platinum plaques to hang on the wall, that is Bell’s true goal and his most real achievement.
Despite having flown under the radar in terms of media recognition, Steve Bell’s career statistics are striking. To date he has put out a total of 20 albums which have sold well over 400,000 copies independently. Add in four concert videos, five songbooks, and more than 2000 shows, and you have a body of work equaled by few artists in any genre. Over the past several years Bell has also performed his material 30 times with nine different symphony orchestras, often to capacity crowds including Massey Hall in Toronto. Refuge31 Films released a feature length documentary about his career and life journey, entitled Burning Ember: The Steve Bell Journey.
These endeavors have led not only to commercial success for Steve’s self-launched record label Signpost Music, but have also garnered a stream of accolades including three JUNO Awards, numerous Western Canadian and Prairie Music Awards, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. His rare longevity, marked by a commitment to his vocation as equally social and artistic, has earned him a large and loyal fan base that continues to grow both in Canada and the United States.
After a storied lifetime of contribution to the Canadian music industry, Steve remains compelled to express his art in the wider context of bounty and need. As such, he has mentored several emerging artists and worked with various organizations to promote arts and education. He also uses his stage to attract attention, build awareness, and provide thoughtful helps to the world’s less fortunate and resourced—locally, nationally and internationally—represented by such worthy organizations as Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Compassion Canada, Siloam Mission, and the National Roundtable on Homelessness and Poverty.
In addition to his year-round touring schedule and increasing number of speaking engagements at conferences and universities, Bell has written articles for various publications; co-published a book on the Psalms with Jamie Howison; and recently completed a seven-book boxset called Pilgrim Year, which features reflections on the spirituality of the Christian liturgical calendar that incorporate story, song, poetry and art. He lives with his wife Nanci in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory and homeland of the Métis Nation.
Long Bio | Steve Bell
Troubadour for our Time: Songwriter, Storyteller, Writer, Mentor, Advocate
Increasingly over the course of his 30 year solo career, Steve Bell has been referred to as a modern-day troubadour, namely a lyric poet or musician who is sent to bear a message of love. A storyteller at heart, Steve often recounts how his vocation as a singer-songwriter, borne of a deep sense of calling, has led him down avenues entirely unforeseen. As humble as he is talented, however, Steve leaves it up to his loyal fan base to recount the infinite ways he has spoken into their lives—as a purveyor of truth and beauty, a champion of kindness, a mentor and an advocate.
Born in Calgary in 1960, Steve’s life centered on music since childhood. His father was a Baptist minister, and his mother a gifted classical pianist, guitar player, and songwriter. Whilst he was bathed in the piano melodies of Gershwin and the classics, it was the guitar that most captured Steve’s attention. He taught himself to play by observing his mother’s skills and practicing on her guitar whenever she left the room. Eventually he was caught, but his parents, impressed by his abilities, purchased him a guitar of his own.
His skills were further honed in a medium-security penitentiary where his father was a chaplain. The inmates, some of whom where great guitar pickers in the Chet Atkins style, were permitted to have jam sessions in the chapel on Saturday afternoons. When they realized Steve’s captivation during one of their bluegrass jams, they invited him to grab a guitar and sit in. Steve often reminisces at concerts that one reason why he tours the world now is because several of Canada’s most unwanted men invested in him when he was eight years old.
Steve’s recording career began at age 13 when his family’s gospel band, The Alf Bell Family Singers, recorded an LP; the album contains some of his earliest songwriting. After graduating from high school he was a member of a succession of bands playing various musical genres ranging from folk to jazz-rock, novelty and country. For three years he played with the Manitoba folk trio Elias, Schritt & Bell, which found regional success and released one commercial studio album in 1982. Bell eventually left the band and performed with various artists until 1988 when he withdrew from performing. It was during this period that his childhood Christian faith became reanimated and over a six-month period he wrote most of the material for his first three solo projects. Faced with a lack of interest from established labels he formed the Winnipeg-based independent record label Signpost Music in 1989 and released his first album, Comfort My People, which comprised 300 cassettes.
Steve was soon joined by Mid-Ocean Recording Studios founder Dave Zeglinski, who has been a co-producer and business partner in Signpost Music ever since. Subsequent albums were increasingly lauded for their high calibre production and instrumental values, such that Bell won his first JUNO in 1997 for the brand new category of Best Gospel Album. Since then, Bell has gone on to release 20 albums, 4 concert DVDs, 5 songbooks, and a co-authored book on the Psalms. His work has earned him three JUNOs, four Western Canadian Music Awards, three Prairie Music Awards, eleven Gospel Music Association Covenant Awards, and many more nominations. In 2014 he was the subject of the award-winning feature length documentary Burning Ember: The Steve Bell Journey by Refuge 31 Films, a superb narrative on the true meaning of “success” in not only the music industry, but in one’s overall life and vocation.
With over 2000 concerts under his belt, Bell has developed his own musical style, one that shines in vividly contrasting settings. Like any talented troubadour, he can enchant—both in concert and on disc—armed only with guitar and voice. On top of his eloquent songwriting and gently melodic, charming vocal style, Bell’s charismatic performances are lauded for his compelling stories that give history and context to already rich lyrics. Steve takes his role as a storyteller very seriously. “When you tell stories, whether through song or through speaking, it is thrilling to watch people engage and respond so deeply. You realize what a service it is you are offering people. They might suddenly imagine a different universe or simply take a needed, brief respite from their daily life. You can help them laugh or cry, and perhaps make emotional, social or spiritual connections they would not otherwise. When you’re onstage you can see it happening to people right in front of your eyes. That’s really magical.”
The inherent melodic strength of Steve Bell’s material and its potential for musical expansion renders it perfect for translation to an orchestral setting. An unexpected invitation from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2007 led to a sold out concert hall debut (with scores masterfully composed by Mike Janzen), demonstrating the extent to which Steve’s music is celebrated by the wider community. The resulting Symphony Sessions album captured this magical collaboration, flourishing into 30 performances to date with nine different symphony orchestras, including the prestigious Nashville Symphony at Opryland, USA. In December of 2011, Steve fulfilled a life-long dream of performing, to a rapt capacity-crowd, at Massey Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. For his “skill, his musicality, for his connection with the symphony, and for his openness,” Steve was awarded the Winnipeg Symphony Golden Baton Award.
Bell has also recruited some of Canada’s best players to record and tour with him: an impressive list including the likes of Hugh and Fergus Marsh, pianist Mike Janzen, and bassist Gilles Fournier. “I always ensure that in any Steve Bell band, I am the weakest link,” he cites. “I learn like crazy and I play better when I’m around people like that. Those guys will suck the ego right out of you. You realize they’re in it for the music and the beauty of those moments.” Additionally, Signpost Music began taking on new artists in 2003, the first being Jacob Moon, followed by others whom Steve has mentored over the years. Steve has a particular generosity in his recognition and encouragement of emerging artists that has seen many of them flourish in successful careers of their own.
Bell’s critically acclaimed 2011 release, Kindness, was inspired by the recognition that the simplest words carry the greatest freight: Love. Kindness. Grace. Beauty. Truth. Goodness. In Steve’s words, “kindness, hardly a quaint sentiment, is fundamental to the fabric of authentic, good life. Neither utopian nor naïve, sustainable kindness flows from a deeply internalized knowledge of the kinship of all things—what the saints have always known—that a lived regard for the other, cherishing (even enemies) is the sanest way forward.”
Amidst his intensive North American touring schedule, Bell has consistently found time to live out this kindness in tangible ways. Working on behalf of such worthy aid organizations as World Vision, Compassion Canada, and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, his advocacy efforts have helped raise awareness and significant financial support. A close association with the National Roundtable on Homelessness and Poverty has helped draw attention to the plight of Canada’s marginalized. Steve has served on the Board of Directors for Street Level, a Canadian forum on homelessness designed to educate those who serve the poor and disadvantaged, as well as on the Board of Directors for Winnipeg’s North End Family Centre, a community gathering place that provides a comfortable and safe environment for empowering families to overcome the challenges of living with poverty.
In 2005, Steve released a two-disc compilation, Solace for Seasons of Suffering, to comfort people who were sick or grieving, inspired by a fan who was dying of cancer. Steve interviewed him, and samples of the interview are on the second disc of the compilation titled Can God Be Trusted, which also includes guests John Stackhouse, Jamie Howison, Chris Vais and Glen Soderholm. With the help of IncarNATION Ministries, Signpost Music has been able to give away thousands of albums to those who are in need of comfort, mostly through palliative care centers, counselors, pastors and community organizations. For contributing “beauty and goodness” to the life of Winnipeg citizens, Steve received the Cantate Award Citation from St. Benedict’s Monastery.
Having traveled extensively in the Third World, Bell spreads hope via his music and message to communities in India, Thailand, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Palestine, Kenya, Guatemala, and many other countries. He views such work as part of his responsibility as an artist. “To some degree, it is our job to go and have those experiences, bring them back, and find a way to articulate them. We are given unique opportunities and I think we have a social responsibility to help others experience things they wouldn’t otherwise. And perhaps through our witness they become self-motivated to engage with some of the issues. If I can tell a story or sing a song that places someone in Calcutta or the Afar Desert of Ethiopia, they’ll never be the same.” For this commitment to social concerns, along with dedication to excellence in his craft, Steve was awarded the Distinguished Leader Award from Providence University College, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
On the heels of receiving a JUNO, a Western Canadian Music Award, and two GMA Covenant Awards for his ambitions 25th anniversary boxset Pilgrimage, Steve shows no signs of slowing down. Alongside his extensive touring schedule, Steve’s newest undertaking was to record and press a vinyl record using retro analogue technology. He and long-time manager / producer Dave Zeglinski recently refurbished and fired up their old equipment to lovingly and painstaking record Steve’s latest collection of new material using the old techniques they had perfected in the early days of working together. Partly for the nostalgia of it, and partly to determine once-and-for-all whether analogue actually does sound richer than digital, the project—titled Where the Good Way Lies—was released on vinyl as well as compact disc in fall 2016. In 2018, Steve began a new direction furthering his writing career with a seven-book series on the spirituality of the Christian calendar year, called Pilgrim Year. Accompanying the books is a two-disc CD compilation highlighting music cited in the book.
Over the past few years, Steve has also been invited to speak and perform at an increasing number of conferences and university courses, sharing his depth of wisdom on topics ranging from prayer, the psalms, and the liturgical calendar, to issues around poverty and justice, First Nations people, and arts and faith. He is a purveyor of knowledge and insight regarding our cultural milieu, offering glimpses of truth and shared humanity among young and old alike.
Steve’s career has been marked equally by achievements and disappointments, triumphs and letdowns, but he continues to persevere in his vision of truth, beauty, and goodness, ever expanding his artistic boundaries and challenging the definition of success. Underlying it all is the simple fact that Steve Bell’s music, words, and concerts resonate deeply within the hearts and souls of his fans, providing both solace and inspiration. It is this connection, rather than platinum plaques to hang on the wall, that is Bell’s true goal and his most real accomplishment. “This is a social thing we are doing,” Steve explains. “It is public work, not just a musical commodity where we are trying to sell as many albums as we can.”
And so, whether onstage for an acoustic guitar solo set, with an orchestra, or with a band performing pop-jazz material that spotlights the prowess of the gifted artists who tour with him, Steve Bell has forged a path that is uniquely his own. With artistry and talent shaped by faith, music rich in the seasons and things to savor in life, he certainly has stories to tell. It’s been an extraordinary journey—one that holds just as much promise for the future.
For more information, contact:
Dave Zeglinski / Signpost Music
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