MIDLIFE CRISIS OR DESTINY?

By Adrianne Hamilton
Managing Editor
Be Inkandescent Magazine

Who says you can’t be a rocker in your 40s? Be Inkandescent Magazine’s managing editor Adrianne Hamilton interviews Steve Houk, 49, lead singer of the popular DC cover band Second Wind.

In addition to being the Director of Marketing at WUSA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, Steve Houk is a hero to every middle-aged man (and woman) who wanted to grow up to be a rock star. He’s the lead singer of the wildly popular cover band Second Wind, and author of the well-read blog, Midlife Rocker, www.midliferocker.com.

On Saturday evening, May 22, Steve and his band played at the Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington to a faithful crowd. Before the concert began, Steve sat down with Be Inkandescent Magazine’s managing editor Adrianne Hamilton, who in her spare time is also the lead singer in two other DC bands, Longtooth and the Parklawn Ramblers.

Following is what Steve told Adrianne about his life, his passion, and what it means to be rocking at 49.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: How did the band get started?

Steve Houk: About four years ago, band founder John Nicholas and his wife hosted a preschool silent auction meeting that my wife attended. They got to talking and John said he wanted to form a band, and was in the market for a lead singer.

Knowing that was a secret dream of mine, my wife came home and asked me — and although I was nervous as hell, I gave it a shot. In fact, driving over to the first practice I nearly chickened out, but figured I had nothing to lose.

The first song we played was “Jack and Diane,” and it felt like I had been doing it for 25 years. Now, the band plays about 15 gigs a year and it’s the greatest experience, other than seeing my kids born, graduating from college, and getting married.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: Can you introduce us to the band?

Steve Houk: Of course. (L-R above) John Nicholas plays guitar and harmonica, then there’s me on lead vocals and percussion, Sam Elson on drums, Bob McClelland on lead and rhythm guitar and background vocals and Dan Stephan on bass, flute and background vocals.

Last year, miraculously we nailed a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in DC. Now that was a real thrill to be singing in a place that’s a monument to rock and roll. To be playing in the same room with The Temptations’ hand-written lyrics and Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt – it was pretty intense. And I think they liked us because every few months they ask us to come back and play. We’re playing there again on October 1st.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: You write a music blog called midliferocker.com, where you interview some pretty famous musicians. What came first, the blog or the band?

Steve Houk: The blog was born from my experience playing in the band, and it was a natural progression. Being in the TV business, I’m a journalist at heart and just wanted to kind of combine both my passions. There are few things more exciting than spending 25 minutes on the phone with Buddy Guy or Peter Frampton or Yoko Ono. What amazes me most is how kind and genuine they are.

The interview with Yoko was especially great because I felt like she was one degree of separation from John Lennon, who is a real hero of mine. She was so incredibly lovely and sweet and kind, and treated me like I was David Fricke or somebody from Rolling Stone.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: What is your earliest memory of hearing a rock song that you loved?

Steve Houk: My mother tells me that I was in her womb when the Beatles were big, and the reason that I love music started with my parents. They played everything from “West Side Story” soundtracks to Russian Folk music to Wes Montgomery to the Beatles to Neil Diamond.

While I can’t pick out an earliest memory, I remember buying Jim Croce’s, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” and Elton John’s, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” My parents also had a huge collection of LP’s, which I still have and play on an old turntable, at will.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Steve Houk: I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, and when I was 7 years old I published “The Houk Reporter,” which was our family newspaper. I wrote stories like, “Thanksgiving Turkey Exceeds Expectations” and “Cats Fight in Front Yard.”

Then, I wanted to be a DJ, and was the music director of the Boston University station — the same one Howard Stern infamously worked, called WTBU. Then I got worried that spinning records all my life would get boring, so I started working in TV. Eventually I landed in the marketing department, and that career really seems to fit.

Be Inkandescent Magazine: There’s a lovely quote by Jack London on your Facebook page. “I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet… the function of man is to live, not to merely exist.” Is this what you tell other middle-aged folks about going after their dreams?

Steve Houk: Absolutely. It’s never too late to go after your dreams. When you’re on the planet, live! I’m not being reckless, and hope I live until I’m at least 85 years old, but I want to be able to look back and say I really lived my life — and I think I have. It has been a great ride so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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