Steve Poltz tasted success with the Rugburns on their 1996 Pop/Punk college radio breakout Taking the World by Donkey, but his co-write with Jewel on “You Were Meant For Me” gave him the leverage to start his solo career. It began a decade ago with One Left Shoe, but he ultimately opted out of his Mercury contract to self-release his own quirky masterpieces: Answering Machine (56 songs, 45 seconds each, all of which had been Poltz’s outgoing messages), Live at Largo’s, Chinese Vacation and a live DVD.
After a four-and-a-half year studio absence, the release earlier this year of Traveling was exciting news for fans of his smartass/serious Folk/Pop. His rigorous touring regimen notwithstanding, Poltz had a good reason for the gap.
“I’d started my own label, 98 Pounder Records, I had to find distribution, I was going through this break-up and I quit drinking,” says Poltz. “That’s why I ended up making two CDs, because it’d been so long.”
There are, in fact, two new albums. Traveling, many of its songs inspired by the upheaval in Poltz’s life, is in wide release while its companion piece, Unraveling, is available only at Poltz’s live shows. Given his newfound sobriety and the beginning of new chapters personally and professionally, Poltz’s latest songs seem to spring from a fresh source. While he still offers his patented sense of the absurd, its percentage is decidedly lower.
“The older I get, the more devil-may-care attitude I have,” says Poltz. “I wrote a song recently called ‘Things You Should Know About Me,’ and I sing, ‘I like to use humor as a crutch.’ It’s kind of a funny song, so saying it makes it funnier. I think I’ve become more honest in songs, rather than just trying to be clever for clever’s sake.”