“I’ve made a conscious decision throughout my life not to be confined, musically,” says Curtis Stigers. “For me, it’s all about the song, about the story.”
For the award-winning singer, songwriter, and saxophonist, the story keeps getting better. His string of hit singles, millions of albums sold, and a 28-year recording career aside, Stigers’ commitment to artistic growth, and to bringing new tunes to the Great American Songbook, has become unparalleled in modern music.
Barnstorming concert halls, festivals and clubs everywhere from Moscow to Manhattan, accompanied one night by his quartet, another by big band or orchestra, Stigers continues to release new work nearly every year, frequently collaborating with his musical heroes. Along the way, this musician who began his career playing standards in a Boise hotel lobby while moonlighting as drummer in a punk rock band has redefined the constitution of contemporary jazz singing.
“I was the kid who worshipped songs and the musicians who wrote and recorded them,” he remembers. “Back then, pop radio played everything from Aretha Franklin to Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye to Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell to Elton John. I loved it all, and I studied it.” Often euphoric and always elegant, Stigers possesses a curator’s knack for hearing a song, framing its heart, and making it his own—be it the work of Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Wilco, or The Kinks.
Stigers’ repertoire is a reflection of his appreciation for the fundaments of tone and craft, and for quality—the progression of his work is both organic and practical. “Jazz songs used to be pop songs. Jazz has always been about reinvention,” Stigers notes.
Perhaps because he has penned so many notable songs himself, as well as writing with the likes of legends like Carole King and Barry Mann, Stigers has come to recognize the small, perfect things that are a great melody and lyric, and how to capture them. That songwriting talent also led to an Emmy nomination for co-writing and singing the theme song to the wildly successful TV series Sons Of Anarchy.
It is his rich singing voice, however—singular, balletic, and at turns both mournful and playful—that has landed him on records with the likes of Al Green, Shawn Colvin, in studios with venerated producers like Larry Klein, Danny Kortchmar, and Glen Ballard, and on stages and concert bills with a plethora of legends, including pop and rock greats Eric Clapton, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Prince, Rod Stewart and The Allman Brothers, and jazz giants Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau, Gerry Mulligan, Randy and Michael Brecker, Chuck Mangione, Toots Thielmans, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, Diana Krall, John Scofield, and many more.
After being mentored in his early years by legendary jazz pianist Gene Harris, and by the great jazz singer Mark Murphy, his unique talent was recognized by music business impresario Clive Davis, who signed Stigers to a record deal after hearing him in a New York restaurant. A debut album sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide on the strength of self-penned hit singles like “I Wonder Why,” “You’re All That Matters to Me,” and “Never Saw a Miracle.” A year later, Stigers contributed a cover version of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” to The Bodyguard soundtrack, which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Multiple appearances on The Tonight Show, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Today Show, and countless international TV shows, put Stigers directly in the spotlight of popular culture. Stigers also made cameo appearances in the movie comedies Ted and Ted 2, written and directed by his friend, Seth MacFarlane.
Born in Hollywood, raised in Idaho and transplanted to Manhattan, he now resides, between concert appearances, back in Boise, where he’s proud to help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the Interfaith Sanctuary Homeless Shelter.