Steve Poltz '85 is a well-known singer songwriter, whose zest for life and zany sense of humor bring joy to fans everywhere. He may be a joker, but in this interview Poltz shared his heartwarming thoughts on the performing life, which reveal a deep passion for his work as an artist.
When did you graduate from USD? What did you study?
I graduated way back in 1985 before the Internet existed. We rode horses on campus and were allowed to carry guns. The water fountains spewed whiskey from their silver taps and a lone sheriff kept the peace on campus between Cowboys and Indians. I lived in a cave where the Jenny Craig Pavilion now stands. I mostly slept under the stars and cooked wieners and beans from a frying pan held over a campfire. I studied Political Science with a minor in Spanish.
Why political science and Spanish?
I'm not sure. All I know is I went to a counselor and asked how I could graduate with the amount of units I had and she said, "Well Steve, it looks like you could be a Political Science major and be out of here by 1985 with flying colors. "It also looks like you're well on your way to having a minor in Spanish." "Que bueno," I said with extra enthusiasm. "I'm terrible at chemistry and math and Political Science means never having to say you're sorry for being right brained!"
"I mostly just read in the library and went to church everyday. I was a model citizen. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
You co-wrote the hit song "You Were Meant for Me" while vacationing in Mexico with the lovely singer Jewel. It became the longest-running song on Billboard's top 100. Are you an adventure seeker, or do exciting things just happen to you?
Adventure just seeks me out like a cookie attracts ants. Jewel made me a cup of throat coat hippie tea for my blown out vocal chords from too many late gigs with The Rugburns. She was working at this little place called Java Joe's in Poway. I thought she was nice, so I invited her back to my beach pad and we drew pictures and played guitar until the sun came up. Next thing you know, we were off on a surfing trip to Mexico and we ended up going out whale watching with four Mexican Federales and we unintentionally ended up accompanying them on a drug bust on a remote island, where they confiscated tons of marijuana. The pics are on the Internet. It was all pretty exciting stuff. The next morning we wrote "You Were Meant For Me" from our hotel room in Bahia De San Luis Gonzaga. It was like a runaway train on a songwriting collision course.
Did you ever do anything crazy on the USD campus?
No. I mostly just read in the library and went to church everyday. I was a model citizen. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Who knows who reads this stuff? One time I almost skipped class, but then I prayed and decided I might go to hell so I decided to go to class, but I was five minutes late. I still feel guilty about that. I feel guilty about everything. I feel guilty that I didn't catch Osama Bin Laden even though I'm not a Navy Seal. Perhaps I need to see a psychologist about this. I'm always packing my bags for guilt trips but they're Louis Vuitton bags so at least I look stylish.
"Adventure just seeks me out like a cookie attracts ants."
You've seen success as the front man for The Rugburns, and you've also had a fantastic solo career. Any advice for undergraduates who would like to become performers?
Don't do it. You'll break your parents' hearts. These educations don't grow on trees, for gosh sakes! But if you feel you must, then practice everyday until you get your 10,000 hours in. Play because it moves you and your soul would wither without it. It's a lonely life out on the road with tremendous lows and beautiful mountaintop highs. I wouldn't do anything else. I couldn't do anything else. Sometimes it feels like it's a curse handed down to me from my from Cape Breton ancestry. I have to do it and I feel mostly lucky and grateful.
- Anne Malinoski '11