Instagram has quickly moved into a very treasured position in my life recently as it has been and continues to be the catalyst for the best encounters in my Amelia Island life. #ameliaisland has proven to be a very magical hashtag for me, similar to science fiction story where a stone or cloak or some other object transports a person to a place of unexpected adventure.
Stephen Mason was yet another hashtag driven encounter that began one day as I was walking through downtown, likely on a mission that involved food in some capacity. Now, I understand that this next statement will immediately cause a portion of my readership to jump ship, or at a minimum, send me a nasty note laced with insults and bullet points to prove my stance wrong, but here it is: There is no unique and quality live music that regularly performs on Amelia. None whatsoever. I understand that is a biased statement but I present to you the following: 1) I have incredibly solid musical knowledge and taste that most anyone who has spoken to me in depth will acknowledge. 2) This is my blog and I can therefore make whatever biased statements I like. 3) I own a Brittney Spears C.D. and therefore acknowledge that your love of the off-key cover of Jimmy Buffet may just be a guilty pleasure (or you may possibly be very drunk).
I digress. As I walked through downtown, I heard Bluegrass music played incredibly skillfully which immediately caught my attention. I saw a group, dressed the part, playing in the pocket park located just next to Amelia Island Coffee. I listened for a bit in wonderment at the scene, guessing that they were out-of-towners who did not understand that we only allow shoddy covers of Marshall Tucker Band and The Eagles in our parts. As I walked away, I did my usual and filed them away in my mind under “take note and locate.” Which I did.
In searching for #ameliaisland one morning, I ran across Stephen Mason. He posted pictures of his studio, instruments, and links to songs and albums. On the cover of one of these albums was the group from the pocket park-Smoky and the Bandits. Upon further exploration, I saw that these musicians live right here on the island. My next step was of course to contact Stephen to set up a meeting which he kindly accepted.
Fast forward several weeks to said meeting. Stephen invited me to visit his in-home studio for our chat. As I pulled into his driveway, I really had no idea what to expect from this encounter but was fully expecting to leave with a fuller view of life than I arrived with.
Stephen met me at the door and I immediately liked him. He has a warm presence about him that would put anyone at ease-much like a friend that you have known for years. He invited me into his studio that was designed by himself, his wife, and another woman who are creative partners. The colors and layout of the room struck me in the exact way that Stephen himself had upon first meeting: warm, inviting, and familiar. He explained that the colors of the studio were patterned after the Native American medicine wheel, incorporating spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental into the four walls based upon their orientation (North, South, East, West). The design elements also reflected the Native American spirit of the studio. I cannot relay fully the peaceful effect that this room had, but it was a place that I will always remember as one of the few locations that I felt totally at ease from the second that I stepped inside.
Back to the important details-the music. It is clear from the moment that I met Stephen that music is in his soul. He spoke to me about how, for many years, he worked in the science field and used the skills and knowledge that he acquired there to create the perfect acoustics of his studio as well as to produce music. I could write for hours about the wonderfully interesting information that he relayed to me but as this is just a blog entry, I have to keep this short. So I will just skip to the part where he demonstrated on his very cool equipment how he crafts and produces music and the part where he let me try out his super neat-o microphone that was special ordered from Germany (which he specifically noted that he had to receive permission from his wife to order). He demonstrated how he could make my voice sound “radio quality” and how he lays down killer drum beats before layering the rest of the sounds to create songs. I was in heaven.
Above all of the amazing music and technology and beautiful design elements of this encounter, I am left with the goodness that is Stephen himself. We spoke about philosophy, science, mu
sic, race relations, and Amelia Island. We spoke about community and travel and the importance of seeing life from the viewpoint of others. The conversation could have continued for days if time would allow. He is yet another person that I would consider to be a treasure of Amelia Island.
So here is your homework, Dear Readers, go take a listen to Stephen’s music. Two PM Junction is the primary recording group and you can find them here: twopmjunction.com
You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His local group, Smoky and the Bandits is available for performances at events locally which can be arranged by contacting Stephen via any o f the above-mention social media accounts. Lastly, and most excitingly, every other Thursday evening at 7:00pm, Mermaid Bar, located at The Florida House Inn, hosts an open mic night where Stephen plays.
This post cannot begin to do my meeting with Stephen adequate justice as his own words are far more valuable than anything I could relay to you. After this meeting I realize that I probably need to get my Amelia Island podcast up and running very soon in order to capture and share every bit of goodness that people like this have to offer the world. Stay tuned.