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  • Jonathan Widran

STEPHEN WRENCH, "Life's a Sham"

Connected in so many fascinating ways to rock and roll greatness that his official and off the record resume defies easy categorizations, Stephen Wrench is a living embodiment of the proverbial Renaissance Man and jack of all musical trades who, over the past 45+ years, has jammed with, managed, booked and produced shows and done radio promotions for legends and indie greats alike.

Though he’s worked with some of the most groundbreaking artists on the planet and performed all over the world on stages in front of thousands and at small-town honky tonks, the St. Augustine, FL based force of nature and creative free agent proudly proclaims he’s “played with everybody and every band but been a member of nothing.” Now, with a mindset fueled by the promise of a new decade, the man who’s proudly been standing on the shoulder of giants is diving headfirst into the next and perhaps most exciting phase of his multi-faceted career.

Having penned literally hundreds of songs in all genres for years – pop, rock, country, R&B, Americana, you name it – Wrench is shining a spotlight on them and unleashing them to the world. The multi-faceted singer/songwriter’s bold, brilliantly defiant, no holds barred single “Life’s a Sham” is the perfect showcase for his soulful, rootsy vocals and “calls it like he sees it” attitude. Driven by a musical vibe centered on acoustic guitar and dobro, the instantly infectious track has wide crossover potential (Americana, country, rock, pop, AC) and expresses some true-life philosophies that can only come with hard won wisdom and years of hopes and disappointments.

Wrench sings: “Sometimes I think that life’s a sham/Cause I’ll never be nothing but who I am. . .What’s right Oh I don’t have a clue /Just gotta do what you gotta do.” He later reveals: “I’ve had so many promises that fell on the floor/So many people that came in and out that door/I get confused, I’m tired of being used/But I just keep trying knowing I’m gonna lose.” In the end, despite all the reasons not to believe, there’s a sliver of optimism and renewed determination: “I’m hoping life won’t continue to be a sham/One day I’m gonna get up and know who I am/I’m gonna grab the world by the balls/I’m gonna squeeze life till I got it all/Then think I’ll do anything I wanna do.”

“Life’s a Sham” is the title track from Wrench’s upcoming solo debut album, which he recorded in Nashville. The collection will roll like a sampler of his across the board genius as a singer/songwriter whose musical and melodic creativity and lyrical depth and insight know no bounds. Don Henley may have said it perfectly (and with great understatement) when he told Wrench, “You have a unique style of songwriting.”

In addition to releasing the album of new material, Wrench is also eager to license gems from his treasure trove of songs to film and TV. From the gorgeous acoustic gem “Rainbow and The Sun” to the rebellious front porch rocker “Time to Break All The Rules” and quirky, freewheelin’ rocker “Smokin’ Tokin’ Rollin Man,” these tunes are both a reflection and culmination of Wrench’s crazy ride through rock, country and Southern Rock history. While waiting for the album, which will feature a mix of brand-new tunes and revamps of others he’s had bubbling over in the can for a while, those eager to check out the goods can explore his treasure trove of potential hits on his website. Each stream-able tune features an introductory anecdote written by Wrench.

Along that often broken, but triumphant enough to keep going road, he’s played extensively with members of Lynyrd Skynyrd; co-written with the late Tom Petty, the late Rocco Marshall (Grand Funk Railroad), the late Molly Hatchett’s founding member Banner Thomas, Tommy Tutone, Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd ) and Randall Hall (Lynyrd Skynyrd); chose fatherhood over signing with Columbia Records; turned down a tour with Vince Gill and Dwight Yoakam; tour managed and performed with a “Voices of Classic Rock” road show featuring the lead singers of Santana, Toto, Loverboy and others; helmed concert production for Tommy Tutone, Missing Persons, Survivor and many others; signed Collin Raye to his label that never made it off the ground; and managed Tommy Tutone (“far more than a one hit wonder”), late Survivor lead singer Jimi Jamison and Missing Persons. He is also a featured interview subject in the Amazon Bestseller “Profile of a Hit Songwriter,” by Lacie Carpenter and Thornton Cline.

Just so we don’t leave anyone out – and because you asked, or even if you didn’t – here’s a complete list of those Wrench has been associated with in some capacity throughout his frolicsome and harrowing career in the shadows of greatness: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toto, Loverboy, Missing Persons, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band, Eddie and the Cruisers, Dr. Hook, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Bad Company, Bonnie Raitt, Tommy Tutone, Survivor, Rossington Collins Band, Rick Springfield, John Anderson, Starship, Darryl Worley, Dr. Hook, David Allen Coe, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, Ozzy Osbourne, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Ryan Starr, The Flamingos, Sister Hazel, Blessid Union of Souls, Craig Campbell, Grand Funk Railroad, ABBA, Chad Brock, Michael Peterson, Daryl Worley, Lonestar, Mona Lisa Twins, Shenandoah, Collin Raye, and yes, the infamous “many more.”

For the past ten years, Wrench’s “day job” has been President of Musik and Film, whose Musik Radio Promotions service provides customized radio promotion packages tailored for each artist that include a network of 250,000+ radio stations in 180 countries. These campaigns, created for artists in essentially all genres but rap, are targeted to 95% of FM stations and major networks around the world. The company also provides production services by platinum producers who have worked with everyone from Bob Seger and Damien Rice to Skynyrd, Van Morrison, Lady Antebellum, Ozzy, Coldplay, Elton John, Keith Urban and Blake Shelton. In addition, Musik and Film has the most comprehensive distribution in the world through Sony, Universal, Danmark and Big Band in South Korea. Wrench and his team have the means to get their artists’ music into every country on the globe.

Wrench grew up in Syracuse, New York, where athletics took precedent over music – to the point of being offered five football scholarships coming out of high school. Claiming he had no interest in music, when Wrench was 11 his older brother, a musician, had to bribe him to sing at a talent show in Fairmount. Everything changed, of course, when he realized in his mid-teens that he could play the guitar, saw the Rolling Stones in ’65 and, more significantly, was blown away by a Buffalo Springfield show at Le Moyne College. Then, as he tells the tale, “In 1969, I was returning from a tour of Boston College as a football recruit and spotted a sign on the side of the road: ‘Concert Here.’ I followed the signs to Woodstock.”

Like a lot of industry vets who have done it all and seen as many foxholes and trenches as glorious moments of transcendence, Wrench has a definite love/hate relationship with what he calls a “cutthroat business.” Yet his passion for performing and especially songwriting has never wavered.

“Not long before he passed away, I had the opportunity to talk to Eddie Money at what would turn out to be one of his final shows,” he says. “I asked him why he was still performing even though he was sick, and he said, ‘This is what I do.’ I feel the same way about my playing, singing and songwriting. I’m a musician and creator. I would still write and record these songs even if there was no chance they would ever get published and heard. And when I’m performing, I will close my eyes and essentially let my soul out of my body.

“When you can touch people and make people feel that…when their hair is standing up as they feel the transcendence…then you’ve accomplished your goal. After spending too many years on the sidelines, I’m really excited about people hearing my songs and experiencing me as an artist firsthand.”

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