Steve Poltz
Steve Poltz

Steve Poltz

About Steve Poltz

An alt-folk singer/songwriter and all-around nonconformist, Steve Poltz has had a colorful career since striking out with San Diego cowpunk cult faves the Rugburns in the early '90s. Along the way, the Canadian-American co-wrote Jewel's 1995 hit "You Were Meant for Me," and made a short major-label run of his own before steering his solo career back into the D.I.Y. realm with a string of eclectic releases in the 2000s that alternately showcased his offbeat humor and warm sincerity. As likely to veer off into exploratory pop avenues as play it straight and acoustic, Poltz established himself as a hard-touring troubadour and festival mainstay while issuing acclaimed albums like 2008's Traveling and Unraveling, 2010's Dreamhouse, and 2016's Folksinger. Long associated with his adopted hometown of San Diego, Poltz surprised fans by relocating to Nashville and signing his first label deal in 20 years, yielding the 2019 Red House release Shine On.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Poltz's family immigrated to the U.S. when he was young, and eventually settled in San Diego, California. During his college days at the University of San Diego, he began playing with another guitarist named Robert Driscoll and they formed the freewheeling cowpunk band the Rugburns, who toured throughout America in the early '90s nurturing a small cult audience. During his time with the Rugburns, Poltz struck up a friendship with Jewel, who was a struggling singer/songwriter in California at the time. The two began collaborating, writing a number of songs together including "You Were Meant for Me," which was included on her debut solo album, Pieces of You. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the initial release of Pieces of You, "You Were Meant for Me" became a hit single, eventually spending well over 14 months on the American charts. With the success of the single, the label was interested in Poltz, who had left the Rugburns by then. He signed to Mercury and began recording his solo debut, One Left Shoe, which was released in March 1998. Though solidly received, a maverick independent like Poltz chafed within the major-label system and by 2003, he'd formed his own label, 98 Pounder Records, which he inaugurated with Chinese Vacation. Over the next several years, Poltz updated the D.I.Y. methods of his early days, touring hard and releasing independent albums like 2008's autobiographical Traveling and its simultaneously released quirkier cousin Unraveling. His music continued to evolve in curious ways with acoustic-based songwriting still forming its core, but following any creative whim that seemed to suit him. The alt-folk of releases like 2010's Dreamhouse and 2012's Noineen Noiny Noin was followed in 2014 by a raucous and gritty electric outing The Accident. Poltz even composed the soundtrack to the documentary film Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde.
Ever the road warrior, he survived a stroke on-stage in Delaware in late 2014 and somehow managed to stick around to sign CDs afterward before being driven to the hospital. Poltz returned to performing in early 2015 and delivered his next album, Folksinger, a year later. By 2018, he'd left his longtime home of San Diego, a city he'd lived in and identified with since 1980, and moved to Nashville. In another surprising move, he signed with Red House Records, his first label since the Mercury deal in the late '90s. Working with renewed vigor in a new location, Poltz paired with producer Will Kimbrough to record Shine On, his 2019 debut for Red House. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

  • HOMETOWN
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • BORN
    February 19, 1960
  • GENRE