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Steven Graves

music LYLBStevenGravesSteven Graves has started to dream in songs. The 48-year-old Capitola resident heard the lyrics to his latest in the gray space between waking and sleep. “I wrote the whole song in about 20 minutes, got up, laid down the guitar parts—I’ve never been able to do that before,” he laughs. A dream is a fitting metaphor for Graves’ career. A former land use consultant, he left the field in 2010 to pursue his passion for music.

Since then, he’s released two studio albums and an EP, the latter of which peaked at No. 29 on the jambands.com Radio Charts. Matter of Time, released this month, continues the dream motif with Dali-esque melting clocks on the cover and shifting musical styles. Slipping from country, to jam band, to Neil Young-reminiscent Americana tracks, the album demonstrates great versatility. But Graves’ reggae-infused tunes are most memorable. “Mr. Sunshine,” with its horn section and tent-revival organ, is a standout. “Early in my career, I struggled with that because people would listen to my music and say, ‘Oh, you’re a reggae band,’” he remembers. “I’ve since come full circle.” But for Graves, it’s not just about the music, but raising awareness for green initiatives. “I was always looking for a way to marry my musical art with social justice and change in the world,” he says. “[Music is] a unique and creative way for me to do that.” Targeting the Native American plight on the reservation, Graves released the single “White Buffalo,” along with a special edition of Matter of Time, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Lakota Pine Ridge Enrichment Project and five other charities. His goal is to raise $10,000 for the cause. Ambitious? Graves admits it. But if the past two years have taught him anything, it’s that dreams do come true.

INFO: 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. Aptos Grange, 2555 Mar Vista Drive, Aptos. $12/door. All ages. 325-1219.

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Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

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