Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

MUSiCIAN REMEMBERED – Paul Stephens (right) performs with Lonnie Powell in the Jarvis Street Saloon in 2016. Stephens died last month after having been diagnosed with cancer.

Musicians rallied around terminally-ill colleague

Matthew Lien, a Yukon musician and producer, and 18 Yukon and B.C. musicians came together for their late friend and colleague, Paul Stephens.

By Whitehorse Star on August 5, 2022

Matthew Lien, a Yukon musician and producer, and 18 Yukon and B.C. musicians came together for their late friend and colleague, Paul Stephens.

The musician had been diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of cancer.

An accomplished bassist, vocalist and songwriter, Stephens had been a principal member of the B.C. and Yukon music scenes, recording and performing right up until his diagnosis.

Prior to moving to Vancouver Island about six years ago, Stephens had been a long-time Yukon resident.

He’d played in several bands including Comox, Going South, The Studebakers, All Stars Blues Band, Cook Street Band, Clave, Big Soul, The Groovies, Jazz in the Hall Project and The Sean Grieve Committee.

He’d also played on innumerable recordings for various artists, and had accompanied Lien on several of his international concert tours and album recordings.

Upon learning in early March that Stephens had terminal cancer and had ceased public performing, Lien set a plan in motion to enable Stephens to create “one last song.”

That song, entitled I’m Gonna Pray, had been composed years earlier by a mutual friend and colleague (and former Yukoner), singer-songwriter Paul Gatien.

I’m Gonna Pray was inspired by the vision of a parent holding their infant child while watching the evening news.

A song of hope, love and gratitude, Lien said Wednesday, it seemed highly suitable as Stephens’ final song.

As word spread about the recording project, a host of musicians contacted Lien, eager to be involved, while friends and family donated to a GoFundMe campaign to cover some of the expenses.

Stephens’ compromised immune system and logistical challenges precluded the ability to accommodate everyone, but Lien’s dedication to the project enabled 18 musicians to participate, recording in six studios and with seven engineers.

Stephens was recorded first, and remained hands-on for every session thereafter.

As each musician recorded their parts, they expressed their love and their farewell to their friend.

It became clear that this was more than a project for Stephens alone; it was a means for many friends to forge a final connection through the language they knew best.

Stephens and his wife, Maureen, flew to California for the final two-day mix-down session, where he helped oversee the sonic blending 
 of instruments.

To infuse the music with a striking life-like quality, Lien employed his award-winning immersive audio format, Full Circle Sound, for 
 the recording.

The technical production combined with the talented musicianship has resulted in a mind-blowing, multi-layered listening experience.

At the conclusion of the mix-down, Lien said, Stephens was overjoyed as he listened to the completed song.

He died 10 days later.

Musicians who recorded for the project include Teri Elson (vocals), Paul Gatien (vocals), Dave Haddock (gongs), Bob Hamilton (lap steel), Mike Harris (cymbals, shakers), Ed Henderson (guitars), Selina Heyligers-Hare (vocals), Todd Hooge (tambourine), Daniel Janke (kora) and Rebecca Law (vocals).

Lien handled the piano, B3 and vocals, while other participants were Andrea McColeman (metallic percussion), George McConkey (harmonica), Blair Mitchell (vocals), Lonnie Powell (drums), John Rekevics (flute, sax), Stephens (bass, vocals) and Ivan Zenovitch (electric guitar).

Stephens has chosen ArtsCan Circle as the charity to which proceeds from the song’s streaming will be donated.

The song currently is available on YouTube, and will be released soon on all major streaming platforms.

                    * * *

I’m Gonna Pray by Matthew Lien and the Paul Stephens Project

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/YvM3vdbNl0k

See obituary.

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