One of the many attributes of West Virginians is our pride in what is ours: Our mountains, our laid-back lifestyle, our college football teams and our talented residents. We cheered on Mary Lou Retton: we voted our hearts out for Landau Eugene Murphy on America's Got Talent and we will gush about the likes of Brad Paisley, Kathy Mattea, and all the other famous folks who hail from our home state.
Local radio personality Palmer Stephens, who resides in Glenville, could be the next big thing to come out of the Mountain State. But even if he isn't, he is happy that he is fulfilling a life goal that he set for himself at age 30 to complete before he reached his 40th birthday.
Stephens comes from a very music-centric background. Everyone in his family plays at least one instrument or sings. His aunt even sang back-up on a K.T. Oslin album, and one cousin toured Europe with AC/DC. His grandfather was a fiddle champion of West Virginia, while another currently works in Nashville bars. It's not surprising that Stephens has been writing music since he was 12 years old.
He has given the name of his first CD “Blame Palmer” due to the fact he wrote, produced, played every instrument, acted as vocalist on every track and mastered them in his living room.
“There is no one to blame but me if there is anything wrong, so it was a perfect name for the CD,” said Stephens.
“Happy Place" was inspired by a story on facebook by a friend's status comment. Her little girl was growing up too fast, and she was going home to her happy place,” Stephens said. “Her story was similar to my mother's story. We were living in the big city, and things were getting out of hand; she named the song and she didn't know it... I was very engaged in the progression of her story and when she made the statement, I'm going home to my happy place, I knew that was going to be the title of a song.”
“You can walk down the street and wave at people you don't know, and they don't look at you like you're an idiot ... they wave back.”
Stephens believes that every woman will appreciate Leave Me Alone, and most men over the age of 25 will understand it.
“The problem is, sometimes mature girls will try to entice you to cross that line,” Stephens said. “Mature girls do lie, and they will tell you they are old enough, and they are not.”
“You're not thinking about that sometimes when you're young and stupid and 19; you're just thinking about how cute she is, until her dad reminds you about her age,” said Stephens. “In a very real bruising sense.”
Stephens referenced the song's hook, “You may think your old enough, but your dad and the law disagree.”
“It was written as a joke, but everyone loves that song,” Stephens said. “It was written because I was pissed off at listening to the radio and hearing a not-good song getting all kinds of air play.”
When one listens to this song, they may find some of it doesn't make any sense without watching the video, and that is the point Stephens is making.
“The word Cool-aid isn't even in the song; it's only in the video,” Stephens said. “When people ask me where does Cool-aid come in, I tell them they have to watch the video.”
“Then there is the stripper aspect, if you have big boobs, boys don't even need to hear the music from that point on,” Stephens chuckled. He referenced text in the video that says “No one is even reading now because I said strippers.”
“The reason I knew I had something with this song was the amount of messages and emails I received, telling me that it was hilarious, and they really liked the music,” said Stephens. “It's just three chords of me pounding through 4x4 and yelling into a microphone.”
There is one instrumental song on the upcoming release that has yet to be named. “Another thing I would like to do is write soundtracks for movies,” Stephens said. “So I created what I believe is a good adventure movie style soundtrack.”
“It's like having a kid; you just got to get it out, and send it off on its own and see how it's going to do. I needed to get these songs out of my head because I couldn't sleep at night. I never thought I could stress out so much about something I love doing.”
This release is not the only goal Stephens wants to accomplish. He is already making plans for his second album and has set a date to marry his longtime girlfriend Connie Osentoski, whom he has affectionately nicknamed Crazy, in October of this year.
“Anybody that knows me knows she does not love me for my money,” Stephens said with a smile.
Although Osentoski is from West Virginia, and she and Stephens share the same roots and know the same people, she had previously moved away from the state. The two of them ultimately met through facebook. He had previously attended high school with her sister, but Osentoski's and Stephen's paths had never crossed before.
Stephens said he would change nothing about his life path, including his two divorces, what he experienced in the Army, any hardship he has experienced.
“This album was created in my living room, and all on borrowed or second-hand, donated equipment, mastered on a 6-year-old rebuilt computer,” Stephens said. “Even if this album flops, and I make no money from it, how many people can say they produced an album from their desk.”
“When I started out, I had an acoustic guitar and a microphone, and my drum set was a vitamin bottle and a quarter,” Stephens said. “Over the years, friends gave me equipment that they weren't using, so my friends are an integral part of my album … it would have never happened without my friends.”
Stephens was most recently humbled by a contestant in a Doddridge County talent show.
“If you like it, it does not matter what other people think,” Stephens said. “Eventually they will like it, because you like it so much. They will hear your joy in it, and it will make them like it.”
“The most common argument I get when I tell people this is, I don't have time. I get asked a lot how do I find the time to do what I do,” Stephens said. “If you work an eight-hour day and you need an hour travel time to get back and forth to work, that's nine hours. If you sleep six hours a night, that's 15 hours, how many hours do you have left, and how many of those hours are did you spend watching someone else make music, when you could have been making your own. The time is there, it's all about prioritizing.”