Austin-based songwriter, guitarist, and producer Stephen Doster kicked off 2016 with the Texas Songwriters Association inducting him into the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame. The occasion recognized over forty years of his work in music. .
Over the course of his career, Doster has shared stages and studios with a long and eclectic line of musical luminaries, including Joe Cocker, Lyle Lovett, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, James Honeyman-Scott, Little Feat, Mark O’Connor, Ricky Nelson, Squeeze, Marshall Crenshaw, Ani DiFranco, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and Nanci Griffith, with whom he appeared on Austin City Limits in 1985. He has produced over 60 albums for other artists, including records for Maren Morris, Carolyn Wonderland, and Stanley Smith.
As 2015 began, Doster’s late 2014 record release, Arizona (Atticus Records), found itself atop “Best of the Year’ lists at the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman. Peter Blackstock named Arizona among his “Top Ten of 2014” in the Austin American Statesman, calling it “exquisitely crafted, classic guitar and piano pop”. Blackstock also nominated the record in The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for the year. The Austin Chronicle’s Jim Caligiuiri echoed the praise, placing Arizona at the top of his 2014 poll, lauding it as a “masterpiece” with “one charmed melody after another”.
Arizona was Doster’s second solo album project, coming 18 years after his debut Rosebud. In between, he released Impossible Sun with Will Sexton and Carter Doster Sexton with Sexton and Bill Carter.
In 2018 Doster was back with his third solo record, New Black Suit, an album that the Austin Chronicle’s Doug Freeman praised for its “perfect, driving melodies in the key of reflection”. Philadelphia’s MAGNET magazine described the record as, “Something especially heavy.”
As with Arizona, Doster assembled the same core studio band for New Black Suit, which features the recently passed, musician extraordinaire, George Reiff (Joe Walsh, Jacob Dylan) on bass, master percussionist, Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer, Dr. John) on drums and percussion, and the immaculately tasteful Kevin Lovejoy (Spoon, John Mayer) on piano, organ, and various keyboards.
Doster began writing songs in his teens and still considers it to be the most compelling part of the music making process. He collaborated on several songs with Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton for their 2002 all-star compilation Double Trouble Been A Long Time. Notably, the song “Baby There’s No One Like You” was recorded by Dr. John and Willie Nelson. The record was their first release as Double Trouble following the passing of their friend and bandleader, Stevie Ray Vaughan. It spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.
Other songs he has written or co-written have been recorded by Maren Morris, Storyville, Tommy Elskes, Rick Busby, Albert Cummings, Malford Milligan, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brint Anderson, Philip Gibbs, and Charlie Sexton.
In 2010, Doster signed a publishing deal with the Universal Music Group. The songs have appeared in a wide array of international television programs and films, including Dancing With The Stars” and “Access Hollywood” in the United States.
Beginning in 2012, Doster has been a part of the Arts Envoy Program for the U.S. State Department. He has traveled to several countries in Africa performing with Greg Engle on music cultural exchanges. Their non-profit Guitars For Swaziland has provided musical instruments and recording gear to orphanages and various music programs they have visited in their travels.
Stephen was born on November 10th, 1955 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He moved to London, England before his second birthday due to his father’s work for the U.S. government. After three years the Doster family moved to Chateauroux, France where they stayed for two years before returning stateside to Abilene, Texas. It was here he joined his first band, the Par-We-Romis, which they believed meant ‘The Three Little Twigs’ in Latin.
The family moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1966 where his guitar playing began in earnest. At a young age he saw many bands there, including The Animals, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, and Blind Faith, who he witnessed from the side of the stage thanks to Ginger Baker’s wife. At the end of his freshman year of high school he moved back to Europe to Wiesbaden, Germany where he would complete high school. His band, the Taunus Valley Medicine Show, was popular in the region playing for locals and also frequently on American airbases.
After high school Stephen moved back to London to start his music career. There were few places to play live at the time in London’s pre-punk era. He got word that Austin, Texas had ‘music everywhere,’ so he returned home to Texas to see for himself. He has made the Austin area his home ever since. He now lives near Austin in the Texas Hill Country with his wife, photographer Melinda Doster.
Doster is co-owner of EAR Studio (East Austin Recording) with his longtime record making collaborator James Stevens, formerly of Moonlight Towers and currently touring and recording as JM Stevens (Chicken Ranch Records).
In 2019 Doster produced the record Home for George Ensle. It had been forty years since he had played guitar on Ensle’s debut, Head On.