Mark Stewart, aka Stew, has never been afraid of the meta. His Tony Award-winning play, “Passing Strange”, was largely about his years as a struggling musician in Berlin. He wrote “Passing Strange” with longtime collaborator and lover Heidi Rodewald, and when the couple broke up, they still had to spend two years performing the play together. Making It is largely about surviving the experience of performing a play for two years with your former lover. Go figure.
Historically, Stew has written starkly dramatic, honest songs containing overt commentaries on a variety of topics: the media, relationships and race. Stew brings that same palette to Making It, but it’s more theatrical than early Stew albums, bringing the unique sense of a stage composition: varied instrumentation, clear evocative vocals and honest-to-goodness storytelling. From instrumental opener “Making It” to the not-so-subtle “Black Men Ski” to Rodewald’s bitter, haunting vocals on “Love Is A Cult”, Making It is unlike the mass of indie albums that will come out this year. Its emotion is real and present, its imagery intentionally rich, its range and arc dramatic.
Indie music for the past few years has seemingly been curled up in a self-conscious ball, afraid of being kicked by the bully mainstream bands that have taunted it for so long. Stew is the guy who spits in the bully’s eye and then goes home to write a song called “Spit on Your Bullies”.