STEFAN HILLESHEIM BRINGS HIS BLUES GUITAR APPROACH TO A GLOBAL BAND
Guitarist Stefan Hillesheim came to the US for two reasons; he wanted to be closer to the birthplace of the blues and he wanted to grow in his musical abilities by playing with some of the most respected musicians in the world. By becoming the guitarist in Liquid Blue, he has attained both goals. This globally popular band which is based out of San Diego, California literally touts themselves as the world’s most travelled band and holds the Guinness World Record for “Earth Passport” for “Song Sung in the Most Languages”. Liquid Blue is no small time band. The group performs at major concert venues like the Staples Center in LA and has played to crowds of up to 65,000 attendees. They require the most exceptionally skilled musicians to fill their ranks and with German born Stefan Hillesheim the demands were met. It’s fitting that this guitarist relocated to the US from another country as Liquid Blue takes a seriously global approach in both their music and their message. The band proves that talent and positivity comes in all forms across the globe. Hillesheim brings a decidedly European perspective as well as a deep love for the music that was born in America. It’s a perfect blend for Liquid Blue, Stefan, and the appreciative and numerous concert goers that attend their shows.
Music business executives and marketers might have you believe that if you haven’t seen an artist on the late night talk show circuit or on the Top 10 list on iTunes, they aren’t a successful commodity. The secret of the industry is that many bands have ubiquitous and profitable careers without being steered by labels or domineering management companies. Musicians have learned that by keeping the control in their own hands, they are able to deliver the true artistic message that they want to communicate. Liquid Blue is a perfect example of a band that, although they have had successful dealings with a number of labels, has been able to captain their own ship. Liquid Blue is the creation of Scott Stephens and Michael Vangerov, two of the core members of the band. Any single aspect of their accomplishments would give credit to a modern band but when one considers all of these together…it’s proof of their worldwide popularity. Liquid Blue has performed in more than 500 cities in 100 countries on six continents. In 2010 they had their first US hit with “Earth Passport”, a song which reached number three on the Billboard Hot Dance Chart and was awarded the aforementioned Guinness record. In 2011 they took the award for “Entertainer of the Year — Ensemble” at the Event Solutions Spotlight Awards. The band is known for using instrumentation from various parts of the world, such as table and sitar) as well as multilingual lyrics. This has resulted in the band playing highly prestigious gigs witnessed by international audiences, such as when they played the official Beijing Olympics Kick-Off Concert in 2008. Liquid Blue is so respected by famous US artist that they were hired by Sammy Hagar to be his backing band when he performed at a fundraising event in 2013.
Liquid Blue was looking for a new guitarist in 2016 and an audition was set up to see if Hillesheim was up to the task and level of this globally lauded band. Even though Stefan had impressive credentials, when you want to perform with an award-winning band that performs with rock and roll’s elite; it takes skill and the ability to not become unnerved by enormous crowds. Stefan recalls, “The Audition was held at Club M in Del Mar (CA). After I collected some more information about Liquid Blue and found out that they have been touring internationally, played with musical legends like Sammy Hagar, opened at the Olympic Summer Games in China… I became more and more excited to meet the rest of the band and play together. My Audition went really well and I remember the bands drummer Glen Frazier saying, “Man you almost got me dancing back here! You killed it!” Hillesheim was energized and excited by the experience of playing with the accomplished musicians. It’s a feeling that core-member Scott Stephens confirms was reciprocated; stating, ““When I first saw Stefan perform, he totally blew me away. Right away I noticed, that he must have studied Jimi Hendrix playing in depth and the tasteful way, he brings his own tone and personality into contemporary pop music and a variety of different genres, that we play. Stefan is not only a hard-working, skilled and talented musician, he is also a true showman and entertainer. More than once I witnessed him playing his guitar with his teeth, behind his back, and with his tongue in front of an electrified crowd. Since Liquid Blue is a show and dance band this stage presence and energy is exactly what we needed for our live performances. Furthermore, Stefan has proven himself as a great team player and reliable band member, who’s open to criticism and easy to work with.”
Every positive relationship in life is the result of both sides benefiting and gaining something positive from the situation. By becoming the guitarist in Liquid Blue, Stefan not only gained instant notoriety and the respect that comes with being in a world-famous band (Liquid Blue continues to live in the US even though their massive fan base is overseas) but also the ability to play with the world-class musicians that make up this band. With Hillesheim, Liquid Blue gained an enormously talented, dynamic, and committed guitarist. Stefan couldn’t be happier as he states, “Only a couple of weeks after my audition, we played to a vast crowd in front of the famous Staples Center. I had never played in front of audiences that size, but I have to say that I didn’t experience any issues like being nervous or overwhelmed. Liquid Blue is a hard-working and extremely talented band; the knowledge that you are playing with the best…it puts you at ease, allowing you to play even better.”
It seems almost poetic that Stefan has come to be a part of this band. Liquid Blue started as a cover band in 1996; just a short time before the music industry completely changed. To many musicians, it was a period that made pursuing music as a full time artist completely inconceivable. Liquid Blue not only weathered this storm but they grew into an enormously popular band with a global following and winning awards for their original songs. Hillesheim grew up in Germany, loving the blues and dreaming of coming to America to test himself against the greatest of his musical peers while deepening his understanding of American music. At some point these two musical forces intersected and what was produced was…literally beautiful music.