We all have ideas. We have intentions of what we want to do and where we want to go. They form in our minds – we know what would bring us pleasure, what we want to learn and pursue. Then they become fantasies. They pause mid-thought and do not come to fruition. We are paralyzed by fears and what ifs.
Stef Curran is no different.
“All my life I have really been into having ideas of what I want to do, and then never pursuing them. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 25, which had a lot to do with never seeing my interests or hobbies through all the way, just to a certain level where I am good enough to do something half-ass, but then abandon it when it gets too hard,” said Stef.
Stef recently pushed through that wall, dismantling the process and changing the path when she picked up the bass. But It didn’t come easy.
“When I was 12 I asked my mom for an acoustic guitar for Christmas. I got it, and picked it up twice. Then the next year I told my mom I wanted an electric guitar, which I also got, and also couldn’t play,” recalls Stef. “ It’s hard as hell to learn an instrument, especially when I thought I could do it on my own at a young age – which some people can do, but I definitely wasn’t that kind of kid.”
It wasn’t until the Fall of 2021 when Stef got into the band Maneskin – an Italian rock band who won Eurovision who has a female bass player.
“Truly out of nowhere I remember getting the idea to ask my musician friends if I could borrow her bass. I had tried so many times in the past to learn an instrument and I didn’t think it would be very fruitful. I borrowed her bass and then gave it back within the week because I went out and bought my own,” said the musician. “It was the first instrument I was able to completely dedicate time to and see results which made it really easy for me to stick with.”
Stef didn’t just pick up a bass and run with it, she gave her time and energy in a new way. As a dancer she valued rhythm in music and it had an impact on her ability to focus on the bass and what role it plays in music. She keeps a journal and practices everyday.
“I write down goals, songs I’ve learned, techniques I need to work on. Since September I have practiced approximately 220 hours and while I couldn’t see my progress for the longest time I can now sit down and learn Led Zeppelin or Metallica songs in an hour or two time span which makes me feel really proud of the work I put in.”
Music holds a strong meaning for Stef – she was a dancer and a singer who has an ever evolving taste in music. Her ideal playlist includes pop, funk, rock, metal and emo music – to name a few. Her tastes span a wide range and she is always willing to hear more. She can connect with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Britney Spears and find meaning in each of them in different ways.
“Music was everywhere and all of it was fantastic. It all offered something different. Throughout my life I can pinpoint pieces of music that really connected to my emotional state that I learned to get me through,” she explained.
Songs have comforted her in hard times – Avril Lavigne and Jessica Simpson carried her through the grief of the death of her nan. While struggling with an absent father in junior high school Bullet for My Valentine, Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold was a salve.
Stef explored different music with her bass and has displayed them on social media – and though she is putting herself out there and dedicating her time to her craft, it doesn’t always come without fear.
“Imposter syndrome is very real. There are days where I just can’t get the feel of what I am playing or I keep messing up and get down on myself. It wasn’t until the past few months where I can truly notice a change in how I am playing and I remind myself it takes time and practice to get where I want to get but that doesn’t mean I am not a bass player,” said the bassist.
Identifying herself as a bass player is truly empowering. So often we take on something and downplay it – never giving ourselves authority to take ownership of the work we have done or the talents we have developed. Stef gives herself grace and appreciation for how far she has come, the work she has put in and allows herself a break when necessary. She doesn’t view time away from the bass as an ending, but a recharge to give her space to return to the instrument fully charged.
“I started playing when I was 26. Most musicians start WAY before then. I feel like an outsider because I waited so long, but I try to remind myself I’m not on a schedule. I’m doing this for me, and even if it took me another 5 years to pick up an instrument, it is still an accomplishment I should be proud of.”
Stef’s new found talent also reached other mediums when she found herself writing for the blog The Bassline. As someone with a background in freelance writing and a roster of music genre likes, Stef uses the platform to discuss some of her opinions.
“I have a lot of opinions about music, mostly I think because I come from loving such a wide variety of music that it shocks people who are more narrow minded about what makes music objectively ‘good’ or ‘likable,’” explained the writer. “Inevitably, all music has the ability to be good in someone else’s ears, but it’s the real history of music and musicians that make the process just as important, to me at least, to the final song.”
The Bassline has allowed Stef to promote local artists and musicians, while also putting to paper her thoughts about the bands and musicians she loves.
Stef’s first article on the Foo Fighters first album since drummer Taylor Hawkins died had a bigger depth than some pieces may have presented. Stef has read five books on Dave Grohl. Because she knows the intense history of James Hetfield’s childhood and addiction struggles, her review of Metallica’s new album 27 Seasons had a focus on healing inner demons through the eyes of the band’s front man.
“Am I an expert? For sure not. But I do think I bring a sense of ‘looking beyond the mirror’ when it comes to reviewing or analyzing the music we listen to. The blog is the perfect place for me to show people what I love and the music I love,” she said of her writing.
Since she started playing the bass, Stef was asked to join a female Nirvana cover band.
“It may seem dramatic, but it was euphoric to get a message asking me if I wanted to join a band. For someone to see me playing this instrument I learned with my own two hands and dedication and think that I am a great fit for their group is just awesome. Even though we have to dissolve due to one of our members moving, the band was my entrance into playing with other people.”
Not dramatic at all – it’s fn cool. Isn’t it the epitome of every nineties girl’s dreams come true – on fantasy level. No one can tell me they haven’t imagined themselves on stage with a group of talented female musicians covering grunge music? If not, then how did you survive high school?
Stef keeps keeping on – playing the bass like a boss and also writing about music for the Bassline. All the work she is doing just keeps her improving, just keeps her learning more and gaining more momentum. She is a vision for those of us who are unsure of ourselves, reminding us we can, we don’t have to but we can. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and it doesn’t have to be for anyone specifically but ourselves. There’s a way to garner our passions and bring them to life without self-criticism, showing up for ourselves and giving it a good ol college try is worth the energy.
“The coolest part of playing bass is truly just playing it. Listening to a song I love and actually being able to recreate it is such a beautiful experience. Sometimes all I need is to play my bass for an hour and I just feel more relaxed and clear-minded. It’s like a form of meditation for me.”