By Cathren Housley
Stefan Couture creates a party wherever he goes. During the long COVID lockdown when venues went dark, he gathered fans and found a growing crowd of new friends at his Virtual Campfire every Saturday night in North Smithfield, RI. Now that the club and concert stages have reopened, Couture has been spreading the joy to audiences starved for music and fun.
We caught up with him a few days before a gig at the Bravo Brewing Company in Pascoag. “I’ve been performing at a lot of Rhode Island’s amazing craft breweries and teaming up with our state’s fantastic food trucks,” he said. “It’s been making for a great night of people, beer, food and music.”
A talented RI native, Couture first learned how to connect with his audience in the subways of Boston, busking for a constantly changing collection of commuters. “A group would move on, and I could play the same song again for an entirely different crowd,” he said. Because he could sense the crowd reactions, and could tell what was reaching them, his songwriting developed a simple direct quality that drew listeners in.
Back in 2001 and 2002 Couture toured the northeast and the west coast as a solo act, selling his CD, Great Big Somewhere, out of his guitar case. In 2003, he formed Stefan Couture and the Campfire Orchestra, and in 2004 their album Ghost in the Rearview was voted Best Local Album in The Providence Phoenix, and that same year, Stefan was named Best Male Vocalist. But when he hit 30, and his friends began getting married, Couture knew he needed to start building a solid base for himself as well. As luck would have it, Richard Gere’s movie, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, was being filmed in Woonsocket. The production company needed a hot dog cart for a prop and Couture happened to have one. Visiting the production on location, Stefan felt at home. He had a natural talent for crew work and began picking up odd jobs. Those jobs turned into a career, and he joined the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union in 2008.
Before the pandemic, Couture was logging 12 hour days with studios like HBO, Warner Brothers, Hulu, and Fox Searchlight. He’d just started a contract with Netflix when COVID shut the entertainment world down. Trapped in his house, alone and without work, he faced the same demons we all did.
“It was lonely and tough to get motivated,” he remembered, “but playing music has always helped me navigate through the darkness. I figured if I could help others, while helping myself when performing…then that is the magic of music.” Thus, the Virtual Campfire was born, and people began tuning in every week. He kept that magic going through the long winter and into April – until the world began venturing outside its own closed doors once again.
Since August, Couture has been a busy guy – he’s back to the production sets, recently wrapping up season nine for Showtime’s Dexter. Couture has also been designing and illustrating his own merchandise. “It’s been starting to take on a life of its own. It’s been so fun and fulfilling combining my art and music.”
“I’ve been recording [ a new CD] with Chuck Ladoucer out of Red Dog Studios in Bellingham.” said Couture. “He’s a good friend and a really great creative collaborator. We’ve been compiling songs that we recorded together over the last 20 years that never saw the light of day. We want to whittle the collection down into an EP called Time Traveler’s Mix Tape and release it in the early winter. We’re also looking to record a new album, tentatively titled Trapdoor Companion.” The songs are all new, written during the pandemic. They hope to release that one in the new year.
Couture will be hitting the concert stage on Saturday, September 18th at the Narrows in Fall River, MA, with recording artist Ryan Montbleau. He’s stoked about the event. “Ryan is a nationally respected singer/songwriter, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to open for him and get my songs in front of a larger audience,” Couture told us. Doors open at 7pm, showtime is at 8pm. The Narrows is a fantastic place to party, this should be a night to remember.Want tickets? Go to https://narrowscenter.showare.com