The following is an excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with people who gave everything they had to their creative passions. In spite of attaining various levels of success, they aren’t household names, don’t regularly walk red carpets, nor do they consider themselves rich and famous. Yet they continue to pursue excellence with everything they have. And most importantly…they’re happy with who they are and content with exactly where they are in life. I published all of these interviews in a book called “How To Succeed In Show Business (Without Making It Big).”
Steve Gouveia is a musician/actor/ songwriter, born and raised in San Diego. His big break came when he landed a role in the original Broadway production of Jersey Boys (2006 Tony Award—Best Musical). His other credits include: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Cabaret, The Rocky Horror Show, Sweeney Todd, HAIR, Little Shop of Horrors and Hedwig And The Angry Inch. As a musician, Steve has played with members of The Doors, Icehouse, Pete Townshend, Alex Lifeson of Rush, Micky Dolenz, and many others, and has performed at several Rockers On Broadway concerts. His solo album Shine is available online at iTunes and CDBaby.com .
A Conversation With Steve Gouveia
How did your creative life start?
I’ve always been artistic and musical as far back as I can remember. I was singing at an early age and started playing guitar at the age of nine. I was also drawing cartoons and even making homemade toys as a kid. Movies also really inspired me like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. When I was eleven years old I discovered the band Rush, who inspired me musically more than anyone else.
Whether you like them or not, they’re just the perfect example of artistic integrity–plus they’ re really good! I’ve been fortunate to meet them all and got to be friends with Alex Lifeson. He’s really funny and one of the nicest guys ever, which is really cool since he’s such a big hero of mine.
Did you go to school for your career?
I looked into CalArts when I was young and thought I wanted to be an animator, but after spending a summer at the La Jolla Playhouse Conservatory, I decided to go to U.C. Santa Cruz instead. I thought I wanted to be an actor at the time, but the conservatory was a little too actory-schmacktory for me at that age so I decided to go into set design instead.
It was while I was sitting in the rafters holding a spotlight on other actors that I realized I wanted to be down on the stage instead, and Santa Cruz wasn’t doing it for me. So I transferred to U.C. Santa Barbara to focus on acting.
Do you have a day job?
I was a banquet waiter at hotels for years in between jobs, but lately, I’ve been acting or playing guitar for a living. I’ve also started sculpting and manufacturing pinball machine toys from home, and that’s become a brand new creative outlet which I absolutely love.
Pinball machine toys? That’s awesome. Do you sell them online?
I do. I make limited runs of the toys that I design, and then make them all by hand. I’ve always loved pinball, and it’s actually becoming very popular again. I have four machines at home. A couple of years ago I started modifying the toys on my Wizard of Oz machine, specifically making a better-looking witch and flying monkey. Well, that just took off and I can’t make them fast enough. People are already lining up to buy what I make next. It’s something I never imagined I’d be doing, but I absolutely love it. I’m currently very busy making monkeys in my garage.
Where do you believe creativity comes from?
I was always very happy being by myself as a kid, so being creative was my way of entertaining myself, I guess.
Yeah, I hear you. Creativity definitely comes naturally to kids. It’s like the default state of mind. As we get older we have to work at it, block out the distractions.
Exactly. And it certainly helps if you have the freedom or time to pursue it.
Describe your creative process.
As a songwriter, I try to think of doing something that sounds unique and new and fun to listen to. As an actor, I try to be as honest as I can. Sometimes I’ll draw on real-life experiences, but most of the time I’ll just use my imagination.
With the pinball toys, I wanted to sculpt clay and learn how to work with plastic. I’m always trying to learn something new, and to my wife, I’m annoyingly curious. Hahaha.
What advice would you the 20-year old Steve Gouveia?
Keep doing what you’re doing, because everyone’s timeline is unique. Success isn’t guaranteed at a certain age. I got Jersey Boys when I was 35. And keep being creative in lots of different things.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while chasing your dreams?
That failure makes you better at what you’re doing.
That’s for sure. I’m not sure I’ve had a better teacher over the past several years than failure. Now if I could just figure out what the lesson I’m supposed to learn is!
Fail again! Haha.
Have your priorities changed at all?
Yes. I don’t need to be in the spotlight to be happy. I’ve been there and it’s fun and I’m glad I made it, but there are so many more things to do.
Have you ever considered giving up?
I’ve wanted to give up many times, but somehow or another I kept plodding along the same path. I had given up acting when I was hired for the original cast of Jersey Boys. I was primarily a musician with a lot of acting background. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Do you feel like you’ve “made it”?
I feel like I made it in the theatre world. I was very lucky to help create such a massive show like Jersey Boys. But been there done that. That’s why I’ve directed my creativity towards other things.
Are you happy with where you are in life?
I never thought I’d make it to Broadway, or be an accomplished musician, or be doing what I’m doing now creatively. So I’m very happy.
What gets you out of bed each morning these days?
My wife of course. She’s my best friend. But also making something, be it a sculpture, a song, or even a retaining wall in the backyard. I’m constantly making things.
Gotta keep that creativity alive one way or another.
Do you have any spiritual beliefs that inform your creative process?
I’ve always felt like God gave me certain creative skills as a gift. So it’s my job to use them. Some people are amazing mathematicians. That’s their gift. Not mine.
Same here. I still count on my fingers.
That’s what a phone is for.
What is your ultimate goal in life?
I recently got married to an amazing wonderful woman, and have never been happier. Love and friendship and laughter are far more important than anything else. If you have that in your life, then you’re already there.
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT STEVE AND HIS PINBALL CREATIONS PLEASE VISIT: www.pinside.com