Each year, televised singing competition The Voice attracts thousands of singers, all yearning for a cash prize and a record deal.
You may recognize new-face-in-town Steve Knill from his time spent on the show in 2019—especially his rather impressive audition. Knill moved to the Coachella Valley from San Francisco last September and has been working on getting involved in the local music scene. He is currently performing every Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the V Wine Lounge in Palm Springs.
“My husband and I just decided to move here as San Francisco is going down the tubes,” Knill said during a recent phone interview. “Once I started posting in live-music groups, a couple of people reached out to me and said, ‘You’ll have no problem whatsoever finding a gig here’—and I didn’t. One of the first places I talked to, I’m now there every Saturday. I’m immersing myself pretty well in the town, and that’s awesome.”
Knill said he feels fortunate to get gigs so quickly after the resumption of limited live-music performances.
“It wasn’t necessarily easy,” Knill said. “I just made a relationship with the owner, and we kept in touch during the whole shutdown. I’ve just been doing live performances on TikTok and Facebook. When live music started, I contacted him a couple of times, and he said, ‘Let’s try it.’ That was pretty much it.”
Knill, now 38, said that although he was always “fairly into music,” he didn’t start singing publicly until his late teens.
“I sang around karaoke bars and stuff like that,” he said. “A lot of people told me that I should pursue it further than just singing at a karaoke bar, so I moved to L.A. in 2015, and auditioned for The Voice a bunch of times. I pretty much learned how to play piano and guitar to get on the show. … I wasn’t necessarily just trying to get on The Voice; I was just trying to be heard. The ultimate goal is to be heard by a record executive and get a record deal, but I’m happy just doing gigs around town and stuff like that. But if the right opportunity comes along where I can be national, then that’d be great.”
Knill said auditioning for The Voice multiple times offered him a learning process.
“Every time you’re auditioning for something, you always have the nervous jitters,” Knill said. “Once you do it two or three times, it gets pretty easy. The process became easier, and with The Voice, when you get through the first audition, and they put you through to the second one, they make you feel comfortable. … They tell you to just sing, and don’t think about the fact that it’s a TV show—and that there are millions of people watching. They just say, ‘Sing your song, and we’ll go from there.’”
Knill’s decision to learn to play piano and guitar in order to improve his chances on The Voice caused some hesitation that followed into his post-show gigs.
“I had just learned to play instruments, so I didn’t feel comfortable playing instruments in front of people,” Knill said. “I really just did it to up my quality of singing, because playing an instrument and singing is fairly difficult. I figured if I could learn how to play an instrument, it would enhance my singing ability. I would just go sing at shows if I got a gig, and they would usually have a band.”
For now, Knill performs covers, offering his unique take on popular music.
“I’m not much of a songwriter, but I would be interested in recording someone else’s originals,” Knill said. “That’s what most of the music industry is: People have songwriters, and very few musicians actually write their own music. I’ve always been into covering music and putting my own twist on something that’s already been made.”
While there’s a great deal of uncertainty regarding the immediate future of live shows, Knill said he’s confident that he is in the right place.
“It’s going great, because I just got a residency gig, and a lot of people are starting to ask about me in town,” Knill said. “Palm Springs is a good place to play, too, because you never know who’s going to be in the audience from L.A. A lot of powerful people in the industry come out here and have second homes here. You never know who might be in town, and that’s always a good thing.”
Steve Knill performs every Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. at V Wine Lounge, 600 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. Reservations are recommended; call 760-668-9665. For more information, visit www.steveknillmusic.com.