Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, was warmly received at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)                                Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, was warmly received at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, was warmly received at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly) Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, was warmly received at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

High school teacher turned full-time musican comes back to Juneau

Hey, it’s me your Cousin Curtiss.

After three years on the road, Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman came back to the city he left.

Before touring the world as Cousin Curtiss, O’Rorke Stedman lived in Juneau and worked as an English teacher at Thunder Mountain High School. He was back in town this week for performances at The Rookery Cafe and Rendezvous and was pleased to be in the capital city.

“This is home,” O’Rorke Stedman said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “Once it’s in your bones, this place is in your bones.”

For the past three years, the guitar and harmonica player has taken his blend of full-throated, roots-influenced music on the road traveling around the country and world.

“It’s been full-on, about 160 shows a year,” O’Rorke Stedman said. “It’s fun, exhausting at times.”

His musical career is a bit of a feedback loop since it was touring that lead O’Rorke Stedman, now of Colorado, to life as a traveling musician.

“I used to tour in the summers, and I said if one of these tours ever pays for itself, I’ll start doing it full time,” O’Rorke Stedman said. “That happened in the summer of 2014, so I taught one more year, and then I left.”

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His stage name also has ties to academia.

O’Rorke Stedman said when he was an underclassman in college in Michigan, he had an older cousin who would take him to parties, where he would perform.

Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, plays guitar at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, plays guitar at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

“When someone would say, who’s playing music tonight, it was always, ‘It’s my cousin, Curtiss. It’s my cousin, Curtiss,” he said.

The familial handle was catchier than his six-syllable government name, O’Rorke Stedman said, so it stuck.

While touring, O’Rourke Stedman sometimes plays with a full band and also plays gigs alone making use of a looping pedal to provide his own accompaniment.

His Wednesday night show at the Rookery Cafe was a solo endeavor, and he said he has no preference between playing alone or with others.

“I love both,” he said. “I feel like doing one will make me better at the other.”

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O’Rorke Stedman said during his show that he has definitely honed his musical chops over the course of a handful of albums and nearly 500 shows over the past three years.

Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, plays guitar at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, who performs as Cousin Curtiss, plays guitar at the Rookery Cafe, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

That means he’s beginning to have the luxury of occasionally turning down gigs. In his earliest days, O’Rorke Stedman recalled accepting gas money and food as payments.

“The first year, year and a half was pretty dicey,” O’Rorke Stedman said. “Now, I’m at a place where I can be selective.”

He said he was glad to choose Juneau this week.

“It’s awesome,” O’Rorke Stedman said. “I’m trying to do as much as possible, trying to see everyone, trying to hike, trying to eat all the food.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.:


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