NO MORE WAITING

With a second chance and a first hit, Steve Azar proves good things come to those who wait

It was just a gravel road with a bunch of potholes in it, and we had to drive down it," says Steve Azar thoughtfully.

He's not talking about his driveway, but the path his career took following the demise of his record label six years ago, just after the release of his debut album.

"It was a road I had to take -- because if I hadn't, I wouldn't be sittin' here today," he declares with a wide grin.

Steve's got reason to smile. Long after most struggling artists would have packed it in, Steve refused to give up. Instead, he stayed in Nashville and wrote songs -- and waited for his next record opportunity.

Now with his hit "I Don't Have To Be Me ('Til Monday)" heading into the Top 10, and his CD, Waitin' On Joe, released in April, he's finally enjoying a taste of recording success.

Steve knows it's what he was born to do.

"I love it," he says. "I've never done anything else. There was never a point in my life when I went 'I want to be a musician.' It's been a process -- not a decision."

It's a process that included soaking up the considerable musical and cultural influences of his native Mississippi -- starting out singing and writing songs for church, then winning talent contests, playing in bands through college and racking up more miles than he can count playing gigs across the country.

In the early days, it was just the band, the highway and the music. Now Steve has a wife, Gwen, and their kids -- sons, Streck, 6, Adrian, 4, and daughter Cecilia, 15 months -- to consider.

"We've been married 12 years," declares Steve. "She's been a rock. And it took a rock, trust me. Because in our business, there's insecurity that no woman, no child should ever experience."

Steve draws on experience to write the songs he sings. That's especially true about his current hit, a feel-good tune about leaving cares behind -- at least for the weekend.

" 'Monday' is a song about real life," he explains. "A buddy of mine was about to have a breakdown -- truly have a breakdown. So he came to visit me for a few days to talk and clear his head and just leave the pressure behind. He really needed a break. Everybody does every now and then, to one degree or another.

"I've witnessed it thousands of times. It's Sunday night and people are going, 'What are we doing next weekend?' It's that reward at the end of the tunnel."

Steve knows all about rewards at the ends of tunnels. And he's loving every minute of his.

-- David Scarlett

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