You may see Steven Powell walking around campus singing. He sees it as a stress reliever when he needs to take a quick break during labs. Do not let this fool you though; believe it or not there was a time when Boom Box Guy hated singing. As a boy his mother strongly pushed him to participate in his church’s choir.
“I wanted nothing to do with it,” He said. “Three hours a week that I would spend listening to some person teach me how to sing these notes that were slow and boring -- nothing like the radio.”
"I was a radio kid."
But it was not radio music that convinced Powell he should sing.
In the fall of 2008, an 18-year-old Powell boarded a plane to India for five months, leaving his home for the first time.
He felt an extraordinary need to explore the country after a few weeks. A trip that started with the idea of working for the Institute of Cultural Affairs became a four-month-long exploration of India without any guidance. He ended up on the northeast coast of India in the state Tamil Nadu in the small town Auroville, also knows as the City Of Dawn.
“I went to this chanting session that was led by this guy named Jivan,” Powell said. “We sat in a little room with a bunch of people, and chanted for hours. Hours that felt like minutes, and one key theme that he tried to get across was that you should always be singing while you’re walking around.”
To Powell, a senior geology major, music is not just for entertainment and relaxation, but it is also a tool. It is a means to help with studying and remembering his curriculum.
“I am convinced that any scientific property makes significantly more sense if it has a backbone and a beat to it,” Powell said.
Powell was born in Greensboro, and before he found his voice he discovered his rhythm in band. From sixth grade until his senior year of high school, he played alto saxophone. In high school he participated in both marching band and wind ensemble.
At ASU Powell found his niche in VoiceMale, an on campus all-male acappella group.
For his audition Powell chose the Poke’mon theme song, which in hindsight Powell felt was the reason that he did not pass his audition.
“I really did not take it seriously enough.” Powell said. “That and I did not have good tone control or air control.”
But Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up,” helped him land his second audition -- making him an official member of VoiceMale in the spring of 2012. With VoiceMale, Powell won Acapellagedon, one of the two annual acapella contests at ASU.
After winning in the spring of 2013, VoiceMale landed a record deal with a recording company in Charlotte. They recorded a cover of “Runaway” by Run and Theft.
Powell is also a rhymesayer. He enjoys going to freestyle sessions -- ciphers -- around town. A cipher is an impromptu gathering with individuals who freestyle with each other.
One of his geology professors prodded Powell to enter into an all-age science competition with an interesting twist -- take a scientific property and put it to a rhyme. Powell was an honorable mention in the adult category. The person who won the competition made a rap about the effect elevation has on the boiling point of water.
In retrospect, Powell believes that his subject of choice for the rap was too expansive of a concept for the competition in comparison to the winner’s choice of concept.
“You can’t stuff an entire textbook into a couple pages and expect someone to learn it from that,” Powell said. “You have to take the concepts and shrink them down into a simple enough way.”
Now Powell is focusing on his next project: The Gneiss Brothers. Powell formed the Gneiss Brothers -- pronounced nice brothers -- with two friends, ASU students John Larkins and Matt Mize, a few months ago. Even though they have not recorded any tracks, the Brothers played in Mast General Store during the September Art Crawl.
Powell eventually wants to work as a researcher to determine what soils work best in relation to viticulture and the winemaking processes or working on a vineyard with a scientific focus growing grapes.
“If you do the same thing forever you’re going to get bored, which is why Boom Box Guy is done,” Powell said. “I will be graduating next year, and I won’t be in the acapella group anymore. Here in the next year, it will be a really exciting time to figure out what the next big thing is going to be.”