Union 57’s Real World Christian Blues

union 57

Union 57 is an emerging independent band from Iowa with a bluesy new twist on contemporary Christian music. The group is the brainchild of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Stewart. The veteran musician launched the project to in his words, “bring honesty to the gritty side of faith.”

A collaboration with musicians across the United States and around the world, Union 57’s sound is a smooth fusion of modern gospel and blues. They pair their organic groove with tales of real-world problems, and their Biblical solutions. 

“Even Good Men ” is the current single and title track from the debut album by Union 57, available worldwide via all major streaming services. The track opens on a bluesy guitar riff before the beat drops on a downtempo organic groove of live drums, bass, guitar, and electric piano. Horns and Hammond organ paint the periphery as the singer steps to the mic with an allegorical tale of warning about the perils of temptation.

Check out “Even Good Men” by Union 57 below. You can also hear the track on the Deep Indie Dive playlist, or listen on your favorite streaming service. We had the chance to chat with Wayne Stewart about the project. Read his answers to our 8 questions below. And follow the links at the end of this article to connect with Union 57. 

8 Questions with Wayne Stewart of Union 57

Where are you from?

I was born in the Seattle area and lived there until 2004. After 6.5 years in Chicago, I ended up in, of all places, Ames, Iowa. The Pacific Northwest will always feel like home, but after almost 20 years the Midwest has definitely grown on me and my family.

How long have you been making music?

School band started in 5th grade, and I wanted to play drums. My mom said no, so the next coolest instrument in my mind was saxophone. I found quickly that I didn’t mind practicing and really loved making music. My jazz foundations led me through college and then I added guitars, keys, and vocals along the way.

Who are the musicians involved in your project?

Jaben Pennel, a friend and amazing drummer/producer from Rockford Illinois holds down the beats. I played bass, keys, a few electric parts and lead and some background vocals. I have a few friends locally who added their voices but also two singers from Africa, which was very fun. Horns were handled by a very talented young lady from Germany by way of Australia. I love that it was a bit of an international project in that sense.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

I’ve always loved historic jazzers with a special affinity for Dave Brubeck and his willingness to push the edges of structure, especially time. I had an 80s pop-jazz phase with Spyro Gyra and have lately been really enjoying modern groups like Snarky Puppy. On the blues side, it’s been mostly Joe Bonamassa—who I had the privilege of seeing at Red Rocks a few years back, and Tedeschi Trucks Band.

What is your greatest non-musical influence?

My faith is shaped by the Bible, so that’s probably my best answer here. I’ve had the opportunity to sit under some amazing academic and popular teachers who’ve really opened up the metanarrative it presents. So much more than the ways it often gets distilled into either a list of “don’t’s” or simplistic ethical slogans. There’s a reason it’s been around for literally millennia and still the perennially most published and distributed book in the world.

What inspired you to create this project?

I’ve often felt the grittier side of faith gets shoved aside in favor of making everything look nice. As we all know, life gets really hard, and beautiful, and confusing along the way. Some of the gut cries in the Psalms are a bit surprising but so wonderful. Jesus’ words were often hard as well as healing. Jazz, blues, and rock seemed likely musical settings for these kinds of real-world, everyday experiences. Structurally, I’ve always dug how freedom flows from form in these genres. That feels right to me, too.

What are your plans for the future (musically)?

I am hoping to release more Union 57 in 2023 but always working on music and my craft.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share. I hope the music lands in a surprising way for people as they listen.

Connect with Union 57