Plein looks to make a name for himself at Island Hopper
For most of Stephen Plein’s adolescent life, the goal-driven Fort Myers’ native knew what he wanted and that was to play for the University of Miami Hurricane football program.
Ever since he watched his first NFL game with his father during a Monday Night Game at then Pro Players Stadium in Miami pitting the home team Miami Dolphins versus the visiting Chicago Bears, football was an integral part of his life.
Plein was recruited heavily out of high school as a strapping 6-6, 240-pound tight end, by the likes of Vanderbilt, Ohio State and several other SEC schools.
“I was living in Georgia and my sister was getting recruited by colleges in volleyball and she brought home a lot stuff from Miami,” Plein said. “I became a Miami fan and kept track of them. I was getting recruited by SEC schools, Ohio State and others.
“We ended up moving down here (Fort Myers), and I ended up getting a full ride scholarship offer from Miami, which was perfect, since I lived just two hours away and I have always followed them. Funny how things worked out. I always saw myself doing that. If you see it and believe it, you can accomplish it. I always saw it working out that I would be going to Miami.”
Plein was red shirted his freshman year, but an unfortunate major injury to his shoulder would eventually cut short his time as a Hurricane.
But during his time at the University of Miami, he was able to suit up for a game at Pro Players Stadium.
“It was just really cool I was able to play there, because it was the first stadium I got to see my first game at,” Plein said.
But after sustaining his injury, there was a yearning inside him he couldn’t deny anymore. His love for music was always evident, no matter where his focus was on football.
Miami held true to its full ride scholarship for Plein and that’s when it clicked that pursuing music was his calling.
“I’ve always had a keen ear to music, and I always knew there was something inside of me that this was what I was meant to be doing, even though I was a jock and playing football,” Plein said.
Plein ended up taking a creative writing class, which ultimately led him to declaring a major in creative writing. His writing became his outlet for emotion that football once filled.
He learned that other creative writing majors also double majored in music. But it was his experiences at the coffee house on campus which opened his full blown desire to pursue music.
“We had an open mic nights at the coffee house and that’s where I would go and do my songs,” Plein said. “Most of the people there, would kind of sound the same, kind of a cookie-cutter type of music.
“Then I would go up and sing, and I have a southern drawl, and I stuck out. I sounded more of a country, southern rock kind of style. I would just be up there, banging out three chords on my guitar and people would come up to me and say I sounded like CCR (Creedence Clearwater Rival).
“That’s where I started picking up a stage presence.”
The route 24-year-old Plein wants to take will lead north, right to Nashville.
He made a trip up to the Country Music Capitol of the World recently, and a mentor there told him if he wants to pursue a life in country music, Nashville is a place you need to be.
“He said, ‘If you want to win the game, you have to be in the game,'” Plein added.
There will be two fields Plein will set his focus on, and that’s being a songwriter, as well as a performer in a band. Although he is also open to do whatever it takes to gain connections and gain a name for himself, he prefers to do it a little bit different of a way.
“I am one who goes against the grain, I’ve always been like that,” Plein said. “It’s not because I want to, it’s just how I am, it’s how I lived my life.”
He understands having an independent mind and way of doing things could be a negative, but he also sees it as a positive, as well.
“In Nashville, being like that can make you stand out, but it also can turn people off,” Plein said. “My goal is if I’m doing what I want to do and have the freedom to do just that, that’s what I want.”
Plein’s maturation towards being a songwriter came through his creative writing major classes, but while he was working on his short stories and longer pieces, he would get distracted with other thoughts for other pieces of works.
“I have a little ADD (attention deficit disorder) and I would be writing and start thinking of something else to write,” Plein said. “Then I started to write songs and pick up a guitar, and it was something which fit me, because I could be writing one song, get another idea and go start writing the other.”
Plein’s writing process is day-to-day, and it usually starts in the morning.
“I write what’s in me and it does come out as a certain style,” Plein said. “When I wake up, that’s the best time to write. It does have a consistent flow, and trust where music is taking me and the path I am going down. Everything happens for a reason and a matter of time and hard work, I can accomplish that.”
Plein has plenty of experience to draw on through his passion and focus in football, which brought him to one of the most well-known universities in the nation in the sport.
He learned networking is important, as well as keeping focused and patient.
Much like D-I college football, Nashville isn’t a kind town for those looking to get a foot in the door in either music writing or performing. In college football, the entire team is made up of players who were on the top of the hill in high school.
But in the college locker room, everyone is now on the same playing field.
“When you play around here, everyone tells you how good you are,” Plein said. “But when you get up into Nashville, you are just another fish in the sea, which is fine by me. You just need to work hard and stick out.
“It can be intimidating there, because there is a lots of good talent. But just like in a college environment, the seniors, or the longest tenured (in Nashville) will be more connected up. As a freshman, where it feels like you have to start over, you need a lot of practice, just like in college.”
Passion the commitment to succeed is also needed. No longer can the high school football player who made it just on natural ability alone can transfer that over to college. They will need to add a big mix of mental focus and a hard work ethic to go along with that.
“If it’s not in your soul and you don’t bleed music or bleed football, you probably won’t make it,” Plein said.
Plein doesn’t necessarily commit to just one style of country music, instead he wants to find the sound which is a little more unique than what is being played out there now.
He describes his music as a “traditional sound pulled from the land itself. With poignant lyrics and soulful melodies.”
Plein lives on Sanibel and works at ‘Tween Waters on Captiva. He has spearheaded the “Songs on Sanibel” music event at the Community House, which features talented songwriters from Southwest Florida. He hopes to turn it into a monthly event and had a good showing Aug. 15, in its debut.
Plein will also play in his first Island Hopper event, after sitting out last year, but attending a songwriting workshop, which was a big help in his pursuit.
He is very excited about playing in the Island Hopper event, not just to showcase his songs and talent, but to start building his networking in songwriting.
“I put a lot of stock into networking and it’s such an honor to be playing with these songwriters,” Plein said. “They are also usually eager to help the younger songwriter and they are willing and open to share their insight.
“I also have been have churning songs out this year and excited to play them here. (Captiva) will be a more of intimate setting, so I am looking forward to it.”
Plein knows how to climb mountains and conquer them. He did it as a full-ride scholarship D-I football player out of high school.
Now, he is just applying that passion, intensity and focus into his music career.
“You need to put your time into it,” he said. “I am a firm believer if you put your mind to it, you will be able to do it, much like going to my first game at Pro Player Stadium, then being able to play in it.”
Plein will be on stage in all three locations over the course of the Island Hopper.
His first will be at R.C. Otters on Captiva Saturday, Sept. 19, at 2:15 p.m. After that, his schedule includes: Cantina Captiva, Sept. 19, 7:15 p.m.; Cantina Captiva, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2:15 p.m.; Hotel Indigo, Downtown Fort Myers, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 5 p.m.; Twisted Vine Bistro, Downtown, Sept. 23, 7 p.m.; Pierside Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar, Fort Myers Beach, Friday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m.; Yucatan, Fort Myers Beach, Sept. 26, 3:30 p.m. and Diamond Head Resort, Fort Myers Beach, Sept. 26, 7:15 p.m.