Music Composition (Contemporary): Steve Azar Steve Azar is the winner for Contemporary Music Composition. Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, Azar is a singer, songwriter, and record producer. He began his musical career by writing church songs as a child. By age ten, he was taking guitar lessons from Delta blues singer Sonny Boy Nelson, and by age fifteen he was recording demos in Nashville, Tennessee. He describes his sound as “Delta Soul,” a combination of country, blues, funk, and rock n’ roll. According to one reviewer, “Azar has the inflections and rhythms of a young Bob Dylan.”
Azar received a BS degree from Delta State University. He and his wife moved to Nashville in 1993 to pursue a recording contract. In 2002 his first hit single, “I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘til Monday),” reached number two on the Hot Country Songs chart and received three Broadcast Music Million-Air awards.
After he and his family moved back to his hometown of Greenville in 2011, he began making deep contributions to Delta culture. In 2013 he started the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival to honor native Mississippi musicians. He serves as a musical mentor and artist-in-residence for Delta Music Institute at Delta State University. He hosts a radio show and podcast “In a Mississippi Minute.”
Azar’s music has led to many honors. Former governor Ronnie Musgrove declared March 13, 2003, “Steve Azar Day.” In 2019 a Country Music marker was erected at Jim’s Café in downtown Greenville to honor him. In 2017 Azar was made a Mississippi Music and Culture Ambassador.