With so many cover videos out there, it can be difficult for even the most talented musicians to stand out from the pack. But guitarist Steve Onotera’s covers really shine due to a mix of clever production and pitch perfect playing that elevate them above the standard.
Onotera brings his work to the world on YouTube as samuraiguitarist, with an eclectic style that mixes rock, country, and jazz influences that bring new life to familiar favorites. A background rooted in songwriting and a driving passion for music help his work truly shine, making Onotera a musician you’ll definitely want to get familiar with.
Steve Onotera’s musical journey began at age 13, after he saw rockers Blink-182 perform their hit “All the Small Things” on the MTV Video Music Awards. As Onotera notes, “I asked my parents if I could take up guitar the next day. They were slightly reluctant at first […] but I eventually persuaded them.” The young musician began taking guitar lessons, eager to learn as much as he could, and by age 16 was even playing in his own band around his hometown of Winnipeg.
Onotera’s passion took him to Toronto and Humber College, where he continued to study music. While his initial interests were in classic rockers like Led Zepplin, Guns N’ Roses, and Aerosmith, music school expanded his tastes. The guitarist began listening to jazz, citing Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny as some favorites. But something clicked when Onotera began listening to country music, which he felt, “sounded like classic rock and roll with a slight twist.” He began to focus on songwriting, with a plan to focus on writing mainstream country songs.
Steve Onotera’s songwriting goals brought him to Nashville multiple times, with the creator constantly writing songs and hunting for inspiration. “I’d walk through the world with ‘songwriter glasses’ on,” says Onotera, “always looking for little phrases or ideas that could inspire a song.” That observational ability would be an asset as he began creating YouTube videos. Now, he walks the world with “video glasses,” looking for anything that might inspire his next work.
The guitarist was inspired to share his music on YouTube after he saw a friend’s band have success on the platform. At first, he gauged interest by sharing short 15 second music clips to Instagram, and after gaining a small following decided to make the jump to longer format videos on YouTube. Onotera’s videos as samuraiguitarist blend his musical influences of rock, country, and jazz for original, unique covers. Even more impressive is the fact that he arranges the covers for multiple instruments, and plays all the parts, and edits them together for a seamless display of musical prowess.
Ultimately, Steve Onotera’s glad he was able to find his passion early on. “If you have a clear idea of who you are and what you want to do, the only thing separating you from that goal is time and effort,” says the guitarist. Thankfully, he’s putting that time and effort into producing even more killer videos. In the coming months, fans can expect to see even more covers pop up from samuraiguitarist as well as musical tips and advice.