Steam engine

Michele Lundeen returns to her second home to sing the blues

Michele Lundeen performs at Rollin’ on the River on July 31 from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. with opener Jo Mama at Wingfield Park, corner of First Street and Arlington Avenue. Free. For more information visit, or go to and click “N&R Events.”

Michele Lundeen may have grown up in Oakland, Calif., but her blues music grew up in Reno. Reno is where she learned to take a chance on her music, and it’s where she met some of her great blues friends. Before moving back to San Diego to further pursue her career, she lived here for 20 years. While in Reno, she cofounded the Reno Blues Society and further discovered and honed her style. It was a new world for Lundeen as her friends introduced her to thousands of blues artists from all over the world.

But above all, Reno is where she was christened the “Queen of Steam” by then Reno disc jockey Emerson Biggins in the mid ’90s. Biggins probably didn’t realize what he was doing then. But the name has stuck with Lundeen, and ever since, musicians and the media continue to refer to her as the Queen of Steam. The name is fitting. Lundeen sings from a place that isn’t timid or shy. In fact, her music is the opposite of timid and shy—it’s outright powerful.

Her single “Song Inside Me” takes her singing and songwriting to a new level and is one of Lundeen’s best-known songs. “ I think the epitome of that song to me was that I have a gift that I can care that I’m still passionate about,” says Lundeen. “But my song is about being confident and sharing that song, or whatever your passion is, and not letting it go by the wayside.”

Lundeen considers this song a calling for all people to get moving, as she did long ago. “One day I thought, oh my gosh, I need to do this,” she recalls. “Anything can happen to anybody. And, if we don’t follow our passions, we could walk off a curb and get hit by a car, and there it is—that’s it. We’re walking around being paranoid, and I thought, ‘I am not leaving this Earth without sharing this song inside me.’”

For this year’s Rollin’ on the River, Lundeen returns to Reno for another performance. As a devout blues fan and performer, she challenges the audience to think of blues not solely as music lamenting love lives. There are many different genres of blues, but the basis of it is that blues is truth and honesty, she says. She’s met more than a few converts along the way.

She performed at Rollin’ on the River in 2008, and it’s no wonder she’s headlining again this year. While Reno is special to her, San Diego has also been kind. In 2000, she was given the San Diego Blues Challenge award and has been nominated on six occasions as San Diego’s “Best Blues” musician. She was also the headliner for the first National Women in Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C., in 2006.

For her, Reno is a second home, and Lundeen won’t be visiting without singing her song and leaving a lasting impression.

“The fact that I get to see my old friends and family, that to me is so moving and so exciting to me,” she says. “It almost feels like I never left when I get there.”