Interview: Stephen James The Artist on Authenticity, Genre, and the Next Step
This week I had the pleasure of hearing from Stephen James The Artist, an up-and-coming New York musician with a mission of authenticity and originality. Through my interview, I was able to receive an intimate glimpse into his creative process, inspirations, and more.
What inspired you to start making music?
Finally choosing to chase after my heart. I was working on Wall Street out of college, prior to actually making the leap of faith. Music was always my outlet throughout my entire life. I officially started making music in 2016, for the purposes of recording my own work to present to the public for consideration. I grew up singing in the church choirs, as well as other competition choirs in the district of my childhood home, Georgetown, MA.
What is your creative process like?
It varies for each project. Some songs I start from scratch, others I am presented a beat or composition to write lyrics and create the melodies for. For “Dangerous Game”, “Like That”, and “Before the Flood” for example: I was given the production of “Dangerous Game”, so I wrote the lyrics and melodies in my home, and then recorded the performance version that I loved in the studio. “Like That” I produced from an executive level, meaning I took a loop my friend put together on garage band via his iPhone, and then fully produced it in my studio with another engineer producer. “Before the Flood” was also a record I executive produced, meaning that I brought it all together via different studio session players (live bass), and different producer engineers, so that I could achieve the specific sound treatments I needed for synths etc. “Like That” was started in freestyle format, as well as “Before the Flood”. “Dangerous Game” I wrote a more specific love story for, as I am still trying to show that my love is real to whom I believe could (as crazy as it sounds in today’s world), could be my one true love.
Who are your biggest influences?
SHEESH! (Growing up – Tower of Power, Elton John, The Who), from the teens up – Jay-Z, 2Pac, MJ, Prince, Avicii, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Mac Miller, Kanye, Pusha T, Kendrick, Black Thought, Big Sean, (and pretty much any other writer that word plays on a high level). I loved Hip Hop growing up, so I feel like the above are just all artists that I love to listen to.
How do you go about writing a song?
Completely varies. The one thing that never changes, is that these are stories of my life. Authentic universal stories that we all go through. Love, rejection, hate, misunderstanding, drugs and alcohol abuse…I have written and produced 60+ records in the last few years, and I have only just begun my lyrical journey. I feel that in the not too distant future I will be challenged to write more impactful and positively driven records, for love’s sake. I feel I am going to dive more into the house, deep house, and EDM scene as well. I love the emotions that those songs can invoke.
How would you describe your music?
Every song is unique, and no two are really alike. They may fit into a project with one another, and I have written “albums”, though I try to focus more on the pure emotions and story of an event that occurred in my life. It’s important to have authenticity, similar to those who are great artists now, or those who are no longer with us here on earth. My work is in the pop music realm. I make hip hop, EDM, house, country, ballads, etc.
What about your music do you consider unconventional?
My diversity of beat selection, lyrics and melodies… Insiders of the business say that I am known for how I cross Genres and bend the “rules” for “what or who” should go where. Especially in the POP realm where music is procured by the industry owners. I am on my own path, and that is not to sign a contract for the purposes of, “get famous”. I have had multiple labels come to me through attorneys over the last 3 years. I will be a versatile artist and label founder. I have followed and studied Jay-Z’s whole journey and career, so I am grateful that he led the way for me to learn how much I will be able to accomplish in entertainment over the next 20-30 years.
What are your ambitions as a songwriter and musician from here?
I am going to focus on making music that is authentic. The SECOND I worry about making, “a hit”, I will likely walk away and take a break. My songs being very pop in their essence make that statement seem almost hypocritical, though these are simply the projects that have been placed before me, and I never stray away from an opportunity. If I did not write for, or address, almost every project I have been given, I would not be in the situation I am in now. I believe it is my open-minded nature towards love that allows me the ability to see the beauty in everything I have been given, to see it as a blessing. I will definitely become more experimental over the next 2-3 years.
What are your plans for any future releases?
I am releasing two singles and then an EP in June. The singles will be out in April and May. likely another single on July 3rd for my birthday, and then an album come Fall.
What is your favorite song? Why?
“Runnin” – I absolutely love it…because I absolutely love the woman I wrote the record for. When you get serious and fall in love, it can be scary… so we decided that space would be good for some time… now I am literally and physically runnin back to her as fast as I possibly can. I truly and fully respect her space though, so it will be on her time. If she loves me the way I believe she does, it will be a heart-stopping event when I see her in person again, I’ll probably weep haha! Until then, I continue my work and become as successful as I may become.
What does your music say about you?
Authenticity. No fear. No judgment. Grace. Love. Eternity.
Sarah Stukalin is a writer and singer from Houston, TX. She is currently a junior at Bucknell University where she is studying Vocal Performance and English while contributing to on-campus publications and a classical opera ensemble. She loves learning about new artists and discovering new music. Some of her favorite artists include Mac Miller, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, Megan Thee Stallion, and many more.