The music of Stephonne Singleton mixes elements of soul, rock, pop and R&B into a style that's uniquely his own. Before even releasing what will be his first album he has established himself as a major musical presence in Kansas City, with impassioned performances both solo and with the popular My Brothers and Sisters ensemble. In this interview, Singleton delves into the joys and challenges of recording his new album, his diverse influences and how libraries helped shape the artist he is today. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work.
I live in the Heart of Westport in the Valentine neighborhood! My day job as an event coordinator manager and sales support specialist happens in Lenexa, KS.
Tell us about the Go Fund Me project for your debut albumCaged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard. Where are you in the recording process? Who are you working with on it?
Go Fund Me has been really positive and also interesting. We started with a Kickstarter and barely missed our goal. It was a really tough thing to get so close and then not reach the place we hoped for but to receive the outpouring of love and generosity from friends, family and people I would've never expected it from was unlike anything I've experienced before. I really felt like what I was trying to do with my voice and with music MATTERED to others and that I had support for a vision of myself I've had since I was 6 years old. Many of those supporters went right over to Go Fund Me and pledged again and that was a great feeling. I like that it is ongoing and that there is no time limit. As an artist we are always in need of financial support for recording, distribution, touring, promotion and more. I'm lucky to have a day job but I am still not a major label artist with those resources and budgets.
There is a myth that we as independent artists should just be able to do this ourselves and then like magic we should be a successful as Adele. That isn't how this industry works and even major acts are using crowd funding because the labels simply do not have money anymore. I got flak for crowd funding and it really made me wish someone could spend a day in my shoes and see the business side of my LLC. To see how much I make from a song they stream, buy or illegally download or how much it costs to book your band versus what you get back after a gig. It is all me all the time. There is a freedom and independence in that and I have learned so much but it is hard and any help is so appreciated by us. I have big dreams and I am taking steps to achieve them but support is huge and necessary whether you are hoping to reach the world like me or just your region or community.
Jamie Searle and I have been working tirelessly on this album and we should be done in the fall! I am beyond excited to present this body of work and haven't worked harder on anything else in my life! Jamie and I believe in slow-cooking music so we take our time and make sure it is everything we can dream it to be. I have lived with these songs for the past 6 years and wrote most of them before meeting Jamie about 3 years ago. To have him as a producer and arranger but also as my best friend has been incredible. Somehow he was able to hear my melodies and lyrics and know exactly what the songs sounded like in my head. Our partnership elevates them so much more though. It's an album about love that is super personal but so universal and the sounds we have discovered and created are very worldly, inviting, lush and unique. There isn't another project out that sounds like this and that pays tribute to music like this. Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard is a classic pop album and we can't wait to add it to the treasured list of classics we have throughout history. Besides Jamie we have brought in KC Symphony string players, revered local musicians, and amazing engineers and mixers like Joel Nanos! I'm actually hoping for some cool collaborations before we wrap that I am keeping a crazy tight lid on. I am very excited. It has taken my whole life to make this album. This is my debut to the world and I couldn't me more proud of it!
How have libraries influenced your work as a songwriter?
Growing up in inner-city Wyandotte County the library was my quiet safe haven! There was no poverty, gunshots or race separating me from knowledge and that was powerful for me. I got to escape in books, albums and videos that expanded my mind and opened my writing up to a place where poetry started to turn into songwriting at age 11. I would get dropped off for an hour and just get lost in there. If I wasn't reading I was writing and I was in peace, privacy and solitude that I didn't have at home with a younger brother, paper thin walls and all of the distractions around me. Songwriting is such a private, internal thing for me and then performance is like a public exorcism or therapy session! I got to be my introverted curious, observant and inquisitive self at the public library and it made me feel okay with that. It helped me find me and be okay with whom I was growing into, enough to be a singer-songwriter and recording artist today that isn't afraid to share what I've learned from the library of life.
What music are you currently raving about?
I am really kind of a crate digger and gravitate toward classics more than new music but I stay aware of new music for sure. Billie Holiday, Prince and old Grunge/Alternative music are go-tos for me usually but I did really like the new Oh Wonder, Twenty88, Tweet and Rihanna albums. If a whole album doesn't catch me then songs that stick out or singles do for sure. I like exploring through Shazam at house parties and digging through blogs to get out of the Top 40 trap (although I have some definite pop guilty pleasures!). I think the last few albums I listened to all the way through that really captured me were Anti (Rihanna), To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar), 25 (Adele), Lemonade (Beyoncé) and the self-titled Twenty88 album. It is hilarious because none of my music sounds like that! When I am writing I am either in complete silence or listening to Led Zeppelin, classic jazz and R&B or Hole, lol. I don't want anything on radio really influencing my creativity. My taste varies and inspiration is inevitable but my real inspiration for my work comes together from a lot of past time periods and melts together in a crazy way. Controversy aside, I loved the new Azealia Banks mixtape, Slay-Z. Other than that I am definitely intrigued by Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak, Judith Hill, Lucius and Tori Kelly.