Truth is the ability to make people walk in your shoes and feel as you feel. Today, seldom artists’ lyrics and spirit give genuine vibes. Stephanie McKay’s approach is honest and unique. Influenced by Marvin Gaye, Ohio Players and her love of hip hop and it’s depiction on everyday life, she infuses both styles into a soulful eclectic ride.
In the process to becoming a solo artist she has toured the globe taking in influences of cultures but it is her home ‘New York City’ that has stirred her passion for her debut album “Tell It Like It Is.” For her New York City tell the tales of a melting pot of individuals whom she can personally relate to. As we catch up with Stephanie she tells us about the important of being a globetrotter, realities of lyrics and her dancing career.
Singersroom: So you’ve traveled a good deal from touring and it seems that it has influenced your writing. What have you taken away personally and musically from the places you’ve visited?
Stephanie McKay: First I consider it a compliment because being able to be open minded in a different culture other than your own is a real challenge; you’re used to doing things in a certain way and when you go to some else’s country they do things their way. Culturally it has affected me because it made me become more flexible and more diverse, which in turn made my music more culturally diverse. Like I know in England they have a real respect for authenticity and the history of soul music more than American’s sometimes (laughter). A lot of Black American’s have had to go over there to make a living because they couldn’t have a career here, so they have records out there that maybe we haven’t heard of here. It has influenced my music by making me more open-minded to different cultures and the way I perceive soul music has broaden. Making me focus on the history and legacy; the rich legacy that we have, has helped me to do research and open my mind to artist I hadn’t heard of on the radio here.
Singersroom: Are there any places that you took instrumentation from to put it into your music now?
Stephanie McKay: I would say it is pretty much rooted in blues and soul. I love the Ohio players, I love Earth, Wind and Fire, so this album is American soul music.
Singersroom: Your style seems like a mesh of soul, Rock and hip hop.
Stephanie McKay: I would say Rock not so much, but soul, hip hop and Blues. Maybe Rock from song structure, but I would say it is blues.
Singersroom: On your single “Tell It Like It Is,” it feels like an honest song. How important is it for you to be transparent with your music?
Stephanie McKay: It is very important to me to be as honest as you can be. It can leave you to be vulnerable at times but I think you will find when you are vulnerable you will find a lot of people felt the same way as you and they are glad you’re saying it. That was one of the first songs written on the record. It is a very personal song to me because it was expressing some of the emotions I felt when my niece had come and told me she was going to have a baby. She was sixteen, so that really rocked my world because my niece is the closes thing I had to a daughter. It made me reflect on my own life and the choices I made and how I had been fooled by someone saying the same sweet nothings to me. Also my frustration comes from a lot of young friends getting killed for no reason.
Singersroom: With that happening to your niece and other social issues constantly fuming, do you try to use your voice a little bit more as an activist?
Stephanie McKay: I think being influenced by hip hop is very natural for me to have a sense of realism in the lyrics because that is what I’m living everyday. It is part of my life. I ride the subway. I experience things just like an ordinary working person. It is natural for me to want to express those things. I never thought of myself as an activist. I do care about what’s going on in the city [New York City]. I’m open to using my voice to make things better. I don’t believe in saying things that are detrimental to anyone. I realize the responsibility of an artist; a lot of people don’t want to think of there self as role models but when I ride the train and I see young teenagers with headphones listening to music reciting the lyrics I do understand the power of how an artist affects young people and young minds. I know how I was influenced by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 stories.
Singersroom: Was your first love hip hop or soul?
Stephanie McKay: I say soul and hip hop together, it kind of happened at the same time. Soul first because that is what my parents played and hip hop came in early junior high. Sugar Hill Gang and that was the beginning of everything.
Singersroom: Do you throw on your b-girl gear and start breakin’?
Stephanie McKay: (laughter) No, I was studying formal dance from a young age. I wasn’t breakin’ but I could dance. I was studying to be a dancer professionally so I took ballet, jazz and all that. I wasn’t breakin,’ I can’t even claim that because I have some friends who are ridiculous and they would look at me and go what!
Singersroom: You haven’t tried to break on stage at one of your show real quick?
Stephanie McKay: No, I have not but dare me and I might try it one day (laughter).
Singersroom: What lead you towards singing rather than a dancing career?
Stephanie McKay: I had an injury so I began getting rejected for various dance auditions left and right (laughter). Then I said, I have been singing my whole lifeâ¦getting awards for it, maybe I should try this singing thing. I went on an audition and the first audition I got. That changed my whole perspective; I kept getting work as a singer, kept auditioning. Before I knew it I was on tour singing backgrounds for different people. That is how it evolved.
Singersroom: What is the inspiration for this album?
Stephanie McKay: A lot of things, New York City was definitely a big influence on this record. The things that I would see people going through on the subway, the stories I would read in the paper, things I would see on the news. It has a lot of social undertones, war undertones and reflections on things important to me outside of the industry; as far as having that one other special person that you can make it through the world with spiritually.
Singersroom: When is the expected release date for the album?
Stephanie McKay: In late April. I don’t have an exact date unfortunately but I do have a duet with Anthony Hamilton that I’m really excited about.
Singersroom: Is that song for the special lover?
Stephanie McKay: It is in tradition of those duets. It’s called “Where Did Our Love Go.”
Singersroom: It sounds like there is going to be a lot of love on that?
Stephanie McKay: (laughter) Yup. Baby making music.
Singersroom: What is your favorite song to sing in the shower?
Stephanie McKay: My favorite song to sing in the shower is “Ecstasy” by Ohio Players. —— By: Interview By Adeniyi Omisore