Backing vocalist to the likes of James Morrison, Faithless and Jamelia; Stephanie Sounds has been meticulously studying the industry and music, to execute her own independent project. Growing up, Stephanie was raised in the London Community Gospel Choir; where her love for music, paired with the nourishment of her environment, bloomed a mature artist. The studious veteran, is now ready to hurl her unique and personal album 8 feet into the ears of the audiences she has anonymously performed for for years. Here’s what happened when I met up with Stephanie Sounds:
So tell me about when you first fell in love with music?
Music just became apart of me from a young age; I have a picture of me singing at church; I was about 3 years old, in a pink dress, with my little afro. My Dad owns a choir (LCGC); so I learnt a lot from the members growing up. My relationship with music and my voice was a natural progression. I just continued learning and nurturing my artistry with the influences and the music around me.
What music influenced you as a child?
We listened to a lot of American gospel, with big choirs where the singers were bellowing out. People call it Sunday music, but we were listening to it 7 days a week. But other than that, I listened to Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Brandy, Luther Vandross, Faith Evans and Mary J Blige.
How would you describe your own music?
Its a true reflection of who I am. I try not to stick to any theme or sound, apart from it being emotion driven. I worked on the album with my husband Ayce and it has very much been whatever comes out comes out; we didn’t have genre or sound in mind, we just let it all flow freely. Its important for me to let it come from an organic place, I think the development of music nowadays is so contrived, you have to have a particular sound or a particular subject matter. It should be freeing.
Its like you’ve taken the same progression in your musical growth, as you do to making your own music.
I don’t think you should over-complicate music or think about it too much; actually I think it comes out much better than a manufactured sound. Why can’t someone just sound like how they sound? Just be yourself, people are gonna try and put you in a box anyway, so why do it to yourself.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Nobody at the moment. I usually go through a faze where I study someone and listen to them all the time, but no-one at the moment. Actually I’m listening to a lot of Soca, thats my faze.
Why do you think that is?
It depends on what I need emotionally and what the artist is giving. If I find somebody who really makes me feel something, then i’ll completely indulge in them; however I haven’t come across anyone at the moment that makes me feel that way. There is a lot of music being pushed in your faces and it takes a lot of time to filter through the crap to find the music that has some meaning to it.
What are you thoughts on music now?
Its all good and well, just music that you can dance to; but I think the mistake that is being made is everyone is being made to sound the same and listeners need variety. As much as i can enjoy the songs and dance to them, its a bit uninspiring. I’m not gonna take music home and indulge in it, if it isn’t doing anything for my soul. There is music, outside of the mainstream, that is worth indulging in; you just have to work extra hard to find it.
Is there any one artist that epitomizes your music ethos?
I’m a massive Sade fan. No matter where i am in my personal life or in the world, her music feels like home. I really identify with her lyrics and the way she illustrates it using her melodies and musicality. I know some of the musicians that have been in her band for years and they always speak highly of her work ethic. I saw her at the O2 a couple of years ago and she was so enchanting. She’s effortless, 100% herself and not just a ‘sound’.
So tell me about your clothing line, SOLONDON Boutique and how it started?
I’ve always been into fashion; when I was younger I used to cut up all my clothes, turn jeans into tops and all thats stuff. I was just blagging it really. Then I decided I needed a new skill; I started a course in fashion, but then ended up going on tour. Once i got back, i got a friend to help me out and kind of mentor me – and my skills with making and designing grew from there. I really love working with African prints, I like the colors and the statement of it, and I wanted to marry that with the boldness of faux-leather.
A lot of people are starting to experiment with African prints now.
Yeh, they are. When I first started making clothes no-one was really wearing African prints, they’d maybe save it for a special occasion, but never casually. I wear my clothes everywhere now and its become an extension of myself; that’s what fashion is, its about how you feel and who you are.
You’ve done a lot of backing singing, who’ve you worked with?
Well at the moment I’m singing for James Morrison; i’ve been singing with him for about a year and a half which has been amazing. I’ve sung with Faithless; Westlife, Lamar, Jamelia and loads of other people, with loads of other little gigs and session work.
What have you learnt from working with these artists?
Mainly just what to expect and keeping my expectations realistic. I’ve experienced how hectic schedules are and how demanding it can be, even though I’m singing background.
Its almost like work experience.
Yeh and it makes you more appreciative. From my experiences of working with some stars who’ve never backed before, they take for granted all the work that goes into being in the band and backing singing. They can be quite disillusioned; thinking that our lifestyles are the same and pay is the same. I really hope that effects how I run my own ship.
How is making the music independently, without a label?
Well it just feels organic. I’ve never been signed before so I don’t know what its like to deal with a label. But I work when I feel like making music, as opposed to required to. It’s just been very free.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into the industry?
Have a backup plan and don’t be a one trick pony. Obviously you need to keep the money coming in, so explore new avenues that satisfy you creatively. Working in the creative industry can be fickle and you need remain realistic, but not so realistic that your not dreaming. You have to work hard, be determined and be persistent. I hate rejection, but its a big part of it; you have to remember what you bring to the table and let the rejection make you stronger. Keep doing you and what you love.
Whats in the pipeline for you?
Getting my album done and releasing my singles over the next couple of months. Then I have a tour in Switzerland at the end of October, so that’s a huge incentive to get the album done so I can build up my fan base. I’m just excited to get a lid on this project and let it go, i can’t wait to see what happens. Then I can start another project.
For more from Stephanie Sounds, check her out here: