Interview: Singer-Songwriter Stealth
The Midlands has born some great musical talents in the past – Noddy Holder, Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin were all from nearby. It has now given us another emerging talent Stealth, born in Walsall and then grew in Litchfield, his super soulful and velvet like vocal has achieved great success here and in the US. Heavily influenced by the Jazz, Blues and Soul sound of the 50, 60s and 70s. His previous release ‘Judgment Day’ famously featured on the US TV series Suits with Meghan Markle and made him an overnight success.
Here he shares his experience and struggles with mental health, how he recorded with Amy Winehouse’s band ‘The Dap Kings’ and the story behind his new soul infused debut album ‘Bury Me’.
YOUR HOMETOWN HAS QUIETLY BEEN PRODUCING SOME OF THE BIGGEST BANDS IN HISTORY, HOW DID YOU FIND IT GROWING UP IN LICHFIELD?
It’s the place where I found my most valuable life lessons and began my musical journey. A town full of good people and a strong sense of unity. I guess Lichfield is not usually recognised as a musically rich area compared to the surrounding cities, but I found myself amongst a lot of amazing music from a very young age. My first ever gig was on the Beechdale Working Mens Club on the Beechdale Estate. This is the area Noddy Holder (Slade) grew up. My uncle lived in Birmingham next door to Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin were from around the corner too.
FROM LISTENING TO THE ALBUM I’D SAY YOUR SOUND SEEMS TO DRAW THOSE AREAS OF TRADITIONAL GENRES LIKE JAZZ, SWING & BLUES, WHERE DID THESE INFLUENCES COME FROM?
I did a lot of pubs and club gigs. I was only about 14, catering to a much older audience. So I was performing a lot of swing 50’s, 60’s and 70’s music. Thinking about it, if I didn’t grow up around here I wouldn’t have been immersed into these genres. I also had a really deep voice for a 14-year-old, so I couldn’t quite hit the high notes for any of the modern pop stuff.
‘SO SO YOUNG’ IS OUT ON ULTRA MUSIC. IT SEEMS TO SHOW A VERSATILITY WITHIN YOUR SOUND, ADDING A MODERN SPIN ON YOUR TRADITIONALIST GENRE BACKGROUND. HOW DID THIS ONE COME ABOUT?
So it all started at a writing camp with EDM artist Aslove and Leno, they played me this track which had a country feel to it. I was like this doesn’t sound too far away from what I’m into, I reckon I can add my spin to it. So then we send it off to Ultra and they liked it straight away. It works perfectly as a collaboration; it would’ve sounded too much of a departure if it was just me on the record.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGING AROUND THIS TRACK?
I wanted to write a Bonnie and Clyde kind of story about two people on the run, not really knowing what from. I left that open for interpretation. But for me personally the main theme is around escapism. Also around the journey, I have taken to get to where I am now, sometimes everyone makes a point of the end destination. But I find that the best part is the journey there.
YOUR TRACK ‘JUDGMENT DAY’ FAMOUSLY FEATURED ON THE US TV SERIES SUITS AND BECAME AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS. WHERE WERE YOU THAT NIGHT?
I was crashing on my mate Lukes’s floor. I get a call saying being like “your track is being played on Suits tonight”. So I was like great but didn’t expect what was to come. I get some sleep, then the next thing my phone was going insane. The tracks doing something like 10,000 streams an hour and 200,000 Shazam’s.
HOW DID THIS ALTER THE DIRECTION OF YOUR MUSICAL JOURNEY?
That exact moment gave me hope and a reason to crack on, I was working in a golf club beforehand struggling away. Next thing I’m on tour with Vaults. There’s was nothing more frustrating than when I’d tell someone I’m a musician and somebody goes “ah so what’s your real job then?”. But after that, I started to be taking a little bit more seriously by my people and I knew I could do this.
YOU HAVE HAD VARIOUS TWISTS AND TURNS IN YOUR PATH, ALONGSIDE OVERCOMING SOME OF YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES. HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU FIND IT IS TO DISCUSS THE DOWN MOMENT’S SOMEONE’S CAREER?
It is essential and no one should shy away from it. Everyone is happy to talk about their phobias like heights or spiders. But if someone turns around saying they have anxiety, the response is always “toughen up”. We should be more comfortable talking about anxiety as we are with phobias.
‘BURY ME’ AS AN ALBUM APPEARS TO BE A VERY PERSONAL BODY OF WORK, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CREATION PROCESS OF THE TRACKS?
I have always done EP’s, so this was my chance to put my 30 years of personal experiences into a full album. The first track I wrote was ‘Gotta Stop Loving You, which was about a breakup I went through. It was a mantra to myself saying this is horrible, but you have to get over it.’ Prisoner’ is about me moving to London from a small town, realising you are a very small fish in the sea. I really love that one. Each song represents a different story within my life.
THE ALBUM BROUGHT OPPORTUNITIES TO COLLABORATE WITH THE LEGENDARY DAP KINGS ON ‘BLACK HEART’ HOW DID YOU FIND WORKING ALONGSIDE SUCH A WELL-RESPECTED GROUP?
It was a bit of a dream come true. I had watched the Charles Bradley documentary on YouTube, so I said what about the Dap Kings. Luckily Ultra (record Label) had a contact there and they linked us up. I went to the studio in Brooklyn and it was the first-ever writing session I have done where there was no laptop. It was like being back in the old days. Those guys are so much fun to work with, they love music
Stealth ‘So So Young’ and debut album ‘Bury Me’ are out now on Ultra Music.
New video for ‘Undercovers’ Here.
Words: Toni Tambourine