Stephanie McKay Interview by Tom Paul

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    Stephanie McKay born and bread in the Bronx has been performing and writing with many well known artists such as Brooklyn Funk Essential as lead singer, guitarist for Kelis, collaborated with Talib Kweli and Mos Def on various projects. She is featured on the song "Forget Regret" on Roy Hargrove's Grammy-nominated RH Factor. She has toured with Amp Fiddler and recorded under name McKay her own forthcoming solo release titled "Tell It Like It Is" produced by Portishead's Geoff Barrow. To say the least, she's been busy.

    Stephanie will be performing with her band and special guest MeShell Ndegeocello this Monday March 24th at The Blue Note in NYC for 2 shows at 8pm and 10:30pm $20 cover at tables/$10 at the bar and worth every dollar. ~ (212) 475-8592

    Please check out her website for more info on this talented lady.

    Like I've mentioned in the past when sending out emails about her shows, to see her live leaves no doubt in your heart, mind and soul that Stephanie McKay leaves the audience fulfilled and content after her performances.

    She is one of a kind and deserves your attention.

    Please come out on Monday night at the Blue Note and see what I've been telling people for years.

    Enjoy the Interview,

    Tom Paul

    TP: You just returned from touring in both Australia and Greece at the end of 2007 and early 2008, can you tell me  who you were performing with and how the audience reacted to the shows?

    SM: I was in Australia performing on a national tour sponsored by Triple J as a special guest of DJ Katalyst whose album is called "What's happening".  The tour was a collective of artists that included J-live, Spacek and Australian mc's and local artists such as rock singer Adalita.  I wrote and performed a song on the "What's happening album called "Say what you feel". In Athens Greece, I was performing with my own band for seven nights at a Jazz club called the "Half Note". This club has been around for 30 years and has hosted some of the most legendary musical acts from around the world. Before I was there Frank Morgan, the great saxophone player had played his last concert there before he sadly passed away a week later. Both shows were received very well and there is a huge market for soul music in these places.

    TP: Are you surprised to meet people who have such positive reactions to your music heard Internationally from all of the various projects you've been involved with? Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Soulive, DJ Spinna as well as contributing your vocals to projects for Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Tricky, and Roy Hargrove, Carl Hancock Rux.

    SM: Yes, I feel very thankful. I am always happily surprised when people are familiar with my music as any artist would be. I am deeply humbled. I have learned a lot from the artists I work with and it has added to the depth of my own musical expression. In addition, giving me exposure to new audiences who might not have heard of me otherwise.

    TP: Were you surprised how your "Mckay" cd was received by the International community, it received critical acclaim? I know I've turned a lot of people onto that CD and thought that it could've been huge here if it was pushed.

    SM: Thank you. Yes, My career has grown largely by word of mouth and it is fascinating to me to meet new fans and find out how and where they heard my music . My latest US Ep was entitled Stephanie Mckay and was a reintroduction for me into the US market where I have never formally had a release on a label , only through import. This EP helped me reach new fans in the US and now I able to go back and tour  Europe this summer for the first time. I have many positive things to be thankful for.

    TP: I see you performed at MIDEM in Nice, France on January 30th, will you be there with your band? How does an Indie artist get a showcase at MIDEM?

    SM: I was performing at Midem with a very special group of musicians that included Gary Shider, Lige Curry, and Clip Payne from P-funk, Adam Widoff, Robert "Chicken " Burke and Joey Eppard and myself. This band is called DRUGS. I have been a member of this band for six years in between doing my own solo projects. We were selected to play at Midem based on our performance at the Transmusicalles Festival back in 2005. 

    TP: Can you talk to me about the current band you have been touring with, they are some great musicians? 

    SM: The band I am currently touring with is a trio Manny Laine on Drums, Jonathon Maron on bass and John Deley on keys. They are extremely talented, funny, professional, sensitive, and I have had the best time travelling and playing with them. At the Blue Note , in addition to John Deley and Manny Laine I will be playing with two new musicians, guitarist Eli Menezes from Brazil,  Bassist Patrick Andriantsialonina from Madagascar and special guest Meshell ndegeocello.

    TP: You've been through a lot during your career, dealing with record labels that didn't know what to do with your sound even though they loved it, do you have any advice out there for up and coming Indie artists who don't want to be pigeon-holed by labels?

    SM: Now that the industry has changed so drastically, finding your niche and staying true to it is important to build a foundation and then expand from there. It is important to creatively seek out projects that you are passionate about. Ideally, as an artist you want to strive to create music that you would want to listen to twenty years later.  Don't try to keep up with trends. Be honest about what your original style is and feel confident in it even if it is not the latest hip trend. Staying open creatively to different music by evolving as an artist, continuing to study your craft. Learn from the greats that came before. For me,  experimenting and collaborating with other artists keeps me stimulated musically in my career.

    TP: Tell me about any current projects that you are working on that will be coming out, can we expect anything new from Stephanie McKay?

    SM: My new album will be released this summer. I am also working on a new project with DJ Katalyst that will be out in late this year or early next year. Stylistically, it is somewhere between  Sharon Jones and the Dap kings and Gnarls Barkly.

    TP: Can you talk about the hustle of being an Indie artist? You are constantly on the go with sessions, rehearsals, performances and trying to juggle all the business arrangements in between, how do keep everything in line?

    SM: I don't. No Seriously, having goals and then work backwards with a plan to achieve them. Being a freelance and independent artist, things change from day to day. You have to be resourceful and able to adapt to different situations musically. You have to be diverse. Play acoustic one night, play with a trio another. Of course taking care of yourself by honoring your body and health is important and getting enough sleep. When you are independent you make your own schedule, so when you are feeling like you need to rest, Rest.  You are your own boss. It is an unusual lifestyle, living in planes and hotel rooms. The challenge to balance everything in life can never be mastered it is part of the journey, but try to be as organized as possible and put some kind of system in place. Have people that love and support you and are championing your cause around you constantly. You need good friends and loving family who understand your lifestyle and will support you, even when things don't go as planned.

    TP: What was the first gig you did and with who that made you want to continue to be a performer

    SM: Thats a hard one to answer. As a kid I grew up watching Micheal Jackson and Jackson 5.  I remember watching the WIZ and being transfixed or the movie FAME. Or Eartha Kitt as cat woman on Batman. My first gig was as a backup singer/dancer with pop singer Sybil and was the first time I travelled to Europe. I was so excited I couldn't stop snapping pictures.

    TP: You studied dance for many years, how do you feel that has influenced the way you handle yourself on stage now?

    SM: Dance has had a tremendous influence on me.  It is very hard for me to be still when I sing. I feel the musicians and audience vibrations through my body and that is how I stay grounded and inside the music. I am dancing through my voice. My knowledge of dance helps me to understand rhythm and phrasing, the emotion inside the music.

    TP: What inspires you to create everyday?

    SM: I need to feel connected to nature. A walk outside, exercising keeps me motivated. Spending quality time with family and friends.
    TP: What Singers, Songwriters, Musicians, Producers have influenced you the most?

    SM: The people I have worked with have influenced me. Of course, the great soul singers of the 60's and 70's Motown, James Brown, Roberta Flack, Shirley Horn, Betty Carter, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Abby Lincoln, Joni Mitchell, Bettye Davis, Betty Wright, I could go on and on but we would be here ALL day. Let's just say I have my periods of being on you tube when I watch classic performances non-stop.

    TP: Who would you like to work with in the future?

    SM: There are so many people. I am a Gemini so I live in two worlds. I am interested in working with the previous generation before me so I can learn from their technique and production in music. I like the music that existed before ringtones. Spiritually and intuitively I am drawn more to warmer sounds and richer tones sonically that one would find in older recordings. My other world is in the future and experimenting with the fusion of different cultures, sounds and rhythms. I am fascinated by technology and the creative possibilities it brings. Yet I miss the great vocal producers from the past who really knew the craft of recording and knew how to get the best performance out of a vocalist. 

    TP: Where would you like to see your artistry in the next 5 years?

    SM:   I would like to see my artistry grow in melody, harmony, poetry, symphony  beats rhythm. I would like to have the opportunities to work and study with better musicians than myself, to sing great songs, continue recording records with creative and visionary producers /artists, to tour the world as a international world class entertainer.


    TP: Thanks for your time and we are all looking forward to hearing your forthcoming album "Tell It Like It Is"


    Again, don't forget that if you are in NYC on Monday, March 24th, please come out to hear the artistry of Stephanie McKay at the Blue Note ~ (212) 475-8592



    Tom Paul