Back in May of 2016, our Stephen released his debut album – Sincerely. The title perfectly summed up the profound message he hand crafted for over two years.
When it came out, the people responded – the lead single “Crossfire” has over 100MM streams… on Spotify and YouTube alone (excited to finally get the Apple backend in the coming weeks).
Unfortunately, a few months after the release, Stephen came down with a horrible case of Lyme disease. Originally undetected and then misdiagnosed as a skin infection, Stephen battled for well over a year. Mold grew in his bloodstream. By the time it was properly diagnosed, the disease was so intense the doctor’s prescriptions caused unbearable seizures as he struggled every day to regain his strength. Stephen has the most amazing, authentic parents, Caron and Michael, who helped their son move home and supported his track back to health. As his fans continued to stream and download, creating music wasn’t even on the horizon… Stephen was fighting for his life.
Approaching two years since his album debut, Stephen released two singles this week on Monstercat’s new Instinct imprint. One of them is about a lover he met on his road to recovery in Virginia – All he wanted to do was “Stay”, but knew he had to get back to LA to pursue his musical dream. The other “Play Me Like a Violin” is just as fresh. To Stephen, everything in life is an instrument – his percussion sounds range from slapping his own chest to playing with your kitchenware.
As if Stephen hadn’t been through enough, after his long awaited comeback, three songs by a Jamaican artist with the name Stephen showed up on his profile on DSP’s instead of these two. It’s been three days, and even with all of our connections, no major platform has fixed it. Hopefully, they will soon, and as they do, I hope they listen to the music.
Regardless of whether they do or don’t, his hundreds of thousands of fans will listen, share and share some more.
I don’t know what genre Stephen is. I don’t care. I wish we had more effective avenues as an industry to propel great music which may not fit in a box. While some genre bending playlists will surely pick up on Stephen, there is not a single radio format which sticks out as a possibility for these two songs (if you feel differently, I would love your advice on this).
That’s alright for now as luckily Stephen is not starting from scratch. His home on YouTube was waiting for him – almost all of the top promoter channels (listed below) picked up one of the two songs. As I scanned through these channel’s previous releases, it’s amazing to see Stephen’s two songs have more thumbs up and higher early view counts than almost any song they have posted in the last few weeks.
Through these channels, and the corresponding user-generated-content which came as a result of their posts, Stephen’s original debut single, “Bullet Train” (released from his college dorm room under the name Stephen Swartz before he was singing or signed to us), sold over 235,907 copies with ZERO marketing.
I know the songs released this week will eventually consume the same. The music is that good. Stephen is creating his own lane… I don’t know what it is, but I really like it and know it is sincerely him.
Here are some of our friends at YouTube who have supported Stephen since day one! Linked with their corresponding subscriber count.