Stephonne Singleton’s plans for pushing musical boundaries as they take KC in 2023

Stephonne Photo By John Brant For Faded Sons

Stephonne. // Photo by John Brant for Faded Sons

Stephonne Singleton, is looking towards the horizon in 2023 and planning exciting new projects that will expand his already-vast genre.

Singleton cannot be contained to one genre of music. Their sound has grown and evolved with them over years of self-discovery, but it all started, simply, with a love of music.

Singleton grew up in an inner-city, Wyandotte County, and was singing in choirs at the age of six and was dabbling in songwriting by the age of 10. Growing up in a house constantly filled with music drove this early passion.

According to Singleton, their parents were always playing records, CDs, cassette tapes, or turning on the radio. They grew up influenced by Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Patti Labelle, Barbara Streisand, The Beatles, and Marvin Gaye.

Despite the initial seed they planted, Singleton’s parents didn’t do much more to encourage a singing career.

“It was just me, you know, with this dream and my parents are too busy surviving to really put any real credence into me having a singing career,” Singleton says.

Thankfully Singleton’s dream was big enough to carry them through without initial help.

In high school, the emergence of Nirvana, Alanis Morrisette, Sarah McLachlan, and Radiohead pushed them to learn how to read music. They were hearing all the parts, but couldn’t put them on paper.

“Alternative music and rock really spoke to me,” Singleton says. “It was edgier, angrier and moody. That was who I was most of my childhood and even my adulthood.” 

After earning a master’s degree in music and entertainment business they truly found their start in KC when they worked with the band “My Brothers & Sisters,” from 2015-2017. While singing for this group Singleton met producer Jamie Searle and started working on their first album.

Searle was the first person to see the grand future that Singleton wanted for their music. 

“He is the first person that could hear exactly what was in my head. The stars aligned when we met,” Singleton writes under the YouTube release of the first song of their debut album. “Even with a music degree, I didn’t believe I could bring the songs what they needed at that time, and he is such a true servant of music it blows my mind every day.”

This first album is titled “Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard,” and although the first song, “Dangerous,” was released on YouTube in 2014, Singleton didn’t put the full album out on Spotify until 2018. 

This album was steeped in “a dark time of heartbreak, identity crisis, and depression and healing,” according to Singleton. A far cry from his music today.

Singleton is proud that their music cannot be contained to one genre. Taking influence from artists in their childhood, they create tracks that float between Rock and R&B.

Their newest EP “SIS: Side B” was released in June 2022, and has a very different tone than “Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard.” Where their songs used to be filled with dark, brooding undertones, there is a fun, confident sound that has taken over.

Singleton says this evolution came almost entirely from them relearning how to love themselves through therapy and years of hard work.

Stephonne Single Artwork

Stephonne. // Photo by John Brant for Faded Sons

“Really taking the time to love yourself and to love a traumatized version of you, that is just the truest love,” Singleton says. “We seek it from so many people. I write so much about unreciprocated love, and I think that that has a lot to do with just being a black homosexual man.”

“SIS: Side B” is a continuation of the EP “SIS: Side A” that was released in 2020. For Singleton, one of the things they find important when creating their own sound is being able to live with their new music for a while.

“People are really used to fast food music releases, but I hold on to songs for a long while, years in some cases, before going into the studio. I grew up watching artists work records for a hot minute, and take time to live and be influenced by life,” Singleton says. “Songs can tell you so much about themselves the more you perform them and live with them.”

Half of the songs that Singleton has been working on for their next album, were written in 2021 and 2020, but the others have been sitting with them since 2018. According to Singleton, this upcoming album is going to be very personal and get very real about their experience as a Black and Queer American.

One song Singleton highlighted is called “Black Coffee & Brown Sugar,” and it is a tribute to their drag queen friend that encouraged Singleton to start doing drag, but passed away largely due to alcohol addiction at a young age.

“I wrote that to tribute her and who she was,” Singleton says. “To honor my experience with her and in drag.”

In addition to including personal experiences that they were previously too scared to express, they are incorporating even more styles. For example, country is supposed to make an appearance in a few of the tracks.

“I’m having more fun just letting things happen, instead of feeling this need to control everything,” Singleton says. “So naturally, that creates this excitement in the studio or it creates an energy or warmth within me that inspires all kinds of new songs. I just feel like it’s boundless now. There are so many options, and, sound-wise, there are so many different places to go.” 

Singleton has faced many battles to get to where they are now, including harmful relationships and substance abuse. However, through their immense self-love journey they have learned to accept these experiences, rather than let them run their life.

Stephonne Singleton Feb. 17, 2023 show poster.

The second “Stephonne Presents” at Uptown Theater Feb. 17.// Courtesy of Stephonne Singleton

“I can pull from my pain and that’s super duper easy, but isn’t it more interesting to pull from a wealth of joy as well and to pull from all of these other facets of life?” Singleton asks. “That’s so much more empowering.”

They didn’t share an album release date or title, but were happy to say that it will involve collaborations with some of their favorite KC artists, including Shilow & Regina Del Carmen for a follow-up project to “Deja Vu.” Of course, Singleton’s band “The Gay Rodeo” will also be backing them up.

SIS: Side B and this next project were recorded and engineered at Westend Recording Studio, and produced by Singleton. They are releasing their music video for their single “Rocket In My Pocket” Feb. 17.

They are looking forward to performing more festivals around KC and will also be doing their second “Stephonne Presents” tribute at the Uptown Theater with Mammoth Live Feb. 17. Tickets are on sale now.

“I’ve paid my dues and I’m really and finally seeing that work come back to me at 36,” Singleton says. “It feels good and I’m glad I didn’t give up or stop. I’m also glad I started to work on myself so I could be present for this moment and actually arrive as an artist. It’s never too late.”

Categories: Music