Steve James is not your average eighteen-year-old. While most people his age would be focusing on college or experiencing freedom from parents for the first time, the incredible artist has been working with artists all over the music industry. He's been credited with crafting Justin Bieber's "Purpose," as well as working on Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha's "In the Name of Love."
With all of that in mind, we sat down with the recent Hollywood transplant, and we learned about surviving the industry, producing for others, and what the rest of 2017 holds for the talent.
Hey Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! You've made a pretty extensive career for yourself working with big artists, but what keeps you motivated in continuing to release songs for yourself versus devoting full-time to working with big artists on tracks?
Hey guys! First off thank you so much for having me. That’s a great question. I’ve always wanted to make music with good vibes or some kind of relatable emotions so people could feel the songs, and not just listen to them. Often times, producing for others can be fun because I get to do things that wouldn’t make sense as Steve James records, but ultimately when I write a song or work on something that I have a strong personal connection to, those are the songs you’ll hear as Steve James records; I’m so passionate about delivering those messages myself, my way, which isn’t always the case when you’re working with someone else.
The music industry can be a tough world to traverse, especially when you're 17-18. How do you maintain humility and keep your mind focused on the music?
You’re quite right - the music industry is an absolute whirlwind and it’s so easy to get pulled in a million directions, many of which are not always good. I moved away from my family at 17, but I talk to my parents as often as I can and about all my important decisions. I’ve surrounded myself with a team of people who get who I am, and also get who I’m not. And whether you’re 18 or 38, I think that’s vital when you’re being creative because we’re all at our best when we’re in our element and not forcing things that aren’t genuine.
If you weren't carving a name for yourself in electronic music, what other career path do you think you would have chosen?
Haha, sheesh I’m not sure. I was a pretty avid basketball player before I started focusing on music, but I don’t think my knees would have held up long enough for a career there. I always like to think that if I’d have gone to college, I’d go for political science and worked on the side of running political campaigns/voter outreach. I don’t know why, but I feed off of drama/tension and love the world of politics. I’m pretty happy wheeling and dealing in the music industry, which is it’s own beast when it comes to politics.
What are some of your favorite pop songs of the moment? Who are some of your favorite artists that you think we should be paying attention to?
It’s funny, there hasn’t been a ton yet this year that’s really blown me away. I feel like we’re hearing a lot of “2016 demos” still coming to fruition each week on NMF, but it seems the “new” sound is yet to really emerge. That said, I think Issues by Julia Michaels is an insane song, definitely an easy one to have on repeat and stands out from the crowd of “no drop” pop songs. And then there’s I Miss You by Grey - those guys have an insane sound and I think they have a huge year ahead of them.
As for new artists, I’m actually obsessed with this new artist HYDDE, who just started releasing music. It’s very song driven with incredibly clean, heavy production and I just can’t get enough of his/her/their tracks. On the vocalist side, I’m loving Clara Mae & Ashe a ton right now, they’re both going to blow up this year and rightfully so. And a name you know but probably aren’t think of - Matthew Koma’s new music has all been out of this world. He’s one of the best writers and singers I’ve ever met and am both honored to have worked on a few songs with him but am also just a massive fan of all the new stuff he’s putting out.
What is the biggest advice you would want to give yourself if you could go back in time?
RELAX!! Haha, but seriously. It’s so easy to get carried away by everything going on around you and get overwhelmed or stressed. You have to be able to step back sometimes and play some video games or do things that aren’t music and come back with a clear head and the right mindset. Anytime I’m working on music and I’m not having fun, I have to sort that out because if it’s not fun, it’s not my best work. So keeping myself in my little positive zone working on the right things is essential.
Finally, what can we expect from you for the rest of 2017?
Music music music!! I finished a lot towards the end of last year and have written a ton of songs already in the new year. My new single “Warrior” with Lights is out now, which is easily my favorite song I made last year, and I’m excited for the next couple singles I have lined up as well. I’m touring some this spring and summer with more dates coming soon. And then there’s just a ton of collaborations, both with other DJ’s and also some productions with artist/vocalists that I’m really excited to see come out this year.