Emerging artist Stephen Bankole-Wright, from Moreno Valley in California, just released a brand new song called 'Real Love'. Louder Than The Music chatted with Stephen to find out more about his music, the new single, and his plans for the future.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
Of course! Well I’m from Moreno Valley (about 90 min from LA) so I’ve pretty much soaked up the SoCal vibe for most of my life. As a kid I was always involved in music. I would say the three developing factors in my music career would be my parents, who were heavily involved in the church and did devotions with my siblings and I daily, my older brother who is a rapper, and my late piano teacher, who played and wrote gospel and Jazz music. I was homeschooled for the majority of my life so I had plenty of time to get creative and hang with friends. When I was 10 years old, a few of my close friends told me that they played instruments. I sarcastically responded, “oh wow we should start a band.” They thought I was serious. The rest of that summer was devoted to putting on a concert for our friends and family in our living room. I still have the DVD floating around somewhere. My little band disbanded (on good terms) but that didn’t stop me from pursuing music. After taking piano lessons and deciding I wanted to make music my profession, the rest was history!
Tell us about your new single 'Real Love' and what the inspiration behind it was?
Real Love is a constant reminder for me that God never leaves us and he is always with us. During the beginning of the quarantine I felt lonely-like really lonely. When all you can do is sit in your bedroom and make music, on one hand that’s cool, but on the flip side it can lead to a really unhealthy phase of your life. I got depressed. I was on the verge of tears but I didn’t want to admit that to anyone because churchy people will tell you “feeling lonely is a sin.” At this point in my life I imagined myself being engaged, close to finishing college, and starting one of my vocations. I was nowhere near any of these goals yet. Life wasn’t bad at all. It was just that I expected to be at a place in my life that I clearly was not. Then I heard God’s voice saying “why are you looking for love? Love me. Experience MY love. MY love is authentic. MY love doesn’t waiver. You’ve worshipped a regal rigid distant figment of me for most of your life. Worship me for who I am. Someone who wants to love you intimately.” So I started messing around with a beat and then honestly the lyrics came to me. After that, my amazing production company, CREW 12 helped me point the song in the direction I wanted to go with it. Then I had Michael Leto, a dope mixing engineer, and Slavic LiVins a renown mastering engineer put the finishing touches on it and once I heard the finished product I knew the song was gonna pack a serious punch!
Do you have any plans to release further music this year?
I plan on releasing some more music this year. I’m excited. For now I’m just finishing some songs up, praying, and planning so that every decision that I make with my production company is wise. I’ve always enjoyed the process and product of making music and I hope to keep learning, growing, and achieving.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
To those who already follow God, I want them to know that life can get real. Struggles and tests are a part of life. Despite these facts, God wants us to worship him authentically and to bless other people as we worship. To people who are still on their path to finding God or maybe even doubting his existence, I want them to take the leap of faith and follow him. Just begin. You don’t need any fancy verbiage, or the right church clothes, or to have read the whole Bible to worship God. Just begin. Decide to follow Jesus today. To those who may have backslidden, I’ve been there, it’s ok to make mistakes. I want them to know that it’s never too late to begin. It’s never too late to experience God’s blessings and to walk in them. God loves you so much. Come back home. Greatness is still inside of you.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
To be honest I'm very eclectic in my musical taste. I think to describe it best, all of my music would fall under the umbrella of the gospel genre. But honestly most of my music probably sounds like R&B, pop, soul, (etc.) I think every song that I write has that familiar gospel message though. At the very least, all of my music has an underlying Christian theme.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Whew that’s a tough question! Can I name a few? Stevie Wonder for sure is one of my top favorites. Everything he writes just speaks to your soul. Kirk Franklin is one of the dopest and most innovative gospel artists I know. I’d love working with him. I love how authentic Lecrae is. I’d love learning from his creative process.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
I would say that success is three-fold for me. First of all I want to create and perform music for the rest of my life. That’s a given. Secondly I’d want to continue to grow as a worship leader. I never want to leave the church that God has assigned me to. Lastly I want to use my music degree and give back to those who are dreamers like me. Through teaching music, I want them to know that it’s ok to have big dreams. Never put a limit to what God can do through you.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Again, I can’t pick just one! So I’ll go with 3:
Songs in The Key of Life-Stevie Wonder
The Fight of My Life-Kirk Franklin
Giant Steps-John Coltrane
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
To keep it 100 I would probably just sing Psalm 62 to comfort myself and save that battery life for a phone call!
What does the next year hold for you?
Next year, I plan on making and releasing a lot more music, performing prayerfully (if this Covid situation dies down), and just seeing what God has for me in this thing we call life!