jae stephens on taking on the music industry’s pop machine herself

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The 21-year-old Jae Stephens debut EP, ‘f**k it i’ll do it myself ‘ (on which she takes full songwriting and production credit), is synonymous with the spitfire’s attitude about life. The artist striking independence towards her art is goals AF, all the while moonlighting as an impressive collaborator with such artist as Khalid  and VanJess.


We talk with the Dallas native about her upcoming her rise to stardom.

How did Texas influence your music?

I wouldn’t say I was in Texas long enough for it to influence my music directly, but having parents and an entire extended family so rooted in southern genres like R&B and gospel definitely affected the way I hear harmonies and melody. In every song I try to find the balance between something that sounds modern but feels warm and familiar like R&B.

What was it like growing up there vs living in LA now?

Again, I didn’t really grow up in Texas. Most of my childhood was spent in LA, which I’m really grateful for because I was always reminded that opportunity is anywhere you’re willing to look. It definitely keeps me going creatively in a way that I don’t think Texas would’ve done, or any other state for that matter.

I love the title of your EP, ‘f**k it i’ll do it myself’, Obviously there is a story there. Can you tell us how that ended up being the name of this body of work and your initial offering to the world?

Thank you! The title is honestly just a reflection of how I felt making the EP. It began when my manager suggested I get back into producing on my own after a few years away, so I figured I’d throw some shit into my computer just to humor him. I definitely didn’t expect anything to stick. As it developed into a real project, I realized how much of the guesswork and overthinking that often comes with collaborating had been taken off my shoulders – things came a bit easier when I did them myself.

Do you like being in front of the camera? 

Only when it’s a selfie. Other than that, absolutely not!

Do you approach making/writing music differently when you know you will be performing it?

Everything I write is done with performing in mind – I always like to think that if I can’t sing it in one take in the studio, then I can’t sing it live. The mood of a track is a big one as well. If something doesn’t make me move while I’m writing it, I know I’ll be bored to tears by singing it live.

Who are your dream people to work with that you already have and you want to?

James Fauntleroy is at the top of my list for sure. He’s such a melodic genius and I’d honestly die at the chance to work with him. Other big ones are Victoria Monet, Tayla Parx… and this is a bit out there but I think I’d sound really good over a Travis Scottbeat. He’s one of my favorites.

What makes a good collaborator?

I’m still figuring that out. I’d like to think it’s that I’m very good at staying in my lane. When I enter a session I like to assess everyone’s strong points and let them assume those roles – I know what I’m best at and where I’m lacking and I’ve learned to never try to overcompensate for that. I always do what’s natural and what feels right to me, then let the room naturally form a song around it. Something I’ve definitely learned from my own time with this EP is to stop trying so hard – songs usually come out better that way.

What was your first big break?

Haven’t had it yet!

Do you think being young has the advantage of making music these days?

It’s certainly easier than ever for anyone to make a song and get it out into the world. I think it’s great that so much technology and information is so widely accessible because it allows people to discover and hone in on their talents from a younger age like I did in middle school, when I was googling Garage band tutorials.

Where do you get most of your inspiration?

I definitely get a lot of inspiration from whatever music I’m currently listening to, not even in the way that it sounds but the way it makes me feel. I make music for moods or events or strong feelings, which may be why the EP comes across as a bit dramatic and demanding. I’m really inspired by strong emotions and sentiments that can be captured in a bassline or melody.

What do you do if when you feel uninspired?

Stop making music honestly. There’s nothing less fun than trying to write a song you don’t want to write. Give it a break for a week.

What were you listening to growing up? 

A lot of 90s R&B and gospel in the early years. My teens saw me discovering LordeArctic Monkeys, and Banks, basically music that could add the mood to the musicality.

Was music a big part of your household?

There was definitely always music playing in the car and the house. My parents aren’t musicians, but I can absolutely give them props for putting me on to good music from the very beginning.

What are you working on now?

I am not working on anything for at least like 2 weeks. Now that this EP is out I need a good night’s rest. After that I’m sure I’ll just get back to writing indefinitely.

What do you want to explore about yourself in the future?

I want to expand on my storytelling a bit more. I’m glad I’ve had fun with this EP and the way I’ve made decisions without second guessing them. It’s been a very raw approach that sometimes saw me getting a bit lazy, which I’m fine with because that’s just an accurate representation of how I felt at that moment in my process. In the future though I’d like to do a project that’s got full intent behind everything, one where I actually do spend hours mulling over the right lyric and the perfect melody. This has been the fun middle finger of a project, which was a big challenge for me at the time. The next challenge will be actually trying. Not too hard, but just enough.

Photos /CaRetta Adkison



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