Stepahanie Mckay - The Truth Is Out There
New York soultress Stephanie Mckay has worked with numerous genre luminaries, and with new album Tell It Like It Is is set to join them. 3D’s Huwston found out more about the release, and her quest for truth.
Stephanie Mckay burst onto the scene five years ago with her debut album Mckay on Portishead’s Go Beat label. The album, helmed by Geoff Barrow and Katalyst was a soulful mix of reggae infused beats that seemed to be misunderstood by the major label that was selling and promoting it. Not so for those who heard it and knew exactly what ilk of singer Ms Mckay is as she strengthened the fan base who understood exactly what she was doing from her previous work with Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Returning with Tell It Like It Is, Australian audiences got a preview of the album with the political tones in Katalyst’s sophomore What’s Happening and Mckay’s contribution to it, Say What You Feel.
“I was blown away by the landscape over there,” she says, referring to her shows in February for Good Vibrations, “and I didn’t even get to see one tenth of it.”
So whose idea was it first to do a political record-
“We were working on our albums at the same time and the intention was to cross-promote them but it has worked out in a divine way because I got to get an introduction before my album came out. I got a chance to get introduced to the Australian market with someone I really respect, musically.”
Not exactly dodging the question, Stephanie talks further abut her relationship with the Australian producer.
“I keep joking with Katalyst because we were talking about our ancestry and he told me he has Cherokee Indian in his background and I said ‘my family is from Virginia,’ and he said his great grand parents were from Virginia, so I feel like we are long lost brother and sister or something!” Jokes aside, “When we do music, I feel like, when he does a beat, I would have done that same exact track (if I could do beats). We have the same aesthetic musically and we have similar values,” she says.
Tell It Like It Is has a socially conscious message on top of a backdrop of varied soul, funk and hip hop beats that taps a number of New York based producers.
“A lot of the producers are up and coming guys, some of them are from other bands like Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke is in the band Toshi Ragan and Big Lovely and he was just starting his production with a side band called Drugs, that was an offshoot of Parliament Funkadelic, when I thought he would really bring something to the album. There is a gentleman who works with Jazzy Jeff in Philly called Damian Sandes, we co-wrote Fiya, Letter and Oh Yeah. Basically it was a lot of kindred spirits involved, musically,” she says.
With the New York scene seemingly losing some shine to Los Angeles in the last couple of years (at least in the soul and hip hop realm when considering the success of people like Flying Lotus), it was great to gauge how a hard working independent artist views their surroundings.
“I think it’s great here. We have a real strong indie rock scene, a strong dance scene with Giant Step, we had Gilles Peterson doing a party for them last week. There is a lot of variation, you got the Afro punk scene…” she goes on to list many emerging genres. “New York is so big, so culturally diverse and it’s always bringing up different fusions and different lifestyles.”
And with a title like Tell It Like It Is is Stephanie Mckay ever concerned that people will assume she’s telling it like she sees it-
“(My influences) were not to be preaching but it’s important to me because I come from a working class family, I catch the train every day, I have to struggle as an artist living in New York and post 9-11 New York where there are cameras everywhere, and you get your bag searched randomly and all of that can effect you. As an artist you have to be numb not to want to express some of this stuff that goes on, I’m very lucky to have music to get this out.”
“When I say ‘tell it like it is’, I don’t mean there’s one ‘is’, I’m questing for the truth like everyone is, I am asking someone to tell it like it is because people are feeling hopeless. People feel detached from the government and that they don’t have the power to make change, I don’t feel like I’m telling it like it is, I‘m feel like I’m searching for the truth just like you.”
WHO: Stephanie Mckay
WHAT: Tell It Like It Is through Inertia
WHEN: Out now