Discovering Levi Stephens’ music is like enjoying a surprisingly great meal at the local cafe you’ve passed a thousand times before finally deciding to stop in. You thought you knew what you were getting into, but this is something more. It’s refreshing –a pleasant surprise that a new artist in an industry plagued by dying creativity chooses to follow in the tradition of those classic singer-songwriters that came before. His debut album, “This Way” goes far beyond the confines of R&B and seamlessly melds a variety of genres, from soul to rock to gospel to folk while always remaining honest, clever and conversational.
Levi’s affinity for singing can be attributed to growing up in the Washington, D.C. area in a home he remembers being filled with music. “My father was a big music head. We grew up listening to all kinds of really good music. Music was bigger than TV.” Like many artists, his musical roots began in church where Levi, like his father, sang and played the piano. Outside of the church, young Levi was exposed to artists like Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway. In addition to those soul legends, The Beatles, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix and Prince all made their mark on Levi’s musical style and led him to the guitar which was the final piece needed to create his sound.
Levi’s ability to incorporate multiple influences into his music can also be attributed to his role as a producer. Along with his two partners at Kollective Music, Levi has written and produced songs on 702’s 2003 album “Star”, (Places and Certified), Raheem Devaughn’s 2005 album, “The Love Experience” (Believe) and the Fat Albert Movie Soundtrack (Come on and Join the Gang).
With each song he writes, Levi’s goal is timelessness. “I feel like that kind of music will always have a place and staying power” he says. His songs explore a variety of relevant subjects while including the elements that always stand the test of time; musicianship, strong lyrics, and shared experiences. This line of thought is even reflected in the cover songs that Levi chooses to perform.
In the true spirit of an indie artist, Levi is already planning his next move: “In 5 years, I want to have 2-3 albums done and be writing and producing for other artists. Then I want to work for Disney!” A place that is synonymous with excitement, lasting memories, and happiness would be a fitting home for an artist who evokes all of those emotions with his music. Until then, Levi Stephens is taking listeners to his own carefully-crafted “happy place” by tackling love, life, and everything in between with his always relatable and intelligent spin.
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