Stephen Wesley : Country Rap’s Rising Star Shines Bright
“Country Rap’s Rising Star Shines Bright”
By Jesse James
Stephen Wesley is a rising star in the country rap world and Rebel Row proudly shines a spotlight on his music, because this star shines bright. We first heard about Stephen Wesley’s versatile style of country when he dropped his stellar new single “Cowgirl” that features Guns N Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash playing a blistering solo. Since then we’ve been blaring Stephen’s music in the office on a regular basis and his new album is easily one of the most anticipated releases of 2014.
Stephen Wesley sat down with Rebel Row to discuss his humble beginnings, his new single “Cowgirl”, working with a stellar line-up of legends, and his love for country rap stars Big Smo and Alexander King.
Rebel Row: You play guitar and sing. At what age did you first start performing and what were the early albums that made you say, “I want to be a rock star and play music for the rest of my life?”
Stephen Wesley: I grew up in a musical family but I started singing to audiences in choir in about the 5th or 6th grade. To be honest, it wasn’t a specific album. I was ALL over the place, musically. Metallica, Garth Brooks, Michael Jackson, Journey and Lionel Richie stand out the most, I think. I went to prison at 18 years old. At a certain point, I was like, “I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar so I’m just gonna teach myself.” One day, I was playing guitar and singing in the prison yard and the Chaplain comes up to me and says, “Wow! You have a beautiful voice! Would you like to sing in the choir? We get to leave the prison and sing out in the community.” How do you say no to getting to leave the prison, even if for just a few hours? So I was given the solos and our first performance was to a church that had recently burned down so they had church at the local high school. You could see their pain. I sang my ass off to those people. When we were done, all of the prisoners are allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder in a line in front of the stage so that the congregation can go from one end to the other, shaking our hands, telling us to stay out of trouble; that sort of thing. I was about a third of the way down and there was this HUGE line in front of me. This little girl (probably 12 years old) was first and she says, “You are going to be famous. Can I have your autograph?” I couldn’t believe it. I gave my first autograph. After her was an old man that said, “Well, if SHE thinks you’re going to be famous, than I should probably get your autograph too.” I must have signed 75 autographs that day. And all while in a prison uniform. That’s when I knew this was what I needed to be doing for the rest of my life. Make music, help others and change as many lives as I can and music is a GREAT vehicle to do those things.
RR: If we took a look at your iPod right now what would we find you listening to at the moment?
SW: I’m really big on Eric Church and Randy Houser right now but I have “Workin” by Big Smo and Alexander King on repeat at the moment.
RR: Tell us a little bit about your new single “Cowgirl” and the inspiration for the song and video?
SW: Well, it’s obviously an overtly sexual song and I’ve seen a lot of posts throughout the web saying that I’m a masochist and I objectify women, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. In all actuality, this song was written about an ex of mine that was a very sensual, sexual woman. She knew what she wanted. I was pretty much a kid straight out of prison so SHE was the one that showed ME what she liked. Therefore, “Cowgirl” should be an educational experience to all! Kidding. That song is about a strong, sensual woman that knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. But we really tried to tone down the sexuality of the song by making the focus much more about fun and the “Lasso Dance”. We didn’t want to sell sex in the video. We wanted people to like it because they like it. Seems to be working.
RR: Former Guns and Roses guitarist Slash plays on the single for “Cowgirl”. How did the collaboration come about and what was it like working with him?
SW: The producer that was working on “Cowgirl” with me was also working with the guys from Velvet Revolver. He showed Slash the song and Slash loved it. Pretty crazy feeling. Can’t even tell ya. CRAZY. He treated me like I was the rock star and not him. Slash wanted to make sure that it was done the way I wanted and reiterated that several times. INCREDIBLE guy that goes SO far beyond talent. I still feel like it was a dream. I guess it was, though. A dream come true.
RR: Your new album is coming out shortly. What can fans expect and who do you have on the record with you?
SW: Well, “The Road” was actually my first album and like my musical taste was kind of all over the board. I really wanted to be doing country but the fact that I had SUCH a steep background in R&B and love for hip, mixed with not knowing ANY country producers, it came out in a very BROAD scope. I learned a lot. It got me here. This upcoming album is going to be as BIG as I can make it. I’ve been working hard. Really hard. I don’t want to give away too much just yet but I’m hoping to add as much value as I can to the hick hop genre. I LOVE it and would love to see more people getting behind it, including radio.
RR: You’re previous album “The Road” was recorded at Matt Sorum’s house. How did that come about and did you get any valuable advice from Matt?
SW: Because my producer was working on the VR stuff, we were just switching in and out of the studio at Matt’s. They’d have the morning, we’d have the evening. That kind of thing. Matt and I didn’t talk alot of “shop”. What I DID get from him was laughs. He’s a funny dude. That guy can come into the room and COMPLETELY change the vibe for the better. Was (and still is) always great to be around someone that doesn’t take life so seriously that he can’t laugh. His OWN album is killer, by the way.
RR: What has been your most memorable moment on stage and why?
SW: My first show. It was the Whisky A GO-GO in Los Angeles. The best of the best have played on that stage and I was right there with a group of guys that I loved playing with. I’ll never forget people hearing us outside and paying to come in and see who was playing. That’s something you just can’t buy.
RR: How do you respond to critics that think country rap is just a fad, and that the two should not mix?
SW: Damn glad you asked me that. Music evolves EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s been changing since it started and always will. There are SO many people out there that have been MANUFACTURED into pop stars. They’re singing about God know what to God knows who. I understand the value of a pop song and catchy hooks. Let’s be honest: that’s what Cowgirl is. But as far as I’m concerned, country rap or hick hop is as REAL as it gets. Hip Hop was started by people talking about their situations. Wanting better for themselves. HOW they lived, WHERE they lived and what they were doing to survive. Jimmy Rodgers did the same thing while working on the railroad. These guys are talking about their lives and what makes them happy and people are identifying with it. It’s fun and it’s honest. I just heard a snippet of Alexander King’s new stuff the other day. That’s SERIOUS music man. Rap, country, blues, jazz, pop or whatever you listen to, he’s making some incredible MUSIC. Colt Ford! That guy can write a song! These are TALENTED people creating something that I’m betting is around for many years to come. Like everything else, it will EVOLVE. But country rap is here to stay.
RR: What do you think about all the attention the scene has received lately and where do you see it heading in 2015?
SW: I think it’s AWESOME! I believe that at the rate in which fans are gravitating toward the genre, radio and others will soon have no choice but to get on board. Artists like Big Smo, Alexander King, Colt, The Lacs and hopefully myself are making a strong case to put hick hop where it deserves to be. Out in front.
RR: Where can fans get the most up to date info and stay in touch with you?
SW:You can always go to my website, which is www.stephenwesleymusic.com or Facebook at www.facebook.com/stephenwesleymusic!