21 years ago, a true talent by the name of Jae Stephens was welcomed into the world. As an artist, songwriter, and producer, Stephens knows the modern-day hardships of being a rising musician but her continual drive is proven in her fierce debut EP, f**k it i'll do it myself. Following her recent television performance with Khalid, Stephens remains in the spotlight as she asserts her independence over the course of six polished tracks.
From just listening to the opening track, "Got It Like That," the clever production and infectious chorus make it obvious that Stephens is an innovative artist. The saxophone flares in "Girl No More" add the perfect touch to Stephens' bold proclamation, just as the thrilling beat does in "What Are You Doing Tonight?"
With the highly anticipated release of f**k it i'll do it myself, this year is set to be Stephens' most eventful yet, so eventful that she included a harp-infused track titled "2019." Stephens' breathy vocals layered with intriguing sonics in "Emergency" are everything we could have asked for and more. f**k it i'll do it myself closes with the daring "Hate LA," which hears Stephens bashing those who blind themselves to what the city of angels really has to offer.
To celebrate the release of her debut project, we recently chatted with Jae Stephens about her perspective on LA, performing on SNL with Khalid, and of course, her powerful debut EP, f**k it i'll do it myself.
OTW: It's important to note that you're only 21, but you have such an experienced touch when it comes to music production. How did you hone your craft?
Stephens: Any skill I’ve got in production definitely came out of necessity. I’ve been singing my whole life, and when I began writing my own songs at 12 years old, I quickly realized the sound I was after went a bit deeper than what I was capable of playing on guitar. Once my parents got me a Macbook with Garageband, a lot of my first songs were mainly made up of my vocals, singing every instrumental part, being layered over me drumming on my desk, which was an exciting place to start at the time! I still make music this way, hearing it as a melody first then interpreting it through an instrument.
OTW: f**k it i'll do it myself is such an anthem of a record, pushing for independence against all odds. What inspired you to write this EP?
Stephens: In the beginning, I was kinda forced. I had stopped producing to focus on writing because I reached a point where I felt all of my best songs were coming out of collaborations with amazing producers that I could never compete with as a producer myself. My manager and publisher asked me to give it another go and I totally did not want to. The first songs I released from the EP were done out of spite, because I literally threw things into my computer and sent them off like, “Here, since you keep asking.” Later on, as it became a proper project, I gained a bit more confidence in the fact that maybe I didn’t need to wait on a producer all the time in order to release music, which was an exciting revelation.
OTW: What was the creative process like for f**k it i'll do it myself? How long did it take you to write, record, and produce the EP?
Stephens: In the beginning, it took no time at all. "Got It Like That," "2019," "Girl No More," and "Hate LA" were all done within a month because I wasn’t really trying. There were modifications made here and there over the next few months, but they didn’t take as long as the other songs on the EP, which I spent months trying to decide on. Then it turns out the tracks that made it ("Emergency" and "What Are You Doing Tonight?") were done back to back two weeks ago once I finally resorted back to not trying so hard.
OTW: Contrary to the title, "Hate LA" is actually about your admiration for what LA has to offer you and your future. What did you first think of LA when you first moved here from Dallas?
Stephens: I was really young when my family moved to LA so I was definitely in love with the fast-paced glitz of the entertainment industry, especially compared to the sleepiness of the Dallas suburbs we’d come from. I’ve always wanted to make music and be heard and I could sense automatically that I was in the right place to do this. Naturally, I went through that time in my teens, that I think most people experience, where everything about LA was “fake” and “toxic,” but I realized it was really just me not choosing to take advantage and make the best of my situation.
OTW: How does it feel to finally be releasing your debut EP?
Stephens: It honestly feels like finally passing a test I’ve been studying for for the past three years. I’m so happy to finally have a body of work out in the world, especially one I can say I did all by myself. Feels like I can finally relax… for a week, before I start working on the next thing.
OTW: What was it like performing with Khalid on SNL?
Stephens: That was such a whirlwind week. I found out I was doing it seven days before it happened. Everything about it was so exciting and new to me, and Khalid was extremely nice. People often ask if I was nervous, and maybe it was because I was only singing backup, but there were no nerves at all. The entire experience only made me ten times more excited to do it on my own one day.
OTW: If you could collaborate with anyone in the music industry, who would you pick?
Stephens: I’m dying to make a song with James Fauntleroy. I just think he’s such a genius from his melodies to his production, and I’d sing literally anything he writes 'cause he only makes hits.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?
Stephens: Iyla, Destiny Rogers, and Lolo Zouaï are all really exciting to me right now. Also, I know most people probably know her for her songwriting work with Ariana Grande, but Victoria Monet is such a serious triple threat that I can’t wait for more music from.