Marie: Joel, can you share your journey to music?
Joel: I have always been around music. My dad is a folk musician so it was always encouraged and so I played a few instruments when I was young. I also have 4 older brothers who would introduce me to music they listen to, so I have always felt surrounded by it, which is awesome. I got a guitar when I was about 15 and I think I wrote my first song about a year later, with the four chords I had picked up. But I don't think it was until midway through University, so about 20, when I knew it was something I would like to pursue. I just started recording videos that I would upload to Facebook, and some demos I'd make in my room to Soundcloud. After Uni I began gigging wherever I could across London and it then started to get a bit more serious and that's when it materialized into getting some tracks ready for official release. I think releasing the first single was the moment that made me feel confident to say I am an artist.
Marie: What happened since then, what have you released, and can you tell me more about the recording process? What producer and engineer do you work with and do they have any successes you can mention?
Joel: So, I've released 4 singles now, with loads more to come in 2020, and I'm super excited to share what’s next. I work together with my producer and engineer, Lauren Deakin Davies, who's also a great friend, and it’s a really fun process. I'm a fully independent artist, but it’s cool to collaborate with someone in a creative environment. I always go into the sessions with a clear idea of what I want, and Lauren helps to get those thoughts out my head and bring them to life. It has got more collaborative as the time has gone on, and she's certainly a big part of the music I am putting out. In terms of successes, it's just cool to see so many people hearing the music across the world, and I'm so excited to share more.
Marie: What is the story behind your singles, can you share the background of the song?
Joel: My next single is called Back Up Team and it's set to be released on March 8th 2020. I wrote the song at a mate’s house in South London. We had all been out the evening before, and I had slept on their sofa. The next day, they all went to work, and I sat on that sofa playing some guitar and it was just one of those songs that wrote itself. It has a really upbeat feel to it, but the song is about dealing with anxiety, specifically about how having people, or someone, around you who understands can be what helps the most. We all have stuff going on in our head, and it's so important to share and confide when you feel ready to.
Marie: Is that how your writing process usually works? Is it stream of consciousness type writing or more planned and thought out? Is there an underlining theme in your music?
Joel: Oh, it's not thought out, at least not at the start. I just start playing guitar or piano, and then once I like something, I am playing I just start singing. Usually what will happen is I will randomly sing a line that I like and then from there begin to write a song. It normally takes a few lines to even know what the song is going to be about. So it’s a bit chaotic at the start and then it becomes a bit more ordered when storyline, or what the song is about has been set. I can be about anything and everything. This can be relationships of my own, or of my friends or about current affairs, I couldn't even tell you. I mean, my latest single, Fever, is just about mobiles phones and how dependent on them we seem to be, and how it’s important to give yourself a bit of time to sit back and ponder whatever is running through your head.
Marie: How does place and time influence you and your writing process?
Joel: I've never really thought about that, but it definitely does influence what I'm writing. I mean just the concept of time alone always seems to come into my lyrics, it's something that fascinates me. Place as well, I will often use specific locations or memories of locations to help bring out the emotions needed to write a song. I guess as someone who writes music that is personal and usually about a certain situation that is going on at that specific point, time and place always play a big factor, even if I've never noticed it before.
Marie: Were you listening or watching anything in particular quite a bit during the recording and writing process?
Joel: oh no, no time to watch anything especially in the recording process. Each song is usually worked on for about 2 days and that's that, so there is never time to think of much else.
Marie: Do you think there is a perfect time and place to listen to the single, does it lend itself to a particular listening experience?
Joel: Yeah, I think all much is suited to a particular moment/time. I often wait to release music for that moment. For instance, I knew my 3rd single Non Believer was a song to be listened to in the sun, probably in the park or the beach with a drink in your hand, so I released it at the start fo last summer. Funnily enough, I think Back Up Team has a similar feel, but more for the autumn months - the lead up to summer. I love the intricacies in the music, we put loads of interesting sounds in so it will hopefully sound different each time you listen to it. So just listen a lot, and loud [haha].
Marie: If you could hope that your music inspires someone to do something, what would that be?
Joel: Start playing music, that would be really cool.
Marie: Tell me more about your musical influences? Are you hoping to achieve a certain sound or theme on your new release?
Joel: I think I'm am still looking for a specific sound. I have the mentality that I don't listen to the same type of music each day, so why would it be any different when it comes to writing and recording music. I never feel like I'm am staying constant, and I think that’s okay. Of course, there have been and are artists that are massive inspirations to me and for sure influence the work I am doing, and to achieve or get to a level close to anything like what they are doing would be incredible. The biggest influence is Justin Vernon of Bon Iver/Volcano Choir/DeYarmond Edison/Big Red Machine. He has shown how you can make music that may be different, but still be coherent, and that's something I would love to be able to do. As well as that a big one at the moment is Dermot Kennedy, and Ben Howard and Tallest Man On Earth will always be massive influences for me.
Marie: One bonus question. What are your hobbies and interests outside of music?
Joel: I love sport. I play cricket and golf when I get the opportunity and follow mine and my dad’s football team Middlesbrough FC. I'm also running the London Marathon this year in aid of an amazing charity Drake Music whose work enables more people living with disability the opportunity to make and perform music. I’m really excited for it.
The youngest of five brothers, it’s no surprise that Joel Stewart’s songwriting conveys a sense of timelessness far beyond his twenty-three years. With his sibling’s musical guidance, it’s easy to hear a lifetime of influences in Stewart’s sound, who credits the likes of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver/Volcano Choir), Tallest Man On Earth, Dermot Kennedy, Elliott Smith and Rodriguez as inspiration. But while his sound has roots in the past, his approach to presenting his music to the world is very much of his generation. Working with the equally fresh-faced producer Lauren Deakin Davies, Stewart’s tender lyrics of young love are transformed into powerful protests of emotion. His latest single Non Believer, which Stewart describes as "a song that came about after a pretty sad situation, hopefully has a real 'summer in the sun, beer in hand' kind of feeling to it" was made available on 29th May 2019, and was soon added to Spotify’s own Lo-Fi Indie Playlist.
“These first releases powerfully resonate with all, through thought provoking lyricism and Joel’s beautifully raw voice: an artist and music with an extremely bright future ahead” - Scarlett Notes
“Ah man, that voice hits you” - BBC Introducing
Beds Bucks and Herts
Location Near and far Camden
Presented by Saci Szecsi
Sound recording and mix by Martin Lumsden, Cream Room Sound Productions
Camera Paul Black
Produced by Marie De La Montagne
All photos by Piers Murray Hill