Born near Chicago, raised in McAllen, Texas, Aaron Stephens stormed into the rich Texas music landscape with his debut album, “Hard Times, Straight Lines“, crowdfunded through Kickstarter, and maintained momentum with an EP (When The Morning Comes EP) and a string of singles released since.
In Summer 2018, Stephens will release his sophomore album, entitled “Focus”. Songs about focusing on the things in life that matter, avoiding BS, and finding joy in simplicity.
Blessed with rich, versatile, vocals that evoke legends such as Bill Withers and Otis Redding, Stephens furthers his sound with funky rhythm and melodic lead guitar, weaved together with stirring, heartfelt lyrics addressing the times we live in, the loves we discover, and the power of soul.
We are thrilled to have Aaron in our second year of the Artist Development Program. In this interview, we talked to Aaron about his upcoming record, favorite Austin hangs, and musical inspiration. Read on to learn more about him!
You’re originally from Chicago, although you were raised in McAllen, TX. What brought you to Austin and how has living here affected your artistic development?
I made my way to Austin by way of Texas State in San Marcos. After I graduated, I decided to pursue a career in music and started playing more in Austin, New Braunfels, all around Texas and a few other states. We started playing some really great venues here in town like C-Boys Heart & Soul and Antone’s and meeting other amazing musicians. It’s been extremely inspiring. There’s so much talent in Austin, it makes me want to keep practicing.
Have you been back to explore the Chicago music scene at all? If so, how does it compare and if not, is that something you’re interested in doing?
I haven’t really had the chance to explore Chicago’s scene. I went to Buddy Guy’s bar once. I’d love to play there though!
What are some of your favorite Austin hangs? Give us your Best Taco recommendation!
I really like the music stores in Austin. I honestly can hang out at Austin Vintage Guitars for 2-3 hrs. Best Taco is subjective! Juan in a Million will fill you up on a budget. Crucial for a musician.
Your upcoming album is titled ‘FOCUS’ (And we can’t wait to hear it!) How did you come up with the name, and what is your FOCUS in terms of this album?
I chose “Focus” for the title because I thought it was an interesting double entendre. The idea of focusing visually and mentally.
In terms of this album, my focus was capturing a moment in time. I wanted to release something that’s in touch with who I am today as an artist and person.
Do you have a favorite track from the album? Which song was the most fun to record?
I feel like it changes every week. The one that I’ve consistently been happy with is a song called “More Than Fine”. It was probably the most fun to record as well. I was able to do some of it at my home studio, so I was a bit more relaxed. We also recorded some of it at a cool studio in Austin called Eastside Music school.
Tell us a little about your creative process. How long did you spend recording the album, where did you record, and what was your experience during this time?
I usually start each song on the guitar. I’ll work out a chord progression and then start singing phrases that feel good. Then I’ll try to get a beat or loop going in Logic on my computer. I spent about 3-4 months off and on recording this album. I recorded at Eastside Music School, Fire Station Studios in San Marcos and my home studio.
This is my first self-produced full length album, so there was a bit of a learning curve. I’m still learning and trying to better myself. I had a lot of help from my friend and mixing engineer for this album, Austin Sisler.
What would you consider to be your biggest musical accomplishment to date?
I would say putting together this album. I really had to step up my organizing and planning skills. I had to learn to budget for musicians, studio time and visual needs. There’s still so much I’m learning about the process, but I enjoy doing it.
I was blessed to have a team of people behind me willing to help me achieve my goals. Seeing the final product come together inspires
me to do it even bigger and better the next time around.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting their music career, what would it be?
Learn the business side of things, but always keep it fun.
Last but not least – how can we support you?! What are the best outlets to follow, where can we buy your music, and how can we keep up with your tour dates?
I appreciate AMF so much! We’re lucky to have you here in Austin. Best places to follow me and find out about shows are my website, Instagram and my Facebook page. You can also find my music on Apple Music, Spotify, Google Music!
All photos by: Ismael Quintanilla III