Brooklyn-based songwriter and pop musician STOLAR pours his heart out for listeners in his ongoing project, Raw Emotions. Each song released in the raw emotions project is based off a different emotion, and each is made in collaboration with a different producer, artist, or musician.
He explained to Mind Equals Blown, “I just want to create a soundtrack for life” for whatever he and his listeners may be experiencing.
An advocate for mental health, STOLAR uses his music to inspire action and encourage others to share their stories, in addition to working with artists and activists to spark change in how mental health is viewed and handled in our world.
Staffer Jessica Tyler sat down with STOLAR to talk Raw Emotions, creative process, mental health advocacy, and more.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today! First, can you just introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what your background is?
Totally! My name is STOLAR. I am an artist and a songwriter. Basically, I write songs and I sing them. There’s other things, but we’ll get to those other things later. I’ll just start with that, though.
Perfect, thats a good start.
Yes! A start to our trip.
Exactly! So how has 2018 been for you so far? Have there been any highlights or moments that have stood out to you so far?
Yeah, it’s been really cool. We started this Raw Emotions project in the fall — we basically pick a new emotion every month, release a song connected to that emotion, and collaborate with different artists. So its been 10 months, 10 different emotions, 10 different songs, and I’d say it feels like the most ‘me’ of anything I’ve ever done. That has been really powerful. I think that, because I feel authentic and genuine in it, I’m able to talk to other people about it, connect with them, and put something out into the world that I believe in. I’ve also had a couple of songs come out I wrote with other artists like Aloe Blacc and Train. To be honest, its been the craziest year of my life.
That’s awesome, sounds like the good kind of crazy!
So what are some of your earliest influences? Has music always been a part of your life? How exactly did you get to this point?
My parents played a ton of music, and I always was pretty obsessed with Prince, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind, and Fire — that was middle school for me. And Stevie Wonder. And then I started hanging out with a bunch of friends that were in pop-punk bands and rock bands, and I got more into Radiohead and that led to The Beatles. That was the first time I started getting super obsessed with songwriting. Not just the sound, or the vibe of the music, but actually writing songs, and figuring out how to express myself through that.
You mention your obsession with songwriting — what’s your songwriting process like, especially with Raw Emotions? What has been your process, and where did the name for it come from?
My process is a little weird, and we could sit here and talk all day about creative process because it’s my favorite thing, but basically it’s based on the work of this great man who created a process that essentially allows you to tap into subconscious thoughts. I have a daily practice where I meditate, I do some movement, and then I do what I call a dig, where I improvise melodies and lyrics for 10 minutes. I can then use those ideas to write songs, or use it as a creative primer for the day. That starts the day, and then I have an idea of, “Oh, I’m thinking about an old relationship,” or, “I’m thinking about how messed up the world is today,” or, “I’m really insecure today.” Whatever that is comes up in that morning dig and sets the tone for everything else. I think for my personal writing, it’s been that. And I’ve just gotten to work with over 100 different writers and producers over the last year, and that’s been amazing too.
So tell me how all of these collaborations have come about. What have you learned from the process, what’s it been like working with all of these different writers and producers, and how has the experience been for you?
It’s been incredible. I think what I’ve learned the most is to trust my instinct. Every time I work with someone different, whether it’s a writer, a producer, or even a sculptor or animator or dancer, they’re coming from a completely different world than what I’ve been focused on in Raw Emotions. Its important that I have a clear idea of what I want to say and who I am, and if I can trust that in a moment with someone else, then we can create something new as opposed to me questioning whether or not what I have to say is valid.
It’s cool to be able to connect with people, especially creatively. How have your collaborations helped you grow as an artist? Have you been able to track that growth through the Raw Emotions project over the past ten months?
Absolutely, yes. With songwriting, it’s interesting to work with people who think completely differently and work completely differently than I do, because then I’m like, “Oh, that’s an interesting way of thinking about metaphor,” or someone else will have a story that inspires me to tell my own. Working with different artists has been great. Dancers, animators, painters, poets…the poetry has even inspired me to try some of that. I’m a terrible, terrible painter, but I’ve been doing that too. That’s been very inspiring. Raw Emotions also has this mental health advocacy angle, which is a huge part of my mission and who I am. I’ve just gotten to meet with and talk to a lot of people in that world about expressing themselves, speaking out, and expressing themselves through creativity. I think it reminds me to connect with myself more, take a minute to breathe, and realize how powerful it is to talk about something for other people, and not just have it be about myself — especially with how crazy the world is with mental health.
How do you think your mental health advocacy and music career overlap? Do you see your advocacy and music as one in the same, or do they occupy separate spaces for you? How do you bridge the gap between the two worlds?
I don’t think of them as separate things, but I think they hold separate spaces. Part of the point of Raw Emotions as a whole is to advocate through action. One of the biggest things you can do is just talk about it. People say that shit all the time, but it’s really hard! It’s really hard to go out and be like, “I deal with depression,” or, “I deal with anxiety, and I’m bipolar.” It’s really hard. So I look at Raw Emotions as an opportunity to just speak out about something. People know that I deal with depression and bipolar, and I hope it’s a way of inspiring people to just talk a little louder. But some of the things that I do more that are very mental health focused are a little different, where it’s less about advocacy through action and more about how important it is that we make a change. It’s talking directly about the issue, taking to people one on one about the issue, and letting music take a supporting role in that, as opposed to my music, where it’s ideally inspiring a change in outlook.
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
Whatever they want! I just want to create soundtrack options for life. If you’re getting drunk, driving, going to church or temple, having sex, anything. Anything you’re doing, I hope there is something for you in my music.
What’s next for you?
Oh god. Eight more months of Raw Emotions, and I’m thinking about what comes after as well. I’m very excited to start playing this music live, which has never happened before. I think I just want to keep going — when I think about my life at the moment, it’s about going with the current and not trying to stop it. At the moment, it’s just taking me where it takes me, and I’m trying my best not to resist, as tempting as it is. But it keeps things exciting.