Check Out the new Broken Records magazine feature on our very own Director Dani Stephenson, its a good read!
Broken Records Interview
I don’t think anyone will ever understand just how much I love what I do here. With each chance I get to see more of the magic in the music industry, I feel like I might as well change my name to Dorothy and buy a small dog named Toto. This time around, I was clicking the heels of my black lace up boots and dreaming of Oz when offered the chance to see the man behind the curtain at Straight FWD Music Group, Dani Stephenson. While he may not be a wizard, Stephenson has plenty of tricks up his sleeve in store for 2014.
From a launch of new US offices for Straight FWD Music and Tap Tempo Studios to an impressive array of songs he’s co written for release this year, Stephenson has his hand in more projects than I can even keep track of and it all began with an overwhelming passion for music. “[My mum] would always play her motown, jazz and reggae collections, and my granddad was in a renowned Skiffle band called the “Creamy Toffee Skiffle Band” back in the 50’s and 60’s… so I guess music has always been in my blood.” With such a diverse exposure to music so young, his own budding personal music career has been just as varied. Starting out just as a kid messing around with mixing music led to internships with BBC World Service and Def Jam/Island Records; A&R as well as managerial positions with Def Jam and 3M Music; and even a trip around the world where he booked odd gigs as a DJ and travelled to places like South America, South Africa, and Nairobi.
On top of all of that, Stephenson also pours his passion for the music industry into songwriting, valuing the organic process behind it and grasping a further knowledge of music overall. “The way I like to write songs is jamming with a group of musicians a guitar and a piano, finding some cool melodies, and then create a song,” Stephenson says, “I feel [that] when both the music and song is written at the same time, everyone catches that same vibe and that’s normally when the magic happens.” This magic has led to him co – writing songs with notable artists like Kelis, Alex Clare, and Kendrick Lamar. However, his songwriting and all the envy-inducing experiences he has had are only the tip of the very large iceberg that is Stephenson’s work in music.
For this 28 year old, the highlight of his career comes from helping talented artists make it in such a complex industry. Remarks Stephenson, “…the feeling of helping people reach their dreams, I think that’s what really drives me the most.” Taking great care in selecting talent he believes in, Stephenson confidently brings incredible artists to the music scene. When finding talent, Stephenson notes, “I start with the music and artistry. If that catches my ear and I believe it will connect with the audience, that’s key.” Then, coordinating with his other companies such as Tap Tempo Productions (with partner Richie Montana), Word Of Media Marketing allows Stephenson and his team to truly foster that great talent and make dreams a reality from start to finish.
Learning the ins and outs of this industry will never cease to amaze me. Hearing about all the processes Stephenson orchestrates to create well crafted music is nothing short of magical. Yet amidst all the magic and work involved, Stephenson never forgets the most important part of what he does. “Always remember it starts and ends with the ‘Music.’ Without music, there is no industry” he implores. With all that passion paired with a creative and forward thinking attitude, Stephenson certainly has made his mark in the music world. Definitely keep a close eye on him and his Straight FWD artists such as Esty Leone, Nevada, Dan Muckala and David Zowie – all of whom have big songs coming this year. Along with new music, there’s no telling what else will come from Stephenson and Straight FWD Music Group in the future, but you can bet it is going to be fantastic nonetheless. Stephenson promises that, “2015 will be a big year,” and as I find my way out of Oz, I can’t help but skip excitedly at the thought of what’s to come.
Editor-In-Chief: Jenny Rae-Lee