Getting Lost On Cloud Nine: An Interview With STVN

Ever since I first heard STVN’s music at the end of last year, I’ve been listening non-stop. Chill lo-fi with echoes of synth-pop make it feel like taking a musical load off. As you’ll read in this Hummingbird Mag exclusive interview, STVN’s music is all about basking in the glory of right now. It’s about acknowledging that there might unpleasantness ahead, but not letting that hinder the good times. 

What were your first musical experiences?

Well, my first experience with music was when I started taking piano lessons — and I didn’t like them. I actually really started to hate them because I didn’t want to play what they assigned me. I wanted to experiment, to improvise, and do what I wanted. Eventually, I quit and started playing around in Garage Band with the piano, learning to record my compositions.

Was the music you made then similar in style to the music you make now?

Not really. It was very electronic, not really anything like what I produce now. I released my first album under the alias Paint the Skies way back in 2016. Then, I kind of lost interest in music about halfway through my freshman year of college. Then, I sort of came back to it very gradually. You know, I didn’t realize that I really wanted to pursue this full time until maybe last year.

It’s been quick hasn’t it? You’ve gained a lot of traction in a very short amount of time. What do you think it is about your music that has made people gravitate to it so quickly?

I would like to think it’s just the good vibes and the relatability of the lyrics. I really try to make these songs relatable and fun to listen to. I try to make it palatable for every age, maybe not just people who are my age. I have a fan who lives in France who commented on a Facebook post that she liked my music. So, just out of curiosity I clicked to see who she was and it turned out she was not at all the age I would expect a fan of my music to be, in fact her daughter was a lot closer to that age than she was. I just thought that it was really cool that my music has been able to reach people outside my age group in a totally different demographic.

I remember when “Hearstrings” [STVN’s Debut Single] first came out, and basically everyone I played it to regardless of age really liked it. My younger brother, my friends, even my parents. There’s a kind of intergenerational appeal to a lot of your music

Definitely, I’m always striving for that.

Who are some of your influences?

Right now some of my biggest influences are people like Charlie Puth and Jeremy Zucker … their style of production. My mentors, a group called Weatherman are a great influence on me both as people and as creators. It’s kinda funny because their genre isn’t anything close to mine, but it’s just their musicianship — you know the way they treat music — is super inspirational to me right now. 

Right now I’m really enjoying Fiji Blue, HONNE, Joseph Tilley, just to name a few I’ve been vibing to recently.

I hear you mentioning a lot of artists that you listen to specifically because of the production. Do you consider yourself a producer first and a songwriter second? Or is it the other way around.

That is a really good question. I think I used to be a producer first, and then a songwriter. I think as my style has evolved, I’ve become more of a songwriter — or that it’s more intertwined at least. I mean, I still am a producer at my core. I’m not that good at guitar. I find ways to make it sound good, but I don’t think I would ever perform as just a guitarist. I like figuring things out with the instruments to make things fun, and to deliver the message — that’s the overall goal, to deliver the message in a concise way.

What is your message?

I think the best way to describe my music is the feeling of being “lost on cloud nine.” Just enjoying that ecstatic feeling, but knowing that it’s not going to last forever.

So are your songs your own experiences adapted into song form? Or are you writing generally about experiences that most people can relate to.

I would definitely say that different bits and pieces of my songs are very real and raw. I aim to deliver a real, relatable message, so there’s something on every song that’s drawing from a real relationship I had, or a story someone has told me about their relationship. It’s usually a real emotion that I identify with. 

For example, there’s a song I have coming out soon with a line that goes “cracking jokes in the backseat / had my heart for a whole week.” It’s basically saying, “you know we got along for a little while, and I thought things were going well, but it wasn’t actually for that long. We weren’t really in that deep of a relationship because it was only a week long.”

So that didn’t literally happen, but kind of the idea of it did. You know the kind of thing where someone really has your attention and things seem to be going really well, and then all of a sudden it just ends.

You really condense a lot into one little line.

I like to tell people that I don’t always say what I mean, but I mean what I say. [Laughs.] I’m not always speaking literally, but there’s always something real behind the lyrics.

It sounds super deep … I’m really not trying to be deep about it at all.

So I’m sure you’re getting this one a lot, but the big question for anyone who’s been making art in the last few months is how has quarantine, and sheltering-in-place affected you creatively?

[Hesitates.] I don’t want to call it a blessing or anything like that because I’m seeing how this situation has hurt so many people. But I’ve really seen a lot of growth in myself during this time. Just being alone, spending time with my family, and being away from society has helped me to really hone my craft without any distractions. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to have this time to grow and push myself to work harder.

I know what you’re saying, but I do really think there’s something to be said for taking stock of life and looking on the bright side.

Exactly, I’ve just been trying to make the most of it all. 

In a lot of ways, Sugar High really feels like a culmination of all your releases so far, would you say that’s accurate?

Yeah, pretty much.

What’s next after this? More music like this? Shooting off on some other stylistic avenues?

I’m definitely gonna try to let people experience more of me … like this is only one side of me so far. I love making this happy pop music, but I also have a more serious side, and I want people to see that. I’m a little nervous about it because it’s really easy to love music that gives you a good feeling. These songs might be more sad, more stripped down. I’m really excited though to let my creativity just run wild and see what can happen though. 

Thanks to you for reading this interview and to STVN for his time! Be sure to check out his music AND our review of his EP.

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