Hollywood's young singers, take note of this wise Dubai-based musician!

Published April 11th, 2017 - 07:37 GMT
Stephon LaMar has some wise words to share. (Instagram)
Stephon LaMar has some wise words to share. (Instagram)

Stephon LaMar can easily lay claim to being the 'first popular music act' to perform at the Dubai Opera. The multi-faceted singer is also an actor, songwriter and show host.  Hailing from North Carolina, he says his sound is inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, Maroon 5 and R.Kelly, to name a few. His country roots combined with his New York influences led to him being featured on Dubai-based Hollphonic's hit single Turn The Lights Down.

Living in Dubai since 2013, Stephon has performed all over the country and has opened for artists such as Florence and the Machine, James Morrison, Enrique Iglesias, Maxwell and Kelis. City Times speaks to the musician to know more.

How did you get into music?
I remember I was about five years old when the music bug bit me. I joined a local choir and by the age of nine, I was already writing songs. I then taught myself to play guitar when I was about 12. I learnt the guitar to help write songs. 

What other instruments do you play?
I am essentially a singer. I am proficient at the bass guitar and also play the piano when I write, but I'm not good enough to perform on stage. 

Which is the best gig you've done in the UAE?
Opening for Florence and The Machine, and then for Enrique Iglesias at the F1 races in Abu Dhabi. It was an incredible feeling. More than 30,000 people came for the show.

What have been your musical achievements so far?
Being featured in the UAE-based electronic music duo  Hollaphonic's album, and opening for DJ Tiesto. I also had the privilege to become the first popular music act to perform at the Dubai Opera last year. It was a surreal experience. I played an acoustic set and the sound was amazing. I have also shared a bill with British singer James Morrison.

Which legendary musician do you most identify with?
Donny Hathaway. I can greatly identify with his vocal style, cadences and style of songwriting. Another artist would be Bradley Nowel (of Sublime).  If there is any singer I've ever wanted to attempt to imitate, it would have to be Bradley. 

A stage you would love to perform on?
Oh, there are a few of them and I hope to grace these stages at some point in time. My top choices are Hollywood Bowl in California, Madison Square Garden, Metropolitan Opera (NYC), The Crown Coliseum (Fayetteville), Grand Ole Opry (Nashville) and Austin City Limits. 

If you had a dream band who would be playing in it?
Of course it would have to have Stevie Wonder on piano, Bootsy Collins on bass, Prince on rhythm guitar, QuestLove on drums, Slash on lead guitar, Beyonce, Freddie Mercury and myself on vocals. 

Which living musician do you admire most?
Stevie Wonder. He is the greatest living songwriter. He has inspired so many different styles of music. I also like Teddy Ridley of New Jack Swing.

When and where were you the happiest?
My happiest memories are in North Carolina, listening to my grandmother's stories as a child. I was an inquisitive kid. 

Which talent would you most like to have?
I'd love to be able to dance. I move like a tired hippo. I took some dance classes when I was younger, but it was not money well spent. My legs don't cooperate. I'd also like to paint or draw. I just find so cool how someone can see something and then, interpret and express what they saw, through a pen or painting.

One thing about yourself, you would like to change?
Learn other languages. I feel a bit disadvantaged when travelling to a new places and not being able to communicate. 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I use the word "like" far too often. I also use the phrases "that's what's up", and "ya know what I mean?" almost subconsciously. Also, being from the south, I use the word "Yall" often. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Finding success as a musician. I've worked hard to get to do what I love as a job. Even more so, it's great being able to come to Dubai, and be able to succeed here. 

What is your most treasured possession?
My house in North Carolina. I have a beautiful property deep in the mountains. The other treasure is my G&L Telecaster  guitar. 

Your favourite occupation?
Teaching. I think teaching is the most underrated (and underpaid) profession. I think teaching is the most underrated (and underpaid) profession. My grandmother was a professor so, I've always had a very high respect for all the things they go through in order to be good educators.  

If you were not a musician what would you be?
I'd be a chef. I love food. My mother is a chef. Growing up and watching her in the kitchen inspired me to do the same. For the record, I can make a mean Prawn Alfredo. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being on stage. Hearing the audience applauding brings me joy. When the crowd is giving you great energy, it's like being rewarded for all the work you've put into your show. 
What is your greatest fear?
Fear of failure. But it motivates me to work harder. 

What do you most value in your friends?
We always look out for one another. We are more like siblings than just friends. I moved to NYC with my two best friends. We had no money and lived in a matchbox apartment. But, we looked out for one another, got each other gigs and built each other up.  

A trait you most deplore in yourself?
Speaking or acting before thinking. I'll say something without thinking. Then, later on feel I shouldn't have said it, or could have said it differently. 

A trait you deplore in others?
I don't like rude people. I also don't like dishonest people or those who lack empathy. Things are easier when we try to understand people as opposed to passing immediate judgement. 

Any occasion when you had to lie?
Lying is for people who are afraid of the truth. I may have also lied a time or two to a girlfriend about what time we needed to leave the house. Only to ensure we made it to wherever we were going on time.

Your thoughts on today's music
I have an extreme distaste for 'fake gangster', 'TV thug' type of hip-hop artists. I think that kind of approach is detrimental to the hip-hop genre as well as teenagers in general. I'd say the same about hyper-sexualization of music that is aimed at young men and women. I don't like the way they target young people, often young women, with ideas of licentious behaviour and self objectification, disguised as empowerment. I'm definitely not a "square" and I feel these two factors have become the archetype of the music industry over the last few years.

By Michael Gomes

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