a Q&A with Steven A. Clark

Ranking fourth on this site’s Best of 2012 list, behind the co-number ones, Cody ChesnuTT’s certain classic, Landing on a Hundred and Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Orb’s trippy, mind-bending The ORBSERVER in the star house, Bear in Heaven’s shimmering I Love You It’s Cool and the Funk Ark’s funky as fuck, High Noon,  Steven A. Clark’s sophomore effort, Fornication Under Consent of the King quickly landed in this blogger’s regular rotation. Naturally, there are several reasons why the album ranked so highly. Along with artists such as Frank Ocean, the Weeknd and others, Steven A. Clark’s F.U.C.K. represents two trends not just in R&B but for black artists.  Perhaps now more than ever, there are a collection of black artists who are actively attempting to transform the perception and the reality of how black artists look and sound – and they’re doing so with an unfilnching, unfettered honesty. In an age where prepackaged, commercialized product has become the norm, such honesty for the sake of art and only art, is sadly quite rare. But beyond that, there are albums that hit an emotional chord because they reveal a mirror into our deepest, inner-most thoughts and feelings or becasue they mirror some sitaution we’ve been through ourselves and it says so in a way that feels much like commiserating.

As you may know, Clark’s sophomore effort was inspired by the breakup of a long-term relationship and the album is his confession – of his feelings of guilt and shame for being selfish, thoughtless, for cheating; his regret that he may have fucked up what may have been his true love; his fear of moving on and his eventual acceptance that love, like all things comes to an end at some point. And yet, there’s a sad awareness that our ghosts indeed linger, and that they often whisper, beguile and taunt us – that is until we dredge up the courage to stare our ghosts in the face, with the recognition that they are lifeless. But much like a lot of life, that can be easier said than done. After being in a serious relationship of close to seven years, that ended strangely and suddenly, the thing that was most familiar to me and struck me the most was the fact that ghosts linger – oh, how they linger!

So why talk about an album that deals with the aftermath of a breakup on Valentine’s Day no less? It seemed particualrly fitting to talk not just about love but about love lost and the simple hope of finding love yet again. In any case, spoke to the young singer/songwriter about his latest effort and you can check it out in this Q&A below



WRH: How did you get into music? When did you know that music was your life’s passion?

SAC: I was always into music but I didn’t start to really connect with it until high school. I was a huge Neptunes fan and I still am. After HS is when I learned how [to] create my own. I could always sing but I really started writing raps and making beats first when I went to college. One day I decided to quit college in Carolina and moved to Miami to really pursue music. I was singing my own hooks and then it turned into singing whole songs. Been doing that ever since. 

WRH: Who are your influences?

SAC: There are a lot but mainly the Neptunes/(N*E*R*D), Kanye, and all the special songs I’ve experienced throughout my life.

WRH: How would you describe your sound?

SAC: I would describe my sound by saying the music is inspired by everything but, the words are inspired by my life and by the things I connect with.

WRH: How does Fornication Under Consent of the King differ from your previous effort, STRIPES and what has been the response to the latest album among your fans and at live shows? 

SAC: F.U.C.K. is a little bit more developed than STRIPES as far as my production is concerned. Lyrically F.U.C.K. is inspired by 1 or 2 events over the last couple years but STRIPES was kind of a wider view of some of my experiences. I had most of the songs created before I named the album and the name came pretty organically. The girl that most of the songs are about helped spark the title idea. 

WRH: How did you come to title your album Fornication Under Consent of the King (F.U.C.K.)? Did you have the title before you started writing the material on the album, and everything seemed to go along with that theme or did you start writing songs, and the title came about organically? 

SAC: I had most of the songs created before I named the album and the name came pretty organically. The girl that most of the songs are about helped spark the title idea. 

WRH: Your sophomore effort, Fornication Under Consent of the King is a deeply personal album, heavily influenced by the breakup of a long-term relationship. Lyrically, the album feels like entries from a diary, describing the messy misunderstandings and complications within a relationship that seems doomed to fail, and at other times it feels like the confessions of a person who recognizes that he fucked up and may have lost what he perceives as “the one” through his selfishness, pettiness, etc. Was there a point as you were writing the material where you may have initially felt as though you were getting personal to the point of being awkward? How did you manage that difficult tightrope between utmost honesty and withholding enough to avoid sounding uncomfortable?

SAC: Yes all that is true. It was a rough time when I was writing the album. I knew it was a confessional kind of album. I don’t think I was of everything i was writing. The best songs always write themselves. I just let it all flow.

WRH: “Don’t Have You” is darkly (and thinly) veiled letter to your ex-girlfriend in which you describe how you’re going to be moving on from your past. Your ex heard a demo version of the song and then reportedly cut off communication with you. How did she happen to come upon the demo? And how does it feel to be singing a song about your past, while describing how you were moving on?  

SAC: Going back to the last question “Don’t Have You” was the only song I felt bad about writing because I knew once she heard she was going to know it was about her. At that point we weren’t together but she had no knowledge of me doing the things that I had done. I knew that the only way I could put the song out was if she heard it first. So I sent it to her before we put it out. Like I said I believe songs write themselves so I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing but after you play it back a few times it starts to click. It’s pretty scary [to] out music like that sometimes.

WRH: You recently collaborated with members of the War on Drugs, Ava Luna, and Man Man as part of the Weathervane series, which pairs established artists and emerging artists to write and record a song. How did that come about? And how was the experience?

SAC: Chris Swanson from Secretly Canadian has been supporting my music since day one so when they approached him about curating an episode he suggested me, which I’m really thankful for. The experience was amazing. They have never had an R&B artist and I had never recorded with live musicians and instruments. Everyone was was cool, I learned a lot. Everything went smoothly and has really inspired me to use a similar approach in the future with my music. Definitely one of the highlights of my year last year. 

WRH: How does it feel to be compared to contemporary artists such as Frank Ocean, the Weeknd and others?  How does your sound differ from your contemporaries? 

SAC: It’s cool to be compared to them, I’m a fan of both. We’re different because we’re all writing about different experiences, which is the best part about what’s happening to R&B.

WRH: What advice would you give to artists trying to make a name for themselves?

SAC: Be creative and authentic. Take your time with it and make sure you have a good team and support system. Know who you are.