Steven A. Clark's new lo-fi R&B single, "I Wish," swirls with the emotions he unearthed through self-reflection, thanks to the life slowdown brought on by the coronavirus.
As pandemic-induced cabin fever crept in, Clark picked up the guitar and started toying around with the idea for the song. Released earlier this month, "I Wish" addresses Clark's relationship with his parents and his seven-year-old daughter.
Over drum-machine beats and moody guitar, Clark's distorted vocals reveal his wish that his parents had given him more of their love and their time, and how he hopes that he can fulfill that same wish for his daughter.
He sent the song to his daughter. He reports that her attention didn't hold for longer than half the track.
Still, he knows that one day, when she's older, she can return to the song and hear his words of self-awareness.
Clark's production process for "I Wish" is indicative of the DIY bedroom-pop music era in which we find ourselves. On his 2019 LP, Hypervigilant, Clark produced and wrote his songs, but session musicians helped with some of the instrumentation. For "I Wish," Clark takes the lead on guitar. The single is his first 2020 release, with an EP potentially dropping later this year or early 2021.
Clark sees the isolated, at-home process as an indication of where music is headed.
"When you overthink songs trying to make this perfect album, you lose some of the magic," he says, explaining that he is looking to move away from self-doubt and trust himself, trust the moment, and release music without hesitation.
When he was getting started in his musical career, Clark found inspiration in Miami's nightclub culture. He yearned for his music to be played in a venue as hundreds danced to his beat and vocals. Now he aims for broader appeal without the constraints of a genre.
Having lived in Miami for more than a decade, Clark uses the city as the backdrop in lyrics inspired by day-to-day experiences. The local connection led him to work on singles alongside other local acts, including rappers Denzel Curry and Pitbull.
Clark says he sees a lot of musical potential in Miami but wishes there were more venues for up-and-coming acts to perform for attentive audiences who don't treat their sets like background music.
"Miami doesn't have a venue for these kids and younger artists — a venue where people will go to watch a live show and appreciate the live show — not have dinner, not have a conversation while there's someone singing their original music in the background," he says.
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Clark says experiencing audience reactions firsthand pushed him to better his craft. He also cites social media and the internet in general as avenues through which artists can solicit and receive feedback.
"It makes the world so much smaller," he says. "Music is not as regionalized as it used to be."
Just as the internet changed the music industry, so has the COVID-19 pandemic. But Clark feels no rush to go back to "normal."
"Surrender, stay safe, and focus on the music or whatever it is in our lives," he says. "Then, when this is over, we'll hit the ground running."