An Interview With The Singer-Songwriter, STOLAR On New Music, Biggest Inspirations and More!
Posted On 28 Jun 2018
It’s been quite a 2018 for the Brooklyn-based songwriter STOLAR. He has a new song with buzz-heavy Aloe Blacc and a collaboration with Hall & Oates with Train’s Pat Monahan currently moving up the charts. The “poly-genre multi-instrumentalist” (Village Voice) also recently released another single “Suburbia” along with his EP Raw Emotions: West Village, NY which came out on April 27th.
Aloe Blacc explained to Variety, “I have been hanging out with great songwriters such as Jay Stolar who had this great musical story that I helped embellish and finish. He lived that story. It’s partly my story, too.”
In addition, another song that Stolar co-penned called “Philly Forget Me Not” recently came out too. Along with legendary artists Hall & Oates and Pat Monahan of multi-platinum-selling pop-rock band Train, Stolar co-wrote the song that Philadelphia Inquirer opined, “Philadelphia-founded pop rock duo Hall & Oates have been at it for more than 50 years, and now, with their latest single, the pair pay homage to the city where it all started. Released this week, ‘Philly Forget Me Not’ serves as a short love letter to the City of Brotherly Love.”
“Working on this song has been pretty nuts,” remembers Stolar. “In January, I went up to Seattle with my good friend Jordan Palmer and we wrote with Pat [Monahan, Train] for three days. Pat and I dove into this nostalgic song about Philly and Jordan built out a fierce track that was authentic and was something that Daryl, John and Pat would all feel connected to since they are all originally from Pennsylvania. So, the concept of ‘Philly Forget Me Not’ really resonated. I’m really honored to be a part of this iconic bands catalog.”
For his own oeuvre, Stolar has been focusing on his 18 month-long Raw Emotions project in which he is continually writing and releasing music. Within the breadth of 18 months, Stolar explores the vast span of human emotions, tackles his personal demons through songwriting and chooses two songs to release monthly. It’s a daunting and exciting project that actually helps subvert his struggles with bipolar disorder and depression and channels that energy into the creative outlet of songwriting.
“Last year was a year of growing up,” Stolar explains. “I changed musical directions dramatically, experienced the loss of a great love in my life, became obsessed with writing songs every day, got rid of almost every single item I owned, stopped drinking so much, tried things that scared the shit out of me and started to build a new foundation for myself. I needed this shift emotionally, psychologically and creatively, but at the time I didn’t know it. I was just following my instincts in order to keep moving forward.”
Collecting all the songs released so far in the Raw Emotions project, Stolar will be compiling the Raw Emotions: West Village, NY EP which includes “Suburbia” as well as the previously released tracks “Erase You” (“the most raw and vulnerable song I’ve ever written”), “Forget And Feel” (“the desire to mask feelings and emotions with anything possible”), “Kurt Cobain T-Shirt” (“that moment when you realize what you are feeling is not some bullshit emotion, it’s real and you have to do something about it”) and “Grow Up (feat. Spencer Ludwig)” (“It felt good to explore the childish perspective with no regard of judgement”). “This EP follows my experience of loss and change,” he says. “It went from pain, to denial, to distractions, to a first attempt at acceptance, to genuinely trying new things and then hitting a wall when I realized that no matter how much things change, some things you can never completely wash away.”
As Stolar looks forward to the rest of 2018, these tracks represent where he is right now… “There isn’t really an ‘end’ or a final release to this EP,” he says, keeping his songwriting prowess open-ended. With a lot of tracks on the horizon – both with other heavy-hitting artists and his own solo output, Stolar’s orbit may seem to be widening and far-reaching but he still stays grounded. “I chose to represent this EP with the West Village because it’s the second place I grew up,” he explains about the EP’s title Raw Emotions: West Village, NY . “I lived in New Jersey for most of my life and my musical influences, angst, passion and commitment to having lifelong friends comes from that place. But, going to college at NYU and living in the West Village really shaped me artistically. I learned under some of the greatest living artists in NYC and to this day, when I wake up in the morning to create, those artists are breathing through me. Now, this EP and the last year of my life are shaping me in a new way once again.”
Learn more about Stolar in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Where does this interview find you today?
Well I am literally on the subway right now I’m on my way to a meet with some labels and then I have session in time square with a new producer I love and then headed back to work on some songs in my apartment in Brooklyn. Pretty crazy day haha.
Overall, how do you think 2018 has been treating you and your music career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it?
I’d say 2018 is treating me pretty well, I feel really grateful. If I were to try to pinpoint one specific goal for me I’d say that it’s writing songs that have no tangible goal. I find that the music I love most comes from a subconscious real place. I’ve been trying to balance out writing for a purpose with writing for no purpose, and it’s been one of most important parts of defining my work as an artist. This will be a life long goal and process, but it’s been feeling more natural in my writing.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
I remember being at a concert with my parents, I think I was five years old seeing some of their favorite bands, Earth, Wind and Fire and The Rolling Stones. For me those were the moments where I realized this is exactly what I want. The first time that I saying I was nine years old, they went around the room to audition everybody for a play and I sang in front of people for the first time. I literally knew in that moment that this is the only thing I ever want to do. It’s all of ever done since then.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? Has there been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I’d say the biggest surprise so far has been watching the songs that I wrote originally for myself as an artist, or at least they started that way, and are so personal and specific to me, getting sung by other artists. It opened up a whole world of creation that I didn’t know that I left. Now I’m getting to work with all different kinds of artists, besides my own music as an artist, and I love it I never knew that I would. Even more surprising is how it’s pushed me to be even more dedicated to my own craft and specific approach as an artist. Other artists are continually inspiring and helpful in finding myself on a deeper level.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today in Brooklyn? If you don’t think that it has affected you at all, why is that?
For me it’s really important that my music is brutally honest, especially in the lyrics, but also in the production. Living in Brooklyn represents that for me. It’s a place where nobody is full of shit everybody’s real and everybody is just out doing what they want to do or what they need to do for their life. I think living in a place like that inspires that kind of music and inspires me to continue to be brutally honest.
I find it interesting that sometimes musicians choose to go by something other than their own name so why did you decide to go by just your last name?
Going only by STOLAR was actually a decision that connects to that concept of brutal honesty. I wanted to have a name that didn’t just define me as a guy who writes songs with a guitar or piano. I wanted it to be something that you might not know what it is it first and wasn’t very easy to just judge or put a label on. I thought of a lot of things and at the end of the day choosing my last name, the name that came from family that started in Eastern Europe and then ended up coming over to America, made me feel really proud and I think the truth and realness of it inspires me to continue down that path of truth.
Let’s talk about new EP, “Raw Emotions: West Village NY.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the making of it? Why did you decide to release two songs monthly from it?
Making these collections of music is really interesting. The truth is that I’m creating the songs based on each emotion every month. So, when I’m done with four or five songs and we decide to create the next row emotions collection. I have to then go and look at the body of work and think about OK what does this mean now as a group of songs. How did the songs connect to each other? What does it all stand for? As I looked at this body of work it really reminded me of the time that I spent in the West Village. It reminded me of a time of growing up and chan
I read that you feel like last year was a year of growing. Can you elaborate on that? How so did you change musical directions?
Last year was all about action. Writing songs non-stop. Meeting new friends. Going to LA and then NY and then LA and then NY again. With so much change and creation it kind of forcing you to grow. It was also the first time I’d been alone in a long time after getting out of a relationship. There is a sense of accountability and groundedness that I feel deeply now that I never felt before. With music I think I just kept following my instincts and it lead me to different places. I also got to work with so many great producers and had a rule last year of saying yes to anything that inspired me. This resulted in a clearer sound and vibe of what’s “Stolar” and what’s a song for other people.
“Surburbia” was your first single released from the EP. How did you decide to release this first? How do you think that it prepared listeners for the rest of the music on the EP?
Suburbia was actually the 4th song on the EP, but it was the song we used to announce it. I think Suburbia set the tone for a brighter and more nostalgic sound that I hadn’t explored yet. To me it made a strong statement of “Hey, this shit is going to keep you on your toes throughout Raw Emotions”, it’s not cookie cutter pop, it’s brutally honest.
I also have to ask about the making of your track, “Kurt Cobain T-shirt.” How did this come about?
Truth? Haha. I went to a house in the middle of the woods to celebrate my best friend quitting his job, we got drunk and made fires and chilled hard for 24 hours. We were just playing around and then he and I just came out with the chorus and overall vibe. He has a brilliant crypto currency company now and really not a “songwriter” by trade, but has become one of my favorite collaborators. The line Kurt Cobain T-Shirt came from a girl I was friends with who had a cool Nirvana tshirt. I actually took the photo of her for the cover as well.
As a big fan of Hall & Oates, I’ve got to ask you about your collaboration with them and Train’s Pat Monohan. What the inspiration for “Philly Forget Me Not” and what was it like working with all of them? I read that working on it had you “pretty nuts.” Why is that exactly?
This was an amazing experience, Pat is one of the greatest songwriters I’ve worked with and the song came really easily in a very inspired moment. Having Daryl work on it and record the vocal was just an out of body experience. I listened to that guy sing as a kid and now hearing him sing words and melodies I wrote was just wild. That’s the “pretty nuts” part, just watching artist’s that I love record songs I’ve been a part of. Feel super grateful for that part of my life now.
What about your newest track “Brooklyn In The Summer” with Aloe Blacc? How did this song come about? How did you two first get together to write it?
I actually wrote the song first with a guy named Jake Scott in LA right after I came back from the desert for 4 days with no technology. I had just started a new process I have called “The Dig” where I turn on a recorder and improvise melodies and lyrics for 10 minutes every morning after meditating. I use those “Digs” to write songs that come from subconscious places and challenge myself to be brutally honest. Brooklyn came right after Jake and I did one of those digs and then went for a walk to talk about my recent breakup. I then worked on it with my close friend, BADASS producer Jordan Palmer, then it got sent to Aloe. He loved the song, wrote an incredible bridge, added his vocals to the track and 29 versions later we have what I’d say is one my proudest collaborations. That song really reached it’s potential.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for you? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far? Do you have any upcoming shows this summer?
Connection. Connection with the songs, with the audience, with the instruments. Connection. I played a show last year on my birthday, it was a private 60 person show in a room that had a 40 person capacity. EVERYONE was 100% present and there in every moment. Those are the live performances I live for. Yea I’m playing a show on July 9th to test out a bunch of the new music and experiment with live loops, production, stories and what “Raw Emotions” feels like live. You should come 🙂
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
In some ways I think this is one of the most powerful and important times to be an artist. For me personally the aspect of Raw Emotions where it openly talks about mental health and what it feels like to experience extreme emotions is one way I connect with the current world climate. I also think the fact that people are resonating so deeply with real, raw and powerful lyrics right now is a reflection of the times. I hope that the music I make can give people a soundtrack to feel and experience all the emotions that they are maybe a little afraid to express. Healing the world stigma around mental health is so important, I’m honored to be a part of that movement.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all?
It really is to be honest. I have made the decision to really focus in on making the socials feel like an extension of my emotions. I’ve been really focusing on instagram and making it feel like it’s an artistic expression, not just some kind of promotion.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Wow, big question haha… My #1 is Paul McCartney, if there is one person I want to hang and create with it would be him. Then Kendrick has been one of my biggest inspirations over the last year, along with Jon Bellion, Tove Stryke, Leonard Cohen on the lyrics side and of course Prince. Prince. Prince. So sad to lose such a brilliant and important artist.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you?
Hmmmm… I’d keep it simple, a guitar (with an endless supply of strings). If this counts though, I’d probably bring a badass speaker system with all the songs on the planet. I’d settle for writing songs with just my voice if I could have music to listen to.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
Ok, I wish I wrote a song for Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind. I’d love to have a song in the show Legion, I LOVE that director the whole vision of the show. I want to have a huge song in a Scorsese movie one days and write disney musical at some point.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I just want them to feel like my music is a place to go to feel whatever they need to feel at that moment. If it’s partying, having sex, feeling alone, driving on the highway, crying after a loss. I was to create a soundtrack for people’s lives.
Where can our readers connect with you?
I do a bi-monthly email that expresses the monthly emotion for Raw Emotions. You can sign up at StolarMusic.com. Also I’m obsessed with expressing through Instagram, send me a message 🙂 Thanks so much guys, great to meet you!