|Photo by: Provided|
Developing the 'art of fame' is vital for any artist that wants to make it to the big time. Artists like Lady Gaga have taken the time to develop an understanding of this practice, crafting their use of time and effort to make their music spectacular.
Just like many of today's hot musicians, Ohio University freshman Tess Stevens has taken her whole life to develop herself into the musician she is today, and her history is quite impressive.
Stevens’s first musical experience came from within the womb.
“My parents would hold the radio up to my mom’s stomach,” Stevens says of her earliest days. “As an infant, I would hum in tune with any music being played, which my parents thought was interesting.”
On a tour bus ride to Niagara Falls, Stevens showed off her love of music as a toddler.
“They were playing music over the radio and I thought it was a good idea to walk down the aisle, singing and clapping along, getting everyone else to sing and clap along with me. It was my first bit of entertainment and I loved it,” says the journalism/theater major.
Stevens’s defining moment came in the second grade, when she performed “...Baby One More Time” for the Campbell Elementary School Talent Show in Muskegon, Michigan.
“I was obsessed with pop music at the time," she says. "I had big dreams, and I still do today.” Her performance was a success, and people started to know who she was as an artist.
Moving on through her childhood and preteen years, Stevens began writing her own songs, consisting mostly of bubblegum pop melodies and lyrics. But around 2004, an epiphany came in the form of Green Day's "American Idiot."
"After I heard that song, I realized that was where I wanted to go with music,” she says. “Every time my mom and I went out, I’d always want a new Green Day album. Once I had gotten all the albums, I became immersed in the punk scene and ideology. Like the band themselves, I became against everything that Middle America wanted me to be, like being a cheerleader, or preppy and popular.
"I became very despondent to everything, but through that despondency, I learned who I was.”
Though around then she started to hang out with the wrong crowd, Stevens never lost who she was, and many saw that.
“I was always getting into trouble and being rambunctious, but my teachers knew I was smart and my mom still supported me,” says Stevens. Though her dad worried she would become a “degenerate scenester,” Tess was able to weed through the bad crowd, never falling into any alcohol or drug abuse.
After starting to play guitar at age 11, Tess started her first band--The Walking Contradictions, named after, of course, a Green Day song.
“We practiced in my basement, and we weren’t any good, but each member had their own individual talents," she recalls. "I wanted to be a three piece like Green Day, but everyone in the band came from a different area. Our drummer was more into hardcore punk like NOFX and The Casualties, the bassist was more into '80s hair metal, and I was into pop-punk. But it all still clicked.” Unfortunately, the band broke up before a single show was played.
In high school, Tess became obsessed with recording music on her computer.
“I’d wait until everyone was out of the house until I recorded," she explains. "I had a computer mic and I’d record the guitar then the vocals, and it never took me more than one take. I could crank out 10-15 songs a day.”
She names her biggest vocal influence at the time as being Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. “I’d always try to mimic his vocals and his crazy vocal runs in the backgrounds of songs. I was obsessed with getting signed, and I was only age 14. I was ready to go and I still am now,” she says.
Once Stevens got her first iPod around age 15, she started to make playlists that consisted of bands like Fall Out Boy, Green Day, and My Chemical Romance. She’d perform those playlists for two hours straight with the PA system and microphone her dad bought her, always trying to put as many vocally challenging songs on the playlists as possible. Once she got a drum set, she would spend an hour drumming along with the playlists, then another hour playing guitar and singing to the songs.
But it wasn't until she got her first music DVDs that Stevens really began to learn how to perform.
“I’d watch Bullet in a Bible by Green Day and Life on the Murder Scene by My Chemical Romance," she says. "I had a lot of room, so I’d flail and jump around in time with the music, playing and singing the whole time. That was where I learned the art of working the stage.”
During Tess’s junior year, the Brecksville Middle School principal called her, asking her to play the school’s eighth grade party, a request she accepted. But there was just one major issue--she didn't have a backing band. With just two weeks to get a band together, she called a bunch of friends and got them together to play.
Following a two hour show that consisted of songs by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jay Sean and more, Stevens gave the band an ultimatum.
“I said to the boys, 'if you want to start writing music and playing shows, I’ll do with it.'"
They said yes, forming Tess Stevens and the Thrills. Performing at a few local places, such as The Phantasy and Zeke’s Tavern in Brecksville, they crafted a pop sound with an entertaining, raw live show.
The band's first album, The Clock Forgot Its Hands, was released in January of 2011, after a two-day recordng process. Many of the songs were written by Stevens, with input from other band members and even her father.
“Every song I write is a coping mechanism," says Stevens. "I never know what’s going on inside my head, so writing things down is my way of understanding my mind. It is like therapy for free. I like people to listen and feel something from it.”
The first time her music really came back to her was in Music Theory class this past quarter, when her song “Lower than Low” was played in class.
“A quiet girl in the back of the class passed me a note, thanking me for playing the song," recalls Stevens. "She was having trouble with a boy and downloading the song and listening to it every day really helped her through it. I remember going home and just crying out of happiness because I realized that my words and therapy had turned around and helped somebody else.
"There is no better feeling as a musician then your music reaching out to somebody and letting them feel okay. That was the turnaround of what bands like Green Day did for me as a kid.”
Though playing a small city--compared to a big city like Cleveland--is different by leaps and bounds, Tess loves it in Athens.
“Because small crowds make me nervous, it is different for me to play for only a few people in a chill place," she says. "It was good for me that the first time I played The Front Room it was packed. The reception here has been so great. With the stage being my outlet, it is good that everyone is respectful of everyone else’s style and ideology, and I am so grateful for it. And if my outlet doesn’t work, I don’t work.”
Tess intends on putting out a new release in January. She also plays The Front Room every Friday and intends to play around town soon.
“I intend on getting better at the ’art of fame’, trying to swindle everyone into thinking I’m good,” Stevens jokes, “and just making music that I like and people like.”
Everyone at some point has looked at their pals and uttered the phrase, "Dude, we should start a band!" and these tracks will give you the inspiration to do just that.
Blue Eagle Music is one heck of a success story, and owner Frank McDermott tells the insightful tail.
Athens residents may find a raging hip-hop scene is taking over the campus. One of the performers responsible for this is local rapper, DC "King of Hearts" Moore.
Imagine for a moment you were just pulled over for driving way, way too fast. This is a playlist of the songs to which you might have been listening that fateful day.
This February 14, just as Romeo did for Juliet, go ahead and pick your poisons.
A love for music is the only prerequisite for these six classes.
Breaking up is hard to do--especially when it comes to our favorite bands.
So you want to make an Oscar-winning film. Where do you start?
As 1Side Music Entertainment celebrates its four-year anniversary, DJ iShine and Jean P. reflect on the label's history.
Giving new meaning to walking the 'beat'en path