For over 20 years he has blessed the gospel world as one of its smoothest voices, now artist and producer Stephen John will release his first EP, The Gospel of Romance Project, in September.
He has already teased fans with a promotional single When You Love Me, track 3 on the record.
John said he wrote this song when he visited Nashville-based, Trinidad-born producer Roger Ryan in 2016, but it is just one on the seven-track EP, that comprises all original music and is about romance.
The single itself features international jazz saxophonist Elan Trotman and soul soprano Llettesha Sylvester.
John, 41, said for the last ten years he’s been producing EP tracks. He has always loved jazz crossovers and singers like Stevie Wonder, Kurt and Kenneth Welam and Ben Tankard and Putumayo indigenous music.
“I liked those kinds of influences in music but I wanted to do romantic music that is not necessarily sexual, and I wanted to do it from a perspective that would represent my values, beliefs and morals as a Christian. I do believe that there is a lack of music with that kind of perspective so I embarked on doing this project.”
He added that the catalyst for composing some of the music for the EP was stemmed from some rough patches in his relationship with his wife. “It was kind of a cleansing and therapeutic for me but is also allowed me to address issues that I think were not being, and to some degree, still not being addressed with that kind of perspective and point of view. So that is what it is.”
The EP contains a mixture of gospel, jazz, R&B and soul music.
Among the songs is Overture, a number written when John’s then drummer Jerome Birch suggested they have a signature band intro. It features vocalist Sade Sealey.
The track All Because You Love Me is a fun blend of jazz, spoken word poetry and a hip hop base, and features Pittsburgh native Faith Otey and Trinidadians Derron Sandy and Diamonique Roy.
Whoo Hoo (So Beautiful) which John describes as just an easy fun "vibesy" song, is about his wife Marisha.
Naked and Not Ashamed is about being and wanting vulnerability in one’s relationship, based on Genesis 2:25. You, Me and God speaks of three people working together in respect and mutual submission – they are man, woman and God.
John said the final track, Broken, was written almost 15 years ago, while observing a congregation during worship. “It is a song that recognises that only Christ can truly heal all the ‘brokenness’ in our lives.”
Among the featured musicians on the recordings are Theron Shaw, Jason Bishop and James Jesse Joseph (Haiti) on guitar, Tamba Gwindi on percussion, co-producer Charles Ryan, bassist Andre Jack, drummers Jonathan Hensley and David Richards, Shurlon Patrick on keyboards, and horns by Tony Woodroffe Jr, Jesse Ryan, Andrew McAnsh (C’da), Alex Gambel (C’da) and Ishmael Camejo. Background vocalists are Loucretia Howell and Melissa Diaz.
John has had 12 music nominations throughout the Caribbean, winning awards such as male vocalist of the year (TT Gospel Awards), most original song (Caribbean Gospel Festival) and best gospel performance (TT Music Awards).
In 2006, he released his first album In Your Presence which had some success with the songs In Your Presence and Leaving It All Behind among his biggest hits. His consistency made way for additional accolades as the musical director at his church. A vocal instructor at the Caribbean Nazarene College and the founder of his own publishing and production company S2J2 Publishings where he is both the executive producer and a recording artist.
John has often shared the stage with the likes of Ron Kenoly, Helen Baylor, Lt Stitchie and Elan Trotman and has been a member of The Recording Academy (The Grammy's) since 2017.
Last year, he teamed up with celebrated saxophonist Trotman for a Christmas release, Because of Love, produced by top jazz musician Michael "Ming" Low Chew Tung, that also featured Mikhail Salcedo on pan.
John says his goal is to see his music be a source of joy and healing to everyone. “I would like to see a better understanding of knowing that we can love Christ fully, love ourselves fully and love others fully. That is, love God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.”
He also disclosed that as a member of the recording academy, he would submit the EP for consideration for the 63rd Grammy awards in 2020.
The EP launch takes place on September 23, at the Arouca Revival Tabernacle.
In the meantime, fans can stay locked on to www.stephenjohnmusic.com for more promotional releases before the EP is launched.