AWARD-winning gospel artiste Stephen John is all set to release his latest single, In this Together, on June 6, via his Facebook live page.
It is a covid19 anthem, aimed at engendering a sense of community, hope and compassion for people around the globe, struggling to overcome this pandemic.
For the song, which he wrote back in April/May 2020 when quarantine and lockdown became buzz words in Trinidad and Tobago, and synonymous with the new lifestyle, John sought out a stellar cast of artistes, locally, regionally and internationally, to achieve that global spread.
Blessed by God with a voice of an angel to praise and worship, the influence of jazz, R&B, calypso, soul music, pop, reggae, spoken word are all combined to produce a unique brand of gospel with international appeal.
In keeping with this tenor, he has invited friends and performers such as jazz artiste Vaughnette Bigford, the UWI Arts Chorale, Nathanael, Sade Sealey, Mekaiel Gonzales (all from TT), Grant Maloy Smith (USA), Camille Harris (Brooklyn, NY), Faith Otey (USA), Naycha KID (Guyana) and Erica Rabner (New York) to help him bring hope and encouragement and reflect the time in which the world is existing.
The track also has some instrumental features, including from Grammy-award winning flautist Susan Craig-Weinsberg and TT’s Shiva Mannick on the tabla.
John, 43, is a member of the Recording Academy (The Grammy’s) since 2017 and a father of three with his wife, Marisha.
For him, compiling the vocals and tracks, mixing and mastering the final product took some challenges, but by patience and faith in God, he saw it through.
He recalled releasing a soft demo on YouTube last year and his co-producer insisted it should be recorded.
With that seed planted, John who released his first album In Your Presence in 2006, which had some success, and another single called Lockdown, which focused on how Trini’s were dealing with the absence of doubles, soup and greeting friends from a distance, seized the opportunity.
“At that time the country was just opening up so we had a live band recording at Heaven Sent Studios in Couva. We recorded the bass, drums and guitar.
“I also wanted a choir involved, which was a bit challenging as at that time only ten people were allowed to gather.”
Needing to find a large space to physically distance and ensure microphones were not shared, doors opened up to him with the UdeCott sponsored auditorium at the Government Plaza, Port of Spain.
Recordings were done three people at a time from the various sections – alto, soprano, bass, tenor – and with the help of one of UWI’s recording engineer, the tracks were laid down and sent out to the featured artiste around the globe.
“It took some time to get that done as different countries had different restrictions and some people who did not have home studios had to wait until things opened back up.
“It was just a patience game and trusting the process and trusting God to work everything out.”
Mixing was done by engineer Jeff Pitzer from Nashville Tennessee with the mastering done by Martin Raymond.
Sharing some insights into his foray into gospel music, John said he came from a family of singers and just fell in line.
“I just wanted to do music.”
Growing up in a Christian household he naturally gravitated to gospel although passionate about music from the 1980s and singers like Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, Mighty Sparrow and Black Stalin.
Now 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, his vocal ability has won him many competitions locally and across the Caribbean.
He won the TT Local Full Gospel Song Festival in 1998, and was also awarded for the Best Composed Song and Best Arranged Song. He was also nominated in two categories for the 2020 GMATT awards for his 2019 release, The Gospel of Romance Project and the Marlin Awards in 2008 and 2014.
His passion for music is equally matched by that of food, achieving an Associate of Arts degree in Culinary Management and Performing Arts from COSTAATT and TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute.
He now owns a culinary service called Heavenly Bites.