Stephen Puth on how his sound is “the intertwining of old and new”
The singer-songwriter and musician is taking over streaming platforms with his genuine lyrics and unique sound.
Stephen Puth’s catchy melodies captured millions of listeners around the world, and after releasing his latest single, ‘Look Away,’ his fanbase only continues to grow.
Puth is now ready and preparing to release more music in the future, and, in an exclusive interview with United By Pop, he chats about that exact subject, as well as his influences and more.
You obviously grew up in a very musical home, and then came up with an incredibly unique sound! Who were your musical inspirations and influences growing up?
I used to actually listen to my parents’ music a lot, and that ranged from The Beatles, Van Morrison, [and] Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith and even James Taylor. More importantly, I think that the wide range of what I was listening to growing up… I think that kind of gave me the freedom to create a sound of my own that’s partially inspired by that, but at the end of the day trying to work it to fit the modern era [at the same time], too. It’s the intertwining of old and new.
What can you tell us about your new single, ‘Look Away’, and everything that led up to that?
I think when looking at ‘Sexual Vibe’ and ‘Half Gone,’ what makes ‘Look Away,’ in my opinion, the breakout song, is what’s different about it sonically. ‘Look Away’ has a more serious vibe.
How exciting was it to receive such positive feedback after the release of your debut single ‘Sexual Vibe’ and to watch it basically blow up?
In my eyes, I didn’t see it as something blowing up. It made me feel good though after I put out my first song because I didn’t want it to do poorly! It helped me build a platform so that people who are starting to discover who I am as an artist just hear from ‘Sexual Vibe’ to ‘Look Away’ that I can go to that retro sound, and I can also go to that more… I don’t want to say “radio sound,” but it’s really unique production.
The melody is my favorite part. If you look at ‘Sexual Vibe’ and the lower register [of my voice] and then [you look at] ‘Look Away’, I’m going into that high voice. I’m just showing my range, which I really like too.
Will we possibly be hearing about a longer body of work, like an EP, coming out this year?
I really do want to release an EP this year and next year, but then again, I also have to not rush it because I genuinely want to make a body of work that’s reflective of what I’m experiencing right now. Between streaming and radio, people always put so much pressure on content. I’d rather just take my time and work on it as best as I can.
Do you have any dream collaborations or people you would want to work with?
I guess I haven’t really thought that far [ahead]! When you say collaborations, I think of if I could write with someone. Obviously, in my lifetime, if I could ever write a song with someone like Ed Sheeran, or even Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons, or even James Bay. I have a weird range of who I would want to work with.
It would also be fun to try something out of my comfort zone… Like if I did a session with Post Malone or his producer Louis Bell. I actually did this thing one time where I was writing for a Spanish man, and it was so much fun because obviously my Spanish is not good enough to write lyrics, but just sitting there and watching people do it was so cool. I like to think of collaborations as having to do with culture.
I feel like this is the first time the industry [is at a point] where artists are not [being told], “This is your box. Go do this. This is your lane.” People are just doing what they want. Post Malone is a great example. The modern age is allowing us to do that. That’s what I’m trying to do with my music, if that makes sense, but [also trying to] find my specific sound as time progresses.
What is something your fans may not know about you?
Spiders freak me out, like the really big ones. They just freak me out, you know? Last night, currently there’s a lot of construction going on, and they had shut the water off where I am. And I turned on the sink last night, and this huge spider came out of the faucet. I kind of freaked out, and then I had to have the moral dilemma of letting it go somewhere, putting it outside, or ending it right then and there. Either way, I put it in a cup and took the high road. Fans can know I don’t like spiders!
Speaking of fans, what do you love most about having your own set of supporters?
What I really like most right now is that it’s not this glorified huge fan base. It’s really not [there] yet. It’s growing and it’s in a phase where my personality is, if I was ever walking on the street and somebody noticed me, I would just kind of treat it like a normal, “Hey, what’s up?” It’s [now] requiring me to actually utilize social media. I can constantly see the people who are supporting me on that. I do my best to engage! I’m always being nice. Just the fact that you can make their whole entire day.
What are you hoping to spread or communicate through your music?
When I go to write songs, sometimes I’ll have premeditated ideas and at the end of the day, when I think about the music that I listened to growing up… Let me give you an example! When I was 14, I heard James Blunt’s ‘Goodbye My Lover’, and for some reason that was really resonating with me. I had never had a girlfriend in my life, but the song struck a nerve with me. By the time I did have a girlfriend, and by the time she did dump me, then I felt it. I felt the song from the beginning though.
Ideally, I want the people listening to my music, whether they are younger or older, to feel something or connect it to their own life. Right now I’m just taking what’s going on in my life and the things I’ve been through and the things I’m going through and I’m just trying to make it a story that I want to talk about and people can relate to. That’s pretty cool to me! People want to hear honest vulnerability because that’s a relatable thing.