Singer, songwriter, producer and engineer Josh Stevens was raised in Los Angeles, where he got his start in the music world as a member of Mental Advisory, a hip-hop group in which Stevens went by the name Speratic. The group released their debut album, Only the Few, in 2004, and Speratic released a solo album, Come Join the Circus, in 2008.
While attending the Los Angeles Recording School, Josh interned under Grammy Award-winning producers Tom Weir and Niko Bolas and later worked as a mix engineer at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. After two years, Josh found himself wanting to get back into studio work, and jumped at the opportunity to be a personal engineer for Warren G. Through this relationship, Josh was offered the chance to work with LMFAO, co-writing, engineering and touring in support of the group’s immensely successful sophomore album, 2011’s Sorry for Party Rocking. Josh appears in the video for “Party Rock Anthem” and served as the recording engineer for the second single, “Champagne Showers.” In addition, he co-wrote and engineered “Reminds Me of You,” featuring Calvin Harris.
In the years since, Josh has worked with artists including Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Aoki, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy and Ne-Yo, but in 2014, he decided to devote himself to a new solo project. The result was Story of Summer, a sweeping EP featuring guest appearances from Spencer Ludwig of Capital Cities, Drew Hester of Foo Fighters, Matt McJunkins of A Perfect Circle & Pusifer, and Thurz of Red Bull Sound Select. The songs tell the story of the ups-and-downs of a tumultuous romance that takes place amidst the backdrop of the sun-drenched California coast.
Who were your biggest creative influences when you were growing up? Was there a particular artist, song or album that made you want to be a peformer?
My biggest creative influences growing up were pretty much whatever my mother was playing in her big conversion van as she drove us to the beach during the summer days in California. I remember a lot of Barenaked Ladies, U2, Nirvana, and Tom Petty. When I would get a chance to sneak off and play whatever she wouldn’t let me listen to around her, I was all about that West Coast rap and underground positive hip-hop. Opposites I know, but I was equally a fan of Dr. Dre and Snoop as I was of Black Starr and Guru. She didn’t mind the positive hip-hop stuff, as long as it was the edited clean versions, LOL… Not even sure they sell those versions anymore.
Today, I ‘m still a fan of hip-hop, especially Kendrick Lamar, Thurz, J. Cole. I’m also a fan of pop/rock bands like Mumford and Sons, Island Apollo and One Republic.
It’s strange, but Bruce Springsteen, Blink-182, and even Eminem had a huge influence on me in becoming a performer. They always had those stadium anthem songs with an American “Rock Star” swag to them on stage. And to me as a kid, playing stadiums was the ultimate peak.
Do you feel that it is important to have role models in life? If so, who are yours?
I do believe it is very important to have role models, either directly or someone you look up to from a distance because everyone needs hope and quality guidance. Without that, I guess we would just exist with no sense of purpose.
I have been fortunate enough to have mentors and role models who have greatly impacted my life. First, being my family, they are a super supportive group and we are definitely a tribe that rolls though the good times and bad together. More recently I have found significant role models in long-time friends and relationships. For which I am truly thankful and find that the more honest our relationship becomes, the less is needed to be said and the stronger the bond.
How did the opportunity to work with LMFAO initially come about? Were you familiar with their music beforehand?
The opportunity came about very music industry-esque… haha. I was actually working for my friend Warren G doing sessions for his latest EP Regulate… G Funk Era Part II, which just released and features the hit song “My House” featuring Nate Dogg. One of the managers of LMFAO happened to be sitting in on another recording session at Studio City Sound in Studio City, California. He saw and heard what I was doing, then reached out to Warren G about me. Warren, being super cool called me and said I should take this meeting with Redfoo of LMFAO. He said it could be good.
At the time LMFAO wasn’t very big. I think the only songs they had out were “I’m in Miami Bitch” and “Shots.” Which were only club records at the time. So I had no clue who they were, LOL. But because of Warren, I took the meeting.
Next thing I know, I was with Redfoo at his home studio, quickly talking about drums and production stuff – with him in only a speedo, LOL, in classic Redfoo style. We were laughing and he was telling me about his song ideas and how they needed help finishing songs for their new album. Which eventually became the Sorry for Party Rocking album, with hits like “Party Rock Anthem,” “Sexy and I Know It,” and “Champagne Showers.”
After the meeting, he turned to me and said, “Do you have a valid passport?” I was like, “Yeah!” and that was immediately followed by, “Can you leave tomorrow, we doing an Asia and Canada tour?” I said, “Yes I can.” And so that is where my LMFAO story started, LOL.
What are your fondest memories of touring with LMFAO?
Man… There were so many, it’s hard to find just one. But off the top of my head is when “Party Rock Anthem” was the #1 song in the world, so the label hired a double decker bus for the band to perform on while driving around the streets of Paris, France… Haha. I doubt the people having romantic lunches at the Eiffel Tower were too pleased with the noise, haha… But it was quite memorable.
What was the inspiration behind Story of Summer?
Story of Summer is a reflective piece inspired by a summer that I experienced after coming out a rough relationship. It goes through some of the darkest points of life to the most euphoric. Those experiences force a person to grow and learn the most about themselves. I’m super stoked for the world to hear it.
What is your songwriting process?
My writing and recording process is pretty straightforward and simple. Nothing too eccentric like writing or recording in the nude with candle lights while laying on a sheep skin rug, haha… I usually start at the piano and let the poetry pour out of me as honestly as possible. Maybe it will start with a guitar riff from my guitarist Jason Valverde (credits include Tao Cruz and Wiz Kalifa). Then the song will just start to take shape and naturally become either a song we want to put out or realize it’s complete rubbish and start from scratch.
What do you enjoy most about the environment at Studio City Sound?
Studio City Sound is literally my second home. Grammy Award-winning engineer and studio owner Tom Weir took me under his wing when I first got out of the Los Angeles Recording School. That was over a decade ago! Since then, I never really left. Tom and the beautiful staff at Studio City Sound have given me a place to build my career, and for that, I am truly and greatly thankful. Not only do I produce and record here, but they have a baby grand that I love to write on. The acoustics are superb. It takes a team to be successful, and they are some of the best teammates anyone could ask for. Plus, it’s one of the top recording facilities for music and post-production in Los Angeles, so no reason to go elsewhere.
Is there anyone out there that you would particularly like to work with in the future?
The list is long, haha… but to name a few, I would love to work with Bruno Mars, Pharrell, Coldplay, U2, and Kanye West. I believe each of those artists and bands are masters of what they do, and for that, I respect them greatly.
What are you working on next?
Next is to finish the second half of Story of Summer LP or Part Two. Haven’t fully decided on the title, but it’s suppose to come out spring of 2016. But first we need to release the EP. Haha… So, Story of Summer EP is set to release on October 21, 2015. Please phone a friend and tell a neighbor :-)
Other then that, just working to release music with other artist through my branding and media consulting firm Stadium Music Enterprise, Inc. We are excited for releases coming by Naima Mora (America’s Next Top Model winner), Island Apollo, and Loren Smith.