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Stephen Phillips Shines Where he is Standing

Stephen Phillips is a Pop/Funk artist from Syracuse, New York with a sound like no other. His sound is Pop-leaning with influences from multiple styles, including Gospel, R&B, and funk. Stephen’s emotive performances show off his extensive vocal range while exhibiting high levels of energy with songs that are designed to provoke audiences to sing and dance along.

Stephen first showcased his original sound in 2018 with his debut five song EP, VACATE. Created almost entirely in his friends basement studio. This EP featured pop-centric vocals and hooks while capturing his soulfulness.

In 2019, Stephen released two standalone singles, “Go Bye Bye!” and “The Letter”, before releasing his six song pop/funk album BIG EYES & ROSY CHEEKS.

“This project was a game changer for me,” Stephen says. “It takes my style in a new direction. It’s really a perfect hybrid of a lot of different influences of mine.”

With sounds ranging from acoustic campfire-y music to upbeat, dance tunes chock full of 80’s synths, slap bass lines and rich vintage vocals, Stephen continues to push his own bounds of creativity, writing music that is meant to inspire others and create a unique experience for everyone who tunes in to listen.

Chuck Schiele: If I could shake hands with you, I would. Until then, my benevolent greetings are extended to your general direction….

Stephen Phillips: Nice to meet you, too, Chuck. Thanks for reaching out.

CS: How did you get into music in the first place?

SP: How I got started in music is a big question to unpack for me. Music was something that I latched onto early on in childhood. Having a mother who played piano and who was a singer at our church meant I was always around it, always listening to my mom rehearse in our living room, always being a spectator to the live worship music at our church week in and week out.

My parents tell me that when I was six months old they noticed I would do this thing with my hands that concerned them mainly because it was similar to something my sister did as a baby that wound up being a sign of her lifelong disability. My mom finally figured out that I would only do it whenever music was on. She noticed that I was keeping tempo. So from a super young age music has been a part of me.

Throughout my life I’ve had different phases of things I wanted to do—stuff like comedy, magic, even boxing at one point. I started writing songs in sixth grade, normally for girls that I had crushes on. And I got heavily involved in playing on worship team at my church which is something that’s still huge in my life, today.

What ultimately led me to want to pursue music full time was deciding to front a Pop- Funk band in high school. We played this big music festival at a Lafayette High School back in 2017 where we played for close to 300 high school students as well as families and faculty members. And when I hopped off the stage, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. From that point on I started getting really serious about writing and getting my solo career off the ground.

CS: Characterize your music.

SP: I would categorize my music under the genre of “Pop-Funk”. However there’s definitely influences from Gospel, some R&B, I even have some folk influence in a few songs. I try to have variety in everything that I write.

CS: What and who inspires you?

SP: What inspires me, truthfully, is thinking about my future.

CS: Wow. I don’t really know you, yet. But, this answer tells me you’re a good artist. I figured you’d say, “Bruno Mars,” or something. Great answer.

SP: Well, one of my biggest dreams in life to have a family of my own and I think the best way that I can honor my future family is to make sure that I can one day provide for them while doing what I love. And in the same breath I want to inspire my future kids to wholeheartedly pursue what they love too.

As to the question of who inspires me, there are a bunch. I get inspiration from people like Ryan Tedder of One Republic, Charlie Puth, Jacob Collier, Bruno Mars…

CS: Hahaha….

SP: …DNCE, and many others. However: aside from celebrities, God inspires me, my family inspires me. Anyone that actively supports my music inspires me. Anyone who shows up to my shows and dances and sings along with me inspires me. Friends inspire me. The list could go on infinitely.

CS: Nice. You just released a single. Please tell us the backstory.

SP: I originally was writing that song as a (for lack of a better word) typical feel-good song.

“Somethin’ bout the way that you feel making me believe love is real”

were the first lyrics I wrote. But throughout the writing process, the inspiration for the song naturally shifted and I wound up writing about a time in my relationship where the future of the relationship was in question—where the only solution for us was reassurance and prayer.

CS: Sounds like a song of personal strength and hope. Best wishes for success with it. Please share with us some of the highlights in your music career.

SP: I’ll go with a Top 5 answer for this one, not in order. Selling out Redhouse Arts Center for my “Big Eyes & Rosy Cheeks” album release party, winning two SAMMY awards, being played on 95X Locals Only Spotlight, playing Funk n’ Waffles back in January to a crowd of over a hundred people, and playing Al’s Wine and Whiskey Lounge. There are so many more but I would say that those are my top highlights so far.

CS: What do you have to say about Central New York music and its music community?

SP: CNY music is definitely a pretty tight knit community. I remember starting out at open mic nights, being nervous that my music wouldn’t be noticed or even accepted. But then I met all of these amazing people from God knows how many vastly different walks of life that have done nothing but wholeheartedly support me since day one. I can say honestly I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without the community that is the CNY music scene.

CS: What’s your best advice for people choosing the life-in-music path?

SP: Pursue it with everything you got and don’t look back. Stop having a “I’ll do that at some point” mindset and get into a “I’m doing this” mindset. Procrastination can be your biggest enemy,. And it can be caused by not feeling like your getting anywhere fast enough—by people telling you should “go get a real job” or “go to college.” Or even by being fearful that it won’t work out, or by not believing you’re good enough.


But, here is what’s true for me and I believe this is true for several: I will be so much more content in life if I give it 100% and it doesn’t work out, rather then if I gave up before I even started and never tried at all.


CS: Amen. What are you future plans from here?

SP: Right now my team and I are working on producing several singles that will translate into a full length album in 2021 if all goes to plan. I plan to stick around Syracuse for a couple more years and then try and make the move down south where I can make some bigger connections and take my music to new heights and get closer to my end goal which is simply to do this full time.

CS: How can we stay in touch with Stephen Phillips and his music endeavors?

SP: Follow me on social media! You can follow me on Instagram @stephenphillipsmusic, you can also find me on Facebook and/or Youtube by searching “Stephen Phillips Music”. You can also check out my website “songsbytstephenphillips.com”. I’m always posting about new music, content and upcoming shows!

CS: Well, Stephen, I always say that music has been one of my favorite ways to make friends. It’s been good meeting and chatting. I hope you stay well and that I see you out there, soon.

SP: Thank you, Chuck. It’s been good talking with you, too. See you out there.


Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.