Ever heard of Gym Class Heroes? Lana Del Rey? Avicii? Adam Levine? Elle King? How about Madonna? They all have one particular thing in common, or one person in common, I should say….they’ve all had the privilege of working with New York-based songwriter Sterling Fox, who has decided to come out of the shadows of those named above and others to write/record/perform his own music in his own way for his own crowd, and that crowd is us, y’all. He’s recently released “Freak Caroline,” the first single and video from his forthcoming debut album, Cheerleader Heaven; I am thoroughly intrigued by Sterling Fox…take a minute to get to know him:
Eo8: Your debut album, Cheerleader Heaven, is set for release later this spring; what was the experience of creating it like for you?
SF: It’s been a start and stop process over the past couple of years. When I get time and I’m not writing for others, I try to work on it. As more and more songs get written and closer to done, I’m finding that although it started as a fun side project, it’s turning into something really quite interesting that I think holds some weight. The songs have been written and produced over a period of 3 years. I never really thought about putting them together as an album until recently…I’m realizing there is a connection between many of the songs and it would be helpful to present them in that format. The songs are small tragic stories, so for Cheerleader Heaven, I’m compiling them into an album that tells a larger story as well.
Eo8: Is there a particular central theme for the songs on Cheerleader Heaven?
SF: Themes I keep coming back to or obsessing with for the writing process for the tunes were religious iconography (I grew up in the church), privilege, the rejection of consumerism, tragic American narratives, subculture within high school or society as a whole, and general narrative storytelling. All of the songs are stories and have very unique characters. I have a little twisted fantasy world in my head, and the album is a glimpse inside of that world.
Eo8: What facilitated your move from ghostwriting with/for artists to making music to perform yourself? Was there a “straw that broke the camel’s back,” so to speak?
SF: I think it was a desire to rediscover why I loved making music in the first place. When music becomes a career, it loses its luster. Lawsuits, arguments with labels, people stealing your work and not crediting you, all the drama….it’s drains you. The worst feeling in the world is having created something amazing that everybody loves and yet being a ghost. Authors don’t have to deal with that, film directors don’t have to deal with that, why should songwriters? I started to feel the desire to be recognized for my work and known for it, not just vicariously through those who record it.
Eo8: I’ve read that your new single “Freak Caroline” is inspired by the narcissism of the artists with whom you’ve worked. Can you expound on that for us?
SF: It’s about someone specific (who I’ll leave unnamed). Most of my songs are about an actual person, encounter, or friend…this character is an entitled, trust fund girl with a knack for going out and letting loose on her daddy’s dime. Her ambitions are illusory, her daily movements a facade for a greater truth…she really just likes to party. It’s primal, but that’s where her passions lie. Along the way, she consumes everything – food, coffee, drugs, friends…when she runs out of those things, she’ll consume herself.
Eo8: Are you worried about any kind of backlash from the artists with whom you’ve worked?
SF: No. They are mostly too self-absorbed to check it out I think.
Eo8: A little over halfway through the video for “Freak Caroline,” the female characters look like they are “voguing,” is that an intentional reference or nod to one of the artists you’ve worked with in particular?
SF: Everything is a reference to something. That’s just another layer of personal onion to unravel for those who want to really dig in. With the video, I was trying to deconstruct the whole idea of being fashion-y and trendy and chic. I hate that shit. The vogueing, because it’s directly associated with fashion (even though it was born in Harlem at DIY dance events and re-appropriated by mainstream white fashion culture), was a way to obviously convey that idea visually. As the video goes along, the movements speed up and become absurd – the video becomes the opposite of sexy and deteriorates into a 90s band video at the end. The main character becomes tragic and irrelevant at that point. Hopefully, there is also an understood commentary about society in general. I tend to reject commercialism personally, so I wish to convey that in the project.
Eo8: Will you be touring to support the album?
SF: Yes, I’m doing a subway platform tour in New York. After I drop the album, I’m just going to play at a different subway stop every day throughout the summer. I don’t have a car, so that’s really the best I can do at the moment. 😉 The album will be given away for free as well.
Eo8: Any parting words of wisdom for us?
SF: A wise man once said, “frankincense? really? what was that guy thinking?”