“There’s no amount of money worth the time it cost to make it.” This is the idea that lead J.Stephens (Jonathan Stephens) to walk away from his salary paid, 65 hour work week in exchange for some guitars, a couple of harmonicas and a suitcase kick drum. In January of 2018, J dove head first into the DIY hustle of an independent musician and has since been baptized in the blood, sweat and tears that come along with it, all the while cultivating his own unique sound. With a voice soaked in passion and sincerity, and songs that are anthems for those who toe the line between determination and desperation, J has settled into a sound that he describes as “Carolina Folkrock.” Two years, 1000’s of miles and a few hundred dive bars later, J is ready to release his debut full band album. With the southern grit of American Aquarium, the soulful timber of Hozier and a touch of One Republic's anthemic pop rock, "Stubborn Hearted Handbook" covers the highs and lows of being an DIY musician and is sure to inspire and encourage those that are unwilling to settle for anything less than their dreams.
The Deeper Dive:
At only 10 years old, J.Stephens had already been bitten by the bug of songwriting. Self taught on an old church piano, he learned to put chords and melodies to his stories. He also picked up drums around the same age. By the age of 12, he was traveling with a southern gospel band playing drums and occasionally singing one of his original tunes when the set length would allow. At age 16, he received an acoustic guitar as a Christmas present. After purchasing a chord chart poster, he learned a handful of chords on the guitar and fell head over heels in love with singing and songwriting. After 2 years of working on his craft, he decided to lay it to rest for a while considering that the band he was playing drums for, "Eleventyseven" had just signed a record deal and was getting ready to leave for tour. For 10 years, he traveled the world with his band only picking up a guitar or sitting at a piano every once in a while just to pass the time. After a successful headlining tour in Germany in 2012, Eleventyseven decided to call it quits. By the spring of 2013, J.Stephens had married his girlfriend of 5 years and accepted what he calls his first "Grown Up Job". He was attempting to settle down and become an adult. He quickly climbed the career ladder and found himself in a management position with a salary he had only dreamed of. So for 5 years, he worked 60+ hours a week, slept very little and was constantly tired and stressed. He finally realized that the money he was working so hard for wasn't worth the time it was costing him. He was absolutely miserable. In 2017, he decided enough was enough. He spent the year in conversations with his wife about stepping down from his position into a 9-5 role. Along with those convenient hours came a not so convenient pay cut. He knew it would be tough but he also knew that money wasn't happiness. His wife agreed to let him step down under one condition. She asked him to pursue music again. She wanted her husband to experience the joy & happiness that she saw in him years before when he was playing music for a living. So on January 1st of 2018, J gave up his position at work and took on a 9-5 job and eagerly embraced his second chance at music. He is writing and performing constantly. He performs often as a one-man band, singing and playing guitar while playing a suitcase kick drum and a tambourine with his feet. He also performs with his folkrock trio, "Howl In The Valley". Both projects keep him pretty busy performing locally and regionally. J is currently tracking a new solo record and also writing with his bandmate, "Janeen Scott" for a new "Howl In The Valley" record. It's been a little over 2 years and 260+ gigs since J made the decision to pursue pure joy and happiness. He says he is finally doing what he was created to do and couldn't be happier.