For Stacy Barthe, the decision to become a songwriter came as easy to her as the skill itself. The New York native always had a knack for pairing the right words to the right melody, most of which were produced by her partners from the Surf Club -- consisting of Hit-Boy, Chase'N Cashe, Chilli Chil, B. Carr, and Kent M$ney. Before he became the man known for producing Jay-Z and Kanye West's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1 "Ni**as In Paris," Hit-Boy was sending his music to Barthe, who at the time was interning at Geffen (summer, 2003) and later, Jive (spring 2004 and fall 2005).
Little did Hit-Boy know that Barthe wasn't a label A&R but an aspiring artist much like himself. Instead of passing on Hit-Boy's music, Barthe wrote a song and sent it back to him. From then, Barthe, Hit-Boy, and the rest of the Surf Club have had a strong musical partnership.
Now, the 26 yr. old has not only made a name for herself as a songwriter in-demand for artists like Rihanna (Barthe co-wrote "Cheers (Drink To That)"), but also as a singer. This year, Stacy released two EP's " Sincerely Yours" (Aug. 30) and "The Seven Days of Christmas" (Dec. 5) and is currently working on her debut effort, "PS: I Love You" (2012). Her angelic, deep alto is reminiscent of Sade, but the vulnerability and openness of Barthe's lyrics harkens back to female rockers like PJ Harvey.
Get to know Stacy Barthe, the first female addition to Freshman Haze.
Statistics: Stacy Barthe; 26-years-old; New York City-raised, Los Angeles-based; @ stacybarthe
Body of Work: Songwriting: Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink To That)," Katy Perry's "Hummingbird Heartbeat," Britney Spear's "Blur," and Kelly Rowland's "Everywhere You Go." Albums: "Sincerely Yours" (Aug. 30), "Seven Days of Christmas" (Dec. 5), and "PS: I Love You" (2012)
A Few Words:
The Juice: You started out as a songwriter, but has the plan always been to be the artist you're transitioning into?
Stacy Barthe: My dream was always been to make music and make music I'm inspired by, so as a songwriter I kind of got burnt out writing for different projects and artists. It wasn't the kind of music I wanted to make, I wanted to make the kind of music I would buy and I would listen to and that came from me deciding I'm going to sing my own songs.
You're a part of Surf Club. How has the relationship with them evolved over the years?
Those guys are like my brothers; those are my brothers out here in L.A. Hit-Boy has always been there. When he invited me to Atlanta to come to work, if it was clothes or whatever, he always had me.
What was the moment you knew you wanted to do music?
In 1991, I was six yrs. old and we [had] just got cable. I was watching MTV and saw Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman." That's my first recollection of wanting to do music. So throughout my elementary school days, I did talent shows and throughout high school I was putting groups together.
To be honest, a lot of the songs on "Sincerely Yours" are pretty sad. Was it capturing a specific time in your life?
I didn't intend for it to be anything but it came together during a tumultuous time in my life where it was a little hazy, a little dark. "Comfy Little Coffin" came when an attorney, who took great care of me when I moved to L.A., passed away. When that happened, I was in Miami, on a job. I couldn't leave and I missed the funeral, so I wrote that song from the perspective of how his wife might feel.
Has there ever been a case where you've written heavy songs for other artists, like "Comfy Little Coffin," and the artist or their A&R tell you it's too deep for them?
Absolutely! I didn't know that "Sincerely Yours" was going to be my project because when I did those songs I would try to shop them to A&Rs for different projects, and for some reason they never got picked. Either it was too mellow or too dark. Whatever the reason -- good, bad, or indifferent -- they never made the cut. So when I was in my transition [around] Dec. 6 of last year, I started getting in shape and losing weight. This is when I started taking myself seriously as an artist and the music is very reflective of the hurt I was going through.
Do you think people are ready for the heavier material you're doing?
The soul of the music is seeping back in from artists and friends of mine like Luke James [and] Frank Ocean. There's an underground kind of thing that's happening and we're all starting to be relevant. We're the next graduating class of this whole movement. It's coming from this colorless, androgynous place and it's for everybody.
Tell us about your upcoming album, "PS: I Love You."
I really found my joy in the last year, and ['PS: I Love You'] is going to talk about my journey. There's going to be a John Legend feature. There's a couple of producers I worked with on there. I worked with Danja, Jerry Wonder, and Supa Dups. It's Caribbean-World infused, but still hip-hop... it has a great feel. I call it 'yacht music.' This is something you guys can buy, it's going to be a masterful piece of work.
The project is pretty much wrapped. I'm pretty much done with it. I'm thinking maybe spring, 2012 or maybe summer. Ideally, I'd like to release it on my birthday, July 19.