Growing up in Russia during the 1990s, Bruce Springsteen was not a popular name. The parent generation grew up under strict rule of the U.S.S.R. Western vinyl records and cassette tapes weren’t exactly illegal, but they weren’t carried in local stores, either. So while many American kids grow up around rock classics like “Born To Run” and “Dancing in the Dark,” young Artyom Stoliarov — known to fans as DJ and producer Arty — was raised on State-approved folk music.
So how did he end up recreating the iconic rocker’s “Atlantic City” in his new song “Supposed to Be” and in the process earn The Boss’ approval for the interpolation?
“There are certain things in this world that you miss, but when you discover Bruce Springsteen you’re just amazed how huge this artist is and how big of an inspiration,” Arty tells Billboard. “We’re talking about definitely one of the biggest artists in the world. He’s one of the best selling artists and he’s been doing it for decades, since the ’70s. His impact on the music scene overall is really hard to say because of how big it is. It’s massive.”
Arty’s musical training began very early on. Those state-produced bands and Russian bard songs wormed their way into his toddler brain and he’d sing along loudly, surprising his parents with his on-point pitch. He was enrolled in a music school and started to pay careful attention to the music he enjoyed, picking it apart, seeking out broader sounds. In 1998, Russia got MTV and Arty was thrown a pop culture life saver.
Late ’90s Europe was heavily into dance music, more-so than American audiences, so his fast developing taste for house beats was nothing unusual. The convenience of the internet was still years away, but Arty and his friends got better at finding these rare, underground acts and they’d burn each other mix CDs to push their sonic horizons.
“It just felt like the Holy Grail, because nobody would have it,” he remembers. “The sounds were so fresh and unique, so different compared to everything else. It’s still an incredible feeling just to think about it.”
He started writing and producing music on his home computer and in the same month he got an internet connection, he was signed to Enhanced Music’s progressive label. Early hits like “Bliss” and “Rebound” earned him a stateside audience, but when he started coming around American studios on tour, Springsteen’s name kept popping up.
“I felt super uneducated,” he says, so he dove straight into his catalog. “I’m on Fire” was the first song that really struck him. He was enthralled by his wise lyrics, though he’d have to listen a few times to get all the English. He identified with the working class values and the way Springsteen sings to the common man.
To be honest, Arty is having a Springsteen moment.
“If you look at his live shows, it’s insane,” he says. “There is so much energy for a concert that goes up three to four hours and there is just Bruce Springsteen singing the songs, completely controlling the crowd and they love it. There is no bigger inspiration than that.”
It’s pushed Arty to dive deeper with his own songs, trying to put himself in the artist’s shoes. “Supposed to Be” takes the acoustic sound and rustic melody of “Atlantic City” and spins it on a steady electronic beat, allowing Arty to flex his sonic muscles and don a storyteller’s hat. It’s not a song tied to a certain place and time, the way “Atlantic City” captures a New Jersey couple’s hopes and fears in 1981, but it does live inside the song’s character.
“It was very personal the way I took it,” he says. “There’s a certain things that are inevitable in your life. You make certain decisions … and you know the outcome is kind of bad for you, but you have to do it because you have no choice, but there’s always a hope … you have to go through that, you have to accept it and you have to keep going because there is a lot of things worth living for. Maybe at first you don’t see this and you don’t see any other options, but if you think about it a little more deeply and try to start to believe in yourself, other people around you you will def start seeing that there are a lot of things to live for.”
Of course, you can’t just put a record out with Springsteen’s music and spirit and not get the Boss’ nod of approval. Arty worked on the song for a year, fretting over the right arrangement, the right tone, the right everything. While he was lost in the production, his manager Brett Bassock pulled the legal strings.
“He was fighting for the song so hard,” Arty laughs. “He was just fighting for it like an animal,” and he won. Springsteen signed off on the tune. It’s a new era for the Boss and for Arty, too.
“When I started to work with the record labels and make my own way with my music career, I was in a really particular style,” he says. “There was no left or right, there was just the one way of doing it and I’ve been trying to step out of the comfort zone.
“Time goes by, you see things differently, maybe you get more mature,” he continues. “You start to feel like there could be different approach. Your range of emotions is expanding and that’s what’s good about this song. You want to satisfy yourself in the first place, otherwise you’re just not going to be honest with your music, but when you listen that type of music and connect with one of the biggest rock and roll artists, people reactions can be unpredictable. It was really important to me to see the reaction of my fans and I think the reaction overall was just amazing. It gives me more faith and hope that I can expand myself as an artist a little bit more and try to do more different things.”
It’s still a long road ahead, but for now, Arty’s head and heart is just where it’s “Supposed to Be.” Listen to the song below, out now on STMPD RCRDS.