A member of Motown’s next generation, Stacy Barthe has already racked up some impressive credits.
Those include penning songs for Rihanna (“Cheers [Drink to That]”), Miley Cyrus (“Adore You”) and Katy Perry (“Hummingbird Heartbeat”) as well as tracks for Kelly Rowland and Britney Spears. Barthe’s music also helped soundtrack season two of BET’s popular original series Being Mary Jane. And she’s been co-signed by such marquee names as John Legend, Pharrell and Common.
Now after four EPs — most recently 2013’s P.S. I Love You — Barthe is making her full-length debut with BEcoming. The July 10 Motown release was executive-produced by Legend and Malay in association with producers Hit-Boy, DJ Camper and Classmatez. Legend also doubles as a featured guest, dueting on the Anita Baker classic “Angel,” while Common joins Barthe on “Live for Today.”
Starting with lead single “You Wonder Why?”, BEcoming is a powerful, raw narrative about the joys and pains of life, tracing Barthe’s own struggles with body image, attempted suicide and hard-won self-love. Besides the single, other standouts include “Find It,” “Hey You There,” “War IV Love” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” Shining throughout: Barthe’s riveting vocals, insightful lyrics and colorful genre-bending.
Fresh off an impromptu pop-up show on Hollywood Blvd. following BEcoming‘s release (“A friend and I started singing; it was like a parade with people singing and walking along with us”), Barthe talked to Billboard about her journey thus far.
Billboard: On album intro “My Suicide Note,” you talk candidly about your failed attempt in 2010.
Stacy Barthe: As the song so clearly portrays, it was pills. I was 380 pounds at the time, feeling hopeless and my career wasn’t going the way I thought it would. I was running out of money, trying to pay my rent and still pursue my dream. Dealing with all that frustration on top of already low self-esteem sent me spiraling. Suicide was always a recurring thought. I used to pretend to pass out to keep from going to school where I was always teased. But music was the one thing people liked me for.
And your outlook now?
I’m still working on the self-love part. I used to think it was about the weight. I got down to 190 after not having been in the 100’s since eighth grade. But I went through a break-up and gained 50 pounds in the last two years. But it was the mental weight that was holding me back … seeing something completely different in the mirror — my mind’s eye — versus the world’s eye. Now I’m doing the mental work so that something doesn’t have to go wrong so I can feel comfortable.
How did John Legend become a mentor?
I was introduced to him as a songwriter by a mutual colleague. Then John found out I was an artist as well and I signed to his production company. John is an ear; he helped me co-write the album track “Here I Am.” He’s always been one of my favorite singers. When I heard his “Ordinary People” back in college I thought, “He’s brilliant.” You couldn’t have told me then that I would be singing a song with him in the same room.
Did you want to be an artist growing up?
I was around 6 years old when I saw Whitney Houston‘s “I’m Every Woman” video for the first time. I fell in love with music but I never wanted to be a singer. At first I wanted to work in the industry as a lawyer or manager.
What other projects have you been working on?
I’m writing with Nico & Vinz. I was also in the studio with Diddy for his upcoming project. And I’m already working on my next release with DJ Snake. I’m still doing what I do but this will be more rhythmic; creating music from a happier space. It’s going to be dope.
Looking back, what advice would you give 2010 Stacy?
Keep looking. You have to see the forest versus the trees. You can get caught up in immediate pain and nothing seems hopeful. So I’d tell her to keep living. As long as you wake up tomorrow, you will figure it out.