As a member of Boyz II Men, the best-selling R&B group of all-time, Shawn Stockman is known for the international smash hits “Motownphilly”, “End Of The Road”, and “I’ll Make Love To You”. Outside of the group, the accomplished lyricist, composer, arranger, and musician has collaborated with artists including Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Tank, and Johnny Gill. His first solo album, Foreword is out TODAY. We spoke with him about it and more. Read below and enjoy.
Foreword: The LP
GFM: The new album is Foreword [and it’s] coming out this week. Tell us about the album please.
SS: The album is a collection of 11 songs that I was extremely proud and extremely happy to create. [It’s] my first solo effort that I’m excited to have people hear and quite simply it’s music for the soul. I didn’t want to make it rocket science. I didn’t want to make anything too intricate or too difficult. I just wanted to give just straight up r&b soul music for people to enjoy and for people to appreciate in their homes, their cars, their bedrooms and their kitchens… whatever… and just contribute something good for people to listen to. There are plenty of different scenarios and stories that I go into that I created. Just songwriting and storytelling, and hopefully music that people can apply in their everyday lives.
First Solo Album… Ever
GFM: You’ve had some solo singles before over the years. How have you not done a solo record [or] a full album in the past?
SS: I think, you know, life is about timing. The one thing I didn’t want to do… because I always had it in the back of my head to do it… it’s just that I had to convince myself first. Then, once I was comfortable with the idea I just had to wait for the right time. Life is about timing and I just felt like now was the perfect time to do it, whereas earlier on it might have been misinterpreted into something else as to why I did it and why I have the intention of doing it. This is no pressure. There was no other motivation to do this record, but to basically just do something that people enjoy and people like… and that’s all. I wanted it to be that way. I want everybody to be able to receive rather what it is I’m doing in its most comfortable state, because that’s where I felt people would best understand it.
Freedom as an Artist
GFM: Talk about that a little bit. The freedom to do that as opposed to how you came into the industry. You came into the industry with a label, with A & R [and] things like that… some people making decisions and choosing songs that you may or may not have chosen for yourself. But, talk about that now. The freedom that comes with this new way of making music, new way of getting your music out, and being able to do exactly what you want to do.
SS: I think it’s great. I think the beauty of the industry right now is the fact that the power at least… not some of it… but a lot of it has reverted back to the artists. Not only from a release standpoint, but just from a creative standpoint. Technology has allowed us now to be able to make records in our own homes. We don’t need to rent out expensive studios to put together a record. We can all do it with a laptop and a keyboard and a mic. That freedom… it goes perfectly with being an artist, because that’s all we crave is to be able to do what we want when we feel it, because we work on a different clock than the average person who does a nine to five or some other type of job. Our inspiration moves us whenever we feel it. It could be at four an afternoon or four in the morning.
So, the ability to then take that music and then place it on your own platforms makes it even better. I mean in this case I am signed to a particular label with this one album, but the beautiful thing about creating music now and forever at this point is that I can drop a single tomorrow and get it to the people that I know would appreciate it. That’s the beauty of this industry right now. Obviously, it does have some disadvantages to that as well. But, from an artistic end, it’s the greatest scenario to be in and I’m happy and I’m glad that, again, I waited to do it at this time in the music industry and this climate.
“All I Do”
GFM: I know this is like asking you to pick a favorite child, but if Foreword could have a flagship song or you could only promote one song from Foreword, what do you consider the flagship song of the album?
SS: Ooh, ooh, ooh. That’s a hard one. Uh… that’s a good question.
GFM: Like if I didn’t know you… if I didn’t know you… know who you were, and we were in an elevator together and you were telling me that you are musician and you just dropped an album, [then] what’s your elevator pitch? What [song] is the strongest?
SS: Okay, is that the current single, “All I Do”. I think that would be a good one. ‘Cause it’s just your… you know… standard love song in the sense of I’m not trying to be too fancy. I’m not trying to say anything too over the top. It’s something that you either get it or… you either like this type of music or you don’t. I think that “All I Do” kind of represents the type of sound that I think translates with everybody. I think that if you don’t like this song, then you just don’t like this type of music.
GFM: Can you tell us about your foundation, Micah’s Voice?
SS: Micah’s Voice was a foundation created by my wife and I that helps families that have children affected by autism. We’ve been on hiatus for couple of months now mainly because of this whole Coronavirus thing, but April is Autism Awareness Month.
We actually made a new partnership with the Zeta [Phi Beta] Sorority, [Inc.]. So, these beautiful ladies have been kind enough to sponsor us now [and] for however long they want to support us. That’s been a great experience and a great addition to the awareness component– to getting people to understand what autism is, which is what Micah’s Voice does. We try to spread awareness. Not just funds, but awareness as far as how to communicate with those with the condition [and] how to help in any way, shape or form.
It doesn’t necessarily require money, but sometimes time and an education and spreading the word as well. Micah’s Voice is just another element to the crusade for those boys and girls who will eventually be men and women with autism. Supporting and advocating laws and ways where these people can thrive, because a lot of people don’t understand that just because someone has autism [it] doesn’t mean that they can’t be contributors to society. So, we’re just advocates for those with the condition and we always will be. It was named after our own son who was diagnosed with autism at two years old. So, this is a lifelong thing for us and we’re just trying to make it easier for other people.
“Songwriters Are Inspired By Life”
GFM: You mentioned the Coronavirus and right now we’re in the thick of things. Your album is done and finished. But, in any way do you feel like this season is going to inform your art going forward? How has it affected you as an artist in terms of your pen, ’cause you’re an excellent songwriter.
SS: Thank you. Thank you very much. Songwriters are inspired by life. We’re human beings like everybody else, but we just express what we see from a musical standpoint. So, absolutely. I’ve already been in my own head trying to figure out how to translate what it is I’m feeling and what I think other people are feeling too. You want to be sensitive to it, and you want to make sure that it doesn’t come off corny or come off just… you don’t want it to feel contrived. Like, you know, I’m gonna write a song called the “Coronavirus Blues” or something like that. It just has to feel organic. It has to come natural.
It’s just funny, because I was just telling some folks that I never had a studio in my house. But, because of the virus I’ve been forced to order equipment and set up a spot in one of my rooms. This will definitely cause… it’s kind of cause and effect. Having the music there and then having the access to actually make the music will eventually spawn some sort of inspiration to write a song concerning our current state. Once it’s done I’ll let you know… for sure.
Boyz w/Boy Bands
GFM: It’s no secret that Boyz II Men was influenced by New Edition. So, there’s no surprise that you would be friends with members of New Edition, but what I think might surprise the grown folks is that you have made friends with other members of male groups/boy bands like Joey Fatone, Joey McIntyre and Nick Lachey. I know you went on tour with them but can you talk about those seemingly on the outside unlikely friendships.
SS: It’s one of those things where you run into certain people and being an industry you run into a lot of folks and meet a lot of people. Some you see more than others. I guess with those guys, because we shared a more intimate experience together. Joe [Fatone] is practically family. He’s managed by the same guy as us and we see him in a lot of events. We’ve gone to a hundreds of parties together and hung out and sat in hotel rooms and drank and you know, that whole thing together. So there was a just a natural relationship that developed there.
Guys like Joey [McIntyre] and those guys, we toured with those guys. With Nick Lachey, we were on the same label as those guys. The tie that binds us are the experiences that we all shared together. Not just being in the industry, but things that we actually did together. Because of that you naturally just develop… you gain a rapport. You gain that friendship. And, you know, basically that’s how friendships should be.
I don’t have too many friends in the industry. I have peers and acquaintances, and folks that I see from time to time. But it’s nice to know that those guys, amongst a few others, are people that I know I could call and kind of laugh it up with about certain things. Things that only we know that we talk about. So, it’s cool. It’s cool, man. It’s one of the perks of being in the industry. You get to befriend a lot of other amazing influential talent.
A Organic Moment Captured
GFM: Thank you for mentioning sitting in a hotel room kicking it because it’s a nice segue to what I’m going to say next. Every time I get to speak to an artist whose music has affected me in a good way or influenced me in some kind of way… or something in particular… when I get to speak to that person, I’m always excited to tell him or her what that is.
So, speaking of sitting in a hotel room… there’s a clip on YouTube of Boyz II Men sitting in a what appears to be a hotel room in the Music In High Places clip. You’re singing “Never Go Away” and you are absolutely destroying the bridge… like breaking it down and building it back up twice and it is the most beautiful thing. I’ve been waiting some years to tell you thank you for that and to tell you how much I enjoyed that.
SS: Thank you and you know the funny thing about that particular clip is I was sick as a dog. You would have thought back then I had the Coronavirus. That’s how sick I was. I was coughing up… you know I don’t want to be gross… but I was coughing up phlegm the size of oranges. It was gross. That moment allowed me…. because we had to do this… and there was a limited time to do it. So, I literally had to just soldier on and just go about just doing that whole thing. That segment was us sitting down from being out in the cold all day and the cameras just rolling. We were like, ‘Yo, let’s just sing that.’
Again, organics is amazing, because it’s better when you do something naturally opposed to trying to contrive it. Especially when it comes to music. That’s where you get your best performances from because you’re not thinking. You’re just doing and you’re just acting out on instinct and what you feel at the moment. That was a moment just like that. The camera captured just us kind of flying off the handle… just doing some improv saying, ‘Yo, alright guitars, you do this. Alright guys, y’all do that.’ Boom, boom, boom, and then we’re gonna sing. And that was it. There was no other thought process behind it. So, thank you. I say that to say thank you very much.
What Is Grown Folks Music?
GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?
SS: Grown folks music is music that naturally has an element of intent. It tells a story that men and women who’ve experienced life has gone through and it doesn’t take the whole song for a person to listen to it and get to crying. That’s what grown folks music is.
You instantly relate to the experience that singer has gone through, through his interpretation of that song and because the content is so real and so palpable that you feel it in your heart. Only experienced people and people who’ve gone through things… and I don’t mean necessarily speaking on age, because there’s a lot of kids that’s gone through a lot of things too… [but] I think grown folks music is music that has a heart. It has a certain level of soul behind it that can’t be denied. You hear it and you instantly feel it. That’s grown folks music.