Stephanie McKay is a soul singer and songwriter from the Bronx in New York, whose music encompasses styles include elements of classic rock, funk, pop and hip hop. McKay's career has spanned over 20 years, during which time she has collaborated with artists including Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Tricky, Carl Hancock Rux and Amp Fiddler. She has also released two solo albums and an EP, played lead guitar in Kelis' band and toured the world with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials.
Stephanie McKay was born in the Bronx, an ethnically diverse district in New York City. During her early years she was a member of school choirs and music groups at Truman High school, before joining The Alvin Ailey school. McKay then moved onto the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she graduated with a BFE in modern dance in 1993. The depth of her music influences when growing up in New York are rooted in the classic soul singers of the sixties and inventiveness of popular soul bands from the seventies. She spoke of this in a recent interview she gave;
"I have a brother who is eight years older than me, who was always playing 70's soul and funk music like Earth, Wind And Fire and the Ohio Players, while my mom was in the other room listening to Al Green and Barry White. On my own though, I was a fan of the classic pop station WABC, where I first discovered artists like Michael Jackson and Jim Croce".
In many ways, McKay's music is the continuation of the great legacy of these artists for a new generation.
After a knee injury detoured her dance aspirations, McKay started to audition for singing jobs. One of those auditions was for producer Kashif who hired her on the spot for a new girl group called "The Promise". The group went on to be signed by Clive Davis at Arista Records. Although never released, it was during this period that McKay began writing songs. She began to study voice privately with Don Lawrence and drums with Kenwood Dennard. A former band mate, Joi Cardwell from the "The Promise", called her to sub for a gig. The band was the critically acclaimed Brooklyn Funk Essentials (BMG). This was the beginning of the foundation for her live performing career. She recorded two albums and completed 3 international tours with the band.
After working six years with The Brooklyn Funk Essentials, McKay went on to form her own band with Vincent Henry called Bako Babies. The album entitled 'Love Is The Reason' was released on Minor Music (Germany) in 1999.
While pursuing her professional music aspirations in New York, McKay continued to dance with several modern dance companies, Jane Comfort, Amy Pivar, Urban Bush woman, and sing her original music in New York City clubs. From her subsequent experience she began to gain more work as a session vocalist. She was hired to sing in the studio and onstage by various artists to complement their sound and live show. One of these artists was Carl Hancock Rux an Obie Award winning playwright, poet and novelist. It was while working for Carl Hancock Rux, she sang a demo of one of his songs. The demo was passed by Carl's manager to Geoff Barrow of Portishead who was starting work on a new project. While on tour with Kelis in England, Stephanie met Geoff at the recommendation of Carl's manager and they decided to complete an album.
The album was entitled "McKay" and included original compositions by Stephanie, along with producers Tim Saul and Geoff Barrow - the latter of the two is credited in the album's sleeve notes as "Fuzzface". The album also features additional instrumentation by other notable, Bristol-based musicians in Adrian Utley and John Baggott. The LP also contains the closing track "Echo", a Sweet Honey In The Rock cover version, penned by the acclaimed social activist, Bernice Johnson Reagon.
The album received critical acclaim. UK national newspaper The Guardian commented that McKay's debut was "resurrecting the passion and pride of politically conscious and eternally lovelorn ladies of late-1960s, early 1970s soul, McKay shines bright," while dance bible MOJO described McKay as "extraordinarily eclectic" and her album was "a coherent artistic statement and worth investigating."
McKay went on to play the WOMAD, Bristol and the Jazz Cafe in England and her music received international acclaim and rotation on MTV. The album "McKay" was released in Europe on (Go Beat/Polydor/Universal). Word crossed the pond to America and Stephanie was soon signed by American company Astralwerks/EMI . In an attempt to reintroduce McKay to the American market, US label Astralwerks released a five song EP in September 2006 with two new songs from forthcoming album and two older songs from "McKay" album and a remix by DJ Spinna of "Tell It Like It Is", as well as featuring on US funk musician Amp Fiddler's album release Afro Strut.
McKay's musical style has been described as "Motown meets midnight Marauder". Her songs fuse powerful urban poetics with sonic sound waves that includes elements of hip-hop, rock, pop, soul.
Official Website: http://www.stephaniemckay.com/