Monday, December 9, 2019

20 Questions with Rehya Stevens

Rehya Stevens is a favorite here at Merry & Bright.  Last year's "Celebrate" album was one of the year's best, and her follow-up single this year "'Tis the Season" is wonderful.  Rehya's latest big news is that she won an HMMA (Hollywood Music in Media Award) in the Holiday category.  Things are going great for Rehya!  Her song "Jingle Jangle" even made an appearance on local radio here in Kansas City (90.1FM KKFI).  Well, the set was curated by yours truly, so she had an 'in'.  :-) 

Rehya stepped up to the Merry & Bright 20 Questions challenge, a little Q&A so we can learn more about Rehya and her music, and have some fun while we're at it.  So, here are 20 Questions with Rehya Stevens.


1. Favorite Christmas Song

Rehya Stevens: That is so tough. I love Mariah Carey's version of "Oh, Holy Night." It's mind blowing.

2. Best Thing About Christmas in L.A.

RS: When it gets cold, that's really exciting! Last week, it got down to 30 degrees here. I made a pot of coffee, put a fire on, and sat and stared at the flames for awhile. It was fabulous!

3. Musical Instruments You Play

RS: Piano. I try to play guitar, but I'm terrible.

4. Musician Who Inspires You

RS: One of my favorite musicians to collaborate with is a pianist/keyboard player named Carnell Harrell. He plays with such soulful elegance, and has a unique signature. His arrangements are like a mosaic of sound color that I want to reach out and touch. He's masterful. Nuanced and deep.

Photograph by Katie Kennedy

5. Fave Christmas Candy

RS: See's! Dark chocolate walnut squares, dark chocolate covered almonds, and dark chocolate buttercreams.

6. Story of Your Song “Fly Past My Roof”

RS: I'm so glad you asked! I love this song.  The writing process was start-stop for months. I'm glad I didn't give up on it, because it turned into a knockout!  I’d had the verses and pre-chorus written for several months, but couldn't seem to carve a chorus that stuck. In my mind, I heard it as something that Ray Charles would have recorded. So honestly, I never imagined it would have a huge, diva-esque sweeping chorus.

One afternoon, Carnell and I were working on something. I played him the song, and he took to it right away. He launched into the verse with this cute "Wink and a Smile" approach, and built it out from there. I wrote the chorus lyric and melody right there on the spot, and an hour later the song was finished. It felt like a slam dunk!

Jon Kubis (arranger/keyboardist @ Dancing with the Stars) took it to a whole new level with his big band arrangement. Jon is absolutely brilliant! The track could not be any better than it is - and Jon deserves the crown for that. Carnell and I hit a home run, but Jon knocked it out of the park.

7. Musician You Would Love to Record a Duet With

RS: Man!!! There are so many! Pharrell. John Mayer. Michael Buble. Can I have all three?

8. Why You Made “Celebrate”

RS: I love Christmas music. But year after year, hearing the same 20-30 holiday classics can be a little frustrating for me. So, I was inspired by the desire to hear new Christmas songs with integrity akin to the holiday classics.

Also, making Christmas music provides an opportunity to talk about spiritual things. I'm at a point in life where I want to be engaged on a deeper level, and I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way. If I can't sink my teeth into an experience, and be moved or enriched by it - I'll find something better to do with my time.

To me, a great Christmas album should have reflective poignancy woven throughout. I've been steeped in the deep end of life for a long time, so it felt natural to make an album about the human experience, with reverence for the terrain. I wanted Celebrate to be a cathartic experience, because I believe in the value of being fully engaged in the journey - for better or worse. I yearn for music that provides perspective, so I wanted to provide that for people.

9. Christmas Memory from Childhood

RS:  I vividly recall the year that we celebrated our last Christmas in a turn of the century house (built in 1911) in Pasadena, Ca. My sister Katie and I were so sad to leave our friends, and the house we grew up in. I was 8 years old, and pouting while running some errands with my dad. We were at a hardware store, buying tools to fix some things around the house. It seemed like we were always fixing that old house! Anyway, I stopped to admire a flocked Christmas tree in the store. I must’ve been pretty mesmerized, because the next thing I knew, we were buying flock for our tree. I remember watching my dad out on the patio, spraying flock all over our beautiful, live evergreen. When the last can was emptied, he stood back, looked at the tree and said, “Alright... you like this? Ok. Well? This is your tree then.”   I love that memory.  Flock is just gross. My dad was such a good sport.

10. Coolest Thing About Winning an HMMA Award (Yay!)

RS:  It feels wonderful to be recognized! As an independent artist, I’ve become a studio rat over the years. I’ve always got my head deep into a song or project, without much time allotted for swanky celebrations and parties. It was a blast to run into old colleagues and friends at the HMMAs and catch up on our lives and careers. It’s funny- because you never think anyone is aware of what you’re up to. But so many colleagues and industry folks seemed to know my work, and appreciate it. That was such a comforting thing to know. I was really touched by that, and happy to be there. Winning the award was a wonderful feeling!

11. Memorable Celebrity Encounter

RS: Meeting John Mayer at Chateau Marmont while celebrating a friend’s birthday. He was having dinner at the table on our right, while Penelope Cruz was seated at the table on our left. And there we were, sandwiched in-between!

I love John’s work, and he’s so handsome!! All through dinner, I don’t think I heard a single conversation at the table... I was preoccupied trying to come up with some clever way to say hi. But the check came, and I lost the nerve to approach him. But my friend Lex, who's is much bolder than me, took the ball and ran with it! She walked right over to him, and did this whole girly goo thing, and the two of them flirted masterfully for about 5 minutes. I was SO jealous. And so mad at myself for standing there mute. Frozen. I had nothin.’

12. Fruitcake – Yes or No

RS:  NO!! No, please!! :) 

(editor's note:  Rehya has not sampled my fruitcake.  Yet.  :-)    )

13. Christmas Tradition You Could Do Without

RS: The striving for perfection! I have a tendency to get lost in details.  I'll fuss over the tree for hours. The house needs to sparkle. The gifts need to be gorgeously wrapped. It's too stressful, honestly. I love being engaged in projects, and appreciate beauty so much - but sometimes I exhaust myself, and get cranky. No one wants to be around a cranky woman. Especially at Christmas time.

14. Your Favorite Way To Give Back

RS: By providing funds, food and blankets to shelter animals. I also love "Adopt a Family." My sister Katie started that tradition years ago, and I've followed suit. It's a wonderful thing!

15. One Goal for 2020

RS: I'd like to write and produce songs for other artists I believe in. I like to write in different genres, and I'm not always the best artist to sing and represent those songs. So, I'd like to see those songs thrive with other artists. 

Photograph by Katie Kennedy

16. Favorite Movie

RS: I'm obsessed with "While You Were Sleeping."

17. First Solo Musical Performance

RS: When I was 8 years old, my Dad was playing a gig at a local club and called me up onstage to sing. I was scared to death! In my child-mind, all the magic was supposed to just "happen" up there - like in the movies. But NO!!! You have to bring it. That night, I realized that I'd better become a great songwriter in case I never licked the performing thing. I didn't like being the center of attention.

18. Musician/Band That Everyone Should Listen To

RS: Stevie Wonder. “Songs in the key of life.”

19. Why Is Music Important?

RS: Music is healing. It's the fastest way to re-engage the heart, mind, body, soul. The daily grind can just rip you from the core of things that really matter. We need a way back home. Music is magical that way. It's the presence of God, in song.

20. Message To Your Fans

RS: When you listen to my music, I hope that you feel comforted. I hope you feel less alone, and understand that you're part of something beautiful and purposeful in this world. I hope these songs provide enriching companionship that nurtures your soul, and lifts you up and OUT of your world-weary struggles. Life can be so hard, but the spirit is resilient. You just need to tend to it.

Rehya Stevens website
Rehya Stevens Facebook

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