Stephen Puth Talks Music: From Inspirations To the Future of Concerts
VMAN talked with the singer, songwriter, and musician about everything from quarantine to the importance of experimenting with music right now.
Stephen Puth, known for writing songs for The Vamps and Daniel Skye among his solo singing and songwriting, released a track called “Watching You Walk Away” with Arista Records earlier this month. Despite being a recent signee of Arista’s label, Puth’s extensive collection of work dwells upon love and experiences of the heart.
Puth’s newest track follows “Look Away“, written and co-produced with his brother Charlie Puth, which saw success as a Top 40 hit on the radio and performed live on Live with Kelly and Ryan. Prior to “Look Away”, last year Puth opened for Lizzo on a Chicago radio show and his 2018 debut single “Sexual Vibe” was featured on Spotify’s infamous “Pop Rising” playlist.
During his quarantine in Los Angeles, VMAN caught up with singer, songwriter, and musician, where he dived into his eclectic list of musical inspirations, what he has planned for the rest of 2020, the things he loves most about writing for other artists, and more.
VMAN How’s your quarantine been? What are some ways you’ve been staying sane and creative?
Stephen Puth My quarantine’s been fun, as fun as it can be, I suppose. A lot of rearranging furniture I think the best way that I’ve been staying creative is just trying to get some form of, I know it’s crazy, but some form of exercise every day. And that honestly just gets me going, and that’s when I think of most of my ideas. They just opened trails here in Los Angeles, so that helps my brain think, and then when I go back, I’m pretty set. The first couple of weeks people were afraid to even go outside. It was just absolutely terrifying. That was definitely damaging in the first couple of weeks, just doing nothing.
VMAN Since 2018, you’ve released four singles, what’s coming next with your solo work?
SP I’m aiming for Fall for my EP. I’m going to release music more frequently now. But my goal is to release more music, and do my best to try and build my fan base, especially during quarantine.
VMAN It’s noted that your musical inspirations growing up were Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, and James Taylor. How do you think the inspiration you’ve gathered from them plays into your own work?
SP I don’t know if there’s a direct translation, I think it’s just music that I like and maybe it’s the structure of how I would think listening to their music, and then being like, Okay, well, I want to do something like that. Obviously you’re never going to make the same song, it’s just not gonna happen. But you put all this together, and you kind of get your own version of what you would think is that. And that’s what’s kind of cool about music. It’s always gonna just be reshaping. Even if you try to directly be influenced by one song, you’re going to wind up having a sound that is unique.
VMAN On top of your solo work, you’ve written songs for names like The Vamps and Daniel Skye. What do you enjoy most about collaborating with other artists in that way?
SP Writing for other artists is always amazing. I just had a new song come out with this slightly alternative [artist], not urban, but he’s in his own space. His name’s Goody Grace and he’s a pretty big deal on the alt scene and I just wrote his last single with him and a couple of my buddies. It’s cool because you can literally just go mess around, like I was making traditional salsa beats three weeks ago and I’ve never, ever made salsa music in my life. I thought, ‘I wonder how you would do this.’ And that’s honestly how I treat the writing with other artists, because you just have a full range. You just can do different stuff, but I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Lost Frequencies. You remember that remix? “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me.” They did that remix and then “Are you with me? Are you with me?” Like that’s what’s cool. I never actually met the dude, but he put out one of my songs. I’ve always liked his music since I was in college back in the day, and I talked to him online because he put out a song that I’d written with another artist and that was just awesome. Music is unifying, and you get to meet cool and talented people.
VMAN What do you have planned for the rest of 2020 in terms of music?
SP I felt I’ve found a lot of success with my career so far. It requires being on the road, and I kind of took a partially old school approach where it’s like, going to radio stations, playing summer shows and I did that this time last year for about six months straight. And it was very beneficial because you actually get to connect with physical people. If you go to the Midwest, they’re doing these county fairs and they’re a big deal. So you get exposure in that sense and it’s just kind of interesting because obviously that stuff’s not gonna happen for a while. If we can ever get back to that norm, that’d be really sick because that’s my favorite part; being the weirdo I am and getting to go play music in weird locations, it’s great. But I want to get an album out. I met with another artist yesterday and over Zoom, it’s very, very dry. 2020 is gonna be weird, but whatever it is, I’m down for it. That’s pretty much all I got. We’re trying our best here on the music side of things and I feel like it’s good self-reflection. People are experimenting. And I think it’s going to be a very experimental year, which is good. I mean, there’s only so much you can control with more things changing environmentally, but some of it is still going to stay the same; music is music. You can’t go to the Hollywood Bowl, but things will be adapted and then eventually it’ll be newly reformed.