interview: hit making singer-songwriter stacy barthe opens up about suicide, body image, and her soul baring album, “becoming”
By Sound Check
July 28, 2015
Stacy Barthe can sing, and she most definitely has a way with words. The dynamic singer-songwriter has written hit tracks for a myriad of pop’s elite. She’s collaborated with music veterans like John Legend, Common, and Frank Ocean, most recently teaming with the former stars on her latest album “BEcoming.” On “BEcoming,” an organic collection of tracks, we get a first-hand look into the singer’s most inner workings, where listeners weave through a complicated maze of issues. But as complicated as the topics are, we thank Barthe for going there—for verbalizing such nuanced topics, concerns some of us wish we could put into words. We met up with Stacy and her entourage (her band and PR team) on a sweltering summer afternoon some days ago at The Crabby Shack in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The artist talked candidly about a gamut of issues —the music industry, her weight battles, and her failed suicide over crab legs, mac and cheese, and raspberry lemonade. We were treated to an intimate acoustic set (much similar to the one below) at the end of our chat, where the singer’s voice radiated the small room.
By Andrea Dwyer, AFROPUNK Contributor
Andrea: You’re from Brooklyn?
Stacy: Yeah. I was born in Brooklyn, but thirty days later I was brought to Haiti and was raised there until I was three. I came back and lived in Queens and then Long Island.
Andrea: Where are you based now?
Stacy: I live in L.A.
Andrea: How are those scenes different—New York and L.A?
Stacy: The only thing that’s kept me in L.A is the weather and the fact that I can go hiking. I miss the culture in New York, there’s no Caribbean culture out in L.A—it’s too far west. So the thing I miss the most about being in New York is being around Caribbean people.
Andrea: I’m from Jamaica. I get it. Let’s get into your weight loss journey. You recently lost a significant amount of weight. Tell us about that journey.
Stacy: I was 380 pounds and I had a suicide attempt. When I woke up the next day and was still here, I was like; alright, I have a second chance so that’s the day I started to try to lose weight.
Andrea: What did you do specifically to lose the weight?
Stacy: I swam, climbed mountains, trained ferociously—any and everything. I’m not as obsessed with losing weight as I was two years ago. It got a little unhealthy; I was really working out twice a day and not eating. Part of my motivation to lose weight at that time was that I was in a relationship. I felt like he wasn’t attracted to me and I just wanted him to want me.
Andrea: What are you doing now to maintain your weight?
Stacy: I’m just living; I’m not obsessing over it as I was back then. I do want to lose more weight, but now it’s happening gradually now. I’m now in a very okay space and not trying to impress anybody. I’m getting there.
Andrea: You’re also known for your songwriting skills. Is there a formula to putting out hits?
Stacy: No, there’s no formula. I pretty much just live and then go write about it.
Andrea: Creatively, what do you enjoy the most: being behind the scenes or being on stage?
Stacy: I’m learning to like-love being on stage. I spent most of my career being in a dark studio so it’s different coming out and performing because it just always feels like the school yard for me. I used to get teased miserably. I used to pass out and pretend there was something wrong with me, just so I could go home. At first, I felt like doing that on stage, especially when people weren’t looking at me. And it’s like, those people aren’t there to make fun of me, it’s not the school yard, things have changed so being on stage took some getting used to.
Andrea: You touched on the issue earlier. The first song on your album is called “Suicide Note”. Tell us about your suicide attempt.
Stacy: I took a bunch of pills and was hoping it would work, but God wasn’t ready for me to go. I really didn’t want to be here. Since I was a kid, suicide has always been a reoccurring thought.
Andrea: I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation. People love to say generic stuff like “it gets better” without really addressing the root of the issue. People take a very superficial approach to something that’s quite serious. What do you say to people who think suicide is a selfish thing?
Stacy: Yeah, it’s like you don’t know what that kind of hopelessness feels like unless you’ve been there. You’re not thinking about anybody else so in some way it’s a selfish act. At the same time, everybody else’s life will go on. You’ll be missed, but life goes on. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about anybody, I just wanted to check out—goodbye. My mom and my brother are the only two people that would have mattered to me.
Andrea: They are both a big part of your life? Do they keep you grounded?
Stacy: Yes, they are very important to me. They don’t necessarily keep me grounded, they keep me in check. My brother really keeps me in check. At the end of the day, I’ll still do what I want but they are always there to sort of guide me.
Andrea: You collaborated with John Legend and Common on your album “Becoming.” What was it like working with those guys?
Stacy: Well, I’ve worked with John before. I’m his artist —he’s amazing. He was just there as an ear through the process. He didn’t meddle during the process because he knows I’m a songwriter and I don’t really need help in that area, so he let me do my thing. He was there to see what I needed from him— that’s how we worked together. And Common—that’s bae. He wrote one of my favorite songs, “The Light.” Those lyrics; I want someone to feel that way about me one day: “I’ll never call you my bitch or even my boo/there’s so much in a name and so much more in you.” He’s everything!
Andrea: Any plans to go on the road?
Stacy: Yeah, we just got started with everything so eventually. Right now, we’re just doing random pop up shows. My band’s here. We can do a show here if you’d like.
Andrea: I would love that.
Stacy: Let’s do it.
Andrea: You’ve had successes at various stages of your career. How do you define success?
Stacy: I don’t define anything that I’ve done as a success. It just depends, some people look at me and say “oh, you’ve written for Rihanna.” There’s a misperception of being in the music business, that you’re getting paid and getting money. It takes a long time to get to where you’re really getting paid. Songwriting hasn’t been a lucrative thing for me; that’s why I only work with people I really like. You sit in the studio for twelve hours give an artist your time but at the end of the day they may not put that song on the album. If they do, you hope that song becomes a single so you can actually make money.
Andrea: Is that something you’d like to see change in the industry.
Stacy: Yes, definitely. Songwriters should be getting paid for their time. Producers get paid, why not songwriters? But, the thing with producers is that they often have song deals with record labels so there’s a guarantee they are getting paid.
Andrea: Anything else you’d like us to know?
Stacy: I’m working on a project with my group St. Barthe, it’s me and my bandmate, Rich, he’s a DJ. Then I’m doing another project with my girl who’s also Haitian, we call that project “Two Little Haitian Girls.” I’m working with DJ Snake, Skrillex, and a few other artists. I have a record out in the EDM world called “Afterlife” that’s doing really well. That record actually has more streams than anything else I’ve ever done, something like 4 million. It’s funny because I’m only saying one thing the whole time [laughs], it’s ironic.
Thank you, Stacy!
* Andrea Dwyer is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She’s a writer at Superselected and you can follow her on Twitter @musingandrea
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