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The Ups & Downs of Writing a Heartbreak EP, from Someone Who Has Done It

September 1, 2015

josh-stevens-skyelyfeLike many, musician Josh Stevens got out of a relationship that “ended really badly,” and he lived to tell about it.

The Orange County, CA native – who has a long history of working behind the scenes with A-list artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Calvin Harris, Nicki Minaj and his close homie Warren G. – is finally becoming the face of his own music with the release of his debut EP, The Story of Summer, which explores the ups and downs of having a significant other.

The five-song compilation is slated for official release at the end of September, but in the meantime, he just put out its first single “Hill Top” (featuring Capital Cities‘ Spencer Ludwig – scroll to the bottom to hear), an anthemic pop-rock tune that touches on one of the many sides of being in love.

“This song is like the euphoric, everything is great – and then once you get into the rest of the EP, you’ll find there are some lower points and dark points,” Stevens tells skyelyfe. “This was a few years ago, so it was definitely reflective writing of a time period in my life. I didn’t write it while I was going through it because I didn’t even know I was going through it. When you look back, you’re kind of like, wow, that’s what I was going through. I had to learn and grow from my experience.”

Stevens is fine now – in fact, he and his current girlfriend use the “Hill Top” lyrics as their relationship mantra when they are both traveling separately all over the world for work. But he does recall those previously painful times.

When you get out of a relationship, you can do one of two things that people usually do: They either close up and become secluded or they just wild out,” he says. “I did both. I did crazy partying and had one-night stands. Then at some point, you realize, oh, this isn’t all its cracked up to be. [At first] you’re like, this is amazing, I’m free! But then you realize real quick, ooh, there’s some darkness.”

Because this was Stevens’ first time crafting his own music material, there were things he didn’t expect during the process. But also, some things he found enlightening.

Read about the challenges and surprises he experienced while writing these songs about the ups and downs of falling in love:Josh-stevens-cover-art-skyelyfe

1. Writing about the lessons from these failed relationships was sometimes tough

“I’m one of those people who doesn’t reflect very often,” Stevens says. “It’s not in my nature. I’m not like, ‘Oh, I wish that could have been different.’ I’m more like, ‘What can I learn from that?’ When I went back to kind of see what went on during that time period, I kind of wrote it from that perspective. I can’t deny this is what happened, but what can I learn from it? Not really like, let me go live in it again. It wasn’t hard to go back. The hardest thing was to figure out what I learned from it and what I can tell other people from this experience.”

2. He realized he wasn’t alone in his past emotional state

“I think to sum it all up, there’s a sense of loneliness when you go through this,” Stevens says of breakups. “A feeling of, I’m alone and no one else understands. I think what has developed from this EP is people are not alone. You’re not alone in this feeling. There’s someone else who has gone through this. I hope the listener has that mentality.”

3. He realized how much of an impact his songs have on others

“I didn’t expect so many people to be stoked about [the EP], to be honest,” Stevens admits. “I was like, I’m going to do my own thing and see how it comes out. People have been super receptive to it. There’s a song on there called ‘Call Me Crazy,’ which is about my experience going through Hollywood and dealing with dirt being kicked in your face, and naysayers. Somebody came up to me and told me they go through that all the time and that the song spoke to them and it helps them get through the day. In a way, it’s awesome, but at the same time, it’s kind of creepy. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes dude, so I’m not quite used to that response. I’m very appreciative though. Another person came up to me who heard the song ‘Anna,’ and they said the song is helping them heal. Things like that I never would have expected. I make music as purely as possible. If it resonates, it resonates. It’s kind of out of my control.”

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Music Featured

Skyelyfe Sounds Off with DWNTWN’s Jamie Leffler

September 21, 2014


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I randomly stumbled upon DWNTWN‘s music in 2012 by browsing through the Soundtracking music app. The folks at ST were really pushing this group. I decided to give them a listen and I was instantly smitten with “Look the Other Way.” I also liked “See My Eyes.” Both songs were off the act’s four-song EP, The Red Room.

Since then, I’ve been following their career, just hoping for a full-length album at some point. Although they haven’t gotten there just yet, I was super excited when I was driving around in April with a friend and a new DWNTWN song came on an indie Sirius radio station. The song was “Til Tomorrow,” and it gave me great hope that more new music was to come from them. Sure enough, they released another EP, a self-titled five-song set of tracks. They’ve also lent their efforts on indie electro pop Kistuné compilations and on the upbeat melodic “On My Mind,” by SomethingALaMode.

I knew I needed to let everyone know how amazing this group is, so I featured them in a post while working at People.com. Since then, my biggest thrill was finding out they were opening for ASTR and The Knocks at The Echo back on July 3. I mean, three of my favorite acts under one roof? I was obviously going! Even better was approaching lead singer Jamie Leffler in the patio of the venue after the group’s performance and introducing myself. She was hanging out with her mom who came out to support. Leffler not only has a soothing voice, but she is so beautiful – mermaid-like. It also helps that she has a delightful, gracious personality to match.

The road to success hasn’t been easy for the humble star-on-the-rise, daughter of late Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein. Despite coming from a musical upbringing, the singer experienced much pain stemming from Epstein’s heroin overdose in 2003 at the age of 47 when Leffler was only 15. The Los Angeles native, who relives the experience of learning of her father’s tragic fate in the song “Heroine,” opened up to skyelyfe this week about everything from the heartbreak of losing her dad and grandfather, to her latest splurge and her love for Stevie Nicks.

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SL: How did DWNTWN come to be?

JL: I’ve known Robert for, wow, it’s nine years now. That’s crazy. Anyway, I dated his brother for years and when we broke up, I begged Robert [Cepeda] to write songs with me. Robert has been making music since high school and I had always been a fan, so I was thrilled when he finally agreed. We were pleasantly surprised with our first attempt and have kept going ever since.

SL: What is your favorite song of every DWNTWN release?

JL: That’s a tough one! I have special attachments to every song we make, so it’s hard to pick one. It’s like asking me to choose which child I love the most [laughs]. But if I had to, I’d say “Missing You.” It’s a song written for my late grandfather who was the best man I will ever know. The sweetest, most supportive, lovely person, and it was devastating losing him. I still sometimes well up when we are performing the song. In fact, I did when I performed it [on Saturday] at Tarfest.

SL: Who/what are some of your personal musical influences?

JL: I love Stevie Nicks. Not only is she an incredible songwriter, but that voice! It’s gentle yet powerful at the same time, which is something I strive for. And of course I love her stage persona.

SL: What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

JL: Our song “Heroine” is almost at 1 million plays on Spotify, which is a big deal to us because we’ve never had a million of anything before [laughs].

SL: Describe the band’s latest EP

JL: We wanted to sound more like a band with this. Prior to adding our drummer and keyboardist, Robert and I were very limited live, which was reflected in the music we wrote. Now with more people, we have more freedom when we are writing. Also, I was determined not to continue writing songs about a past breakup. I delved deeper and took more inspiration from my family. “Heroine” is a song written about my father’s drug addiction, and “Missing You” for my grandpa, as I mentioned before.

SL: Who are some of your favorite current artists and which other artists (if any) do you consider personal friends?

JL: We always love playing with Tapioca and The Flea. They Really nice guys that make really cool music. We have probably played with them more than any other LA band. Gold Fields are also awesome dudes from Australia who we met while we were both on the Capital Cities tour. AMAZING live. When thinking of how we need to improve live, I always think, we need to be as good as Gold Fields.

5 FUN FACTS 

Last time you were drunk:

Saturday night. I played a little beer pong at our drummer’s house after our show at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Last thing you splurged on:

Freebird boots. They were on sale, so I couldn’t resist. But I’m feeling guilty about it, and I’m probably going to return them.

Last concert or festival you attended (can’t be your own):

We saw Interpol in Vegas. They are one of our favorite bands, and I had never seen them live, so it was a great experience. Plus it was in Vegas, so that’s always a good time [laughs].

Last reality show you watched:

Does Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives count as reality? Because that show is awesome. I like food more than I like most things in life.

Favorite pop star and why?:

Queen B! You can’t take your eyes off her! What an amazing performer.

Check out the brand new release of DWNTWN’s cover of Vance Joy‘s “Riptide”: