Stephanie McKay

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Stephanie McKay
Background information
Birth name Stephanie McKay
Origin The Bronx, New York
Genres Soul, funk, pop, hip hop, rock
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Labels Polydor Records (2003)
Astralwerks (2005)
Muthas Of Invention (2008)
Associated acts Anthony Hamilton
Jacques Schwarz-Bart
Bako Babies
Carl Hancock Rux
Tim Saul

Stephanie McKay is an American soul singer and songwriter from the Bronx in New York, whose music includes elements of soul, funk, rock and hip hop. McKay's career has spanned over 20 years, during which time she has collaborated with artists including Anthony Hamilton, DJ Spinna Toshi Reagon and Big lovely, Roy Hargrove, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Katalyst, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Tricky, Carl Hancock Rux and Amp Fiddler and numerous others.[1][2] She has released two solo albums, McKay (2003) and Tell it Like it Is (2008), a self-titled EP Stephanie McKay (2006) and has toured internationally as a solo artist. She formerly played guitar in Kelis' band and recorded with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials.[3]

Early life[edit]

Stephanie McKay was born in NYC. Raised in the Bronx,[citation needed] 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 BFA 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.

Early music career[edit]

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.

Solo career[edit]

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, novelist and recording artist. It was while working for Carl Hancock Rux, she sang a demo of one of his songs. The demo was passed by Rux 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 Rux 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 two songs co-penned by Geoff Barrow and Carl Hancock Rux and 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 being featured on US funk musician Amp Fiddler's album release Afro Strut.

Her second album 'Tell it like it is" was later released independently on Pias/Muthas of Invention. McKay went on to play Glatonbury in 2009, North Sea Jazz Festival, and Spoleto in France. The single "Jackson Avenue" received wide airplay throughout Europe. After the death of her mom in 2008 and the birth of her son in 2009, Mckay took a hiatus and concentrated on motherhood instead of touring. She continued to release singles with longtime collaborator DJ Katalyst from Australia with the single "Day into Night" and "You can't save me".

She is married to jazz tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart. Jacques and Stephanie have collaborated musically with the album Rise above (Dreyfus) an album released by her husband which contained the single "Feel so free". Other songs from the album such as " Forget regret" have been recorded by Roy Hargrove. "Friend and lover" a composition McKay and Schwarz-bart wrote together for jazz guitarist Yosuke Onuma (Sony) Japan was also recorded by EMILY (jazz pianist and singer) and TOKU (trumpeter and singer) for Sony, and will be released in September 2013 in Japan.[needs update]

Stephanie McKay is currently working with famed engineer Bob Power on a new collaborative project entitled [2sharp9]. In January 2013, she sang with Jimmy Cliff on The Super Bowl 2013 Volkswagen commercial "Get Happy". Whether being hired live performer, studio session singer, or writer. Her work resonates with audiences and critics alike.

Music style[edit]

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.


  • McKay (2003)
  • Stephanie Mckay EP (2006)
  • Tell It Like It Is (2008)


  • Tell him
  • Take me Over
  • Tell it like it is
  • Stephanie McKay EP (2006)
  • Jackson Avenue (2008)


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Stephanie McKay Interview by Tom Paul. Soul Tracks March 21, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2011. Archived 2011-08-05 at WebCite

External links[edit]