Published Sep 24, 2015North Carolina-born/Miami-based R&B artist Steven A. Clark signed with Secretly Canadian more than a year ago, and the fruits of that new relationship were revealed this month with the release of new album The Lonely Roller. It's a 10-track project the self-described "introvert" tells Exclaim! is a personal one, and showcases his maturing sound and methodology to R&B music.
The album title refers to a track that previously appeared on Clark's 2014 three-song Late EP and reflects a moody, restless and electronic musical approach. Creating the new album was a three- to four-year process and all the songs stem from personal experiences.
Clark, who has cited influences as wide-ranging as Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel and Kanye West, sought to improve on the introspective, psychedelic sound first heard on previous self-produced projects. He worked with collaborators such as composer Sam Hyken and Steven Sanz (of Kodiak Fur) to establish a soulful feel and one that explores '80s pop and rock influences.
"It's just more developed and a more mature sound," Clark tells Exclaim! "It's polished. Before, I really didn't know what I was doing. I just wanted to make songs. This time, the process developed into this conceptual album. It's a natural progression. As I was putting everything together, it just kind of developed into this type of movie and the persona of The Lonely Roller. It's just how I've always viewed myself anyway."
Being a solo artist — a lonely roller — has indeed defined his life and career, he adds. Songs like the title track and recent single "Can't Have You," explore relatable themes of desire, loss and love.
"I started off making music by myself for the most part, kind of did things on my own as a solo artist. I like to be by myself a lot of the times, but that's not always a good thing. It all just fit, that song just sets the tone for this person, a wanderer who's just looking for something. He finds it and it's probably not the best thing for him; he's running from something else and when you're running from something it can't end well."
When asked to define his darkly soulful sound and perhaps compare himself to his contemporaries, he politely defers. "I don't compare myself to anyone. Truthfully I don't. I don't think it's like anything else; it's all me. How can it sound like anybody else?"
Clark adds that his music is open for interpretation and categorization — at the end of the day, he's just looking to make good music. And for this album, he wanted to evoke a cinematic type feel.
"If you knew me growing up, it's not something that anyone thought I'd be doing," Clark says. "I feel like I've been making music long enough to not have any expectations. I just want to make a career out of this. I just want people who love it just to love it. I can't control that stuff — I just want people to enjoy it.
"It's a very unique sounding thing and I just want people to hold it. It's something that lasts. I just want this to sit with people for a while."