Stacy Barthe Tells Her Story Of BEcoming In Our Interview
I’ve been doing Parlé Magazine for over eleven years now. I’ve interviewed so many people that some days the stories in my head just jumble together because many of them are so similar, so generic, and while it’s impressive that they’ve found success, there isn’t much of a story to remember or tell. And then every now and then comes someone like Stacy Barthe. I first came across her music a little more than a year ago and at the time, while I admitted she was a great voice, I didn’t really put forth the effort to research her for more. A few months ago I was formerly introduced to Stacy and I’ve been a fan and supporter ever since.
I interviewed her last month as she prepared to release her debut album, BEcoming, available July 10th everywhere. The interview was anything but generic. Her story and the journey she’s taken to get here have to be told, but it can’t happen any old way either. I offer you, Stacy Barthe: The Memoir – Lived To Tell It.
Stacy Barthe was born at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York on July 19, 1985 at 13 pounds. “I was literally in Brooklyn for thirty days,” Barthe admits, though that is good enough to claim the borough in my book. Barthe’s mother, a Haitian native wanted to create a foundation for a young Stacy so shortly after giving birth to her, she sent her to Haiti to live with her grandmother. Her mother was only 19 years old when she had her and while the decision was hard, she felt bringing her to Haiti was the best she could do for her daughter at the time. It would be another 3 and a half years before Stacy would return to New York. By then, her mother had moved to Queens and had built a foundation for Stacy along with the man who would become her step father. He would often remind her that he was just a step-dad and nothing he did for her was required. A year or so later, Stacy’s only sibling would be born, her brother, and the family would move shortly thereafter to Long Island.
Like many Haitians, Barthe admits that she misses the homeland of Haiti and what it offered. She even talks playfully about running for President of the nation if she lives to be fifty years old. But she’s serious about the pursuit, if things lead her that way, that is. Although she was young, the time in Haiti was good.
Parlé Magazine: What artists did you grow up listening to?
Stacy Barthe: I grew up listening to everything. It was a discovery process because nobody in my house was into music. My mom pretty much listened to Haitian music and Julio Iglesias and Lite F.M. So I discovered music from Bobby Simmons’ Flava Music Videos and Hot 97, [New York’s home for Hip-Hop and R&B]. Eventually later down the line we got cable. And I was heavily into Jazz. And then I got into a lot of indie and emo shit like Fiona Apple and Bjork and I can go from there to Nas and Biggie and Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. I was just a fan of anything great. It didn’t care what the genre was.
The quality of music she enjoyed as a young adult would develop, as would her passion for writing and singing. She went from writing short stories and poems to penning ballads and pop hits in a short time. But her path led her to college and pursuing corporate dreams initially. “It was never my plan to do [music]. I wanted to be a manager and a lawyer,” Barthe admits. She attended St. Johns University, majoring in Pre-Law. After her first year in undergrad, as fate would have it, things started piecing themselves together on their own. She interned at Geffen Records initially and that led to an opportunity interning at Jive Records, eventually “working” in the Urban Marketing Department.
The opportunity at Jive, plus a little help from Myspace, would change the course Stacy was on quickly. The year was 2005.
Parlé: You interned at Jive and then you met Hit-Boy, obviously this was early in his career, but what was that experience like working with him?
Stacy Barthe: We met on MySpace. In my occupation box on my MySpace it said I worked at Jive so I guess he was under the assumption that I really worked at Jive or I was an A&R or something. So he sent me a batch of beats and I was like, ‘yo, this kid is awesome.’ That’s how we built our repoire and for two years he would just send me beats and I would write songs and have my friends sing them and send them back. So when he got signed to Polow [Da Don] I went down to Atlanta to work with him on Teyana Taylor. We had such good chemistry, he was like, just stay with me. We pretty much just grinded. Through him came Ethiopia Habtemariam and Polow and all these other people became interested.
Parlé: I know you’ve been writing music since high school, but at what point did you feel like writing music professionally could be a major thing for you?
Stacy: When I met Hit-Boy. I was like, ‘I could really do this!’ I’ve always been a wordsmith, I used to write short stories and stuff like that and poems and little mini plays and stuff like that. So when song writing became an option as a career I was like shoot, let me just do it. But it was never my plan to do it.
Stacy worked with Hit-Boy from 2005 to about 2008. In 2007, the aforementioned Ethopia would help Stacy get her publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing. To this day Stacy and Hit-Boy are still good friends. “Me and Hit-Boy haven’t done music in a long time, but me and him just hang out, we just kick it.”
Stacy Barthe was only in Atlanta for about a year. In 2008 she began working with Sean “Puffy” Combs and that prompted a move to Los Angeles. She’s been an L.A. resident ever since.
While building her buzz on the West Coast Stacy Barthe penned songs for Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna just to name a few. Every song has it’s unique story in terms of where Stacy was in her life and what getting the placement meant to her. Her first official album placement came on Brittney Spears’ Circus album on the song “Blur.”
Parlé: What’s the creative process like for you as a writer?
Stacy Barthe: I don’t really have a process because I just go in and sing exactly what I feel. Like if I can turn myself inside out, I’m literally saying what I feel on the inside. I don’t write anything down, I just go in the booth and let it happen. Or sometimes if someone is playing something on the guitar or it might be the piano, I just sing along with it. Rarely do I hear a beat where I’m like, ‘Oh my God this is amazing.’ So I am usually part of the production process.
Parlé: What was an impactful placement early on for you?
Stacy Barthe: I think the Miley Cyrus, “Adore You,” record, because that one was a single. Cause I’ve written on a gang of albums, but I haven’t had that many singles, only a couple. Rihanna [“Cheers”] and Miley, but Miley put me over the top.
In 2011 Stacy decided to step from behind the production board and into the booth, officially as an artist. Her first release, the EP Sincerely Yours, Stacy Barthe was as much about quality music as it was about revealing her inner most thoughts, emotions and struggles. But before we get to that…
Stacy has dealt with self-confidence issues, abandonment issues and self-image issues since she was a young girl. She was teased as a child in elementary school because of her weight and her looks and that continued throughout her formative years. In high school, relationships didn’t come easy and simple things like high school crushes would leave more scars than they would heal. When she was 17 years old, her mother convinced her to have gastric bypass surgery. She was 368 pounds and that surgery got her down to 100 pounds. However, shortly after the surgery she gained all the weight back because her eating habits didn’t comply with the unrealistic eating requirements of the surgery. The struggle of dealing with weight loss and accepting her image continued throughout her years developing as a young woman and even as a professional writing and creating music.
In 2010, it all came to its breaking point. The industry hustle of trying to create hit singles for people and essentially auditioning music for folks that weren’t accepting of her style and sound at the time, mixed with her personal struggles led Stacy to try to commit suicide. She took a large amount of pills in her medicine cabinet and fell into a deep sleep.
Fortunately, she woke up.
The same songs people were passing on because they weren’t “smash records”… they would become the foundation of the Sincerely Yours EP.
Over the next few days after her suicide attempt, her weight loss journey officially began. Her biggest weight was 380 pounds but over time she would over lose 180 pounds. Though she gained some of it back, the journey continues. On the say of our interview she was actually headed to the gym, committed to the process.
Parlé: What took so long for you to decide that you wanted to be the person in the forefront?
Stacy Barthe: I was getting tired of doing songs for free. I was doing endless sessions and it’s basically like you’re auditioning your songs for artists. An artist can take two or three years to complete their albums and all the time you spent writing and trying—you don’t get paid for your time. I got tired of running that rat race. And it’s all politics. There are all these big management companies that manage the artist and the songwriters and the producers, so obviously they are going to use their own people. So now as a songwriter I only work on things and with people that I genuinely like.
Parlé: Weight loss is a big part of your journey. You lost 180 pounds, tell me about that…
Stacy Barthe: I lost 180 pounds and then I gained like 35 or 40 back. So I’m in the process of like a do over. I injured my knee and I got discouraged, but I’m back on now. The weight loss used to be the pinnacle, but it’s really the mental weight that I had to lose, because once you change your mind, it changes everything else. It starts at the top. Once the brain changes, it trickles down to the rest of your body. I’m just now shedding the mental weight, that was the hardest thing to do. I mean, if you stick to a plan and eat the right things you’re gonna lose weight, it’s proven. But, giving up thirty years of mental—shit. How do you do that??? There’s no real formula for that.
Parlé: What would you say was the most difficult part about the process besides the mental part?
Stacy Barthe: You have your conscious mind and then you have your subconscious mind. Your conscious mind is what’s actually happening and your subconscious mind is the shit your making up in your mind and that starts in your formative years, whatever you’re told, you believe and that’s the mind that your thinking with because you’re not aware that there are two things going on. After reading some books and dissecting myself and my brain I notice when I am starting to become negative and starting to transform, it’s because I’m thinking with my subconscious mind. I have song on my album called “In My Head” and it says, “the stories I make up in my mind make a little more sense than what’s actually happening.”
Admittedly, Stacy is a work in progress. She signed her deal with Universal Motown Records in 2012. Following the release of the EP, Barthe has since released Stacy Barthe Presents The Seven Days of Christmas, 2012’s In The Inbetween EP, and P.S. I Love You EP in 2013. Her debut album, BEcoming is a display of that work and that journey. As such, the album starts with the intro, “My Suicide Note” and features songs like “Me versus me” and “Flawed Beautiful Creatures.”
The album is executive produced by John Legend and features John on the single “Angel,” a remake of the Anita Baker classic. Common also features on the album. The album’s production was done by Malay, who also serves as an executive producer on the project.
Parlé: Let’s talk about your relationship with John Legend. How did that develop?
Stacy Barthe: I guess him and his team heard my music, my first project Sincerely Yours off the Internet and they reached out to me to songwrite for him and then he found out I was already in the process of completing my deal with Motown, because Ethiopia and I had a long standing relationship and so he was like how can we be involved in any way possible because they really believed in the music.
Parlé: Talk to me about the chemistry you have with Malay and how it was working on this album together.
Stacy Barthe: Well I’ve known Malay since I was nineteen years old. He recorded one of my first major recording sessions when I was New York City and so we’ve always kept in touch and been friends. In 2011 we started working together and creating and our chemistry was easy. We would have a song done in like 2 or 3 hours. We just get each other. He also produced the Channel Orange album for Frank Ocean and did “Green Light” for John Legend and Andre. That’s just my friend and he understands me musically.
And he’s an awesome engineer and a multi-musicianist.
Parlé: The single “Angel,” I know that’s a remake of the Anita Baker record, why did you decide to lead with that one?
Stacy Barthe: Well its an Anita Baker classic, it wasn’t really supposed to be on my album, it was actually an interlude on John’s album, but people kept hitting him asking for the full version and so we decided to throw it on my album so people could have it.
Parlé: The title BEcoming explains itself, but what other titles were you thinking about for the project?
Stacy Barthe: It was supposed to be Lived To Tell, basically I lived to tell my story, but it thought BEcoming was more fitting, because I would always say to people, ‘I’m a work in progress, I’m in the process of becoming and once I reach a goal, a weight loss goal or a career goal, I have to set a new goal. No matter what level you reach you’re going to constantly be trying to be someone else. Or you should be. Becoming is growth.
Parlé: How would you describe your music? I know it’s described as R&B/Soul but how would you describe your sound?
Stacy Barthe: I mean yeah, I’m slightly overweight and I’m black and I’m singing so people want to throw it into the R&B category but I feel like my music is like air, it’s like anything. There’s tribal influences in there, there’s some Folk influences in there. There’s some Dance stuff in there . There’s some classical stuff in there. It’s a melting pot of stuff there. I think it’s multi-genre. Cause R&B is dead. That genre no longer exists, to me. It’s like a blend.
Parlé: Do you think that’s because it’s traditionally a Black person’s genre?
Stacy Barthe: Well there are all these white people singing R&B now. There shouldn’t be a genre because everything is such a blend and there is no real category. Jason Derulo is doing dance music and Nick Jonas is doing R&B.
Parlé: What advice do you have for struggling artists hoping to get into the industry?
Stacy Barthe: There’s no straight way to get into where you want. Everybody’s path is different. I just say follow your passion. I never had a plan, I don’t even know how I got to this point. Just follow your passion, whatever that means to you. Following your passion to me, means doing whatever I want to do, when I want to do and giving zero fucks about what anybody has to say about it.
Parlé: Do you feel like that has it’s downsides in this industy?
Stacy Barthe: Everything has it’s downsides. I’m going against the grain, so I’m risking the popularity factor, which I genuinely don’t care about, cause I didn’t make keep music to become popular. This is literally therapy and a cathartic experience for me, so whoever catches it, catches it, and if you don’t, that’s fine too.
Parlé: Who is Stacy trying to become and what should people expect from that person?
Stacy Barthe: The Stacy that I’m en route to becoming is genuinely happy with herself no matter what size, and is a girl that doesn’t want to continue on the path of this direction. I’m stepping into my thirties and I kind of feel like I’ve been living my life all wrong. Not that I was doing badly but just the way I thought and felt about myself. So I’m basically trying to leave those old thoughts in my twenties and be okay with who I am.
Parlé: What advice do you have for women who relate to those same feelings, probably also approaching a milestone age and just trying to accept themselves for who they are?
Stacy Barthe: Well I would say, that most people don’t realize that everything is a choice so a lot of us have spent time playing victim, but it’s important to find out the whys. Like okay, it’s not that I have a drinking problem, but why am I drinking so much? And once you know the why, you understand how to get to your how. Why is the reason, and once you get to the core, everyone has their addictions, it may not be alcohol but it may be drugs, it may be food, it may be sex, so once you get to your why, your how to becomes easy. So these last couple of years I been really trying to get to my why. Why am continuing to play victim, when all the things that I am complaining about and crying about happened in the past already? So I am going to be in the present. If you’re worried about the past, you’re depressed. If you’re worried about the future, you’re anxious. So, my main focus is being present and focusing on whatever it is that’s happening currently.
Parlé: Do you feel like the industry is ready for Stacy Barthe?
Stacy Barthe: Probably not, but I’m coming anyway.
Parlé: What do you hope Stacy Barthe’s legacy is?
Stacy Barthe: All I’m trying to do is live forever. And the most surefire way to do that is through my music.
Stacy Barthe’s debut album, BEcoming is in stores NOW. Be sure to support.