“We all have that one thing that’s a gift and a curse. For me, stuttering was more of a curse that I turned into a gift,” says Stevie Soul, the Detroit native beatboxer. Today, Stevie performs his signature R&B and Soul sound to improvised covers of Top 40 music all over the nation. His audience is in for a live musical treat as he sings over his looped and layered beatbox sets.
Born with a stuttering disorder, Stevie struggled with bullying in his Metro Detroit elementary school. “When I would try to say words as a kid, funny sounds would come out instead. The kids in his class would routinely make fun of him. Every night when he got home from school, he would run into his bedroom closet and squeeze his throat to try to make words come out...but the funny sounds continued.
One night everything changed. Unexpectedly, a funny sound came out as a musical note. Influenced by his idol at the time, Bobby McFerrin, Stevie tried tapping on his body to create a beat to the note- and it worked! Stevie discovered that he could beatbox. “That was a defining moment for me, ” says Stevie. He realized that if he couldn’t express himself through words, he would do it through music! As his skills developed, he would practice looping beats and became obsessed with mimicking instruments. Once he mastered his internal clock, he became confident to share his music in the classroom.
Low and behold, the same kids that were bullying him were now begging him to beatbox in math class so they could sing and rap. The news spread like wildfire; in fact, his schoolmates started signing him up for talent shows. Stevie went from being the butt of every joke to becoming the life of the lunchroom. “I was confident that I found my voice in a way that I never anticipated- beatboxing,” Stevie recalls.
To Stevie’s fortune, his older brother was a music producer. His basement studio was a gathering place for local musicians and friends. Every Friday night, a group of artists would walk downstairs to jam after picking up a piece of his dad’s fried fish on their way in through the garage. Stevie remembers the first time he surprised the group and joined them in their jam session: “It was the first Friday of Summer break and the crew was all hanging out between takes. I walked to the middle of the room and busted out a Motown beatbox compilation, and everyone went crazy.” After seeing the reaction to Stevie’s soulful sound, his brother immediately put him in front of the microphone and pressed record. “The funny part is, all of the guys used to call me “Stevie Sole” because I would clean their shoes for cash while they were in the studio sessions. Once they heard me perform, they officially changed my name to “Stevie Soul,” Stevie recollects with a cheerful grin.
The recording hasn’t stopped till this day. Stevie and his brother have created dozens of records and projects. Throughout his music career, Stevie’s performed with Whitney Cummings, Cody Simpson, George Watsky, Jeff Bass & Kevin O'leary from Shark Tank and many more great talents. Stevie’s also taken on some highly innovative solo projects. In 2016, he completed “Year of Beatbox” where he created and uploaded a new beatbox video to Instagram every single day!
Stevie’s career took an interesting turn when he started collaborating on film and video projects. In 2012 he started to help build Woodward Original, now a Detroit-based film production company. Brought on as a local creative to implement his artistry and audio experience, Stevie naturally transitioned into becoming a producer. “Taking on visual production was the perfect career shift for me, I always viewed video as the ultimate art form. I used the same creativity and confidence that allowed me to create music and put it into other people’s video content. I love the process of bringing someone’s vision to life,” says Stevie. He’s produced commercials, mini-documentaries, brand spots, short-form web content, and motion graphics videos. “I found myself really loving and growing in this new career path,” Stevie passionately shares.
Emboldened by the many lessons Stevie has learned from working in production and in the business world, Stevie is now prepared to embark on his biggest journey yet: “I am going to bring my two worlds of music and film together. This is going to be the reawakening of my art in a new audio-visual medium. I’m taking years of experience in music and film and tying them together as one...it’s going to be a mix of beatboxing, projected visuals, lighting, performance, ad more” Stevie explains. He believes that the ultimate marriage of these components will make for more compelling projects and performances in my personal career. Not only will people hear his art, they will now be able to see it as well. Stevie is convinced that “this is the moment my entire life has been preparing me for.” But it truly isn’t all about Stevie’s life, as he has time and time again taken genuine interest in the lives of others.
Throughout his career, Stevie has learned that the voice he found isn’t only for music: “my voice was also meant to empower others.” Stevie Soul has been able to share his talents and story with youth organizations across his hometown of Detroit through his “Music & Movement” curriculum. The program encourages young students in Detroit to experiment with rhythm, sound, movement, dance, instruments, and voice. For the students, these activities build self-confidence, promote teamwork, and give the students a sense of the beauty within their own bodies. “These positive reinforcements are pivotal at developing ages...I am blessed with the opportunity to give them the support that I was deprived of as a kid,” says Stevie. After doing the groundwork in his local community, Stevie took his efforts to a national platform when he delivered a motivating speech to the National Stuttering Association. The audience was left in tears, and there were crowds of students thanking him afterwards.
Stevie has proven to himself and others that even the most difficult obstacles can be overcome. By transforming his struggles into success with music and film, he’s an inspiration and beacon of light to many. The curse that he turned into a gift is now a gift that he gets to give. And he continues to evolve. The anticipation for his audio-visual hybrid is real! Even if it’s only half as entertaining as his current beatbox performance set, we know we’re all in for a treat!