“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 eclectic musical sets all over the nation. Centered in Stevie’s studio is his Boss Loop Station with a long corded microphone plugged into it. “This is what I use for my live, looped and layered beatbox sets,” says Stevie, gesturing towards the gear. But before Stevie earned his spot on the stage, he had to first find his voice-literally.
Born with a stuttering disorder, Stevie struggled with bullying in his Redford, Michigan 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. When Stevie finally got home from his long days at 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 when one of the funny sounds unexpectedly 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, Stevie practiced looping beats and became obsessed with mimicking instruments. Once Stevie mastered his internal clock, he felt ready 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 over it. 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 and had a studio in their basement. Every Friday night, local musicians came over for jam sessions. Stevie remembers the first time he joined a session- “It was summer break and the crew was hanging out between takes. I walked to the middle of the room and busted out a Motown beatbox compilation-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 older guys used to call me “Stevie Sole” because I would clean their shoes for cash while they were in their studio sessions as a side hustle. I always been obsessed with a clean pair of kick’s because it gives you a fresh sense of confidence, and I was happy to share that same energy with the artists in the studio.
But 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!
In his college years, Stevie’s career path took an interesting turn when he started collaborating on film and video projects. In 2012, he helped 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, as I’ve always viewed video as the ultimate art form. I took the same creativity that enabled me to produce 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 growing into 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, and more” Stevie explains. He believes that the ultimate marriage of these components will make for more compelling projects and performances in his personal career. Not only will people hear his art, they will now be able to see it as well.
But it truly isn’t all about Stevie or his projects. 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 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 successes with his music and film projects, he’s become an inspiration to many. The curse that he turned into a gift is now a gift that he gets to give- and he does it generously! Stevie continues to evolve, and judging by Stevie’s current beatbox performance set, we already know his upcoming audio-visual hybrid projects are going to be amazing!