Any given Sunday morning in Alabama, and Earl St. Clair’s uncles were out washing their cars on their only day off, boom boxes plugged up and playing B.B. King, Sam Cooke and blues artists born in the Delta.
“Nothing was open but church and the refrigerator,” St. Clair says in his husky, deep-fried voice, a byproduct of spending many boyhood years in his dad’s home state. “I can listen to Al Green right now and it’ll make me feel the same way today as when I heard it at five years old. People don’t make music that lasts 10 years anymore. Originality and creativity are missing.”
With the release of his debut album, Songs About a Girl I Used to Know, Earl St. Clair will soon rectify that. As evinced by his guest vocals and lyrics on Avicii’s “Pure Grinding,” which has racked up almost 14 million views, or the caffeinated “Feeling Alive,” a tight, ebullient jam that springs to life with his animated delivery, St. Clair possesses a massive talent that’s refreshingly modern yet hearkens back to the soul greats. Laced with grit and sounding ripped from the depths of his soul, his voice still manages to skip lightly over hooks that lodge in your head for days. While he’s just now revealing his talent as an artist to the mainstream—Bibi Bourelly snatched him up for her song “Perfect,” which they recently performed on The Late Show With Steven Colbert—he’s already won fans like Jeremih and been a secret weapon in songwriting sessions for Rick Ross’ Black Market and Machine Gun Kelly’s General Admission—and on the latter, St. Clair has a handful of producing credits as well.
In fact, producing was his first love. The summer before he left for college, the Cleveland-born St. Clair discovered his cousin tinkering around with Fruity Loops, and he was hooked. “I went to college but I didn’t go to class. I didn’t have a computer, so I downloaded Fruity Loops on everybody’s computer on my dorm floor,” he says, laughing.
Dropping out, he went back home and discovered his grandfather had taken out a $4000 loan for him to buy equipment. Eventually, St. Clair was producing for almost every rapper in the city, which drew the attention of Lebron James’ agent, who began managing him and introduced him to Polow da Don.
St. Clair’s production style sharpened and he sold his beats, but it was when he started doing reference tracks that he began to develop his own earthy, full-bodied sound. Now, that sound—a smoldering blend of James Brown, Outkast and Ray Charles—is set to woo a legion of music lovers who are exhausted by the disposability of today’s hits.
“People don’t feel anything with music. They get bored. I think artists are afraid to be themselves,” he says. “Be you. People forgot how to do that.” He practices what he preaches: On Songs About a Girl I Used to Know, the songs are all culled from his life and set to feel-good music with tons of guitar, piano and funk.
“The project is uplifting. It feels good,” he says. “I just hope it makes people feel. As long as you feel something, I’m happy.”
Be on the lookout for Earl St. Clair’s debut single, “Man on Fire,” coming August 19th! Listen here.