When you think of lockdown, you might think of endless boring days indoors – but for JC Stewart, he decided to film and have his take on the Friends theme tune “I’ll be there for you” with a quarantine spin, his video then unexpectedly went viral when Jennifer Aniston shared it on her instagram stories, JC’s face was plastered all over the media, and to top it all off, Nina Dobrev also shared it to her millions of followers! Let’s just say JC Stewart has had it pretty well in 2020 even during a pandemic. From the untrained eye, JC Stewart may strike you as a down to earth young man from humble beginnings but he has much more to be proud of. Fated for a future managing his families successful business he took an unexpected turn into the music scene all thanks to his mums consistent motivation sending him to song writing and piano lessons to which he grew a passion for and later on in life, not realising he’d be rubbing shoulders with Lewis Capaldi and Niall Horan. JC is doing incredibly well in his musical journey and destined to do even better in the future, with charting in the top 40 surely on the cards. We got the chance to sit down and chat all things music and Indiana Jones with the 23-year-old musical sensation.
What’s something you’ve been obsessed with since lockdown?
Eating mostly to be honest, loads of things really. I think my inner nerd has come back out. Doing the same quizzes as everyone has, discovered that I’m really good at flags for no reason, I don’t know where it’s come from – I love flags now. I’ve been reading roman military tactics again something I didn’t know id be into. You’ll never know when it might just come in handy. You just never know. See, if someone ever rains arrows down and we have loads of shields, I’ll know exactly what to do. I’ve also been playing formula one games, still trying to be a professional formula one driver- might be a little bit late now but you’ll never know- we live in hope! And dming celebrities, well just Jennifer Aniston – it hasn’t worked yet, but I am trying!
I know a lot of people must have already brought this up, but, Jennifer Aniston knows you exist! How did it feel to see her acknowledge your retake on the Friend’s theme song?
Rachel from Friends, it was so- I Just woke up, you know when you release music you get a few texts of people- when you do a nice video you get a few texts of people, turns out when Jennifer Aniston shares your video your phone dies essentially, my phone just went. Everybody who has never dmed me has been dming me like “this is mental!” It was so crazy; she didn’t tag me, which was pretty sly. But apart from that yeah I mean it’s Jennifer Aniston, she can do what she wants- couldn’t care less- I mean it’s been amazing. I’m going to start rumours now that we are in secret relationship on the radio, let’s see what happens! TMZ haven’t picked it up yet…but we’ll see.
Who would you say got you into music, was it just a passion that was burning inside you or did a particular musician that influenced your choice? What was the reason behind it?
My mother forced me; my mum had massive dreams of being one of those pushy stage mums. But forgot that we were from Northern Ireland and that’s not a thing here yet. When I was a kid I wanted to be a rugby player, that’s all I cared about- I was playing rugby. The Irish are big into rugby- yeah we love it, but sadly I was terrible at playing rugby so I kind of threw a bit of a spanner in the works kind of early on. So yeah I did that, but I can always sing- I mean when you’re 10 to 15 singing wasn’t a cool thing to do if you’re playing rugby they don’t go together. I really liked singing and my mum decided to start sending me to piano lessons when I was a kid and ballet and Irish dancing- she was trying so hard and then when I was 15 she sent me to song writing classes, I literally went on the first day and clicked with it and actually liked this. Then I started learning how to play instruments and performing and then it kind of all just came together. I self taught myself, I started on drums, then piano and guitar I think when I was 17 something like that.
Lying that you love me, what’s this song about, what’s the story behind it?
It’s essentially about, I mean in hindsight it’s 2020 and I think you always look back and stuff at rose tinted glasses and this is about a relationship- it was actually a friend’s story and when he told me I was like “ah man I’ve fully been there!” Where at the end of it you’re not actually in love with each other, she’s not she doesn’t care and nor do you, and you’re there because it’s easy. And when you’re out of that sometimes you look back and go “oh but that was great!” and it wasn’t but you look back because you miss feeling that way.
So a lot of people have different ways of writing a song, what’s your process like? What comes first the lyrics or the melody?
I’ve been thinking about this recently- because I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and I think a lot of it is me coming up with a phrase or a phrase just pops up into my head and I’ll usually have a melody, I’ll have a think and then I’ll have to figure out what it means and how I can make it part of me and not just a stupid phrase in a song which is really hard because sometimes you have a really cool single like that songs cool but it means absolutely nothing so I can’t use it. But yeah lying that you love me was kind of born on the bat like that’s some nice literation there that sounded great, and then you have my friend tells me the story and I’m like well there you go, there’s the song. Sometimes it takes months to put the two together though. But usually it’s lyrics but I’m a melody guy a music guy, so I like always usually sing something but to make it a proper song that’s when it takes a bit of time to kind figure and craft it.
You’ve worked with a ton of people on your music, how has that been and how different each individual you’ve worked with been? Like what sort of advice or tips have you been given that have helped you in your career so far?
I’ve gone through different stages of working with people, I was a writer for other artists where I was sturdily going in and now I’m just a guy in the back of the room. I was an artist that kind of didn’t know what I wanted to do and was just kind of writing songs like I was still a songwriter. That was great but it didn’t mean as much and I think in the last 6 months I started with a really small group of people who when I send in stuff that is really unfinished and just like really raw, they actually really get it- they’re like “oh you need to follow that and you don’t need to make it sound more radio or more like that because we can definitely figure that out later so just do what you’re doing” and that’s been really good of them just to let me do my stuff I’m not saying no a lot and that means that 99% of the songs I write are absolutely terrible but there’s 1% I write that actually really interesting and that’s way better than writing loads of ok songs I think.
Professional sad boy and sunshine boy are all things people have called you, because of your selection of emotional songs they’ve heard you sing- if you had to come up with one of the spot now, what would you call yourself?
On twitter a lot of people are calling me the quarantine Friends guy, or Indiana jones of the fridge- I will find anything; if it’s there I will find it. The Irish Indiana Jones. All I wanted to be as a kid was Indiana jones if I’m being honest.
What would you say is you favourite thing to do, be in a recording studio or being on stage?
It’s tough because I really love both of them. Recording the studio is nice because it’s a lovely lifestyle, you go get to work with your heroes I’m really lucky I get to do that in la, new york, London. You go get to do that, then you get to go to dinner and then you hang out go to a bar and you’re like “ah this is the dream!” but going on tour is just magic, it’s horrible and it’s smelly- you don’t really get to sleep and you’re always tired and you’re hungry BUT it’s the best thing you have done. I mean it makes no sense. I toured with snow patrol last year and we had a tour bus and we were playing arenas and there was catering and it was class! I’ll never forget that catering till the day I die, it’s always about food, and it was amazing!
You’ve played the stage with so many great artists in the past, who’s another person you’d like to tick off your bucket list that you’re dying to tour with?
Some people don’t like them but I don’t get it, cold play would be amazing. I just say if you don’t like cold play then you don’t like being happy I don’t know what’s up with that. My thing is going to live shows and feeling something and its just like that it hits you in the gut whether it’s like jumping or it’s just emotional or it’s the crowd singing back, they are the kings in that. That’s how I want to end up or something I want to be a part of someday.
Have you given in on the virtual gigs that are happening at the moment? Have you been part of one, how has it been and what would you say it feels like?
I’ve done like about 1 billion live streams now, I’ve kind of stopped doing them now because I got sick of them because I was going over the same stuff, it’s so tough when you’re literally just playing in your room to yourself. I’m thinking on so many ideas that I’m working on at the minute. I want to try other stuff, I am going to start to use twitch- I’ve never used that. It’s going to be a new thing. I do a lot of Esports, which my fan base of young girls are going to absolutely hate but I’m going to do it for me and me only. But yeah it’s just about being creative and not over saturating it but also you’ve got to do it. And you’ve also got to understand that not everything you do at this time has to change the world or has to be the next big thing. Just doing whatever and doing whatever you want to do is the only thing you can do.
Talking of doing what you can do, how would you say your mental health has been so far over the last couple of weeks/months?
Mine has been the best its been for a long time, which is kind of weird for me because I’m doing everything that I thought I didn’t wanna do but actually I think doing what I wanted to stressed me out a lot. And it’s not a bad thing but I was freaking out a lot for like the past year and now I’ve come home and sat down, I’ve been quite and still, I’ve written stuff. I’ve just focused on what I wanna do and it’s been great. So I mean there are negatives to it but for me it’s been amazing which might sound selfish because the world is crippled but I’ve really enjoyed it.
So what’s next for you once this pandemic passes, what are you hoping to achieve?
Well I mean I’ve got new music coming out in the next few weeks and after this. I’m really excited about that. I would love to not have a real job after this, still. That would be really nice, that’s the ultimate dream. I’ve also really loved travelling; it’s been my thing. I was meant to go before all this happened. I was supposed to have my first American shows and Asian shows. The dream is to go back and be able to do those shows. And I was supposed to do my first headlining tour that was meant to be happening today. And just continue to have fun and write more songs, if there’s a couple of top 40s in there then great and if not then it doesn’t matter. I’ve just really enjoyed music again for the first time in a while; it’s been really great.
Interview: Rojan Said