James Stephens is a Toronto-based artist who was born and raised in Wasaga Beach, Ontario. Being a singer-songwriter, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has been enticing his listeners by releasing his musical creations under the moniker of Fourth Born. Before the pandemic, Fourth Born was attempting to break into the Toronto music scene through a full-time performance gig doing solo covers and decided to drive cross country and plant trees when the live music economy took a plunge.
Fourth Born's music strives to introduce something unique and raw to the table. He projects authentic vocals alongside cohesive, yet visually stimulating lyrics. The sound of Fourth Born is self-proclaimed as Alternative Folk/Rock, with his musical influences being Mumford and Sons, Bahamas, Modest Mouse, The Weather Station, and Nick Drake.
As we embark on the sonic voyage of Fourth Born's five-track EP, 'Snow,' we can't help but realize the warmth that each song carries in the overall conveyance of his grippingly raw nature exemplified. We are effortlessly pulled into an inviting embrace of acoustic elements that produce a signal of compassion and wistful tenors. Transitioning through pulses of slow to mid-tempo, the legitimacy that significantly lives in each song is faultlessly positioned. The intentions that run through the tracklist fixate our attention on not only each song individually but as we navigate our ways through the brilliant resonance as an entirety.
The extensive vocal range of Fourth Born's unique timbres exudes a grasp of the reality of lived experiences in the foreground of his life. Turning those moments into sweet melodic creations that touch on our innermost retrospective thoughts, the comfort that is delivered makes us feel right at home. The opening single, "Got High, Too High," immediately sets the tone of stimulating inquisitiveness that is both thought-provoking and indulging simultaneously.
There are many layers that seamlessly evolve from one song into another. Fourth Born has a way of taking the soothing elements he fashions and producing a welcoming ambiance that clamps onto us like a bear hug, even when speaking about the frailer moments faced in a lifetime as he does in, "One More Day."
In a composition that portrays both a minimalistic and intricate soundscape, the impeccable use of timing and spatial hues is poignant. It allows the down moments to infiltrate your headspace as you simmer in the tantalizing energy that Fourth Born portrays as his fervent tenors back him up on the sonic battlefield.
"Dancing Shoes" offers an uplifting light in which we can feel the passion overflowing from this piece. As Fourth Born demonstrates the enthusiastically encouraging lyrical content that has us moved by expressive motifs such as "I been lookin' everywhere for somethin' I could say to you to get ya back on your dancing shoes," we notice that his intentions are to motivate the ones around him; even in their down moments encountered.
Touching on themes such as a sense of belonging, unity, love, loss, and finding oneself, the content that Fourth Born explores is an emotional connector that has us relating to the experiences depicted. The title track "Snow" is a primitive example of how Fourth Born addresses numerous sensations such as melancholy, ease, optimism, and realism that simmer through the rhythmic essence of each song's unraveling.
There is no better way than to finalize the project with a purely instrumental track that allows us to sit in the moments we were able to embrace through the EP of, 'Snow.' The fluidity that drips from this outro titled "Carried Away" sums up the quintessence of James Stephens as he embodies the moniker of Fourth Born.
Being a self-produced artist, many projects are underway for Fourth Born as his fan base can expect to see releases throughout 2021. For now, we can bask in "Snow" as we dream of warmer days.
We love the acoustic ensembles that you deliver on “Snow.” Could you please take us into what the overall concept is that lies beneath the collection of songs?
The 'Snow' EP is a collection of songs based around the concept of love and loss. I put this EP together as a means to cope with some difficulties in my life and the lives of my loved ones. I also wanted to release this raw acoustic sound to represent the solitude that a lot of people are enduring due to the pandemic. I set out to capture the raw emotions of loss, and solitude. The beginning track was written right after the pandemic began, and I lost my performance career. It’s sort of a heartbreaking song about my departure from my lifestyle and aspirations at the time. I had a modest career going, but it was steadily progressing and it was an exciting time for me living in Toronto! With yourself being the main source of creativity and technicality, how long did it take you to create the body of work?
In regard to technicalities, this ep only took about a week and a half to complete. It’s a live-off-the-floor concept so the performance took a short while - with some additional time for mixing to capture the authentic vibe I was going for. Realistically though, it’s about ten years in the making. A couple of these songs were written when I was as young as 17 years old. Others were written within the last five years between the ages of 20-26 years old. Are there any moments or realizations that stand out to you when you think back to the creation period of 'Snow?'
I realized that producing raw acoustic content can be quite satisfying. There is minimal production value in this ep - so I was drawn back to the importance of stripped-down songwriting and how much weight it can carry without all the bells and whistles. I didn’t start learning production until I was around 21 years old. Before then I was just writing songs on my acoustic guitar with no means to get them in any tangible form. So it’s nice to have acted as a producer for my younger self for this EP. A goal I set long ago and have now accomplished! It’s a good feeling for sure. Out of the five songs showcased on this EP, “Carried Away,” is the only instrumental piece. We love this concept! What was running through your head when you created it?
What was the reasoning behind this? I wrote this song when I was around 17 years old. Honestly, I was just running through the motions. It started off as more of an exercise for me while I was practicing guitar. I mostly practiced guitar by coming up with stuff and then practicing it over and over until I had perfected it. This piece of music contains a lot of rhythmic licks and progressions I had been playing with around that time. I ended up playing it at a family function and my uncle had heard it. He was excited about the music and explained to me that it felt like he was being ‘Carried Away’ in a casket at a funeral. I was excited that it had inspired him so much to envision such a powerful moment within the music. I never recorded it, even on a handheld recorder. But I always remembered it because he would get me to play ‘Carried Away’ as he put it, anytime I had a guitar in my hand from that point forward. You mention that you have numerous projects set to be released this year! We’re extremely excited about that! What can your audience expect in terms of sounds and themes achieved?
Of course! It’s been a long time coming. And I’m honestly just so happy to be able to freely release anything and everything at this point. Being your own producer definitely has its pros. I will be releasing another album/ep that’s based around my song ‘Know your Place’ which is released on streaming platforms now. It has a dark, alternative rock sound to it, and it carries a vibe of heavy melancholy with textured swelling movements within. I want to get this one out there soon since a lot of the songs were written along with ‘Know your place’ a year and a half to two years ago. I’ve also got some more upbeat release concepts on the way which I’m very excited about. These ones are more geared toward my song ‘Last Cigarette’ which is released right now under fourth born as well. For anyone following my music - Hopefully, they don’t get whiplash. I like to switch things up a bit - Keeps my creativity flowing. But I’m doing my best to consolidate my different approaches to songwriting and vibes to their own albums.