You may not be familiar with the name Sterling Fox, but chances are, you've listened to a song that he has written recently. Having written songs for several globally acclaimed artists like Lana Del Rey, Adam Levine, Avicii, and Madonna on top of starting his own record label, Silver Scream Records, it's needless to say that Sterling Fox has been busy. Now, he has taken the time to focus on his own music, with his new song (and video) "Freak Caroline" dropping soon.
We had the chance recently to chat with Sterling about writing music for himself, the story behind upcoming "Freak Caroline" and his vision for the music industry. You can check out the entire interview, as well as a teaser for "Freak Caroline" below!
Interview by Dom Vigil
You’ve been involved in many of different aspects of the music industry - from songwriting to producing to starting your own record label - is it nice to be writing music for yourself for a change?
Hell yeah. I can say whatever I want. It's like living on brussels sprouts for 10 years and then realizing there are thousands of other foods you could eat instead... Maybe a bad analogy, but yeah, it's rad. The songs are more reflective of who I really am.
How does writing for other artists compare to writing for yourself? Do you have higher expectations for yourself when you’re working on your own music?
Yes, my expectations are much higher, but I'm not as boxed in. I can make dumb melodies on purpose and sing them like the Beegees or can make verbose narratives that go over everybody's head... Anything goes. My latest song "Freak Caroline" was written over the course of four months and produced off and on for almost a year - so it does get OCD at times. I think lyrically, I definitely hold myself to a high level, not necessarily of quality, but of being bizarre.
Your single “Freak Caroline” is dropping soon - can you tell us a little bit about the track? What inspired it?
Without naming names, the song is about a privileged New York City girl who likes to do a lot of drugs and dance. It's an ode to the "trustafarian", of which the city is teeming. It's not necessarily critical of the lifestyle, cuz hey, if your parents are loaded, why not... But it's just describing a day in the life. It typically starts out at Balthazaar or Starbucks where a couple of emails are sent to feign some type of ambition or career aspiration, detours through Soho where a "meeting" is held with her other trust fund friends over a vodka tonic, and typically ends blowing adderall in a hipster club in Williamsburg with a couple poorly lit selfies thrown on instagram to prove to the world she exists. For some people it's the American Dream. Somehow the track is also a reference to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" because why not?
Did you have any specific goals in mind when working on the track?
As it came together, I knew I wanted it to be swanky and snotty and reflect the main character. The glam style guitar solos seem to do that well. I think it was a conscious effort to have as many guitar solos as possible - I put down two and there's a third one snuck in at the end, as well. Definitely wanted to make a 90s brit-rock influenced tune. Those are some of my biggest influences lately - Blur, Suede, James, etc. I think at the end of the day, just wanted to make something that was not trying to be hip or suave and just make some fun fucking rock music that doesn't take itself too seriously.
What’s your mindset when you’re working on new material? Is there anything songwriting-wise that you try to accomplish (or steer away from)?
I try to stay away from bad songwriting. Anything else is fair game.
Which artists or what kind of music inspires you when you’re working on new material?
I go back to the classics, man. (I feel like I have to say "man" when I'm talking about classic rock, so bear with me...) I listen to Bowie, Stones, Beatles, Sparks, Paul Simon, Dylan, the Boss, Talking Heads, Pixies, Queen, Iggy, Lou, Nico, you know man, all the strange rock and rollers. Sometimes I'll get with some newer ish like Arcade Fire, Ty Segall, Jack White, St. Vincent, but they're pulling from classics so I usually go to the source.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from your music?
Enjoyment. Or hating it... Whatever. I don't really care. It sounds incredibly selfish, but I mainly make it to entertain myself. If a few people like it along the way, that's amazing.
I’ve been asking a lot of people this question lately because I think it’s a really great discussion topic, and I’d love to get your opinion on it - so if you could change anything about the music industry, what would you change and why?
I wouldn't change anything - it's amazing! Just kidding. I would probably force all bloggers, record execs, industry people, etc... to all start their own band ala "School of Rock" and the artists would all come to their shows and just throw rotten vegetables at them and tell them how bad they were and graffiti their cars and sleep with their wives/husbands and whip them with Indiana Jones style whips every time they said the word "branding" and inject them with ebola and just generally ruin their lives. A year later, after they've paid their dues and been without salary and health insurance and have had to melt down their platinum records from their old offices for scrap metal for tooth fillings and have had to prostitute themselves and have had to eat moldy bread off of a bathroom floor at a cockroach infested biker bar in Topeka, they can return to their previous posts as harbingers of stupidity and maybe they'll do a better job not releasing shitty ass music.
Do you have any big plans for 2015? What would you like to be able to accomplish this year?
I'm releasing an album! Calling it "Greatest Hits". Might actually drop an ep in April as well and press some more vinyl. Also making it a goal to give away all of my music for free this year. It will be available on iTunes and stuff, too, but if you don't have 99 cents, grab it off my soundcloud!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you! Nothing to add... I've said too much, haven't said enough. Thought that I heard you laughing...