Artist Interview: “Within You (feat. Gisun & Anh Phung)” by Stephen James Orr

Q: Your album is dropping this fall that is super exciting! Tell us a little bit more about it.

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: Thank you Stephanie! it is super exciting as this will be my first solo debut. The album consists of songs that were written last year during the lockdown, a compilation of songs with different featured vocalists and instrumental interludes When writing the album, I composed all of the instrumental tracks first and then reached out to a number of collaborators for vocals, as well as specific instruments on specific tracks. My own solo instrumental tracks will weave all of the featured singles together into one cohesive album. Until the full album is released, I will be releasing one single every month with a featured vocalist and each single’s artwork will be created by a different visual artist whose style I love. The album will be released in the late fall and you’ll have to stay tuned for further details!

Within You, the latest single, features Gisun on vocals, Anh Phung on flute and the artwork was created by Hsiao Wen. It started as a neo-soul style guitar progression and was taken in beautiful directions with Gisun’s earthy vocals and Anh’s mesmerizing flute parts.


Q: Do you write your own songs or is there a collaborator that you enjoy working with consistency?

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: I currently write all of the instrumentals first and once I have them in a place to share, I bring in collaborators to make the tracks really shine. When writing, I usually start with a guitar riff or drum beat, and develop one part into an arranged track by adding bass, synth/keys and percussion.

I’ve lived in Toronto for most of my life and the music community here is very close to my heart, so collaborators tend to be from that circle. There are a few artists such as Gisun, Michelle Challice, Costa Chatzis and Maurie Kaufmann that I collaborate with often, as we really mesh well together. I love to collaborate openly by giving each artist free reign to create parts that come naturally to them after having been inspired by the songs.

The upcoming album will vary in sound, as each vocalist does have a different vibe – each song is unique in its sound as a result!

Q: You have a beautiful and unique voice, how long have you been singing and do you have any formal training?

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: Gisun is the beautiful voice featured on this track Here is her answer:

“I’ve been singing before I could speak. My parents still sing my first sounds to me every now and then! Growing up in an intercultural and multilingual household, I was always singing in Spanish and English. I did go through formal vocal training while in high school and university through the Royal Conservatory of Music. Later, I attended the New School for Performing Arts – in their Vocal Jazz Performance program for one year. As nice as it is to have formal training, I think what really matters most to me these days is just feeling the music and letting it work its magic!”


Q: How is the music scene in Toronto, Canada?

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: I am a little biased as I’ve lived here most of my life but I love the Toronto music scene. There is a strong community of musicians that are constantly working together to bring up the scene and help each other out. Before the lockdown I attended multiple local shows every week, as there was (and still is!) tons of amazing local music venues where you can see live music almost every night, including Burdock, Dakota Tavern, Cameron House, Horseshoe, Garrison/Baby G, Junction City Music Hall, Lee’s Palace, Lula Lounge and many more! I also frequently host live music events in non-traditional venues (houses, storefronts, parks etc.) through Artery!

We still have more work to do as a city to provide more spaces for live music, especially following this lockdown, and ensure funding is in place to encourage the local creation and performance of music. I am very much looking forward to next year, as live music will come back strong as ever and the amount of quality material that has been written during the lockdown will be inspiring to experience live.

Q: Is there any other bands/artists you produce or songwriter for?

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: I currently write with a few singer-songwriters and have recorded parts recently for a few upcoming albums. I’ve been recording guitar with Gisun for her upcoming album, working on an EP for a new blues-rock group with Michelle Challice called Neon Pony, and I played guitar on a new track for Art Mom (Sal Talon) for her album coming out this summer. Otherwise, I have played with artists including Kaili Kinnon, Audra Santa, Zaynab Wilson and Jen Unbe in the past few years on both guitar and synth.

I would love to delve deeper into production and recording for other artists, and I am always looking to collaborate!


Q: Do you have any live performances we can catch you at soon?

STEPHEN JAMES ORR: Gisun and I have a short tour lined up for this summer in Canada! In July, we will be playing at Vancouver’s Pride Festival on Sunday, July 25th at the Stanley Park Stage and Friday, July 30th at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Additionally, we have shows in the works for the months of August and September in Toronto, ON, Smith Falls, ON and New Glasgow, NS at Mary Stewart’s (from Hugh’s Room) new venue the Monarch Marina. Can’t wait to see everyone there!


Interviewed by Stephanie Pankewich








Join Our Mailing List

to learn about emerging artists