Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Rivera.
Stephen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The first half of my child I was raised in Stratford Connecticut. A small town vibe, everyone knows each other, kids play basketball outside, you go to a deli for lunch and the choice weekend activity is laps around the mall in the neighboring town. Safer than some places to grow up but with an edge, though I barely noticed. I guess that’s what happens when you have a passion at a young age; you barely notice. I went to a Catholic school in the area which was mostly awkward but definitely better than some of other options around. My mother is Italian, my father is Puerto Rican, so naturally I’m down with good food, disagreeing and brutal honesty. In the single digits I participated in a few school plays, though I can’t really remember if I was interested or obligated. I do think it sparked something in me though.
Around the age of seven my father decided to gift me a guitar and a small amplifier. I always had this feeling, though he never said it, that he wanted to play music but he had to make more practical decisions. He was constantly showing me his favorite music and challenging me to question the meaning of the lyrics. James Taylor, Journey, Boston etc. I don’t really have an incredible amount of memories of my past for whatever reason, I think I was always in some kind of zone. However, this memory is still pretty vivid. I remember my Dad getting out of his car and walking A red Jackson guitar and a children’s sized Epiphone amplifier up to the door. The story goes that this adult sized guitar was too big for my hands and that I rejected the idea for a while before deciding to befriend it. I think in some way that’s a metaphor for the rest of my life.
I get a big idea, it feels really big and I talk myself out of it for a minute, but just for a minute. I don’t stop being fearful, I just take it with me. My mother always said that too; “You’re going to be afraid sometimes, so just take the fear with you, do it afraid”. That minute was really about a year of picking it up and putting it down. Around eight years old my parents were getting divorced. Another memory that is still vivid is the one I have of seeing a short stack of papers on the dining room table. I just remember a gut feeling like, I think I know what those are but I don’t know how I know. They were pretty good at shielding me from the early signs. I never made this connection before but it was around that time that I overcame the fear of failing and picked up the guitar, for good. I imagine that was subconsciously deliberate timing.
Fast forward some years, about twelve years old and my Mother had been excelling in her career and she had her mind on moving. Stratford was sort of taking a turn for the worst and a few happenings left a bad taste in her mouth. Eventually we did move to the town of Milford. Here I met a variety of new people and made enough friends last a lifetime. A lot of them being equally interested in music. I would say at about this time six hours of my everyday was dedicated to music and I was beginning to write. Naturally the amount of time I was spending on a thing that was not school, made my mother a little uneasy but she found a way to reconcile with it and still get me to be mildly interested in school work. And then it took a turn for the worst.. for my mom at least! I went to a neighbors house on NYE and heard music coming from the basement.
I strolled on down there and saw Marshall Amps, drums sets, PA system, Microphones and distortion pedals! The guy on the drums said “pick up the guitar and play something”. Ozzy Osbourne ‘Crazy Train’? No problem! We jammed for hours and I Get that feeling. So I started creating my own band and then five or six more over my teenage years. I could write a novel about all the band names, the folks in them, the nostalgia and how we thought that every moment was a VH1 Behind the Scenes in the making. There was some mild recording, mild touring, even some mild label attention but more or less just a whole bunch of fun. Fast forward to college and I’m starting to lean toward a more solo artist, singer-songwriter space. I was considering going to school for music, and I did for a semester. I really just did not feel the fiery passion I thought I would. It disinterested me completely. So I switched to a major in Global Studies.
A few years into college and through a series of connections I met a highly connected person who became my manager temporarily. I met a big name producer or two with her help, drove around in a few fancy black cars to a few label meetings for no good reason at all and found out there was a part of the entertainment world that was… strange. And not the good kind. This relationship ended as so many of these things do but if nothing else I had another important step one moment while I was working with a producer on some of the songs I had been writing. I got that scary feeling that I get when I realize there’s something I want to do but I can’t do it well yet. I wanted to produce my own music so I filled this guys ears with question. I got a computer and the LE8 version of protools and started playing around.
I already had a deep relationship with music and knew what I wanted to hear, but a lot of times your talent is just at the level of your taste is. A lot of beginning the production process is figuring that out. How can my understanding of production meet the level of my tastes? Another relationship was brewing at the same time with a seasoned industry vet in Los Angeles. I went out there every few months just to get in the mix and do whatever first time LA folks do.
That connection helped me line up an internship at an indie label. Before I actually got to LA that indie label was looking for remixes of a few Jill Scott songs. They found out that I was getting into production and asked that I ‘give it a shot’. it was an R&B vibe, which I was not yet extra familiar with producing, but I was obsessed at the time with getting it right. Somehow after crash course learning a bunch of protools tricks, I made it work. It also helped that the acapella was that of one of the greatest singers of our time. This was my first placement. At twenty three I graduated college, didn’t go to my graduation (sorry mom), packed up my car and drove out to LA.
For the first few years I was still trying the solo artist thing, but I just wasn’t feeling authentic. A lot of times information fills your head that isn’t authentic and you follow it and then become confused about what IS authentic; if you do this it will work, if you do what you want to do it won’t, if you fill this space in the music scene people will flock to it, if you do this it won’t, if you just meet this person you’ll break, if you just do this sequence of things you’ll be successful. One thing of which I have firm belief as a product of those first few years in LA is that being inauthentic amounts to nothing but a whole bunch of confusion. Only in the last two years have I really developed my own sound and been proud enough in my own work to start releasing it. It wasn’t until I distanced myself from the managers and the connections, that the pressure to be something started to fade and I could really hear myself.
I have several of my own Ep’s and singles out on all generic platforms and am deciding on my next steps as a solo artist. But in spite of the aforementioned confusion that ensued, I was meeting a lot of artists, producers and writers. For some reason even early on people trusted me with their musical vision and I started producing artists but I wasn’t comfortable enough with my skill to charge money. It gets to a point though where you say “ok I’m not Max Martin, but this is worth something”. I eventually started the LLC I guess in some way just to legitimatize this idea of making income from producing artists and writing songs. I house more than just music under the SRProductions title (for now). Necessity tends to inspire.
After producing music for projects I was catching visions of video concepts, photography, aesthetics and branding visuals. I wanted to be able to deliver not just music, but video, photo and graphics work to the artists I was working with. Out of necessity I started from square one with shooting video and graphic design. Both of which are now significant portions of my work. its interesting how that stuff happens.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road and still in some ways is getting smoother. Curbed by the fact that I have a very supportive family and know that their love means it can only get so bad. But I will say that the physical struggles are mainly an illusion and they do not last that long. Things are constantly changing. It’s the mental struggle that really messes you up in the morning.
That voice that begs the question “Who do you think you are to be doing something you enjoy for a living while most people hate what they do? Doesn’t the fact that they hate it, make them worthy of financial security and the fact that you enjoy it make it a hobby ?”. “If you’re not going to be as good as [ insert name here ] then what is the point of even starting?”. “You’ve never been through [ insert devastating childhood moment ] like that one person has been through so why do you deserve any kind of glory? Glory is reserved for folks who identify with their suffering!”.
“Remember that time you stepped on an ant, does that sound like a person who deserves success?”… It’s just a whole bunch of fear and doubt that will ‘kill your vibe’. It’s not the bad meeting, or the Label executive saying I love your stuff but… or pitching a song and hearing nothing back, It’s your own damn mind.
So I would say every struggle has been one of the mind and I refuse to give credit to any physical circumstance because I know better. But… like all struggle does it either destroys you or it offers a new perspective that you can use as fuel to find inner peace. I definitely took the route of diving into my spiritual practice. That practice of making the creation of my authentic self more important than anything else including success, puts a lot of things into perspective. Eventually that will be the reason your struggle begins to fade even if the circumstances don’t change drastically.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about SRProductionsLLC – what should we know?
My first love is music so I specialize in developing music (production and songwriting) for artists. As I mentioned before the other half of my work is creating video and photo visuals for artists. I’m most proud that I’m still doing it and that it’s been a good platform from which to learn more about the world, people and about myself. Something I’m wildly happy with is the speed at which bringing others visions to life opens up the door for emotional and spiritual breakthroughs. Coaxing someone, or myself, into writing about something ‘real’ yields results beyond just making product.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Every person I’ve ever met deserves credit. I reference memories and people that are seemingly unrelated all the time to put me in a headspace to create something. I reference strangers and other’s stories regularly to get inspired. Even folks that taught me to be untrusting of my authenticity are still credited for causing me to ask for it back. And in that asking, I’m finding.
- Phone: 2034157976
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @iamsrmusic