Steve Lacy Produced A Grammy Nominated Album, Now He’s Ready To Graduate High School
The 17-year-old guitarist and producer is going on tour this summer, as soon as school is over.
I remember being a high school senior: I was 17 and I just wanted school to be over so badly. I was craving the ability to impact and change the world and I didn’t see that happening while I was still sitting in the classroom. When I finally graduated, I was able to focus on writing and The Internet's Ego Death soundtracked that first year. I had been a fan before, but there was something about Ego Death that just made my fingers type even faster on Google Docs. It was a smooth album.
Critics raved about it too, and it ended up receiving a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album. There had never been this much chatter and praise about the band before. Something about the group was sonically different from what was happening on their first two albums and a lot of that can definitely be attributed to 17 year old Steve Lacy.
Steve joined the band before the recording of Ego Death as not just the new guitarist and vocalist for the band, but also as a co-executive producer alongside bandmates Matt Martians and Syd tha Kyd. This was the first time he had ever produced on an album or even produced period. For most of the album’s promotional tour and gigs, Lacy has been stuck finishing high school. In a video of the band being interviewed in October of last year, Matt and Syd jokingly point to an empty spot on the couch that was left symbolically there for Steve. As the band tweeted in March, “For the 3728826 time lol... @stevelacys is finishing school and won't be joining us on tour until Bonnaroo.”
The California teen has been missing in action but that hasn’t stopped him from making music and expanding his reach. Steve has found time to co-produce a song off of Jhene Aiko and Big Sean’s Twenty88 album, duet with Kali Uchis, and even produce and write two of his own songs, “When I” and “That’s No Fun.” The former has Steve crooning all over a simple baseline and the latter has Steve telling the common high school narrative of your friends accusing you of being “different.”
Steve Lacy is unstoppable and that’s never seemed to be more of the case as his senior year of high school wraps up and he can finally have the opportunity to join his band on tour. I talked to Steve over the phone—after the school day was over—from California about his start in The Internet, his solo projects, and what the future holds for him after high school.
How did you link up with The Internet? You weren’t on any of their previous albums and then all of the studden you burst onto the scene not just as a vocalist and guitarist for the band but also as a co-executive producer on Ego Death.
Through [keyboardist] Jameel Bruner. In 9th grade I met him. I was in 9th grade, he was in 12th. Pretty much my mom forced me to go to this school for this jazz band. I was pissed. I was like, no. Basically in that jazz band I ended up meeting Jameel and he changed my whole outcome. He put me onto all this new music. He saw a potential artist in me and when he graduated he started inviting me to the studio which was Syd’s studio. This was right after he got recruited from [former bandmate] Tay. He started hanging out at the studio and then like my 10th grade year going into my 11th grade, that’s when I really started going to the studio and that’s when I started working on beats with Matt and everybody.
Why did your mom make you go to the school for the jazz band?
She knew I was a musician and the school needed a bass player. I came in the band on guitar and then they needed a bass player and I was just like I can play bass, I have one at home.
What is her reaction to all of this?
My mom, she’s laid off on me when it comes to college. Before the album dropped she was like I’m going to college for sure. But after, it became a question like, “are you still going to college?” So she sees where it’s going and I see that she’s believing in me more and more. I’m super grateful for everything.
Are you still going to be going to college though?
At this point. I don’t think I need to go. I’ll be fine. My plan is to get my sound out, work on the next Internet album which is super important and produce for others. I can make a living off that.
Ego Death just hit the 50,000 sales mark, it was nominated for a Grammy so obviously it worked out but were you at all worried about coming into a group that was already in formation and somehow ruining the chemistry and mold that was already there?
Nah. I had no expectations. I was going to this with a blindfold. I didn’t know. This is my first time ever, you know making music with anybody. I didn’t know what to do. They taught me everything along the way. Best mentors ever.
Your first time ever?
Yeah. That was me fooling around. I had no idea I was co-executive producing an album.
Aside from The Internet you’ve been pretty busy lately as a solo artist. You dropped a song on soundcloud a couple weeks ago and then co-produced “Selfish” off of the Twenty88 album.
Hell yeah. I made that with my good friend Flip. When I first met him, he came to Syd’s house and we have a studio in her basement, that’s where we make most of our beats. He came and we made that one and then months later in a studio session he was like “Sean and Jhene want to use ‘Selfish,’” and I’m like, “Yo, that’s super dope I’m down.”
I follow you on Snapchat [@steve-flecks] and I saw Kali Uchis on your story the other day. She dropped a song yesterday with you and Vince Staples that was produced by Kaytranda. Is there anything else you and her have planned together?
We have several tracks together but that one is one we’re dropping now. We’re working together. That’s a good friend of mine and we’ll always be working.
Music doesn’t stop.
Literally doesn’t stop.
It’s not like school that starts and stop. There’s always a tour to go on. How are you balancing senior year and then music?
Honestly, with the tour it makes it easy because I don’t go. Like staying up past two in the morning for studio sessions is the worst it can get. But as far as homework it’s pretty cool because I’m on block schedule so I have an extra day to do things. But if I didn’t have that schedule I’d probably go crazy.
Where do you get your work ethic and ambition from because it’s a hard thing to keep pushing and keep pushing and not let anything deter you especially now.
My bandmates. They steer me in the right direction and my manager Dave Airaudi. They’re all like my mentors. As far as decisions and stuff I’m not sure about. I go to them.
High school can be vicious. People either react positively or negatively to someone who has a lot of talent and is being recognized for it. Do you get the “oh steve lacy thinks is cool” or is it the “wow I’m proud of Steve?”
At school they’re all kind of seeing it slowly. They’re all like “Steve I’m so proud. You’re gonna be famous” and all of that. Have I had any hate? Everybody is positive from the most part. Umm there’s probably just one person.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a musician like you?
I would say, don’t do music to get somewhere or get famous. Do it because you love it. Don’t look for anything out of it. Do it and everything else will come along. Don’t get discouraged by people who start popping earlier than you. Keep on doing it until it happens for you.
Who are some of your idols?
Thundercat, Erykah Badu, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Pharrell. Like The Neptunes period. The list can go on. I idolize all of them.
Prom is coming up soon. Let’s say Pharrell asked you and The Internet to play at a party that he was having on the same day as prom. Would you go to prom or would you go play at his party?
I’d find a way to do both honestly. I’m the type of person who will find a way to do both.
What if you absolutely could only do one?