Northern Ireland based singer-songwriter JC Stewart has had one hell of a year even in the middle of a pandemic.
Despite 2020 being the year no one expected, JC Stewart channelled his energy into his debut EP ‘When the Light Hits the Room’ and worked with different artists across the board. JC Stewart explained: "2020 has been a bit strange for obvious reasons but, it's also been one of the best years of my life. Definitely in the top 23 anyway." He added: "I’ve got to spend time with the people I love in a way I never have before. I’ve written some of my favourite music ever. Made the best curry of all time (I kid you not) and refocused a lot. It’s not been all bad."
Born and raised in County Londonderry, JC Stewart found joy in learning guitar and playing in bands throughout high school. However, he says it was the day he discovered his passion for songwriting that led him to pursue music. "I just felt it. It was like it all clicked together in my head, and there wasn't really a day I 'decided' to pursue songwriting after that. It was just the way it was." He continued to add: "There was nothing else I wanted to do and everything from that day on was to focus towards it."
Starting in music with his debut single 'Gold' to hit singles, 'Medicine' and 'Like I Did'; JC Stewart struggled to break into the music industry, just like any rising star. As he thinks about the first years of music, he admits to us how hard the industry can be. "I always felt like I was ready, even though I wasn't. I was writing two songs a day, every day. Working with anyone who would take a chance on me." But says: "I wouldn't change it for the world. It was an amazing, time though. I went to uni, met some of the most amazing people who are still some of my closest friends, moved countries, wrote some cool stuff and lived."
The 23-year-old has some amazing memories from releasing his most-streamed single, ’I Need You to Hate Me’, to collaborating with 220 Kid. "It has been a mad year. To see INYTHM be played, on the radio all over the world has been a complete dream come true for me," he said. "And working with 220KID has been the most, amazing opportunity. Up next, who knows! But I definitely have a list of people I would love to work with."
As he embraces 2020, JC Stewart took it up a notch and went onto release his debut EP 'When the Light Hits the Room' - which saw him working with Brit and Ivor Novello winner Tom Odell. Talking about the wonderful opportunity, he said it was a dream come true. "He is someone I've listened to and marvelled at since the day I started writing songs. I saw him live at the Mandela Hall in Belfast supported by a young George Ezra and it lit a fire in me for performing that I don’t think was there before. I wanted to be that guy on stage," he said. Whilst he looks back on a life-changing moment he added: "So to get to work with him and write a body of work together is pretty unimaginable and I think my younger self would still probably be hyperventilating."
Through intimate yet powerful storytelling, listeners delve into the experiences of the growing pains of young adulthood that's balanced by addictive pop hooks. Aperture the EP with the lead single and fan favourite 'Rest of Life', JC Stewart explained: "The whole EP is about searching for the end goal. That thing that you think will solve all your problems and once you reach it, you’ll be happy forever." He added: "Obviously, I’m very sceptical that exists but, I’ve spent a large part of my life aiming for stuff that I thought was going to make me happy and I didn’t and, the first song is really about coming to terms with that and trying to understand what that “thing” could end up being."
Even though he's still seen as a rising star by the music industry, JC Stewart has continued to go against the odds; from working with Lewis Capaldi to supporting hit artists Lauv and Anne Marie. As we talk about his ongoing career, he mentioned his number highlight was touring with Snow Patrol and headlining the second stage at their hometown. "They are my absolute heroes and so to work with them that closely and, to be asked to open up for them was just unbelievably special."
On the topic of ones to watch, JC Stewart goes on to tell us about the artists he has been listening to. "Naaz is someone who I’ve been obsessed with for ages and deserves so much more hype," he said. "Back in Northern Ireland, there is so much good stuff like Jordan Adetunji and Sasha Samara and, I’ve also been obsessed with Pa Salieu from Coventry who I’m pretty sure is going to be absolutely massive." As someone who has gone down the route of establishing himself as an artist, he also advised: "Keep writing and work with your mates! Collaboration has been the biggest, help top me and, I feel at the start of your career it’s not a huge thing!"
JC Stewart already has a plethora of plans for 2021, already announcing his next single 'Break My Heart'. "I wrote it over lockdown with Niall Horan, TMS and Plested and am so excited about it. It's big, it’s fast, it’s built for festivals and, I just hope I get to play it there!" As we tried to find out secrets, he said: "Next year is gonna be big, that’s all I can say."