Credited on releases with artists ranging from Jorja Smith & Burna Boy to Flipp Dinero & Lil Baby, bringing in multiple Platinum Records & Billboard #1's, Kyle Stemberger received seemingly overnight success after a lifetime of honing in on his musical talent. We sat down with Kyle to hear some of his story, and what advice he had for anyone trying to make it in the music industry.
Where were you born & where did you grow up?
I was born & raised in a small town outside of Atlanta, GA called Griffin
What sparked your interest in music? When did you first consider turning it into a career?
Honestly, I can't remember a time where I wasn't interested in it. The first memory I have as far as getting involved in music was back when I was around 6 years old. My parents took me and my sister to see this house that always had these crazy Christmas light displays in my hometown one night, and for whatever reason, when I got home, I hopped on the piano that my family had, and I was able to pick the notes out and instantly play some random christmas song I heard that night by memory. I guess this led me to develop perfect pitch, which is where I know the note of any sound, and can play any song by ear. After that I just sort of continued teaching myself piano and eventually picked up the guitar, and got pretty good at it for my age.
As far as actually producing music, all of that started in Middle School. I really got into hip-hop & electronic music around that time, and I was always thinking.. Like.. how do you even make this? I ended up looking it up on the internet and ended up downloading a trial version of this music production software, FL Studio, which I still use often to this day. I started looking up a bunch of videos of my favorite producers creating beats in the studio, trying to copy what they were doing, and watching a ton of tutorial videos.
Perfect pitch is extremely rare! I just did a quick search online. Only 1 out of every 10,000 musicians have that ability. Have you ever met someone who shares the same ability?
I've probably only met a couple of people (in person) that have it. I know there's a few big musicians out there that have it, though. My friends will send me videos of Charlie Puth showing off his perfect pitch all the time. It's kind of a joke in my friend group, we'll be hanging out and hear some random sound and they'll say "Kyle, what key is that!?" It's cool having it though, it's honestly kind of weird, because I never remember a time in my life when I didn't have it so I can't grasp what it would be like to not have it haha. It's the same way you see the color green and you just naturally realize it's green, like you don't have to sit there and be like "Hmmm..... Okay yea this color is green" it's more of an instinct. That's what hearing a sound is like for me, it just immediately registers in my head as a key. It's definitely been beneficial to me in creating music.
So let's take a step back.. you're a music prodigy, you just found out about producing.. When do you start taking production seriously? How do your first major opportunities start showing up?
I definitely had an advantage since I was playing instruments & learning music when I was so young, and basically I found the perfect way to leverage it. In the last few years, rap music has gotten way more melodic, and many of the biggest hip-hop songs recently incorporate guitar, piano, or some other melodic element like that. I basically started making these compositions ("samples'' or "loops") containing recordings of me playing guitar, piano, and even my own voice sometimes. I would send them out to producers who were already established in the industry, and made a lane for myself by making melodic ideas that producers were looking to incorporate into their own tracks. That's exactly how I got my first real major credit. My friend, producer KD33, had a pack of my guitar loops, and made a beat with one of them. He ended up sending it to Trippie Redd, and Trippie ended up recording a song called RIOT over the beat, and put it on his album, "!".
I ended up making a name for myself off of the credits that I got by sending loops out, and ended up gathering the attention of my manager, Peter Ashley, and his entertainment company called Loyalty Records that he founded with his friend Stephen Orso & Charlie Walk. Pete ended up taking me under his wing & managing me, which opened a door for more opportunities in the industry, and eventually led to me signing a deal with Prescription Songs, and moving out to LA.
What are some of your favorite songs you've produced so far? Are you excited about any upcoming releases you have coming out?
I would definitely have to say Be Honest by Jorja Smith & Burna Boy is by far my favorite so far. It's my favorite because it serves as a reminder to me to stay open minded. I recorded the guitar melody in my bedroom back home one day, and recorded myself humming a lead melody over top of the guitar, and was planning to replace my humming with a different sound, but I just ended up leaving the humming. When I made it, I was thinking an artist like Juice WRLD (rest in peace) or Trippie Redd would sound cool on it, and it ended up in this producer named Cadenza's hands and they turned it into this crazy dancehall record. When I heard that Burna Boy was featured on it I knew it was gonna be a pretty big song. You have 18 year-old me in my bedroom at my family's house in Georgia making ideas on my guitar, then it gets sent to Cadenza & Jorja in the UK, then sent to Burna Boy, an African artist, and it all just came together to make an awesome song. I would've never thought it would end up being a dancehall/afrobeat when I made the melody, but now it's so obvious that it's a perfect fit for a song like that when I go back and listen to the original idea again. It reminds me to not box myself in or be super possessive over my sound, because I had no clue it was gonna play out like that. The song got pretty big too, I heard it out in public a couple times!
As far as upcoming releases, I've been working on a lot of songs out here in LA recently, I honestly never really know when stuff is coming out so I just stay focused on always working on new music. Keep an eye out, though.
What were the biggest challenges you've faced and how did you overcome them?
I'm naturally a more introverted person, and when I came out to LA, I kind of had to force myself to go out and meet people at the studio everyday. I'm glad I challenged myself and still do to this day, because it helped me develop my personality & have a lot more confidence in myself.
What wisdom would you want to share with others? What lessons can people learn from you?
That anyone can make it in any industry, you just have to learn what's special about you and how you can use that as leverage. Since I had the foundation of playing piano & guitar, I found that I can leverage myself into working with huge producers by sending them my own guitar recordings, since guitar was becoming a very popular element in hip-hop music. If you are in a room with 5 people, and every single one of them can do exactly what you do, you're not gonna make the same impact you would if you were focusing on whatever it is that sets you apart from others. That can be anything it doesn't have to be just about talent & skill, it could be your personality, work ethic, etc. If I didn't have that leverage I had off of being an instrumentalist before a producer I wouldn't be where I am today.
Where do you see yourself in a few years? What are some of your dreams and aspirations?
I want to be consistently making the best music I can, and continue building with the people around me currently. I want to start an entertainment company of my own in the future and manage new artists, producers, writers, etc. that I am excited about and believe in.
You can see more of Kyle's credits on his Genius page: https://genius.com/artists/Kyle-stemberger
Be sure to keep up to date with Kyle on his Instagram!