Stephen Speaks is an original pop-rock band from based out of Tulsa, OK. The band has toured extensively throughout the country and is very popular in the college market. The band can also play a full night of music that includes originals and a perfrect blend of popular covers that span the decades. The band can also perform acoustic shows. Full bio is below:
THE EARLY YEARS
I have always had a creative drive from the time I was a child. Growing up I had little family or money, just my mother who always told me I could do anything I dreamed. In 1995, at age 15, I founded Rippley Records. The studio was started with a small car fund my family had saved and the promise I would pay the money back. I recorded everyone from the high school band to a gospel quartet. The studio moved to a shed in our yard and then into the garage for the next ten years (1997-2007).
In my last few years of high school, I put together a talented team to make my own record to gain some respect as a producer. This was the beginning of Stephen Speaks! The record was very successful and also helped me land a sweet job in college with MediaChase. After high school I spent a year at Abilene Christian University. Unfortunately, I spent much more time in the
studio than I did studying. I began to realize my label was my true passion and didn’t return for my sophomore year of college.
I returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma and teamed up with life-long friend Ryan Tedder, who you may know as the front man for OneRepublic. Tedder performed on both my first two records and gave me quite a bit of advice in the industry. I looked to him as somewhat of a big brother figure during my early years in this business.
Around the time Tedder and I began working together in the studio, I gained my first business partner - Steve Ball. Steve was the VP of a fortune 500 company and had a masters in business from Harvard. He taught me everything I know about business. Steve funded the equipment I used to create Stephen Speaks’ and Ryan Tedder’s early material, but passed away before he could enjoy the success it brought to us. I still play his childhood Gibson 12-string, which he gave to me "to pursue the dreams he gave up on" when he went to Harvard. The name Stephen Speaks will always stand in his memory.
In 2001, I recorded my first album under Rippley Records Inc. for a friend Bennett Mosier, who is a guitarist I still use to this day. I also moved the studio to Nashville. But with the overpopulation of recording studios, I struggled as an up-start studio. Another death-blow was my best friend, who I wanted to be lead-singer of Stephen Speaks, wanted to go solo. Then just when things seemed at their worst I got my first big break.
IN OVER MY HEAD
In 2002, I was focused on developing Stephen Speaks’ online presence. My idea was to develop a grassroots following across the country. I sold Stephen Speaks CD's online through an online store run by Aware Records (the guys behind John Mayer). Through that store, I gained a fan at the University Of San Diego who was a foreign exchange student from the Philippines. Upon returning to Manila, his brother became a fan and began playing it on the radio station where he was a DJ - Magic 89.9 FM. I began communicating with the station, and used their message board to get more fan requests for our song. Our song gained the number one spot on the daily countdown and I began promoting that we were number one in the Philippines. I contacted labels, booking agents, and told them the story. The station heard this and begin generating more publicity. I locked in a distribution deal with Warner Music Philippines. They gave us a small amount of money with a lot of room to gain if we were successful.
At the time I was negotiating my deal with Warner, I had grown close to the Hanson family. Their videographer and go-to-guy, Ashley Greyson, helped me film a video for Passenger Seat. That video became #1 on MYX and MTV. Tthe song also became one of the biggest singles in history of the Philippines. It remained #1 on Magic for 10 consecutive weeks, until we released Out Of My League as a second single. The new single knocked Passenger Seat out of its #1 spot and remained #1 itself for another month.
At that time, although I had become the most popular artist in one of the largest cities in the world, I hadn't yet learned how to avoid letting the "powerful people" take all the money. I still feel passionaly that artists are underapreciated and taken advantage of. This fuels my passion for Rippley Records Inc.
During this time, my brother Dain, took a break from college to help me. We worked around the clock for three months reading law books, developing our website, communicating with fans, doing interviews and setting up a tour in the Philippines. Warner wanted a band, but I didn’t have a band, so I quickly recruited some people. I worried we had missed the buzz, but Warner finally got our album in stores, it went platinum in ten days! I convinced a reluctant agency to set up a college promotional tour and cover expenses prior to album release. They agreed to four shows, a thousand tickets a show. The tour sold out so quickly that they moved the tour to bigger venues and sold a total of twenty thousand tickets. What was supposed to originally be a small college tour turned into something much much bigger. Warner did not include Stephen Speaks on the additional revenue gained from the expanded tour. Soon after, the director retired, and contact with the label ceased.
With Rippley Records Inc. now in conjunction with Warner Music Philippines, I began to negotiate deals with other branches of Warner in Asia and Australia. Just four months after I was poor and starving in Nashville, I was standing in the office of the director of Warner Music Philippines. Original negotiations included a return tour at every Hard Rock in Asia. In addition we would headline a show in summer of 2003 with Daniel Beddingfield and Jason Mraz at the Araneta Coliseum. Much to my dismay, my friend who had been lead singer informed the Warner agent that he was taking a solo management deal in Nashville and Stephen Speaks would not be coming. Before I was aware of it, all deals had been called off. I tried to keep the other members in the band until I could find a replacement, but with a lot of strong pull from Nashville, I couldn’t persuade them to stay.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
At this point, I almost gave up on Stephen Speaks. until Taylor Hanson gave me a long speech about how far I’d come and how much he believed I should stay the course alone. So, with the newrecord half finished, I pulled together all my resources and released One More Day within two months. Isaac Hanson even came over and gave me vocal coaching - I certainly needed help with my singing at the time.
In summer of 2003, I flew out to Nashville and met with one of the biggest managers in the industry in hopes of siging a management deal with interest from Sony Nashville. After days of meetings and discussions, we ultimately had fundamental disagreements on how the record industry should be run. I decied that saying the course with Rippley Records Inc. was the way to go. That decision has probably saved me from the disastrous end that many fellow musicians who quickly signed deals have faced.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Around that time Jay Lashley (the man behind Western Heritage) sought me out. I was drawn to his ability to consistently create very clever lyrics combined with extremely melodic hooks. He was also a master at creating relevant and significant messages in his songs. Quite a few people pulled Jay in their direction, including some big names in New York, and Jay spent a couple years after our initial recordings to explore other options. He eventually came back and said that the "‘magic we had in the studio was irreplaceable". Within three months of his return to Oklahoma in 2009, we finished his first release, Native America, which I feel is one of the strongest independent debut EP’s ever. Following the album release, Western Heritage won the first international songwriting competition they entered. Most recently, Jay contributed to my Christmas album. The album was recorded with only acoustic guitars and vocals. Jay co-wrote and produced the newest single, "I Found Love".
We are currently producing our first major studio album. The album was recorded in a profesional studio using a great team of contacts I’ve made over the last fifteen years.