A new podcast from Berklee College of Music features four musical acts from across the country, including Jacksonville’s own Stono Echo.
The Roaring Crowdfund is a new five-part podcast series that follows the crowdfunding campaigns of four different music acts: Emily Keener, a singer-songwriter from Cleveland who was on The Voice; hip-hop artist Dutch ReBelle, named 2018 Best Music Artist by the Boston Magazine; Johnny Chops, an Austin-based rock musician who plays with the Randy Rogers Band; and Stono Echo, a soul hip-hop duo from Jacksonville made up of Paten Locke and Jay Myztroh.
“We came up with the idea of doing something to coincide with the launch of our online Masters Business program that would really speak to our demographic,” Pat Healy, the host of the podcast, told WJCT. “Our demo is basically students who are 29 to 32, roughly, and these are people who, if they’re releasing music, are probably using crowdfunding platforms to do so.”
To gain insight on the issues these musicians face, Healy looked to leadership at crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, PledgeMusic and Indiegogo as well as other popular musicians who have had crowdfunding experiences. Berklee Online instructors like John Kellogg, entertainment attorney and director for Berklee Online’s Music Business master’s degree program, also got in on the act.
Healy, who is the Senior Writer and Director for Berklee Online, the online school for Berklee College of Music, said he discovered Stono Echo when he was doing some initial research to prepare for the new podcast.
The name Stono Echo alludes to the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a slave rebellion that took place in the colony of South Carolina.
“Something about them and their vibe just spoke to me, instantly,” he said. “They were so chill and yet so wise. And beyond who they are as people, who they are as musicians is just phenomenal. There’s something so soulful about Jay Myztroh’s voice and Paten Locke, the beats he produces… it’s just a perfect combination.”
“I’m a DJ, a producer, an emcee and a record label owner,” said Locke, who’s been living in Jacksonville since the mid-90s. He’s a former member of the groups Azamov and The Smile Rays. After they disbanded he started a record label called Full Plate.
Now, in addition to his work with Stono Echo, he produces and performs with a group called Steam Mechanics. “I also have another group with my partner Willie Evans, Jr., formerly from Azamov,” Locke said. “He and I have a group called Dumbtron we’ve had for years.”
On top of all that, Locke is an educator and a musicologist. He even participated in a U.S. Consulate hosted event in Saudi Arabia called “Saudis First National Hip-Hop,” reported by Arab News in October of 2012.
Meanwhile, Myztroh describes his musical career as being twofold.
He’s been a musician and performer since he was 8, when he was known only as Jeremy McKinnies. He graduated from Jacksonville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition.
Currently, he’s the Associate Director of the Ritz Voices all-city community chorus and the Director and conductor of the nonprofit’s newly formed Ritz Voices Children’s Chorus; he’s the Director and conductor for the newly formed Northeast Florida Conservatory Singers, a choral program of the Northeast Florida Conservatory; and he runs the choir program at San Juan del Rio Catholic School, which he founded four years ago.
His career as Jay Myztroh began about ten years ago with a group called The Elevated Hip-Hop Experience. “That’s kind of how I got a lot of the connections and the notoriety in the area,” Myztroh said. “Then I went into the cover scene and I was playing a lot of music around town, getting known.”
That led him to Locke and eventually Stono Echo.
“One of the things that was most touching was their origin story and how Jay and Paten had been working together but Jay didn’t even reveal that he was a singer until one day, he was just playing piano, and then he said, ‘you know I sing too?’ And it blew Paten away,” said Healy. “I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but it’s just a really touching story and how Myztroh basically realized that this is what he wanted to do.”
The way they tell it, Myztroh and Locke had been making music together on and off for years before that epiphany three years ago that led to the formation of Stono Echo.
Locke said Stono Echo’s music usually starts with him. He first comes up with a basic soundbed or beat, frequently looking to and sampling from older music. “It’s just my nature to reach into the history of ideas that music has given us to come up with the new ideas,” he said. “As the producer of the group, I do rely heavily on being informed by older music, for sure, whether it be psychedelic rock or folk music or what have you.”
From there, Myztroh expands on that idea, writing lyrics and composing counter melodies.
“He’s great at finding a countermelody to a Hip-Hop kind of sound bed, which is, I’ve found in my career, pretty rare for vocalists to be able to do,” said Locke. “Rappers, okay, they can do that because they speak in one voice, in one tone, but as a singer and a writer I’m always really excited to hear Jay’s interpretation, his countermelody, to what I’ve already done.”
“I think that’s specifically informed by my background as an emcee and as a composer,” Myztroh said in response. “I look for counterpoint. I look for countermelodies.”
“And I’ve always looked for somebody who knows how to look for countermelodies,” replied Locke. “So us getting together, it’s been a really good collaboration from the start. We have a very good understanding of what we want to do and it always seems to line up.”
The duo began their crowdfunding campaign before the release of their first album, and both agree it was a positive experience.
“Just having this one thing allowed all these people to kind of come to one place and support us and support our careers in a way that they couldn’t before,” Myztroh said.
But Stono Echo didn’t crowdfund to pay for their first album. “We had already put in all the work: mixing, recording, the artist work, all those things,” Myztroh said. “We were almost positioning as a preorder and giving them the opportunity to invest in us.”
“The record was going to come out regardless of the crowdfunding experience,” Locke clarified. “I think it was just something we did to try to connect to a crowd and an audience at the same time as getting ready to put out the record, more so than to fund the actual record.”
Stono Echo released their debut album, “Black Diamonds,” on December 15, 2017. Their second album is currently in the works.
To learn more about Stono Echo’s crowdfunding effort, listen to The Roaring Crowdfund. Episodes one and two are available now. The remaining three episodes will be released every Friday from now until February 1.
Healey says a second season will depend on the success of the first. “It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out and how it resonates with listeners,” he said. “If it’s really a success we can look into doing it every year…. But I’m not looking for new talent just yet.”