October 6, 2019
Young Mister, the alias of Tryon, NC singer-songwriter Steven Fiore, is breaking free from the expectations of the corporate music world in order to forge his own unique path forward. In creating his latest album, Fiore allowed his fans to have intimate involvement in shaping the record’s final track list. The result of this experiment is Sudden Swoon, Fiore’s most assured release to date, and a collection of great soft folk-rock tunes.
The road to releasing Young Mister albums has been long and indirect. “My career really started in my early 20s,” Fiore reflected. “I was signed to Universal Music Group as a songwriter, and that happened because my manager was friends with the Howie Day people. He sent my stuff to Howie and Howie expressed interest in having me write a song for his album. I went in and wrote something in an hour and recorded it in GarageBand, submitted it, and it got chosen. After that, Howie flew me out to L.A. to co-write one with him, and from there I got a little attention from publishing companies as a kid from Charleston that just popped up on a major label album. We started taking meetings and the Universal thing happened. I spent about 4-5 years actively writing for them.”
After spending that time as a songwriter, he needed to find his own voice. In 2013 he released his debut solo album under his own name titled Youth and Magic. He then attracted the attention of Charlotte-based record label Refresh Records, who released his first self-titled album under the Young Mister moniker, as well as Sudden Swoon. For his previous works he collaborated with producers, but this time he really got the opportunity to represent himself in a way that he hasn’t before. Describing his unorthodox method of creating the album he said, “We did 20 demos and put them on a website for the Record Club members to stream, and then they got to pick ten. The whole idea was for me to do this Record Club and raise money to buy a bunch of gear and record the thing myself. What would I do in the situation where I’m coming up with all the parts, and I’m trying to do pretty much everything? I ended up getting a good amount of gear, some vintage and some new, and really just locked myself in my office for a month until the songs were done.”
The final 11 tracks that comprise Sudden Swoon are warm and breezy, with acoustic guitars, bass, and drums providing a backdrop to Fiore’s calming vocals. It’s a collection of love songs, with about half being about romantic affection and the remainder being love/hate songs to his music career. There’s a gentle atmosphere throughout the album, fitting for music created in a home studio in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some of the best moments are the calmest, like the instrumental section toward the end of “Better,” where piano and chimes play sparse lines under strummed guitars and vocal “ooohs.” With their moderate tempos and laid-back percussion, none of the songs are in a rush to get anywhere. Closing track “Have A Great Summer” is the outlier, being the only piano-led track after a long string of guitar numbers. With its title taken from a statement that’s plagued yearbook signatures for countless years, the lyrics are a tongue-in-cheek analysis of a stranger at the end of a school year. It’s a charming little song, and is a nice indication of the variety of material that Fiore is capable of.
Looking forward, Young Mister is not worried about the normal record cycle that occupies most artists after a new release. When crafting this release, he wasn’t focused on trying to get more fans or make a lot of money, he was truly writing and recording songs because it brought him joy.
“My whole attitude with this record was so different from past records. Going into writing and making this album the only thought was ‘just make it,’ and that’s been the biggest gift of this whole process,” Fiore said. “That level of contentment to just build the thing was the best part. I don’t have any plans for strategy or more touring, whatever is meant to happen will happen.”
Outside of his tour in November, Fiore’s sights are set on his recently opened business, Reunion Tour. With his wife he has relocated the home studio where he recorded the album into an extremely unique shop in the heart of downtown Tryon.
“She has a vintage store in the front and there’s a moveable wall about halfway through the space, and I’m in the back with a recording studio and guitar/skate shop,” the singer-songwriter explained. “I’ve just been hoarding them [skateboards] for so long that I have all these vintage boards. I can just buy some wholesale decks and trucks and wheels and actually open a skate shop. But the biggest draw for me is the recording studio, I’m pulling people in from all over to write with me and record…having a space where I could get out of the house and actually create with other people.”
As a free agent, he is also looking to continue doing songwriting with other artists, but now he has the ability to be more selective on the type of music that he wants to collaborate on. “I’m trying to get more into it on my own terms,” he said about getting back into co-writing.
The Record Club idea that birthed this album was a risk and a vulnerable place for an artist to put himself, but it appears that Fiore has insight into where the music industry may be headed. In the age of social media, there is a heightened amount of engagement that audiences are expecting from artists, and voting on demos to be developed into fully produced songs is exactly the type of thing that can help set an artist apart from their peers. Reflecting on the risks he took, Fiore is grateful that he was able to interact with his fans on a more direct level, and he sees this as the direction the industry is heading. When the results of this process are as strong as Sudden Swoon, it’s hard to see any reason why this wouldn’t be a method musicians would want to follow.
Sudden Swoon is out now on vinyl and CD via Refresh Records, and is available to stream on all major streaming platforms.