Newcomer Steven Colyer is a triple threat: A singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who is poised to break out with his lush synth-pop sound. Emotionally resonant songs like “Black Heart” and “18x” wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to a modern-day John Hughes film, thanks to lyrics dealing with questions of identity, Colyer’s laser-sharp vocal melodies, and the music’s warm ’80s tones.
Colyer comes by his pop bonafides naturally, having fallen in love with ’80s-era heavyweights like Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, and The Cure at a young age. Born in North Carolina, Colyer was raised in the Detroit area from the age of 10. He discovered a passion for music around age 13 when he started playing drums, followed by guitar, piano, and bass. “I taught myself to play by learning songs by other artists, like Ben Folds and Coldplay,” he says, adding that he also loved Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen for their timeless songwriting and the way they let their vocals drive their songs. But it was hearing The Cure’s classic album Disintegration that motivated him to start writing his own songs. “Robert Smith is so emotionally natural,” Colyer says. “He sounds like he’s literally pouring out what he feels through the music and lyrics. That’s when I knew music was what I wanted to do.”
Colyer moved to Chicago to study arts management at Columbia College. While attending, he paid his dues in a couple of bands before deciding he needed to focus on his own material, spending $700 on equipment when his last project disbanded. “I had just broken up with my girlfriend and felt liberated to start everything fresh,” he says. “My apartment had this huge walk-in closet where I could put all my gear and isolate various sounds. I would spend 12 hours a day in there, sometimes working till five in the morning.”
That batch of post-break-up songs included Colyer’s first shot across the bow, the dreamy-sounding “Black Heart” — an anthemic kiss-off to a self-centered ex. “It’s the story of my last relationship,” he says. “I always believed this girl really loved me, but by the end I thought she was really selfish and I had just had enough. It’s about what we went through together.”
Now a resident of Los Angeles, Colyer has been in the studio working on songs that will eventually make up his debut album. “I would say the main theme is relationships, not only with a girlfriend, but with family and friends. Also, I’ve moved around a lot, so they’re about trying to figure out who you are,” Colyer says. “I hope people can relate to the songs in a way that is positive and feels entirely truthful. I want them to think, ‘Wow, I know someone like that,’ or even, ‘That’s me.’ That is my ultimate goal.”