Up and Coming Mississippi Songwriter Releases New Album / Gracie Lee
Stephen McNeill, Mississippi singer and songwriter, released his new album, “The Art of Repair,” on all music streaming services Oct. 15. His single “Rebuild” released on Sep. 24. McNeill is Memphis-born and moved to DeSoto County after college. He, his wife, and his four-year-old twins now live in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
The album features 11 original songs. This is McNeill’s fourth full length album. His first was solely instrumental, and he co-wrote his second and third for his local church. “The Art of Repair” features tracks titled “No Task Undone,” “Come to Me,” and “All I Want to Know.” Listeners can expect this album to have more personal songs with meaningful stories.
McNeill writes from his own emotions and life. Although the lyrics are in first person, he got the concept for “Rebuild” from a neighbor’s house he passed on his way to his studio. “There’s this house I pass every day. An older couple lived there, and it was just kind of a sweet thing. Then one day on the way home I noticed this beautiful little house had burned to the ground. It was just so sad,” he said. “The next week there was a concrete truck pouring the foundation. They rebuilt the house from the ground up, but this time they used bricks. Seeing them rebuild and come back from it really hit home with me–what it would have been like.”
McNeill’s passion for music started at a young age. “I was kind of an obsessive listener. A family friend had a drum set, and we went to dinner with them one night. I sort of stood outside the door staring–drooling basically,” he laughed. “He asked me if I wanted to play, and I was hooked from that moment.” He went on to learn guitar and started writing his own music in high school.
For McNeill, music is about connecting with emotions. “When you hear someone else’s songs, you’re connecting with them on a really deep level. Even if it’s just a silly little pop song, you’re connecting with something someone created. A lot of times you can get a new perspective on the world, by listening to it through someone else’s eyes,” he said.
Besides songwriting, McNeill also teaches music. “One of my biggest philosophies is that music should be fun. When you’re listening to music, you’re listening to an expression of someone’s emotions. It’s one of the lenses through which I see the world.”
His songwriting process changes with each melody he composes. “It’s a process of discovery. I almost feel like an explorer. I’ll play something on the guitar and wonder, ‘What’s behind this door?’ Sometimes it’s not interesting,” he admitted. “It helps me figure out how I’m feeling. ‘Rebuild’ started with a word.”
The word “hope” encompasses the messages in McNeill’s songs. His desire for his new album is that it will encourage those who are struggling during the current pandemic. “There’s been a lot of grieving and confusion. But there’s also been moments of hope, as Christians and because of the work that Jesus has done. Sometimes there are situations we cannot fix, but a lot of times we can if we lean on each other. My hope is that people will feel hope.”