THE ARISE AND SHINE TOUR
They emanate the power to cross borders and break boundaries, uniting listeners everywhere to sing along. Charged up by gospel grandiosity, sun-kissed island grooves, and R&B soul, Nicole Bus wields such a voice. An empathetic writer, powerhouse vocalist, talented multi-instrumentalist, and impassioned performer, the Dutch-born multicultural songstress delivers a striking signature style on her 2018 debut for Roc Nation. Most importantly, the girl has got something to say…
“I’m half-Dutch and half-Curaçaose, so I get to see different sides of the conversation,” she says. “I’ve got an understanding of where people are coming from. In the current moment we’re living in, I think that’s so important. I just want to bring as many people together as possible.” She most definitely can. Growing up in a small Holland village, Nicole vividly recalls listening to Sade, Bob Marley, and various gospel artists a la Ron Kenoly alongside her dad. On weekends, she sang in church before eventually picking up a keyboard at ten-years-old and cooking up countless rudimentary beats on 8MB floppy disks.
In high school, a mentrix who gave her theater and dance lessons introduced her to Lauryn Hill by way of the artist’s seminal MTV Unplugged performance, and it proved nothing short of life-changing. “It showed me how to put all of my emotion and passion into music,” she elaborates.
While studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, she received opportunities to perform around the globe. The budding talent’s travels saw her engage crowds in Nicaragua, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Indonesia, and throughout The Netherlands. In 2013, she participated in The Voice of Holland and emerged as a quarter-finalist as her profile dramatically grew. After winning another music competition, she met multiplatinum producer Needlz [Drake, Cardi B, Bruno Mars]. During 2017, Roc Nation heard a snippet of her music on Needlz Instagram and immediately reached out. Signed to the entertainment industry powerhouse, she dove headfirst into cooking up new music for 2018.
Nicole’s first single “You” hints at the scope of her robust range and the international implications of the sound. A reggae groove simmers beneath jazz-y horns as her jaw-dropping delivery takes the spotlight before slipping into a sample of the original instrumental behind Wu-Tang Clan’s classic “C.R.E.A.M.” Its poetic, powerful, and provocative—and the perfect way to get to know the singer.
“In the media, the profile of black males is pretty negative,” she sighs. “In the heavy times we’re going through right now, we don’t have an encouraging song about the beauty, strength, and intelligence of our black men. I decided to write one. I thought it would be cool to turn it around make a love story about this subject. The ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ sample felt so perfect. It’s a very beautiful dedication to boost character and morale and share love instead of all this negativity.”
With that spirit, her voice and message will resonate for a long time to come. “When you listen to me, I want you to walk away with the consciousness that you are loved and special,” she leaves off. “I would like to share my experience with others so they can get encouraged and relate to the story in the music. It would be great to see people all over the world dancing and enjoying the melodies. Whenever there’s a blue day I promise I can be the sunlight through your speakers.”
"There's good and bad parts about love, and it's my job to shine light on that." And Tone Stith does his job quite well: in the course of a few short years, the singer / songwriter / producer / multi-faceted musician has proven his triple-threat status with ace songwriting credits and two projects of his very own—including the just-released Good Company EP. With his light touch and impactful style, Stith already shines amidst the current crop of R&B's leading lights, and there's plenty more to come.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, the 23-year-old artist was raised in Southern New Jersey by a musical set of parents: "I was paying attention to everything they were doing." His father introduced him to the drums at the age of 3, and he also took early cues from his mother as she performed in their church choir. "I'd hear her singing around the house and I'd try to mimic everything she was doing," he remembers. The sonic diet in his house included healthy helpings of James Taylor, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Prince, the Beatles, and the Bee Gees—a mix of classic pop and R&B that stuck with Stith for years to come: "My mom and dad put me on to all the music they listened to and grew up on," he explains. "That's where I get my musical taste from."
At eight years old, he picked up the keyboard; three years later, he was already flexing his production talents, experimenting with the popular Fruity Loops software at home. "I've been pretty much doing music my entire life," he enthuses, citing basketball and visual art as competing interests as he got older. "There's definitely things I wanted to do, but I knew I was better in music."
Along with childhood friends K.T. and Dezz, Stith formed R&B trio SJ3, who released their debut LP The School Years in 2011; two years later, the trio posted a cover of Justin Bieber's "Heartbreaker" online— and, as luck would have it, it caught the attention of the man himself, along with music industry mogul Jas Prince, who was also responsible for discovering Drake on MySpace and launching his career. "Justin had showed him the video, like, 'Man, you gotta check this out,'" Stith explains. Eventually, Jas got in contact with Tone and brought him out to L.A. for the first time.
At the age of 20, he picked up guitar and bass, and while he was expanding his musical horizons his career continued to take off, as Stith nabbed production and songwriting credits on two songs from Chris Brown's 2015 album Loyalty, "Liquor" and "Make Love." "I love songwriting and producing," he gushes. "It gives me the freedom to say what I want in a creative way." Stith cites soft-rock icons Fleetwood Mac as a primary songwriting influence: "They're one of the bands I love listening to because I love the way the songs are written. I model a lot of my songs after them."
As Stith continues to work with Brown on forthcoming projects, most recently penning his latest single, “Undecided,” he's also been developing an impressive solo career that kicked off with 2017's Can We Talk—an indelible debut that found him embracing au courant R&B stylings while applying his own classic melodic touch to the proceedings. "It was my first actual project, so I had to show off all aspects—each category of music that represents me," he ruminates about the project. "Putting it together was interesting because there were different styles of music in there. There were songs that were more urban, more straight R&B, more soul. It was a mixture."
And Stith furthers his musical horizons on Good Company, his first record since signing with BPG/RCA. The EP finds Stith working in a style reminiscent of classic-era The-Dream—think spacious production, lush instrumental touches, and Stith's emotive vocals front-and-center. "This is the first time I had features on my songs, which was really cool," he states while talking about the project, which includes contributions from Ty Dolla $ign ("Take It There") and Quavo and Swae Lee on the title track. "Good Company fits into this time really well, but it's different—it doesn't sound like a lot of other people's music. It sounds like me, in 2018. It's a good entry to what I have coming up."
Most surprisingly, Stith delves into the squelchy sound of '90s R&B on "Doin' It For Me," a nighttime jam that at once sounds classic and futuristic. "I wouldn't say any of my songs are my favorite—I love all of them in different ways—but 'Doin' It For Me' has a real '90s feel," he explains. "It represents the sound of R&B that people are trying to get back to. I feel like if it came out in the '90s, people would enjoy it the same way. It has that nostalgic feel that I'm shooting for more."
Along with the release of Good Company, Stith's been slaying audiences as support on enigmatic R&B siren H.E.R.'s "I Used to Know Her" tour. "It's been the craziest experience of my life so far," he reflects. "Every night, there's been a sold-out crowd. People have been so responsive to what's going on with me and the new music. She brings me back out every show, which is crazy. She's co-signing me and my career, and I'm forever thankful for that. I didn't want it to end, and I can't wait to do more work with her and keep it going."
So what's next for this rising star? "A ton of new music," naturally—including his forthcoming self-titled album. "I want people to know more about my musical background. It's funk-based, and there's a lot to it. I love country, I love soul. All of that's gonna come out in the next few projects, and I'm really excited about it."
Most of all, Stith is excited to continue spreading his romantic R&B gospel well into 2019 and beyond. "I love to talk about love. People don't talk about it that much in today's times—everybody's putting on a front," he laughs. "Everybody needs to know that it's okay to talk about love—to go through relationships. Don't be afraid to be you and express how you really feel about somebody."