Stefan West Interview

by the partae

‘Happily Ever After’ is described as a love-fuelled indie adventure. Can you share the inspiration behind the song and the story you wanted to convey through its lyrics?

Yes absolutely! It was inspired by a relationship I was in at the time, we had moved in together in a little place on the corner or Orrong road/cambridge street in Caulfield north, Melbourne. We taught pilates at the same yoga and pilates studio, and to be honest, it was the most safe and secure I had ever felt in a relationship before. She really did accept me for me, and love me for me and I had never felt that before. I used to spend Sunday afternoons writing all day while she was in the studio, id write clean, run around the house, while a chicken curry slow cooked in the kitchen. I had been playing around with this idea of a song, and she came home that afternoon and it all just clicked for me, I was in this position where my home felt like a kingdom, like no one else was allowed in but us, I was better than I had ever been (mentally/physically/emotionally/spiritually) I was grounded and I was safe. And I was like I could do this for the rest of my life, like happily. And I realised in that moment how young I felt, this like giddy feeling with no restraints, and that forever young line made sense, I had always thought it mean something completely different, I seen people get older and keep partying, and continually ride themselves off, almost like screaming we’re never growing up, and that always confused me because I didn’t feel like that was true for me. And In that moment of clarity it was like ahhhh thats not being young forever, staying curious, staying playful and continuing to learn is how I stay young forever, and if we do that together, in our own way, that I think is how we make it a lifetime.

“Cambridge” is your upcoming album, and ‘Happily Ever After’ is its second single. How does this track fit into the overall theme or narrative of the album?

I always wanted to create something that has the full scope of the human experience within it, with this album I think it has a very wide representation of that over a 3 year period. Obviously there is endless subtleties of the world within and around us , but I think this album represents/touches base on almost all of my experience over that timeframe, I say this because that’s what the theme is, exploration and curiosity of life, and this song fits in as an idea and a feeling of what love is and what it might mean to build .

The song touches on the experience of growing old together. Can you delve deeper into this theme and how it influenced the writing and production of ‘Happily Ever After’?

It really was something I not only never thought I would experience, but just couldn’t see how it would be possible for me. Now I still haven’t grown old with someone and the relationship that I wrote the song about has been ended for a few years now,
but this song represents a moment in which I understood how it could happen, in that moment I understood what it might take for myself to meet someone in a position where we could grow old together. To stay curious, to be playful and to continue to learn with someone for a life time or like how the lyric goes, to stay young forever. And that moment of realisation was one of the most memorable moments of my life.

In addition to being a musician, you’re also a meditation teacher. How has your personal journey of resilience and redemption, overcoming addiction through meditation and yoga, influenced your music, particularly in the creation of ‘Happily Ever After’?

For a long time I felt like it was all just the same, the actions in which I choose to participate in directly effect my life, its like the old saying you reap what you sow. So for me, Having a practise in Meditation and yoga helps me feel centred, it helps me stay grounded and it helps me make decisions in alignment with whatever my truth may be. I think the world gets a little fuzzy for us all, and it becomes really hard to hear that truth if we’re not paying attention. Yoga and meditation help me pay attention, therefor allowing me tune in and experience my life fully, and then express it through my music.

Could you share some insights into the themes and messages you aim to convey through the upcoming album ‘Cambridge,’ especially focusing on the elements of resilience and redemption?

I think the main message within resilience and redemption would be to learn how to listen to your truth. Those words aren’t said specifically in the album anywhere but really what are we all searching for? I think for most people that answer would lead back to certainty or security, it definitely seems to be a common theme in my life. we want to be certain of our choices, we want to be certain of our success, we want to be certain that everything is going to work out and be ok. we can never know the answer to those questions in the way that we would like it to be told, but as cliche as it does sound we already do have the answer, our own truth, the one thing that is always available to us. now the world might get a little (or very) noisy, and the static in our mind might get a little to loud for us to hear or feel that truth sometimes, but regardless it is always there. My constant question has been, How can we find it? Or how do we cultivate enough awareness to strengthen it like a muscle within our body?

For me, its been exploration, exploring what it means to be right, to be wrong, to succeed, to fail, to feel my emotions, to ignore my emotions, to find peace through action, to find peace through inaction, to express ourselves, to suppress our expression, and it seems that all of this is done either with a conscious awareness or without a conscious awareness, regardless we move on and we live and get up and try and we book mark the things that we learn and along the way, and hopefully we can accept ourselves even just a little in the process.

I think true resilience comes from the exploration and acceptance of ourselves. And learning when to be hard on ourselves and get up and get on with it, and when to sit and allow ourselves to rest.

In a world where the moral compass of a human being seems to be measured so precisely with no flexibility to account for any outside factors, I think its very important to explore your own inner workings and find your own truth for yourself, and within that cultivate resilience to be you.

‘Happily Ever After’ seems to embrace a positive and hopeful tone. How do you use your music as a platform to spread positivity and inspire others, especially those going through challenging times?

This does have a positive tone! I cried a week ago when I realised I was putting out something that was just like pure joy and bliss, I think id been so close to this song for such a long time that I had separated myself from its essence a little.

This question really stumped me if I’m honest. But I think I spread positivity by always looking on the lighter side whenever I can, that’s something I have always done in my personal life, not like ignoring the hard times or pretending evil doesn’t exist, but by understanding that there is always a positive, it might not show up immediately but if your patient and open enough to see it, it does always works out in the end. I also think it shines through me just being myself, I love what I do, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, and I am genuinely stoked to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. I have days that are really hard too, we all do. But I think that enthusiasm and that love shines through the content I make, the music I make, the lyrics I write and just in the way I show up.

Mental health awareness and addiction recovery are causes you’re passionate about. How do these themes weave into your music, and what messages do you hope to convey to your audience regarding these important issues?

The message I want to convey to my audience is that mental heal is in everything we do, we cant separate it from our whole being, which I think is something we have gotten wrong for a long time. Getting to understand ourselves as a whole being is the only step forward. Our society seems to be obsessed with the mind. It seems to be the part of our experience that we give the most clout to. But I think that the only way we can move forward in a way thats free from addiction and chronic mental health conditions is to look at the human as a whole being. These things weave into my music because they are apart of me, every song I have written is from the perspective of a guy exploring what it means to be him, with absolutely no idea what he’s doing, all he knows Is what has and has not worked up until this point and he is trying his best to understand and accept himself. There are a few songs on the album that are very clearly about mental health and addiction struggles, and you can hear it lyrically and you can also feel it musically, but I think in some way they are all about me trying to understand the fluctuations in my mental health and trying to understand why I can be so easily roped into things that distract me and really take me away from my life.

Can you discuss the creative process behind ‘Happily Ever After’? How did you approach the musical arrangement and production to capture the emotions you wanted to convey?

Alsolutely! So I wrote the chord progression and lyrics back in 2019 In my home studio just off Cambridge street, my partner at the time had just gotten home from teaching pilates at the yoga and pilates studio we both taught at, and I remember I had been playing around with a few ideas that afternoon, but when she walked in and I looked at her, the idea really came to life.

I think demo’d the song and sent it across to my best friend Aaron Schembri in 2020, it was the middle of a lockdown. He then wrote those guitar melodies, and bass and keys you can hear and we go it all down at the end of 2021/start of 2022. Its been a long time coming.

As you embark on this love-fuelled indie adventure with your music, what do you hope listeners take away from ‘Happily Ever After’ and the upcoming album ‘Cambridge’?

I hope they can feel a little bit of themselves in the songs, we are all so different but we are also the same, and I think music really highlights that. I hope it provokes more exploration within themselves and also in the seriousness of what life can be, I hope it also adds a little lightness to their steps. Its all ok, and it always will be.

How do you balance your roles as a musician and a meditation teacher? Do these two aspects of your life inform each other in any way?

These two aspects absolutely inform one another, I have always looked at it like this. Meditation and yoga are the tools that help me experience my life to the fullest, they also allow me to reflect on my life more honestly and thoroughly than I otherwise would, which in turn helps me turn those experiences and reflections into the art that I see. For a long time I just said yoga and music are the same to me, and I never quite understood why, and then one day I realised this dance that they were flowing in and out of and I realised.

‘Happily Ever After’ seems to celebrate the positive aspects of life. How do you use your art to bring joy and reflection to your audience, especially in the context of the challenges you’ve faced and overcome?

I think bringing a lightheartedness otherwise serious situations is one way, I mean don’t get me wrong, there are songs on this album that are serious as well. But I think for the most part approaching those more heavy handed subjects with a little more lightness is one way that I bring a light side to my audience, and another way is that within my lyrics and I incredibly reflective. I mean I am in my life and I think that its represented in my lyrics, the dedication to bring the best possible product to the people who listen to my music

In terms of your advocacy for mental health awareness and addiction recovery, are there specific messages or resources you would like to share with your fans, encouraging them to prioritize their mental well-being?

This is a really great question, there aren’t really any direct messages or resources. What I would say is, try a bunch of different avenues. No one avenue works best for everyone and for me personally its been the exploration of all these different tools, practises and practitioners over a very long time that have lead me into being the most grounded person I have every been I am still a maniac, don’t get me wrong hahaha, but I understand and accept that life is ups and life is downs and we do the best we can at each moment we arrive. So yeh, id say try all the different things that are out there and find what works best for you. Flexibility > rigidness.

Also, Don’t ever underestimate the power of moving your body, eating good whole foods, and creating support systems around you. I know these things are easier said than done when your in the pits of hell, but there is always a way out and that way out is always available to you even if it doesn’t look or feel like it.


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