Editors’ Notes JC Stewart took a novel approach to his debut EP, When the Light Hits the Room. “I kind of wanted to care less about the music,” the Northern Irish singer-songwriter and fast-rising pop talent tells Apple Music. “I wanted to stop writing the biggest melody or chorus in the world and just really focus on what I was saying for once in the songs.” Stewart, in part, has Tom Waits to thank for that (“I was listening to loads of his music. He just says what he says, and I found that really powerful”), as well as the constraints of the 2020 lockdown, which proved oddly liberating. “At the start, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t have a career anymore,’” jokes Stewart, who has written for Lewis Capaldi alongside crafting his own irresistible, soul-baring pop. “I was living in my parents’ house in Ireland again like the last five years never happened. Songwriting was the only thing getting me through it. But I also didn’t have anything to write for. There was no pressure.” That sense of living in the moment would prove pivotal when Stewart would come to write the four tracks here, alongside singer-songwriter Tom Odell, after the UK’s first lockdown was lifted. “I’ve struggled for last year or two, especially working in music, where I’m always aiming for this end goal that I don't really think exists,” says the singer. “I’m always searching for the next thing. Whether it’s partying or love or success, the four songs are about four different ways of trying to find that thing.” Read on for Stewart’s guide to When the Light Hits the Room.

Rest of My Life
“I was in the studio for a week after lockdown, and it was the first time I met Tom Odell. We were going through lots of ideas without really landing on anything. And it was like, ‘Why are we trying to write all these clever lyrics? I just want to find someone that I can spend the rest of my life with.’ We built everything around that lyric. It was the idea of moving to London as a 20-year-old and finding these vices and everything I thought I wanted. I played all over the world and went to these parties—and I actually hated all of it. Instead, I was craving stability and something wholesome.”

Valium
“I’m someone who suffers with anxiety, like we all do. I didn’t write this song about anybody in particular. But it’s about losing things and losing yourself and losing dreams, which sounds so cheesy. I remember going to America when I was 19 or 20, and playing these festivals in Miami and Baltimore. And again, it was everything I thought I wanted to do. Yet it literally was the darkest, saddest time of my life. All these things add up, and you get frustrated at yourself for being heartbroken over them.”

Friday Night
“Friday night in this song symbolizes running away from your stuff, like we all do. Sometimes, when everything gets a bit much, I really crave being back in Northern Ireland—I wish I could just go chill on a Friday night and that nothing mattered. This song was a tough one. We did it on guitar, we did it on piano, we did it back on guitar. We did it on a different piano, on a different guitar, and then we ended up back on piano. The quieter songs were the hardest to produce, but in the end, it was Tom playing the piano and it just fitted. It ended up being one take.”

Hard to Believe
“This was the first song I wrote over lockdown. At that stage, I’d been with my girlfriend for nine months. And it was just that stage where I was like, ‘I might be falling in love a little bit.’ I’d never written a love song before and I didn’t really know how to do it. I was just listening to loads of Tom Waits—he just says what he says and he’s not trying to paint it up too much. This song took me ages to start, but once I did, it took me 20 minutes. The sound here is like Ibiza—but in a spa. We had the internal battle of whether to put a beat on these songs or not, and I was always against it. Tom was always for it on every song, so we compromised. In this one, we find the happy medium, and I actually love it.”

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