Being a session singer, Rehya Stevens has mastered the art of being able to adapt vocally and creatively to whatever task she’s assigned. Her songs have been featured in an array of films, video games, and TV, including her Christmas song “Jingle Jangle” which has been used in eleven movies to date. Though emphasis has been placed on her experience with holiday cheer, that hasn’t stopped Rehya from expressing herself and her opinions on issues that are close to her heart. As a way to close out Pride Month, Juneteenth, and all of the early Summer celebrations that honor inclusivity and diversity, Rehya released “Love Party” a ravey, energetic track that encourages all of us to embrace our differences and dance through life together.
Q. Your latest single “Love Party” is pure rave pop with upbeat rhythms that’ll have a dance floor full in minutes. Talk about the production of this song.
A. “Love Party” was produced by South Park composer, Jamie Dunlap. I can take no credit for his fantastic production. He sent the track to me already pre-cooked and said “Hey do you wanna topline this?” From an inspiration standpoint, he and I had a recording session for a song from the South Park Xbox game The Stick of Truth called “All In Your Head” where I’m the voice of Goth Girl. [It] is so funny because here I am this blonde girl who makes a lot of happy music and a lot of Christmas music and I’m “Goth Girl” (laughs).
Anyway, Jamie and I both lived in Los Angeles at the time and while recording “All In Your Head,” we shared a long conversation about the racial and economic divide in the city coupled with rampant discrimination that our colleagues face on a regular basis. So when Jamie sent me the track for “Love Party” I said, “Hey let’s make this song about inclusivity and use the dance floor as a metaphor for life. Life is like a dance floor and every person should feel welcome.”
Q. Before “Love Party”’s release you were primarily focused on seasonal songs, recording your Christmas album ‘Tis The Season in 2021. What inspired you to shift genres rather than continuing to create seasonal albums?
A. I spent a lot of years singing in top 40 bands and working as a session singer for producers all over Los Angeles, so I’ve developed the ability to be somewhat of a chameleon. As an artist, I love to write in a fun space that is empowering – but that is also warm and relatable – which is why Pop and seasonal music is such a natural fit for me. EDM was actually not something I’d delved into before. I had done several Pop, Dance, and R&B tracks in the past, but Jamie shines in the EDM genre. What I think is interesting is that the track has a rave vibe – while the topline is pop. I think the marriage of the Pop topline with the undeniable EDM vibe makes the song more universal.
As a session singer, I was primed to put on my chameleon hat and do my EDM thing to the best of my ability. I think this song is Jamie’s happy place in the EDM space infused with my happy place in the Pop space. I have a new, all-original Christmas album coming out later this year, and a Pop/R&B album coming out in 2024 – so I have not abandoned either genre in exchange for EDM. “Love Party” happened alongside the process of both projects, and it was a blast! It’s fun to try something new, and working with Jamie is always great! I’m so glad he provided the opportunity for us to work on this together. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Q. “Love Party” is set to be included in the Lifetime film Secrets of a Celebrity Nanny and several of your other songs have been included in a variety of films, including Noelle and the upcoming movie Best. Christmas. Ever. starring Heather Graham. What is it like hearing your music on screen?
A. It’s fantastic! Part of the joy of making music is that I get so much pleasure from the creative process. When it’s useful in the context of film it’s even more wonderful. People email saying, “I heard your song in this movie, TV show, or ad, and I love it!” It’s really rewarding. It’s always a big win when a song makes it into a film or a TV show. It also broadens your fan base in ways that are challenging to reach independently.
Q. You’ve mentioned that “Love Party” is so much more than a “Summer bop” and that it’s also about celebrating togetherness and what makes us all special in an unstable world. Why is this message so important to hear right now?
A. I think that when people feel valued for who they are, it helps everybody to do better and live better. If you don’t feel valued it’s really easy to adopt a ‘why bother’ attitude. When you feel loved, accepted, and appreciated, you have so much more vitality. When you have to spend a lot of time and energy rising above feeling undervalued and unappreciated it’s like you’ve constantly got an energy leak.
We need all the energy we can get to get through this life so why the hierarchy? Why is there this constant pecking order? Why is it that we all have to be alike to be accepted? I think it’s crazy. I mean there are all kinds of different flowers. They all bring beauty to the world and I think of humanity the same way. If there were only one flower in the garden it wouldn’t be as extraordinary, would it?
Q. Your family is deeply involved in the world of music, your dad being a renowned keyboardist. How has their influence and knowledge of the music industry helped propel your career?
Growing up, it seemed like my dad was rehearsing and recording around the clock in his home studio with his colleagues. Our house was swarming with musicians all the time. He was a busy working musician so there wasn’t a lot of time for collaborating. I was busy twirling in the backyard as a kid writing songs for the cats and the dogs (laughs). I used to set up tape recorders and multi-track. As a teenager, I had an 8-track machine that I lived for. He taught me how to use it, and how to not blow out every mic he loaned me.
I think early exposure to hearing all of the greats, whether from records being played in the house, or from live music reverberating through the walls in addition to witnessing the art of communication between musical collaborators was a powerful education. Understanding the value of every single person in the band, understanding the role of the artist, and learning how to clearly communicate a musical vision was absolutely golden for my professional toolkit.
My Dad taught me to be as independent as possible. [He taught me] to be a finisher – to finish songs, and not have a lot of good ideas sitting around, unrealized. He encouraged me to be as original as possible. As a kid, I’d be in my room emulating different singers for hours. My dad would knock on my door and say, “Try singing this song in your voice. I understand that you’re learning from this artist but how would you sing it?” He taught me a lot about phrasing, and getting ‘inside’ the song.
As far as practical advice, he advised me to not be out on the road all the time, if possible. He’d say, “Look if you want to be an artist it’s really hard to be an artist if you get trapped in the cycle of being a touring sideman for somebody else. The years roll by, and before you know it, you’ve only made one or two records of your own.” I managed to stay in town by valuing in-town work and made a lot of records of my own instead of hitting the road as a background singer. My dad is a tremendous gift in so many ways not only as my Dad, but as a mentor.
Q. A lot of artists, especially more recently, are branching out into other creative outlets. Is this something you see for yourself? Would you ever try acting or venture into the filmmaking world?
A. If that opportunity came along, sure! I think acting would be a lot of fun – but I’ll never know until I try it. I hear that when working with a great director, acting can be a lot of fun, but honestly, I have no acting experience whatsoever so I have no idea if I would even be capable of doing it (laughs). I hear there’s a lot of sitting around on sets, and I’m definitely a studio rat. I love to go into the studio, roll up my sleeves, and get to work.
I produce lyric videos and quite enjoy editing. For Secrets Of A Celebrity Nanny, the producer asked if I would make some lyric videos from the movie footage, so I’ve been really busy with that. Film editing is so fun to me. I love looking at the possibilities of how a story can come together from a satchel of footage. I’m doing the same thing when I’m recording really. I’m choosing the best takes and stylizing a song imagined from various possibilities. Who knows? Maybe music-making will open doors to other creative adventures. I’ll never say never.