Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Seattle musician inspired by Riddim Twins & the Jolly Boys

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:10 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Davin Stedman
Davin Stedman with the Jolly Boys.

When Seattle-based frontman Davin Michael Stedman first came to Jamaica, he wasn’t sure he would find a connection. But when the musician landed in 2016, in the midst of Reggae Month, he got much more than he bargained for. On his very first day, Stedman stumbled into Sly and Robbie’s studio – where he met the bass player of the duo – and was introduced to Anthony Red Rose, the producer who would kick-start his ongoing, productive relationship with the island.

“Jamaica is the heartbeat of music around the world. What Jamaica could do with more resources and support for everyday people is phenomenal,” he gushed. Besides meeting with legendary musicians and recording among them, Stedman’s continued visits to the island leave him in awe of the large pool of underground and untapped talent. “Just walking around with my guitar, teenagers will ask to play, and they learn to play so fast.” He continued,

“Jamaica is full of scientists. Now, people come to study these sonic masterpieces. We may not call them scientists, but that’s what they are,” he said of the island’s musicians.

Solo album

Now on his third trip, on advice from his friend Bluejay Hankins of Sick Donkey Records, Stedman is in the midst of recording his debut solo album – West Indian Rock. He is also recording a television special about the entire process for a programme called Band in Seattle.

Stedman has already released the album’s first single, Free Your Mind – produced by and featuring Anthony Red Rose, and distributed by Tuff Gong International. He wrote and recorded the song on his first day, back in 2016.

“I remember walking into the studio and seeing a sign that says ‘We Make Legends’, and Sly spun his chair, around talking about Kenny Rogers. He was saying, ‘Do you remember when Kenny came and how surprised he was at how big he is out here?’” Right then, I thought that I’m in the right place. So I wrote Free Your Mind.”

Stedman has been in the island for Reggae Month activities, and last week was invited to perform with local musicians Mark Wonder and Lenny I in Port Antonio. Stedman filmed the concert as a part of the ‘Band in Seattle’ TV Special.

“We’re telling the story of West Indian Rock. We want to capture Red Rose putting together a song – what is it like in a Jamaican studio when a song is being made. We loved the idea of studying Jamaican music, all the ingredients that go into the musical stew. Because a Jamaican do country, do-wop – absorb a lot of other things, while still keeping their own voices.”

Stedman’s connections in the island are only getting stronger. A meeting with the remaining members of the Jolly Boys inspired more music. “It’s called Go Tell It To The Mystics,” he says of their upcoming collaboration. The Jolly Boys even asked me to come back in November.

“They want to do a national tour to spread the importance of mento in Jamaican culture. It doesn’t get enough credit.”