Stockman, 45, said he hopes “Feelin Lil Som’n” — a track he describes as “a head bobber while drinking a nice full-bodied Bordeaux” — will whet the public’s appetite for his first solo record, which comes after more than 25 years of performing with Boyz II Men.
“I’m a gut person, sometimes to a fault, but I go with my gut for a lot of my decisions and choices,” Stockman told UPI in an interview, “and this just felt like the right time to do this.”
The singer is best known as part of the quartet-turned-trio — Michael McCary left the group for health-related reasons in 2003. But he has briefly stepped out on his own before, most notably while recording music for films including 1995’s Mr. Holland’s Opus and the 2002 Showtime original picture Seventeen Again, which he co-produced with his wife.
Stockman described recording his own music as “a different type of liberation” than working with his usual collaborators.
“I think any artist will tell you that writing music, the process of creating, is like when artists paint,” he said. “Or when someone writes a book — it’s a level of escapism and it gives some personal type of therapy for you to just be able to get out what you can get out in the best way, which is creating the music.”
The recording artist said the contrast between working with Boyz II Men and recording “Feelin Lil Som’n” is not unlike the 1980s animated series Voltron, which features mechanical lions that fight on their own but also combine to create a larger fighting robot.
“Voltron had five different lions, who did five different things,” he said. “The great thing and the exciting thing about doing this project is that people will now be able to really understand which Voltron lion I am.”
Stockman said he considers himself to be the Red Lion — the right arm of the completed Voltron robot.
“I’m the red lion out of Voltron, or the red Power Ranger. I don’t know too much about Power Rangers, is the red Power Ranger cool?” he laughed.
Stockman recently had occasion to try out a new kind of team-up when he provided guest vocals for the title track on the Foo Fighters’ 2017 album, Concrete Gold, a collaboration that stemmed from a chance encounter with Dave Grohl at the recording studio.
“We started catching up. He was like, ‘Yo dude, I’m doing a record right now, you wanna help me? You wanna do some vocals on it?’ I said ‘Sure!’ It’s really that easy.”
Stockman said he was pleased to appear on the “hardest” track of the album, which appealed to his lifelong love of hard rock.
“In high school, I was probably one of the only black kids that listened to Metallica and Megadeath and Motorhead. You know what I’m saying? I was that kid that not only listened to the O’Jays, but I could sing word-for-word Master of Puppets,” he said.
The R&B singer said helping to create a hard rock sound turned out to be “right up my alley.”
“Matter of fact, I was saying to myself, ‘What took me so long to get to that?'” he said.
Stockman said his love of rock is a big part of his songwriting process.
“This album, I’m not gonna say it has rock in it — maybe that’ll be the next record — but that’s always been an influence in the back of my head. From the songwriting, to the melody, to all of that stuff. That’s always been a part of who I am — as the Red Lion,” he said.
He said a variety of other modern artists have provided inspiration for his creativity.
“I love the usual suspects, the Drakes of the world, and people like that, I thought his last album was good, the Pusha T’s and all those other guys — hate to put those two names together in the same sentence, but you get what I’m saying,” he said with a laugh, referring to the much publicized feud between the two artists.
Stockman said he’s also developed an appreciation for up-and-coming acts such as Georgia Smith, Victory, Natalia Lafourcade and Alfa Mist.
“I have a few favorites, though: Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., Charlie Puth, Alina Baraz, Sabrina Claudio — I have a lot of people I listen to. You’d probably be shocked if you saw my library, it’s a bunch of stuff,” he said.
Stockman was exposed to a variety of new artists during his time as a judge on all five seasons of NBC’s a cappella singing competition show, The Sing Off.
“A cappella is something I’ve had a long affinity for, and it’s something that, obviously, my guys are known for as well,” he said, referring to Boyz II Men. “So to be able to do it, and to sit for hours and talk about a cappella music all day, like, that was the best job ever.”
He said the show helped widen his own creative horizons.
“I had fun,” he said. “Ben [Folds] is still a good friend of mine, I love that guy, and it just opened my world up again, these experiences have only been an advantage to me, ’cause it’s always just made my world a lot wider and a lot larger.”
Stockman credited the show with helping to build a mainstream audience for a cappella music, leading to the success of other properties such as the Pitch Perfect movie franchise.
“I think our show kinda helped bring life to the world of a cappella, which has always been kind of a cult thing. There’s a lot of a cappella groups out there, they’ve always existed, but I think that the show really helped with its exposure, and I was very proud to be a part of that,” he said.
Stockman said he plans to continue touring and recording with Boyz II Men, but he is also hoping to be able to take his solo music on the road, provided there is enough demand from fans.
“I live in the real world. So all I can do is my best, have fun doing it — I’m definitely going to do that, I’m gonna enjoy this, I’m gonna enjoy the moments I do have on stage, and I think that people are going to enjoy it too, once they see it. And after that, it’s in God’s hands, I just hope for the best.”