As an artist, it’s safe to say that there’s nothing more exhilarating than watching your long-envisioned, creative brainchild come to life.
Such is the case for Tulsa’s Stephen Speaks, with the release of their first major studio album, Age of the Underdog, set for this month.
“I’ve had the idea for this album since 2007, and once I heard it in my head it was a matter of finding the right players. The musicianship overall is much more professional than previous albums. Although the musicians have played with the best in the world, they were chosen for specific sounds, not their big names,” explains Stephen Speaks’ driving force, Rockwell Ryan Ripperger.
“The album is quite different from anything I’ve done in the past. I wanted a hip-hop foundation with real instruments, with a dirty slide guitar. It’s more rock and roll and pop.”
Producing under his own label, Rippley Records Inc. since age 15, Ripperger founded Stephen Speaks in 2000 with a couple of friends.
Many years and numerous albums later, he estimates that he has had more than 100 different friends and musicians come in to the band and play with him.
The band’s changing dynamic has become a central hub in its individual appeal and sound, leaving it open as a project beyond just one specific group of people.
“I try to work with anyone I meet that’s talented. As I’ve evolved as a musician, so have the musicians around me, so there is always opportunity to get with older guys who are better, but at the same time, I like to work with people who are coming into their own,” he says.
“The mix of experienced and new people gives Stephen Speaks a sense of familiarity and innocence – and I always want to keep it that way.”
Within his writing, Ripperger expresses a yearning to connect with others, an aspect that he believes is one of the most crucial parts of music.
“I think it’s important to be in touch with the center of human emotion, and what I think is that there are certain universal truths. I really try to focus on those when I write,” Ripperger says.
“I want to create something that other people can relate to. Almost all the songs on my albums before Age of the Underdog have been predominantly love songs, and I believe that this new album branches out on much more.”