Sean Stemaly Talks His Debut Record and His Beginnings

Sean Stemaly hails from what he calls “Kentuckiana,” a word that he has tattooed on himself that hints at his beginnings: the southern part of Indiana that borders Western Kentucky. Stemaly is didn’t always know if pursuing music was in the cards for himself being from such a small town as he tells The Nash News, “I mean, like with anybody else, there was doubters at first and I don’t blame ‘em. Where I’m from, nobody does this. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one,”  he states. He continues on, “My mom always believed in me, ‘cause she’s a mom, but there was definitely some doubts from even my closest friends, and that’s okay, but now it’s totally opposite. It’s like anything else when you prove yourself. It’s just like any other job. You just gotta go out and work your way up the totem pole and keep climbing’ until you finally get there.”

Since he started that climb and made the move to Music City, he’s received over 113 million streams to date and has also toured with artists like Brantley Gilbert and Justin Moore. He’s even mentioned getting advice from Chris Young and fellow Big Loud artist, HARDY. Last week, his debut record Product Of A Small Town was released; the project features storytelling that centers around its title. Stemaly sings about what it’s like to be shaped by a small area and surely people relate; when it was released it rose to the No. 1 spot on the country album chart on iTunes.

Out of the 14 tracks, Stemaly has writing credits on over half of them with eight songs to his name. His lyrics are what he calls, “super-specific” with references to farms, back roads, horses, and Chevys. The detailed lyricism he speaks of is perfectly captured in “Love Me Like Kentucky” when he sings, “And I cut a path through the tobacco field / She knows to pick me up when I get lonely / And her moonshine silhouette’s there on the riverbank right now / Dancing to a night song and we’ll be dancing all night long.” Stemaly proves he knows how to set a scene with the intimate stories he captures.

Although the other tunes that appear on the tracklist weren’t penned by him, they still need to resonate with him. “Most of the stuff that I cut is from my buddies,” he tells us. “They’ll send ‘em to me through text message, but I won’t cut an outside song unless I have that same feeling that I get whenever I write a song and I relate to it, you know, about a situation in my life. And every once in a while you’ll get one of those outside songs where you’re like, woah, I can’t believe I didn’t write this.” 

He uses the example of track 12 on his introductory record titled “As Far As I Know” which was penned by Hunter Phelps, Justin Wilson, and Sony Music recording artist Jameson Rodgers. When he first heard it, the words instantly stuck with him and reminded him of an experience from his teenage years. “Every little lyric detail is about a relationship I had when I was 18 and back then, it’s like the end of the world when you go through a breakup,” he explains.

Even though it’s clear writing is a big part of Stemaly’s artistry, he also raves about getting on stage, remarking that live shows are the highlight of his job. “That’s my favorite part about all this,” he exclaims, touching on the idea that he can help people forget about their worries for 90 minutes. He reminisces on the title track, “Product Of A Small Town,” and how even when it wasn’t released, people would be singing along by the second chorus and happily drink beer while shouting the prideful lyrics. When he thinks about the new ones he wants to play in person, he mentions the poignant and reflective “If Heaven Had A Weekend.” “It’s a build song, kind of like a Christian song is, and I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to a song like that,” he tells The Nash News. With the current splurge of success, Stemaly is on the bill to support Dustin Lynch this year on his ‘Party Mode Tour.’

All in all, Stemaly hopes his LP doesn’t just serve as music to its listeners, but an honest glimpse into Stemaly as a person. “It’s been my opportunity to tell my story in song format,” he states. “I just hope that they can get to know me and just know that I’m just like them. Just because I’m a singer doesn’t mean I’m above nobody. The only difference between me and the audience is that I got a different job.”

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