Stephonne Singleton, born and raised in Wyandotte County, Kansas, has mixed music and theater in his Kansas City arts career. Now 32, he’s sung in drag as Kita Rose, he’s sung under his own name, and he’s performed in several Late Night Theatre plays.
“Late Night Theatre is my favorite place in the whole wide world,” he says, “and the support and opportunity Ron [Megee], Jessica [Dressler] and Chadwick [Brooks] give me has fed me so much as an artist and has nurtured me to be able to fully express myself on a stage.”
Late Night is not his first foray into theater.
“I did a lot of theater when I was in high school,” he says. “When I got to college, it was different for me, and I didn’t really get too into it. Then when it got to the city, I was really interested, but never was able to get the information I needed about how to audition. I didn’t know anything about the business, how to get the headshot or any of that kind of stuff. So it all seemed pretty, like, far away for me.”
Another part of theater for him was performing in drag for the first time, Singleton said. “I think being a drag queen at Missie B’s was the first thing that actually was a step in that direction.”
“I used to be afraid of drag queens,” Singleton says. He attributes his start in drag performance to Genewa Stanwyck and the late Connie Carlysle, who asked him to perform in their Manic Monday show at Missie B’s. “That’s when it all started. Kita Rose was born.”
Singleton lives in midtown Kansas City. When not recording or performing in Late Night plays, Singleton works at his day job as an event coordinator and manager for Home Advisor in Lenexa, Kansas.
He majored in music at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas.
Singleton writes his own music, and he said that he’s not technically a musician, but mainly a vocalist.
“I play the piano enough to write. I’m not Alicia Keys. Maybe someday,” he laughed.
He released his first album, Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard, in 2018. This month, he is releasing his new single, “Want Me.” (See Monica Soto’s review in Musicality http://campkc.com/2019/03/30/musicality-stephonne-vassy-sigrid-lauv-troye-sivan/.)
Singleton attributes his love of music to his family. Much of his musical background, he says, was also formed by singing in his church choir.
“I was surrounded by records, and my parents always had music on. … She would, like, turn on Luther Vandross, or Anita Baker, or all of these artists. We had Barbra Streisand records, Beatles records, the Isley Brothers. I remember watching Lady Sings the Blues [a film about jazz singer Billie Holliday] and I was, like, 7. I lived in a super musical world.”
He expects to move more toward releasing singles rather than entire albums.
“I love albums. I grew up on albums, listening from the start to the finish and everything. And I love that about my first album, but it is such an expense, such an undertaking. Especially when you factor in the studio time rates, musician arrangements, mixing, getting everything exactly the way it’s meant to sound. I really wanted to just be able to release more content and be more in control of my narrative. I’ll probably release three to four singles this year and try to do some videos for at least two of those and just keep whetting appetites. I’m not saying I won’t be writing for an album – and most of these songs released this year might make that album – but if it hits me, it hits me and it just happens organically. And if not, I’m not going to do it until it’s funded by a major windfall,” he said, laughing.
Singleton said that his new release was also made possible by his co-producer, Justin Mantooth. Recorded at Westend Recording Studios, the track features Johnny Hamil on bass, Ben Byard on guitar and Adam McKee on drums.
“I’ve never felt this confident in myself or my music before,” Singleton says. “My first album is my baby, but I haven’t felt anything as visceral, connected and urgent as this music feels. I’m ready to truly show who I am.”
Singleton said that fans can support his recording of more new singles, upcoming touring, distribution and promotion by donating at www.gofundme.com/Stephonne.
“Every bit helps,” he says, “because as an independent artist, I don’t have Adele’s resources. It’s all me, without any label backing. Me and my listeners are my label right now, and I’m so excited to make them proud with this new material.”
“Want Me” will be released worldwide in late April on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and all digital/streaming platforms. For updates, shows, and more, visit www.stephonne.com!