At 9, Steve “Stone” Huff knew his calling was creating music in a way that would be the cornerstone of his life. Growing up in Evanston, Ill—a suburb north of Chicago, he would build his spiritual foundation at Faith Temple COGIC under the guidance of Pastor Carlis L. Moody, Jr.
Since his father purchased his first bass guitar at an auction, Huff has climbed through the musical rank and file, writing and producing for some of the best soulful vocalists in the business. His platinum discography reads like a “who’s who” in Gospel and R&B royalty from The Winans, Shirley Ceasar, Yolanda Adams, Fred Hampton, Joe, Kelly Rowland, The Isley Brothers, R. Kelly and Avant—among others.
When did you know that music was embedded in your life’s journey?
We had the big console where there was an 8-track, radio and turntable to the side. I just remembered within my own self, I had this belief that there were people in the box. I don’t know about frequencies because I was too young. I would tell my mom and dad there was people in there. They tried to convince me that wasn’t the case. One Saturday, I got my father’s screwdriver and unscrewed the back of the radio and took every piece out. When I looked in and saw the transistors and wires, I was so disappointed. In that moment, I realized that music was something I was fascinated with and wanted to do all my life.
Did you feel you would ever make it this far in the music business?
Sometimes I think back, and I recall how blessed I am to be first given the gift of music and then to go into music. We’re crazy and already certified nuts to make a decision to go into any form of entertainment. I’ve been very fortunate with success throughout my journey to be able to do what I love. I thank God for that.
Take us back to your first song placement? For those who are aspiring songwriters who are in their home studios or creating beats on their laptop, they may not know how to get the songs out there to be heard.
I was told to study hit records so when you hear a Top 40 record, don’t listen to it as a song but break it down from the instruments to the bass, to the drums to the strings to the background parts. Coming in and going out, changes and bridges. So, I was blessed to have some musical people around me to give me that information. I went on the R. Kelly tour where I met my manager—Eric Payton. After we got off tour, I bumped into him at Michigan and Ohio. He told me he had an artist named Avant. He pulled over and let me hear his demo. He got him on the phone because he’s in Cleveland. I said, ‘Man, I love your voice.’ Immediately, Avant started singing on the phone.
We did our first song a month later. My manager took the record to WGCI and Elroy Smith added it. After it started blowing up locally, it started to spread. Magic Johnson had just did a deal with MCA Records, who had declined a deal with us. Maybe a month later, they did a big deal with Magic. Magic’s assistant heard the record. As far as the first song placement, it was that “Separated” that sparked it.
I started in Gospel and went to R&B. It was crazy. Now things have changed. It’s still about a great song, a great subject, a great production and just relentless pursuit of trying to get it in. Or get someone to hear it. Socially, you can release your own stuff now. It boils down to a great song.
Can you tell us about your new album iPromise as an artist?
When I made the decision to do it, people asked, “do you feel like giving up?” Yes, every day. But, I’m an avid believer of finishing what you start. As I got closer to finishing three or four songs, it started sounding legitimate. That is what gave me the confidence to finish the album. I didn’t talk to anybody, I shot a video for what I thought would be the first single, “Dancing With the Stars.” I met with Derrick Brown at V103 and he listened and said it was awesome. He said the song made him forget about all the obscurities that he was dealing with at work.
Two weeks later he was playing it on the radio. A couple of other stations called about the record. They heard about me, so people started calling. There was a guy who had a relationship with Empire Distribution and later we did a deal.
That was very emotional for me because programmers hear music all day long. They have to deal with telling people their song isn’t great. For Derrick to invoke the emotion and be transparent with me—he wasn’t sad, he was glad.
I was confident in the product but that just let me know, when God tells you to do something—you do it. Sometimes, you may not know why you’re doing it. If you follow through, He will show you why you are doing it.