Stanaj made his second appearance performing in Chicago at Concord Music Hall-even under the weather-he was a crowd pleaser to a sold out show.
On his first national tour with JOJO headlining-he is perfecting his craft as a live performer with 30 stops remaining.
In between this demanding schedule-Stanaj was able to speak on his new found fame as rising Star.
So, where are you from?
I am from the great city of New York.
How did you get started in the music business?
Straight out of high-school and really since 3 years old-I have been doing music-my family was doing music. Growing up is all I knew. My brother’s were in an Albanian band. So it’s was always around the house-music, music, music. At 16 or 17 I decided not to go to college to pursue a career in music.
About a year and half ago-with the support of family-decided drive to California with no real plan and ended up at the Azul Inn in Santa Monica. From there started singing at local karaoke bars-trying to be seen as much as possible.
One day I was singing at an open mic and there was basketball player Brandon Jennings in the audience. He then posted me on his Instagram-which started the whole thing-a snowball effect with me being posted on different Instagram profiles like Kim Kardashian and Chris Brown-which ended up being me performing in Drake’s living room.
How have you been able to deal the sudden awareness and publicity?
it’s been crazy because all of this happened before even recording one song. Definitely, definitely crazy-with me actually being signed to my Republic Records in November 2015 and finally getting into the studio-it’s taken me a couple of months to actually get used to what was happening.
I just recorded my first EP ‘The Preview’ back in August. The whole thing behind this project is people having never heard of me before-creating something to show people who I am as an artist and who I am personally. With just 4 songs-I wanted it to be like a movie-cinematic soul-taking you through a journey-happy, sad to straight up fun.
My first national break through came performing ‘Ain’t Love Strange’ on Jimmy Fallon-which was pretty freakin’ sick to do.
Performing on jimmy Fallon-what was that like?
Super, super crazy…in particular growing up everybody knew of Jimmy Fallon. And on top of it my favorite artist ever and role model-Justin Timberlake was on the same episode. He was in my dressing room and he started bowing. He told me my voice was insane, and that he was a big fan.
To hear that from Justin Timberlake and then go and perform in front of a couple million people live on television-was a super world wind of emotions.
Are you ok with your sound being compared to Justin?
Being compared to one of my favorite artists in the world is nothing but a complement. I try to incorporate what he was able to do with his sound and other artists from the 90’s like Boyz to Men, Brian McKnight and Musiq SoulChild.
I try to incorporate that R&B style vocally with a more pop vibe.
What gave you inspiration for your EP ”From a Distance” is it a reflection of your life?
It came from living in the moment. Songs of what was happening through the year and how I felt. I just came along that way.
My favorite songs are love songs. With Ain’t Love Strange-is a story where you can’t explain it to Bad Woman about that girl who has your card. Those experiences will trap you in there-women who will give you a run for your money.
Being on the road with the tour keeps me very busy-so your boy is currently single.
What can your fans expect to see in your live shows?
Right now it’s me, a guitarist and a drummer. The show now is a lot of fun and open. There’s a lot of hands up in the air-vibing out and enjoying it. It a big party. We’re not afraid to get out there and dance a little bit while singing love songs!
With the melodic quality of Stanaj’s vocal range-he keeps at it-fans will grow to embrace him like his predecessors he’s modeled himself after.
Go see his show and buy his album-then press play and repeat!