Scrunchie recently sat down with St. Louis singer-songwriter, Finnegan Stewart, for a chat about transitioning from athlete to aspiring musician, blowing up on social media, and proving that no goal in life is too far out of reach.
The 19 year old walked us through his latest release, Serotonin, highlighting the addiction present in even the most toxic relationships and playing on the metaphor of drug addiction. The single follows Stewart’s summer anthem, Lemonade and Ice Cream, while also providing a taste of what’s to come on his forthcoming EP.
With over 50,000 followers on TikTok, Finnegan Stewart showcases how creating quality digital content in today’s social media-driven world can bring you the recognition you’re aiming for, no matter how high you set the bar for yourself.
What’s your go-to gas station order?
I’d probably get a blue raspberry slushie and a bag of Lay’s barbecue chips, and that’s all I’d eat from a gas station, otherwise I’d get sick.
So, what’s your secret to becoming TikTok famous?
Consistency, I guess. I’m still trying to get even more followers. Do something you think would be entertaining for other people, and then do it until eventually the computer algorithm likes you. I kind of went into the videos with a goal in mind, but I didn’t expect it to go as fast as it’s gone. I thought I’d have maybe ten thousand followers by the end of the year. It’s been pretty cool so far.
How do you think that TikTok is changing the music industry, especially for young artists like yourself?
I think it’s making it a lot easier, along with all social media in general, to be an independent artist. You go back 20, 30 years ago, it would be really hard to be an independent artist. You wouldn’t be able to get out there, get as many eyes. But now, put out a really good song, put out a thirty second video, and boom, a million people can see it.
Do you think it poses a challenge as well? Does it make things more competitive?
It’s definitely very oversaturated, like you have to do a lot of things to stand out, as in make things look visually a lot better. On TikTok especially, a year or two ago, if there were a funny video that had crappy audio quality or visually wasn’t that good, it could still do really well and blow up, but now it has to be a funny concept and good lighting and good video, there’s a lot more that has to go into it to get the same results.
One of the cool things about Tiktok is that it has 800 million users, which is ludicrous compared to everything that was on the internet previously. It’s definitely a really cool market to try to use, but also a tricky tool sometimes.
Shout out some midwestern bands/music venues!
Bands, I’ll say Bleach. Post Sex Nachos. Bernie Sisters. Those are my favorite local bands, I would say. Bleach are some of my best friends, so I have to be a fan.
Your latest single “Serotonin” dropped earlier this summer, which discusses staying for the highs of a relatively toxic relationship even when you know it’s not good for you. How did this song come together and what was the process of writing it like?
I write a lot of music like, I’ll take a feeling like a happy one or a bad one and then really, really intensify it. So sometimes I’ll do an extreme, like someone will say one mean comment and I’ll write about how everyone hates me. But this was more, I took influence from multiple relationships and people I’ve interacted with. The idea behind the song was that love is like a drug, like it’s heroin. You get all this love from someone, and like a lot of drugs nowadays, you get addicted. It’s bad for you. That was the idea behind it. You love someone, you become an addict, it’s bad. I don’t really think that, but I thought it was a cool concept to explore throughout the song.
Your song “Serotonin” mentions Ritalin. If you’re comfortable sharing, do you have ADHD? If so, do you feel like this affects your creative process or how you relate to music?
I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but I have all of the symptoms. It could also just be that I’m very energetic and hyper. But I do have all this energy, and I feel like being able to go-go-go and do stupid stuff, that happens a little bit in the creative process.
You are a fairly recent convert from the athletics world to pursuing music seriously. How have you found balance between learning how to further improve your musical skills and releasing songs that satisfy you?
It’s definitely a challenge. When I put out a song, it’s generally a couple weeks from when I finish it to when it’s out, because of press and videos have to be made. But generally, by the time the song is actually out, I’ve already improved so much because I am a relatively new artist. I was doing sports up until six or seven months ago, I wasn’t even considering music as a full-time thing until now. I’ve only been singing and doing music for a few months now. It’s definitely a challenge. It’s kind of like, I have to get it to the best I can do at that moment, and then put it out, and then accept that in a few weeks it won’t be as good, but it’s the process and the evolution. I’m a perfectionist, so that’s probably the hardest part of doing it. It’s definitely a challenge.
Was there a specific moment that encouraged you to make the switch from athletics to music, or was that just always at the back of your mind?
I’ve always been doing music with my friends and making songs and messing around and such. As that was happening, as I was starting to do less sports and spending more time with my musical friends like Bleach and all those people, it just slowly pushed me towards trying actually doing it. I wrote a few songs, did some other stuff, and found out I really enjoyed it.
Being a fresh face in the music scene, have you ever struggled with imposter syndrome or self-doubt? What keeps you motivated during these periods?
I am a very overconfident individual, so I’ve never struggled with that. It’s more of just trying to get to know people within the scene, and finding the right connections to do the cool things I want to be able to do. That’s the main struggle that I’m personally at, trying to connect with people at venues who aren’t close, playing shows out of state and stuff like that. Those are the main issues I would probably say I have.
You’ve mentioned in a podcast earlier this year that you’d frequently jam with with the guys from Bleach and throw around lyrics (which also led to you spontaneously getting the chorus and verse down for “Lemonade and Ice Cream”). Would you say that some of the parts of songwriting come to you organically, or do you often find yourself picking at an idea until you get it right?
I don’t know how most people write songs, but I basically freestyle my songs. I’ll just have an idea or a feeling, I’ll grab whatever instrument is closest to me, generally it’s guitar, because I’m better at that, and then I’ll just open up a voice memo on my phone and I’ll sing. Sometimes I’ll go back and change a word or a melody or decide to do a cool little switch, stuff like that. I would say I write eighty to ninety-five percent of the song the first take I do.
It’s pretty organic for me, probably because I’ve been messing around and writing songs in this freestyle, organic way for years and years and years. It is definitely a cool skill. Whenever I’m with friends, I’ll be like, “Give me a topic,” and I’ll write a cool thing about it and never remember it, but it’s always pretty cool.
The main reason I came to music in the first place is because I was having a really hard time in life, and it sort of just… writing songs made me feel better, so I’d write a lot of depressing, sad songs. Or, I was listening to a lot of Green Day so I’d write angry pop punk songs. Stuff like that. It would make me feel better. So doing that to make me feel better, it’s nice. It’s like therapy. So, what I’ve been doing recently, is just being like, “Alright, I have a feeling, I’m gonna write a song but I’m not gonna record it.” Just kind of have that little personal moment for myself.
Where do you hope to see yourself by this time next year?
I could say some really lofty goals. I’ll say my lofty goals, and then my realistic goals. Lofty, I wanna be between a million and two million followers on social media. I want to have a couple hundred thousand monthly listeners. I haven’t thought much past that. Realistic goals, probably a couple hundred thousand followers and the monthly listeners might be kind of realistic, I don’t know. That’s always the problem I have. I struggle between realistic or way over. But the problem is, most people don’t realize that the way over can become realistic. My goal for social media followers was ten thousand by the end of the year, and I broke that in like a month. So with one video, on the way the internet currently is, you can post one video and get a hundred thousand followers. So, it’s like, you could very easily do those crazy goals even before that time. It’s kind of a weird time and a weird place to set goals, so I would say aim as high as you can and run with it.