The sun’s long, lazy rays were coming in through the Newman Alumni Center’s vast window on Friday evening, making for the proper setting as singer/ songwriter Greg Stamper filled the room with his smooth, jazzy pop songs. While not cocky, his Brooklyn confidence that carried through his expressive voice and unshy body language was just enough to convey the meaning behind his personal lyrics. Standing in the center of the room, he sang live over his studio tracks – no easy task without an earpiece. Despite this technical difficulty, he showed off his jazz-trained voice as he smoothly glided from note to note. His voice, not too sweet and not too bitter, attained that enviable balance of smooth chocolate ganache. He counterbalances his uplifting lyrics with soulful melodies that are the fruit of his own hardships.
Living up to his mission statement of writing music that “uplifts and inspires,” he turned a tragic moment in his career into a motivational song. He was at a point at which his fans were anticipating his soon to be released album when he lost everything in a hard-drive death. Taking the unfortunate loss as “some kind of crazy, sick sign” to give up his dream, he spent his days working as a computer engineer. He was in the computer room working on a server when he heard a song singing the words that he attributes to his return to music: Never giving up, I won’t throw in the towel, Even if I’ve lost I can still be found. He says of his own song, written for the purpose of affecting that same trigger in other people, “I was writing that for me but I also wrote it in the sense that I know what you’re going through, but you know what? Don’t give up”.
Embodying the rough and smooth waves that make his career exciting, he starts out his songs still as lakes and progressively crescendos their intensity using harmonic variations in chorus repetitions. Just as he builds up a song, he warms up his audience as the track begins playing with the background story of the song. But regardless of the moment in the song, he is always eager to accentuate pivotal moments with spontaneous arm gestures and brow furrows. Mid-song, he extends out his arms to his audience to share the “gift” that he says he tries to give to his audience through his music. He agrees with Quincy Jones who describes songwriting as a channel: “It’s not an ego-deal, its not about my songs, it comes through me. Songwriting is about listening, staying open”.
Indeed, Greg always stays open and attuned to his audience. He asked them to snap to the beat and sing along with the background vocals. To honor the women in the room, he even asked all the girls to stand and strut their stuff on an imaginary runway.
“I believe that women aren’t celebrated enough in this society. I believe that women are here to usher us into the new age,” he said enthusiastically.
However, Mr. Stamper proved his talent extends beyond audience charisma and vocal expression when his fingers slid like feet dancing to the groovy swing beat on a jazz club floor. Without ever glancing down at his fingers, he sings a respectfully loyal, but individualistic version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Freshmen Kayla Miguel and Nick Raft, who organized the event for their literature class project, said their favorite song was the one he performed on the piano. A musician himself, Professor Giovanni Turner assigned the challenge to bring in a musician from a list he provided from which the two students chose Stamper for both his music and persona.
Senior Aaron Midden, who particularly enjoyed the “calming and relaxing” quality of the evening, said Stamper’s passion was his most salient characteristic.
“He didn’t even have to try to come across as being passionate, it was just there,” Midden said.
Greg Stamper wastes no time feigning, he just follows the advice of his own track “Go.” And man, does he go.