When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many of us suffered financial hardships. Many people struggled during these times of uncertainty, as humanity dealt with the global epidemic and the new normal. Gifted violinist Stephen Neil found himself struggling with the loss of gigs. He felt helpless at the time.
At the same time people struggled to adjust to the new normal the world seemed crazier and crazier. Besides economic hardship many people faced, the country was divided and political unrest ensued. Protests filled the streets and at the same time that many took a stand against hatred, violence also occurred. It was in this turbulent national context that Stephen Neil was dreaming up a new album and soon within which he soon found himself a protagonist.
Neil was out to dinner one night in Wilton Manors with his love, and they began to hear honking horns and screams. The anti-gay sentiments the crowd was shouting inspired Neil. Neil knew he had to arm himself with three things in order to face down the angry rabble. So he went and grabbed his amp, violin, and love from his heart and began to play.
He played the title track of the album, a cover of “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” to overpower the angry crowd and show them who he was inside. “I wanted to combat them with love.” Stephen Neil remarked as he recalled the terrifying, but epiphanic evening. It was at that moment, he realized he needed to make an album that felt personal.
The night he faced the anti-LGBT throng, he tackled, to some extent his own personal demons. His previous doubts, uncertainties, and sadness turned into determination and inspiration for him to make the album “This Is Me.”
He had a desire to convey transparency about his person and his sexuality. The electric violinist wanted to show love to those who misjudged him based on his sexuality. “This is Me” is an aural reflection of the artist’s self-discovery. It is a testament to self-love and finding yourself, no matter what obstacles you may be facing. Initially Neil was working solely on his ten-song Celtic album, entitled “Celtic Spirit”. Amazingly, he completed both “Celtic Spirit” and “This Is Me” in a matter of months! You can purchase both albums on his website, or on Itunes.
“This is Me” is a beautiful work that sings to your soul without a single word spoken. You will enjoy electric hauntingly beautiful violin playing accompanied by piano, and lilting EDM beats. The album is perfect for classical and popular music lovers alike. Your heart will be moved and transformed to the soaring melodies. Hear the soul of the artist through reinvented covers that feel revitalized and new and enjoy one exciting original. These are some highlights from the album.
This is a heartfelt arrangement, as Stephen Neil sings with his violin. You can hear the artist’s vulnerability, warmth, and determination. The violin serenades with classical sensibilities and a folksy soul. Listen to the heart of the artist shine through. Feel love, accepted, and find your place in the world, as your ears take in the beauty of this cover.
“Breakthrough” is Stephen Neil’s first released original song! It is the most electronically driven track on the album, and is a fusion of EDM and classical melismas.
Neil’s Never Enough is one of the most beautiful versions of this song. It makes you understand that when you feel like you aren’t good enough, you desperately want to connect and find your place within the world. The emotion is intense, as the violin sings and ascends melodically.
“This is Me” was recorded at Sit-N-Spin Studios in South Carolina. Collaborators of the album include Eric Alsford on the piano and production assistance by Daniel Gregory. Stephen Neil is part of the world-renowned group Synergy Twins with his brother, Jeff.
Stephen Neil began his start as a musician when he cosmically found a violin in the closet. It was crafted by his great-grandfather, who was a blacksmith in Pennsylvania and played by his grandfather. He went on to become an internationally acclaimed artist, performing for celebrities such as Michael Jordan and Kathy Lee. “This is Me” however shows who he is as a person, it takes mere moments to feel his kind and compassionate soul as the love shines through in this breathtakingly beautiful musical album.
Photos: Jonathan Givens with Entertainment Photography Specialists
Megan Rebecca is a classical pianist, singer, composer, writer and music promoter. She holds a Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in Piano Performance. As a performer, Megan has played at many local venues and theaters as both a classical and contemporary performer. She has performed at clubs such as the Open Stage Club in Coral Gables, Jazid in South Beach, and has given recitals at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Megan Rebecca is active in the music community as a performer and arts activist and has published articles on music, education and travel. She has also published a thesis comparing and contrasting the music of Disney and Japanese anime.