In just over a month, Spencer Battiest has toured 25 cities as part of a group of 2015 rising stars in the music industry. He says he has three music videos coming this year, along with more concerts. With his four-track EP, “Stupid in Love,” released in October, Battiest delivers listeners a small dose from what he likens to a personal diary.
“I'm an emotional writer, so I write about what I know,” Battiest told ICTMN. “I tend to write about love and relationships and loss and family and experiences that I've [had]. That's the only way I know how to write songs.” The album, his first since being the first Native American signed to Hard Rock International Records in 2014, showcases his deep-rooted, American Indian gospel-transformed-to-contemporary pop/rock sound.
From Sept. 21 to Oct. 23, Battiest promoted his work at high schools in Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee. Hundreds of teens turned out for each show, which he said was exciting, because, “They’re America’s biggest consumers right now when it comes to new artists and pop music.”
Defying stereotypes has been a challenge, says Battiest, who has utilized his singing experiences to address misconceptions about Native Americans by talking to fans after shows. “It’s still astounding to me that it’s 2015 and it’s still up to people like me to educate non-Natives as to where we stand as human beings,” he says. “As an artist, I try not to limit myself by saying I’m a Native artist or ‘this is who I am.’”
Last year, the Battiest Choctaw Indian family celebrated a century of gospel musical heritage. “We have over four generations of singers and entertainers,” he says. In 2011, he and his brother Zack, also known as Doc, were awarded Best Music Video of the Year at the American Indian Film Festival for “The Storm,” a blend of hip hop and R&B that portrayed the struggles of survival of the Seminole people.
Along with his gospel roots, Battiest cites Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler as musical inspirations as a youth growing up on the Seminole Indian Reservation in a gated Hollywood, Florida community. “I wanted to be a part of that world,” he said. “That’s where my family is. My home base will always be on my reservation.”
Spencer Battiest performing during the High School Nation Tour in Madison, Alabama
Battiest is looking forward to pushing the bar further in 2016. “I want to have a voice in mainstream radio,” he says, “and I’ll never stop striving for that.”
Stupid in Love is available on iTunes.
Follow ICTMN’s Cary Rosenbaum on Twitter:@CaryRosenbaum