The whole story is almost unbelievable until you hear Stanaj sing. Before ever touting a proper single, the 22-year-old New York-born singer garnered glowing social media endorsements from Kim Kardashian West, Russell Simmons, Chris Brown, and NBA star Brandon Jennings among others. He also performed at Coachella prior to releasing any original music, sang on Dancing with the Stars, played Drake's piano at the YOLO Estate, and landed a record deal with LAVA/REPUBLIC.
"My family says I'm the luckiest person ever," he laughs. "Like Forrest Gump, I'm always in the right place at the right time. I've been on a hot streak lately, but my father always told me and my siblings growing up the harder you work somehow the luckier you will become!"
In actuality, luck has nothing to do with it. Born to Albanian immigrants and raised in the Big Apple, Stanaj started singing as soon as he could speak, and he hasn't stopped. By 8-years-old, he appeared in his first Albanian music video before going on to perform at festivals in Europe and the U.S. As a senior in high school, he tinkered with "Fall For Your Type" by Jamie Foxx and Drake on the family piano and made the switch to singing in English. Inspired by Maxwell, Justin Timberlake, and more, the budding artist spent nearly a year performing at every karaoke bar, lounge, and open mic that he could before coming to a realization: "My brother/manager Mark and I decided to drive to California and just figure it out in late December of 2014," he recalls. "We packed up our bags, hopped in our car, and drove west with no plan. When we got there, I sang everywhere. Since I wasn’t 21 it was hard to get into a lot of these venues, so I would try to become friendly with owners/promoters/bartenders even sing for them outside of the bar or club in hopes of convincing them to just give me an opportunity to perform!"
Brandon Jennings caught one of those performances and uploaded a clip online. In the aftermath, Stanaj quickly gained 15,000 followers on Instagram. As his name spread, that number would approach 300K by only a year later. Soon, the likes of Complex were writing about him, and LAVA offered him a recording contract in early 2016. He'd jet across the pond with his other brother/manager David to work on new music in England with the likes of Fraser T. Smith [Adele, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding], Michael Angelo [Sam Smith, Snoop Dogg], Two Inch Punch [Brian Eno, Jessie Ware], among others.
Now, Stanaj’s singular sound adds an edge to pop soul punctuated by a delightful nod to nineties R&B. Songs like "Romantic" see his voice instantly seduce over stirring, sparse production.
"It's going to get some people pregnant," he laughs. "Musically, it's got these minor chords, but the lyrics are very positive and genuine. It recounts all of these great things this girl makes me want to do."
Even if you don't get pregnant, Stanaj's voice will make you believe in him.
"Singing live is my favorite thing ever," he leaves off. "I love to transfer that emotion. You can make someone laugh or cry. It's like a superpower."