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“I do it for those who need it.”

In just eight words, Fydele sums up the reason he makes music.

Yes, it’s fulfilling for him, but what the 21-year-old from Garfield Park really wants to do is connect. Connect with an audience the way his favorite artists have inspired him. The way his favorite artists have helped him through tough times.

“I feel like I see and have seen so much pain in people. I just think, ‘What if I could connect with them? What if I could be that positive reinforcement in their life that encourages them to keep going and push through?”

If it sounds like Clarence Stewart, who performs under the name Fydele, is taking on too much, just know he doesn’t mind. His core values of empathy, understanding, and loyalty are embedded in him, developed over his own years of grief and hardship. His own pain has become his motivator, both in life and his music.

“My mom is my greatest inspiration. She started her own business after battling cancer for years. Even as she worked hard to keep the business going, she took time to visit cancer treatment centers and tent cities, giving care packages to others battling something, and to those in need.” Clarence shares, brimming with pride as he shares these memories. “But it came back. It came back quickly, and after a couple of misdiagnoses, she was gone.

His tone doesn’t change as he revealed how their time together ended. “I’ve made peace with it. Trust me, there were many nights of frustration, no sleep, anger at the doctors who misdiagnosed her. But I decided I’m going to honor her by living. And just like my mom, I want to use my time here to give back.”

Clarence started his musical journey as a method of coping with grief after losing his cousin years earlier, but with his mother now gone, it became his purpose. He credits some of his favorite artists (J Cole, Mac Miller) with “saving his life,” which taught him the power music has on those going through hardships.

“My first project was called 1:11, named for my Mom’s favorite scripture. It was an album about mental health, and I wrote it right after she passed. It was a self-healing album, but I hoped it would speak to others going through something similar.”

Clarence learned a lot from his first effort. He learned about the writing and recording process, as well as the direction he wanted his follow-up project to go.

“I released my newest project on March 5th of this year. It’s called “Clare”. It’s obviously associated with my name, but it’s also a play on the word “clear”. It’s about having a clear vision of life, and what it takes to get there”.

The front-to-back concept album details the journey of a young person navigating the early years of adulthood. The main character, loosely based on Clarence himself, begins the 8-track EP thinking life will be easy, that making it in music is easy, that stardom is glitz and glamour. As the character is faced with more and more of the adversity real life brings, he has to learn that the only way forward is forward, and the best way to continue onward is to do so humbly, with positivity and perspective.

With this approach to life and music, Clarence was naturally drawn to SocialWorks and its series of Open Mic Nights called OpenMike, a tribute to the great Brother Mike, the mentor that inspired Chance The Rapper both to make music and to do so with community and care at the heart of it.

“I’ve been to several OpenMikes now. I love them. Every time I go, I feel surrounded by people like me, people using their voices to share thoughtful ideas in a way that connects with the audience.”

Clarence had been to a few OpenMike’s before Fydele first made his debut. Another OpenMike featured artist alum, Young(In). He encouraged Clarence to come and even signed him up because Clarence was running late. Of course, the moment Clarence walked in, Fydele was called to the stage. With no time to adjust to the setting or settle any nerves, he walked right up to the stage and let it rip. As is the case with most OpenMike spotlight stories, the crowd loved it, made Clarence feel accepted, and led to more opportunities for collaboration and exposure. It went so well that Fydele is already planning out his next performance.

“For the next one, I am going to perform something from Clare. There’s a song called “Sometimes”. It’s about a time when I was really low while on my way to work. A stranger, an older man, walked up to me and tried to cheer me up by sharing his own story of pain and loss, but he kept pushing and now has found his own peace. It felt like fate. All I want to do is connect with people that need to hear what I have to say. This man showed me how easy it can be. So I’m moving forward”.

Check out Fydele at upcoming OpenMikes, brought to you by SocialWorks.

Stream Clare here:

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