The 19-year-old nabbed a Grammy nomination, as well as a production credit on the new Kendrick Lamar LP – using only his phone.

Steve Lacy spent his early teenage years longing for a laptop he could create music on. A Macbook Pro, specifically. Four years passed – birthdays, Christmas – nothing. When he finally got his hands on a 6th-generation iPod touch, he made the most of it, digging deep into the App Store and fiddling endlessly with many of the music-making platforms available for the device.

His initial output was shaky, but as he spent more time tapping out drum patterns and layering vocals (directly into his phone’s mic), he found his sound, eventually hooking up an iRig and plugging a guitar and bass straight into his phone. He’d record demos in GarageBand, sometimes bouncing them out to upload to Soundcloud. He slowly gained some traction and new fans, and subsequently found himself in the studio with a friend’s group, The Internet.

At first he was just hanging around, gleaning production tips while watching the sessions. But the group needed a bass player, so he stepped in, gelling with the rest of the crew immediately. After these jams yielded songs and those songs coalesced into an album, he found himself in the credits of a Grammy-nominated record. It was the vote of confidence he needed, and he decided then and there to pursue music full-time. He still didn’t have a laptop.

The one big advantage of making and storing all your music on your handset? You’ve always got it with you. This came in handy when he met Kendrick Lamar, and he didn’t hesitate to play the world’s most acclaimed rapper some of his beats, straight out of his cracked phone’s speakers. It went over well, but he never expected one of his tracks to make the cut for Kendrick’s DAMN., the most celebrated hip-hop album of 2017. But there it was.

He’s since released his solo debut, collaborated with many more big-name artists, and given this recent TEDxTeen talk about his journey thus far.

WIRED wrote a feature on Lacy back in April 2017, and it’s well worth a read. Here’s one of the best parts:


Even now, with all the equipment and access he could want, he still feels indelibly connected to something about making songs piece by piece on his phone. He’s also working this way to prove a point: that tools don’t really matter…He wants to remind people that the performance, the song, the feeling matter more than the gear you use to record it. If you want to make something, Lacy tells me, grab whatever you have and just make it. If it’s good, people will notice.

Ever feel like you could do what you really wanted to, if only you had that new piece of gear, that out-of-your-price-range plugin, or the studio time to get the sound just right? Maybe it’s more about making the most of what you do have.

Thoughts? Do you let yourself get derailed by needs – ones that are maybe just wants? Let us know in the comments.