Dylan Stephens AKA Hookerlegs is a Nashville-based EDM artist and androgynous model, spending his time between New York – where he dons outlandishly beautiful clothing for high fashion shoots, graces a runway or two, and occasionally makes an appearance in a Beyonce video – and Nashville – where he focuses on creating new musical and performance pieces for his stage persona Hookerlegs. Followed by fashion royalty including Marc Jacobs and Katie Eleanor Grand’s Love Magazine on Instagram, Stephens is clearly trailblazing his own path to fashion and musical stardom. INDIE asked him some questions about how he does it.
Let’s start with an obvious question: where did a stage name like Hookerlegs come from?
Hookerlegs is reclamation. It’s a space to own everything about yourself and everything that’s happened to you, and commodify that at your discretion. Selling your story your way. It kinda just happened when I was living in LA. I was listening to “Government Hooker” by Lady Gaga on repeat and I woke up the next day, went to a shoot, and everyone was calling me “Legs.” It clicked! I decided, that’s where my confidence and power comes from: Hookerlegs.
In a past interview with Reanne Rubenstein, you discussed your love of fashion and designing clothes. What came first to you, your love of fashion, or your love of music?
Personally, it’s always been about creative expression, and growing up in a rural town in Tennessee, I didn’t have many points of reference. I think consciously my love for fashion came first, watching fashion shows religiously on YouTube, getting my first Vogue subscription, and so on. But subconsciously, music was always there as a means for figuring out how I was feeling when I couldn’t express it. In my mind, all avenues of creativity go hand in hand within a finished product. What does this moment sound like? Where are you in the world? How should listening or looking at this make you feel? I think these are questions that every creative asks themselves regardless of medium. Everything I do is about the harmony between audio and visual.
As well as an artist, you’re also a successful model. In what way do you feel that the experiences you’ve had in the fashion industry affect the way you have created your music and musical persona?
Working as a model, I really came to understand the process that goes into the fantasy. The reality of hard work and teamwork builds this sense of hyper reality. Modeling also hooked me on the collaborative process. If I could create the job title, “collaborator” would be my dream job. Modeling also made me super self-aware, and not just of my physical being. It made me grateful. It’s where the confidence that built Hookerlegs was kindled. Suddenly, I was wearing things I never thought I would be able to wear, going places that I didn’t know were real, meeting people that I’d looked up to my entire life. Everything bad that comes with modeling I feel like personally was matched tenfold with positivity.
As a model, you’re very well-known for your androgynous looks. In what way do you feel the concept of androgyny affects your music?
Blurring lines has always been a hobby of mine. It’s never really something I think about. It’s just something organic to my process. When I went to school for audio engineering, I had absolutely no musical experience. I just went in with a lot of ideas and tried to make them happen. I feel like my music is an androgynous blend of my personal taste in the music I listen to and the personal almost journal-like music I make. Every time I’m in a session, I want to push myself into an unknown place. I think that’s what androgyny is for me. Going somewhere I’ve never been and feeling at home. It becomes less about gender or other polarized opposites, and it becomes about the middle ground. That’s where I build my reality.
Finally, Nashville is the centre of country and grassroots music in America. With a bevy of stripped-down, acoustic influences around every corner, how do you feel that growing up in such close proximity to Nashville has impacted the way you feel about new wave electronic and EDM music?
Nashville is amazing! And it has so many great secrets. I think being surrounded by such rooted and traditional sounds and ideologies for most of my life only made me want to reach out further and see what else I could touch. I found dance music. I found Donna Summer. I found Madonna. I found a new kind of spirituality. That’s what good electronic music is to me. It transcends. And now that I feel like I’ve found my space musically, I can look back on what makes traditional Nashville music great: songwriting. This town has some of the best songwriters in the world. It’s incredibly inspiring. And I’ve been settling more into the music scene here, co-writing with other songwriters, and finding that we are all writing and creating the same stories in different lenses. Who’s to say? Hookerlegs may go country.
Check out Hookerleg’s latest EP here.
Header image via Instagram