“Every experience you could possibly want, you have it here
"I had a guy come up to me at the Brooklynite once and he said 'You just took me back to '95 in Paris when I was at a club and they were playing house music.' I love when people come up to me and share how much they enjoy the music," says Stephanie Villa, a.k.a DJ Soul Stairs.
"You're showcasing someone else's music," she says of the DJ craft, "You're curating something for someone. You're creating an experience."
Stephanie's musical influences as a child inspired a lot of the music she creates now. She grew up listening to Al Green, the OJs, and strong female vocalists like Tina Turner and Diana Ross. The music of her childhood blended with the contemporary house music she experienced in her native El Paso and later in New York where she honed her skills as a DJ.
She can frequently be heard along Houston Street venues, a thoroughfare long known for its performing arts. "I like how unique each venue on Houston Street is," says Soul Stairs.
Stephanie Villa, aka DJ Soul Stairs stands for a portrait at the Maverick Apartments. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The Last Word is where you can find her on every second Saturday and she recently brought her talents to Rosella at the Rand, one of Houston Street's newest additions. "You can have students in there working on homework while drinking a coffee or you can have someone who's in there for happy hour. It gives you a mix."
Soul Stairs doesn't just visit Houston Street, she lives it at the new Maverick Apartments. For her it's great living downtown because it's not only where she works, it where she unwinds.
"I walk everywhere. I go around the corner to have a drink, have dinner." She enjoys downtown life and has ever since she lived in New York. "But we didn't have those awesome guys from Centro in New York," she adds, referring to the Centro San Antonio Ambassadors, "That's nice to have, you feel safe."
The Maverick Apartments seen from the corner of Houston Street and Presa Street. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
DJ Soul Stairs uses her platform to help make her industry feel more inclusive and safe for everyone. "What I recently started was a project called Secret Location. It's an all-female DJ collective and we provide a platform for female talent." It's important to her that women feel included in a historically male-dominated industry. "I want to provide a platform where people are open to collaborating, learning, and supporting each other."
There's certainly a spirit of collaboration in Soul Stairs' music. She took her parents' love of Al Green and Tina Turner and fused it with modern house music trends. "Just like how in my track selection I want the old and the new," she says, "I think San Antonio is the same way. I think we do want to be that 'Puro San Antonio' and be authentic but we're also open to change."
She says she can see this blending of historic and contemporary in the Downtown landscape: "I think it's the business owners who are allowing us to do that, who are helping shape the way Downtown is growing and where it's going."
And for Stephanie, it's the community downtown that is working together on that future. "I think San Antonians should come Downtown to support local, whether that's a farmer's market or the house music scene," she says, "Every experience you could possibly want, you have it here in Downtown."