We recently caught up with singer songwriter Steffaloo on the heels of her sophomore LP and label debut, Would You Stay, via LA based Mush Records. And in addition to her collection of noteworthy collaborations, the album has found it’s way into steady rotation here at B3SCI headquarters this Fall. Get a look below at our conversation with Steffaloo about her next album, plans for SXSW 2013, the origins of her name and more.
B3SCI: Would You Stay is a standout release of 2012. And especially for a debut label release, how do you feel this album defines Steffaloo as an artist? Is there a message that you are looking to send to the world?
Steffaloo: Thank you! This album was really a big step for me I think, in a lot of ways. Not only is it my first release with a label, but I really tried to put a little more into each song than my previous work. I wanted the sound to be more full and developed. I have a long way to go for sure, but really feel like I just continue to learn a ton as I go along and hopefully that is coming out in my music. I think any artist’s hope is that their work/music speaks for itself as far as defining them. This is my hope at least. All I ever hope to communicate or give in my music is just me; something real and honest. Something brave.
B3SCI: Is there any special track on Would You Stay that you hold especially true to your heart?
Steffaloo: Well, I think the title track is probably the one that packs the most punch for me personally. It was just so defining as far as what I had been going through in life and where I was emotionally. It was really me learning to let go of things and move on into other, greater, things. The whole album is really that – me trying to navigate through a pretty defining moment in my life; trying to grow up and move beyond the past I suppose.
B3SCI: With the album’s minimal and largely acoustic nature, how do see the power of “song” cutting through the musical landscape that’s currently so heavy on new technology, sampling, effects and production? Especially given the short attention spans and flashy media bombardment of today’s society?
Steffaloo: I think this is a really interesting question because it never really crossed my mind when making the music I make, that people would see it as so minimalistic and raw. I think there’s a part of me that really just loves the simplicity of music a guitar and a voice. The artists i’ve really looked up to like Feist, Adele, Imogen Heap, have all had a very real and heartbreaking quality to them that always really moved me. I think it’s that same quality that the greats like Bob Dylan and the like had; just that ability to really tell a story or communicate something that people can really relate to without having to be the best singer on the planet or the even the best musician. I think for me that’s always been really impactful because it doesn’t take much to do this if what you’re saying is truly honest. I guess in my own music that’s something I’ve always really valued and so I’ve never felt the need to over complicate it with a lot of sound and noise. That, and I just honestly don’t know how to play the guitar as well as I’d like to ha, and that’s really pushed me to develop lyrically in ways I wouldn’t have. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a huge fan of a lot of the electronic music out there today, and obviously I love being a part of a great deal of it. There are a lot of electronic producers creating some really beautiful things that I really appreciate, and it just goes to show that there are so many different ways to accomplish creating something that really speaks to people. I’m really thankful to be able to be a part of both spectrums of that.
B3SCI: Having worked with artists like Blackbird Blackbird, Stumbeline & XXYYXX, what goes
into your collaboration choices? How have you identified such great projects?
Steffaloo: As the things I’ve found myself being a part of collaboratively has had a great deal to do with what really moves me, all these guys have had a quality in their music that has really made me feel something, and I think the more I feel a track the more it brings out the best in me. These guys have all made me look good! I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to work with such amazingly talented producers and artists and I’ve learned a ton from each of them. I think a lot of these projects have come out of a great willingness to just keep expanding as people and artists by trying new things and communicating new and shared ideas. There’s a really unique community we’ve all found online and in the blogosphere that has really become near and dear to my heart.
B3SCI: Is there anybody that you’re angling to work with at the moment?
Steffaloo: There’s always new people that I’d love to work with, it’s hard to keep up sometimes ha! It’s been neat to see a number of new female producers pop up like Empress Of, and Wall, I think it’d be a great change to work with one of them on something.
B3SCI: We love your vocal tone and ability to draw out great melodic lines from the instrumentals you work with. What’s your process when you pull out or put together a new melody? How does your affinity for various genres factor (if at all)?
Steffaloo: Thank you so much! I touched on this a little earlier, but I really feel that my lack of skill instrumentally has kind of forced me to be stronger vocally and lyrically. My strengths have never lied in playing an instrument, but I’ve always known how to sing. And i think I’ve always been really drawn to other artists who are able to create powerful songs in this way. Artists like Feist, or Patrick Watson, or even someone like Pheobe Bridgers all have this amazing ability to sing in such a way that sometimes you forget they’re even playing an instrument at all. Their voice and what they are saying becomes so much bigger than the music itself. I think that’s what I really hope to acheive somehow when creating my own music. I think I just kind of naturally fell back on having the instruments I play be more of a guide for me vocally, and that’s a huge part of my process when writing.
B3SCI: What or who are your major vocal inspirations?
Steffaloo: Well, as you can probably guess, Feist is a huge one, if not THE one. Adele, Imogen Heap, Beach House, Stevie Nicks, Eva Cassidy.. there are really just too many to name.
B3SCI: At what point in your career do you feel that you found the voice of Steffaloo?
Steffaloo: Hh man, I feel like I’m finding it everyday ha. It’s funny, the way i kind of stumbled into this whole music thing has made being honest a bit easier I think. What I mean is, I started making music for the sheer joy of doing it, just pure and simple it is something that I do because it makes me feel alive. I think what ends up getting in the way of an artists ‘true voice’ is when that joy and aliveness is lost, that’s how all art is. I think as long as I’m being honest with myself my voice will emerge without me even having to think about it really.
B3SCI: Steffaloo, it just seems like a nickname. How did Steph Thompson come to acquire the alias known as Steffaloo?
Steffaloo: It was indeed a nickname! I somehow got deemed ‘steffaluphagus’ while working at Starbucks when I first moved to LA. It soon morphed into ‘steffaloo’ and before I knew it everyone was calling me that. I had used the name for some of the art and photography I was doing as a kind of brand name, so I just stuck with it when i started playing music haha.
B3SCI: Is there anything in particular that inspires you to write? Be it… a favorite place, instrument, routine?
Steffaloo: hmm, I think it’s just life really. Sometimes I’ll go months without really feeling like I want to write or play anything. Other times I’ll write five songs in one week. I think when I really let myself stop long enough to really absorb life and feel it a little bit I discover a lot of things that I just need to get out somehow and express. When it comes out in music form I usually find myself in my room for hours with my guitar just letting it do what it’s going to do. My songwriting process has become a bit like me sitting down to write in my diary in a way, haha.. it’s always an amazing thing to me to really let myself be still enough to see what’s really going on with me, to see what ends up coming out and manifesting into something (hopefully) beautiful.
B3SCI: What makes for classic music?
Steffaloo: Well I suppose that’s different for every person really. And that’s part of what I find so fascinating with any art, and with music in particular, because a work/song always has a very personal relationship with the listener. It means whatever you need it to mean, it moves you in ways only you know, it inspires certain parts of you that it might not in others. I think any piece of music that has the ability to do that is true music. And the ones that can continue to do that through the decades are the true classic pieces of music.
B3SCI: Do you have any favorite albums of 2012?
Steffaloo: A few that have seem some pretty heavy rotation from me are – Bloom (Beach House), Shrines (Purity Ring), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean), From The Top Of Willamet Mountain (Joshua James), Look An Little Closer (Levek), Hundred Waters (Hundred Waters)… I could go on, but I’ll stop there!
B3SCI: Finally, what’s next for Steffaloo. What can fans expect 2013 to bring?
Steffaloo: I’m working on another album for release next year – it will be a bit different than my solo stuff so I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll hopefully be recording some new solo songs with the band I’ve been playing with. Playing live shows with a band has been amazing. It’s really added a fullness to my music that I feel like I wasn’t able to add just playing by myself. It’s been crazy to play with other talented musicians and see not only where they take certain songs but also what they help bring out in me. Looking forward to playing some great showcases at SXSW, and one of these days I’d love to go on a real tour.. for now, I’m just enjoying this whole process and I’m constantly being surprised by the things that come my way and all the people I’ve met and been able to create with.
Steffaloo – Can’t You See