Casii Stephan is a soul pop/rock artist hailing from Minnesota. Now based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the impassioned songstress evokes subtle vibrato notes and roller-coaster-like melodies, which immediately grab the listener, while her emotional lyrics share intimate stories. She has been compared to the likes of Florence Welch, Fiona Apple and Carole King, as her vocal timbre possesses a full and warm quality.
Stephan's voice is fierce and fearless, but this was not always the case. She grew up shy and afraid of her voice until she started writing songs on the family piano in South St. Paul when she was 16. In music, she discovered something extraordinary that allowed her to transcend everyday life and find a deeper sense of self. Stephan moved to Tulsa in 2014 with the intent to give up her pursuit of a music career, however with a little encouragement from a friend, she continued her journey and started releasing music. Her songs were promptly applauded by critics and have since been racking up a number of awards, as well as garnering acclaim from media and fans across the globe.
Stephan's latest single "Trapeze Artist" was inspired after scrolling through her social feeds and seeing the highs and lows of humanity. The songwriter reveals, "From finding love to accounts of racism. It's all there and it makes one feel like a trapeze artist swinging back and forth. It's a growth process to know how to process all of this information and what to do with it and know what I can reasonably do in the community I'm in. No one person can change the world". Sonically "Trapeze Artist" details Stephan's velvety vocals, cascading piano melodies, swirling string arrangements and bright brass, building into an anthemic and empowering track. Reminiscent of Brandi Carlile meets Adele, Stephan has created a sound which brings power and color, whilst maintaining a quiet intimacy. The visuals play off the feeling of social media leaving people isolated and how community, friends and music help to bring us back to the reality that hope and change is possible.
An underlying theme throughout Stephan's music is hope, she explains, "Its such a cliched word and yet there are so many layers to it. Hope keeps us alive. It keeps us moving. But it also feels flighty some days like a pixie that does what it wants. But it's not a pixie. It's more like the air we breathe. Some days it's presence is stronger than we realize and some days we forget in our day-to-day lives that it's there... keeping us moving forward". Her music combines her love for the storytelling elements of Disney ballads and the bold, brilliance of The White Stripes, as well as the soul-wrenching R&B melodies of H.E.R.
Casii Stephan has seen success both obtaining and being nominated for multiple awards from the likes of Independent Music Awards, Hollywood Music in Media Awards and USA Songwriting Competition to name a few. She also heads a female fronted festival entitled MisFEST in Tulsa, that has gained recognition both locally and nationally. Continuing to craft real, authentic, soulful music with the intention to help others feel a little less alone, Casii Stephan is releasing "Trapeze Artist" in 2020.
Question: How would you describe your music?
Casii Stephan: My music is soulful and hopeful with a dash of sass.
Question: Can you tell us about Trapeze Artist?
Casii Stephan: Trapeze Artist is definitely on the soulful and hopeful side. It has a few of my favorite things on it, like strings and horns and lots of BGV's. It's very dramatic and inspiring.
Question: What inspired Trapeze Artist?
Casii Stephan: Trapeze Artist came about when I was feeling absolutely down about the future and where we were going as a culture and society, specifically from the viewpoint of social media. I was questioning why I should keep hoping in the face of humans repeating history. All of these emotions felt overwhelming and I knew I needed to write it out, so I sat down and started writing Trapeze Artist.
Question: Is there a particular message you hope listeners take from your music?
Casii Stephan: They're not alone. They're not as isolated as they think. Just hold on.
Question: Can you tell us about MisFEST Festival?
Casii Stephan: MisFEST is a festival my manager/percussionist/friend started in 2016, because we were frustrated with some of the festival line-ups and wanted to showcase the incredible talent that the women of Tulsa had. It was really just this evening showcase idea and then it turned into a festival. It's been great to show off the amazing women in Tulsa that create beautiful music from rap to soul to rock to folk.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Casii Stephan: Gosh. Depends on the day (laughs)! I'm an extroverted introvert. If I'm feeling introverted, recording. If I'm feeling more extroverted, let's do performing.
But for real, I think both are different art forms in their own right. It's like you can paint, but do you prefer painting with oil or watercolor. Each one has a place and that's how I view performing and recording. There are each their own art forms to be honored and learn from.
Question: Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?
Casii Stephan: Gosh. That's tough. Favorite song… Everyone always smiles/cheers to our cover of "Personal Jesus". It's pretty good and we play an actual brake drum from a car… with a hammer. We have fun.
Question: What should we expect from your upcoming tour?
Casii Stephan: We're going to be at SXSW in March, super excited for that!
Question: If you could have anyone, in the world, attend a show, who would it be?
Casii Stephan: Hans Zimmer and QuestLove.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Casii Stephan: The challenge of songwriting - being honest while also being succinct and catchy; so many ways to do it. Which one will come out today, you know?
Question: Which music/artists are you currently listening to?
Casii Stephan: Sly & the Family Stone – Everyday People
Tones and I (mad respect for this woman who busked her way to a career, that is never easy).
Question: What or who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Casii Stephan: Disney and musicals, I loved the feeling I got of a song taking me someplace other than my present. It's indescribable and I hope to do the same for others.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Casii Stephan: Hans Zimmer, I want to do a musical with him; hopefully, he's interested one day.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Casii Stephan: For me: work, hustle, work, hustle, Netflix and sleep.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Casii Stephan: Meeting so many talented people, seriously, so much talent in the world and in my city; just inspiring and it keeps pushing me to be better.
Question: What's next, for you?
Casii Stephan: Hopefully, an EP by the end of the year.
Question: Can you share your socials?
Casii Stephan: Facebook.com/casiistephan
Interview by Brooke Hunter