Willow Stephens and the Wind of Nostalgia Fuelling her Music
StarBeat got a chance to chat with LA-Based singer-songwriter Willow Stephens about her musical style, lyrics and exciting new release coming out soon.
SB (StarBeat): Stylish: How would you describe your musical style?
WS (Willow Stephens): I would say, “new-fangled, old school soul”. I grew up on jazz music, Motown records, old Carey Grant movies, artists from the 70s singer-songwriter movement like Carole King and James Taylor. That influence is heavy in my writing. There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia to my music.
I got to make my EP with a really talented group of producers and musicians last year in Philadelphia (Iqwitmusic and 42 North). We wanted to make something that sounded like it belonged in 3 decades all at once. Something timeless. I think we definitely started to hone in on it this project.
I think we’ll get even closer next time.
SB: Career Driven: When did you know you wanted to make music for a living?
WS: I didn’t. I wanted to be a teacher, a Spanish-English interpreter, anything but a musician. I was always involved in music. I took classical piano lessons from the age of 5 and sang anywhere and everywhere. I learned how to play guitar and started writing original music in college. I released an EP in 2012.
The love and passion for music has always been strong but I tried to keep it in a box because it didn’t feel safe. At one point, I realized I was making my life decisions out of fear.
Ultimately, I’m pursuing a career as a musician, because it’s the thing that scares me the most. One thing I’m learning is in life is that you have to starve the fear and feed the passion.
SB: Quick Release: You are releasing a new single on September 29, “History Speaks”. Can you tell us about the title?
WS: If we don’t learn from the lessons of history, we will find ourselves repeating the sins of the past. That’s the main thrust behind this song.
I attended an event in July 2016. A group of artists in my community started a recurring event called Listen Los Angeles shortly after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. It was a night of storytelling, music, and visual art that convey the experiences of Black America. They talked about everything from slavery and Jim Crow to police brutality, to objectification of the black body. I learned a lot that evening. That night weighed heavy on me.
A few months later, I was in Philly in the studio working on songs for my EP and this song just spilled out. I hope this song will be a constant reminder that injustice exists in the world and it needs to be set right. Every time I perform it, it puts me in a space to have conversations that matter. It forces me to stand for something when my privilege might otherwise allow me to fade into the background.
Editor’s Note: Can’t wait to hear the new single!
SB: Listening In: Why should people listen to the music you release?
WS: Music takes up real estate in our brains. I have thousands of lyrics and melodies swirling around in my head. When we go through an emotional experience or hear a specific word, the songs we love (even the songs we hate) bubble up to the surface.
They make us feel more deeply, sometimes they bring clarity or comfort, joy or freedom. I craft my lyrics carefully and intentionally in hopes that it’s something worth thinking about. And I would hope that people would be drawn to that.
SB: Crystal Ball Time: What’s next for you?
WS: I’ve been in LA two years now and I feel like I’m barely getting my feet on the ground. My goal the next few months is to continue to get plugged into this amazing city.
Trying to play as many shows as possible and continue writing and collaborating with the network of producers and writers I’m starting to develop. There are so many talented, creative people here. The opportunities are endless.