Back in late July, Steffan and I got the chance to speak. I was sitting in my bed in Montclair, NJ. Steffan was in his car somewhere in Los Angeles. It was clear to me that Steffan values adventure and curiosity. He is excited by what he can learn from the world, music, and other people. He was filled with positivity—something that seems to be more and more rare based on the current state of affairs. Over Facetime, we chatted about the many things he is passionate about.
How did you begin sharing your music? How did you start making music?
Well, I started writing music when I was ten years old, and I would play it for my family—that was pretty much it. I would have family over for Thanksgiving and that would be the debut of my new song. But then I started releasing music as an actual career last year. My first song was “Make Me Cry”. That was my first single released. Ever since then I kind of caught the bug and all I want to do is record and put out music. I just put out a four-song EP in May—May 30th. I’ve been super happy about that. That was a big passion project of mine, and now that it is finally out, I love it. I love performing it. I suppose that’s it.
Why is your EP titled Lost at Sea? What inspired that?
Well, the whole EP is a cohesive story. From start to finish it tells a story. The whole EP is based on Peter Pan. The first song is “Leaving London”. So that’s Peter coming and taking Wendy away to Neverland.
The next song is “Lost”, and that is them getting lost in Neverland. And then the story takes a turn in the next song called “Ship in a Bottle”. It’s all a very vague story, but the songs all go together. “Ship in a Bottle” is about the battle with the enemy of the story. “Abandoned Ship”, the last song, is about breaking free and winning that battle. Lost at Sea is what encapsulated that entire idea in its entirety.
Why did Peter Pan inspire you? Is that a story you always enjoyed?
Yeah, growing up I loved the movie with Jeremy Sumpter in 2003. I listened to the soundtrack, the score by James Newton Howard—It’s great. There is a song called “Flying” off of it, and it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. I just kind of fell in love with that world, Neverland, and the idea of maintaining a youthful spirit, instead of staying young literally. So I attached to the idea of never growing up, and that’s something I’ve cared about ever since I started getting older. Reaching my teen years and now adulthood, I’ve hung onto the childlike wonder that made life feel so special when I was a kid. That’s why the story is so important to me. Also, after I was obsessed with the movie, I read the book and the book is great, too. It’s a little darker, which is what inspired the writing I did about Peter Pan. It’s not as happy-fairytale. It is more about the darker side of things.
Do you always try to tell stories with your music?
I started writing more story-driven stuff about two and a half years ago. Before then, I was just writing love songs. It’s kind of funny because I had never even been in love, but it was what I would write about. It was what I would observe about people falling in love and society. But then I started wanting to write my own stories, and I started with the Peter Pan stuff. The stuff I’ve been working on most recently, I’m starting my own story. It’s very fantasy driven, and I just love fantasy so, so much. I like using music as an escape to any universe that I want.
Does your love for fantasy extend to movies and books?
I love to read. I read nonstop. In fact, I just started reading Harry Potter for the first time, which I’m so stoked about. I’m on Goblet of Fire, which is the fourth one. I also love movies and that’s why I started acting. I started with musical theater when I was younger. I’ve always liked to exist in different universes, which is why I like music and acting. I love going to the movie theater and seeing movies. It is one of my favorite things.
Has social media been influential in your development as an artist?
Absolutely. I didn’t start in the traditional music sense. I didn’t start as a musician, although I’ve always been a musician. The way I got my start, success-wise, was through social media. It was through touring and doing performances and building a following on Youtube, from covers and Instagram and posting photos and writing poetry on Twitter. That has definitely helped me home in on what kind of art I want to be putting out into the world. It helped me curate the content I want to create. Not directly, but social media helped establish the kind of platform I wanted to have to put my art out there. It helped me figure out who I was.
Who are your musical inspirations or influences?
One of my biggest influences is an artist named Kishi Bashi, and I think he’s from New York. He is Japanese, but I’m pretty sure he’s from New York. His music is incredible. It’s very orchestral, electronic even. He writes about the craziest stuff. He has a song about a steak falling in love with another steak. It’s totally random and cool. It makes you feel so happy. So I kind of have some influence from that. Another one of my favorites is this band called Yellow Ostrich, and they are amazing. Their music is just beyond—one of my favorite albums of all time is their first album called The Mistress. Their style influenced me a lot. They write a bunch of abstract concepts. That’s what inspired me to start writing these weird metaphors that are rooted in reality, but they just go off in fantasy. That inspires me a lot. Brandon Urie, Panic! at the Disco also inspires me. I love them and I feel like my music is similar to their stuff.
How did you get into modeling?
I started modeling when I was pretty young, and that was just for department stores. It was fun and I got to do cool shoots on trampolines. Then I stopped for a while and when I moved to LA to pursue music and acting, I got back into it. I signed with Ford and started doing some fashion stuff which is a world I’ve never really existed in before. It was a new adventure and that was still in the beginning stages for the most part. Things have been going well and some exciting things are coming up. I’m going to be a part of the next V Men magazine, which is a men’s fashion magazine. That was really cool and a really fun shoot with Steven Klein.
Do you like fashion? Is it something you want to pursue more?
I’m pretty interested in fashion. I like styling myself. I love clothes and being apart of that world is really exciting. I did a showcase for Yves Saint Laurent, which was awesome; I love their stuff. That was so much fun. And it was cool because a lot of their stuff is unisex, so I would be wearing a jacket for one part of the show and then the girl playing opposite me would have the same jacket as me. I really like that universe. I guess I just haven’t had much experience. Actually, at this point I have had a lot of experience modeling. But I really like it. I love fashion.
Do you think you have a specific style?
I have a pretty specific style. It’s very vintage, almost nautical. I dress like a sailor all the time. Not quite so literally, but stuff that seems vintage. I also dress like Peter Pan. And when I say that I don’t mean wearing leaves as clothes, but old raggedy, muted, green, earthy tones. That’s my style.
Do you have any short-term or long-term goals for your career?
Right now, my goal for music is to finish my album. I have this really cool concept for an album I’ve been working on for quite some time. I’ve been putting so much work into it and it’s going to be so cool. I have another album coming out before that one so it’s going to be more long term. But in the short term, I want to finish the rest of the songs for my first album. That will be really fun to have out, and I’ll be able to do full concerts. Which I’m really excited about, because I’ve put together a band recently, and it’s been so much fun performing with them. They’re the best. For modeling, I just love being a part of the fashion world. I honestly don’t know where it will take me. But I’m enjoying it so far. I really love doing photoshoots. I like wearing funky clothes. I’m enjoying the ride. I just hope to keep on working and making some cool art.
Do you have a favorite part about touring or performing?
When I do a show, I’m with other people who want to hear that music and that’s just so special to me. My songs are such a personal thing, and to be in a room with people singing it is just the craziest thing. I’ve only really experienced that one time, when I did my show the day I released the EP. Nobody knew the songs yet, but I had the one song—the single—that I released last year, that people knew. Hearing people sing my lyrics back to me that I wrote in my bedroom one day is just the weirdest feeling ever. It was surreal. It was just so humbling. I kept thinking, why does anyone care? I’m just some random kid who likes to pluck strings and sing songs. I felt so lucky that people wanted to hang out and sing and dance. That’s one of my favorite things, making connections with people.
Photos by Sofia Rose Wolfson.