In the Stars
Jeff Stephens 'My family owns a rollerskating rink, so I've always been surrounded by music,' explains singer-songwriter Jeff Stephens. Jeff first fell in love with music at the age of four, when he heard The Beatles' 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.' As a toddler, he played the song over and over on his Fisher Price Record Player and would plead with his parents to play it from his car seat anytime they were driving in his dad's '76 Cadillac DeVille. 'I was so young, but I remember that I somehow felt so connected to that song and the way in which Lennon sang it,' Jeff explains. Through the years, his love affair with music (and The Beatles) only grew stronger, as he discovered the genre of classic rock through bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and was naturally drawn to singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Hank Williams. But although Stephens ensconced himself in music, it wouldn't be until his freshman year of college that he experienced what he refers to as 'the burn to create'. Lacking any formal training, Jeff learned to play acoustically simply by listening to and watching his friends during their group jam sessions. 'Suddenly, my lyrical ideas and melodies came to life,' he remembers. What followed was the formation of Stephens' first band, The Orchard Thieves, and writing sessions that lasted as long as ten hours and resulted in the creation of up to four songs a day. In 2006, the band released their 12-track debut album, which garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. 'For folks who like their pop sophisticated and their lyrics heartfelt and intelligent, this is your band,' writes indie-music.com 's Jennifer Leyton. 'This is emotional darkness without whining, wild fun without silliness, and rock that is sweeping and orchestral without pretentiousness.' The Orchard Thieves gained a loyal following and performed at nightclubs in and around Manhattan, including The Village Underground, Arlene's Grocery, and The Bitter End. A year later, however, the band would part ways, paving the way for Stephens to embark on his career as a solo artist. He began writing and quickly discovered a unique sound of his own, one that he describes as 'Eurocana' because it takes influence from both the British pop and Americana country genres that he fell in love with during his adolescence. By the fall of 2007, Stephens had amassed a plethora of new material to record. In May of 2008, a mutual friend introduced Jeff to Russ DeSalvo, an industry veteran and ASCAP award winner who's toured with the likes of Carlos Santana. Formerly signed to Paul McCartney's publishing firm, DeSalvo had recently inked a deal with the prestigious Primary Wave Music. Stephens performed some of his new material and the two immediately connected. 'Russ understood where I was going and interpreted my songs in a very natural, organic way,' he explains. DeSalvo signed on to produce and the two have spent the past several months laying down tracks in the studio. 'Now that I'm solo, I've really looked inward as to what I want to say,' Jeff explains. 'The lyrics are woven in a way that on paper they could be poetry, but as a song, they soar to a different place.' From the lyrically and melodically heartbreaking 'Stuck on a Saturday' to the moving declaration of love that is 'Then Suddenly', Jeff invites listeners aboard a ride that captures the myriad of enduring emotions that we all encounter, yet are often reluctant to express, throughout each of our lives. Perhaps most moving is 'In The Stars', a song about loss, in which he sings, 'You'll find me in the springtime of your love, I'll be in the stars / Don't look too hard, You might go burn your eyes / Nevermind the darkness, I'm right here in the light.' The song, penned after the death of his father, was written in under an hour and provides comfort to any listener who has lost a loved one. 'The words just came,' Jeff recalls. 'As if my writing was being guided to say some of these things.' Set for a Fall 2008 release, the Jeff Stephens EP takes us to a place we've all been, but brings us there on a route we've had yet to discover.