Sufjan Stevens Biography

1 July 1975, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Indie pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens built up a cult following in the early years of the twenty-first century with a series of ambitious solo albums informed by his religious faith. Raised in Detroit, Stevens attended music school and college, where he learned to play the oboe, piano, guitar, bass, banjo and drums. He joined the folk rock band Marzuki in the mid-90s, appearing on their two albums before striking out for a solo career at the end of the decade. He set up the Asthmatic Kitty label with his stepfather, the first release on which was Stevens’ 2000 debut A Sun Came, a collection of acoustic-based four-track recordings that introduced Stevens’ eccentric juxtaposition of art and pop.

After relocating to New York to attend graduate school, Stevens hooked up with a number of like-minded musicians including Daniel Smith (of Danielson Famile) and Glen Galloway (of Soul-Junk), making guest contributions on stage and in the studio with both these projects. He also contributed to recordings by John Ringhofer’s Half-Handed Cloud. Stevens’ follow-up, Enjoy Your Rabbit, was an ambitious instrumental album based on the Chinese zodiac, with the electronic beats and glitches markedly at odds with the acoustic folk leanings of his debut.

The 2003 release Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State was an ambitious concept album about the artist’s home state. Stevens’ multi-instrumental capabilities shone throughout the album, with the subtle deployment of loops and beats neatly complementing the basic folk rock melodies. The album was originally intended as the first in a series inspired by the states of America, but by the time Seven Swans was released in 2004 Stevens had temporarily jettisoned this unwieldy idea. Produced by Daniel Smith of the Danielson Famile, Stevens’ spirituality was more readily apparent on passionate avowals of faith such as ‘He Woke Me Up Again’ and ‘The Transfiguration’. Suitably refreshed, Stevens returned to his ‘America’ project with the superb 2005 release Come On Feel The Illinoise. The album was awarded the inaugural Pantheon Music Award the following year.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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