Sufjan Stevens is an indie-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has become known for his eclectic musical style. Here, MusicSnake Magazine put together a list of eleven interesting facts you probably didn’t know about the artist.
Number One: He Collaborated with The National. In 2010 Sufjan began working with The National, who were just gaining ground in the mainstream music scene. Stevens was featured on the band’s highest charting album ever, High Violet, and even performed with the band on the Late Show with David Letterman. In exchange, the guys from The National helped him with his next album, and let him record in their studio.
Number Two: Sufjan Stevens Wrote a Comic Book. Released in ’09, Super Teenage Hooper Heroes follows 3 extra-terrestrial sisters as they combat Captain Moses, a totalitarian dictator. The comic was released as part of a limited edition version of Stevens’ BQE show, along with the show’s soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl.
Number Three: The Musician Couldn’t Read Until the 3rd Grade. Told to “learn at his own pace” in elementary school, he found himself unable to read or write at the age of 9 y.o. When he got to public school, Sufjan was ostracized for not being able to write his own name.
Number Four: As a Kid, Stevens Thought About Becoming a Preacher. Though his parents were not very religious, he found himself fascinated by it. The artist has said that he used to read and study the Bible and make his family listen to him read passages before and after meals.
Number Five: Carrie and Lowell Is About His Mother’s Death. His mother Carrie passed away in ’12 after a battle with stomach cancer. Even though he didn’t have a very close relationship with her (she abandoned her family when Sufjan was just a year old), he felt a great sadness when she passed. Much of his ’15 album, which is named after his mother and stepfather, deals with his grief.
Number Six: Sufjan Stevens Wrote an Album Based on the Zodiac. Enjoy Your Rabbit was released in ’01 and features songs that coincide with each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. While the album has a more electronic feel, it was re-arranged and re-released in ’09 under the title Run Rabbit Run, with a more orchestral, string-based approach.
Number Seven: His First Instrument Was the Oboe. He plays a lot of instruments, but his first was the oboe. The musician studied the instrument while attending performing arts high school. Other instruments in his repertoire include the English horn and the banjo. He didn’t learn to play the guitar until college.
Number Eight: His Name is of Persian and Armenian Origin. Pronounced “Soof-yahn,” Sufjan is an Islamic name meaning “comes with a sword.” His parents were a part of an interfaith spiritual community when he was born, with the community leader giving him his name.
Number Nine: Sufjan Studied Creative Writing. After graduating from Hope College, he moved to NYC to become a fiction writer. The man enrolled in a graduate level writing program at The New School and earned a master’s degree in fine arts. Instead of becoming a writer, he fell back on music, though he has said that his studies did have an effect on his songwriting.
Number Ten: Stevens Has Worked on Two Ballets. In ’12 and ’14, he worked with dancer Justin Peck on ballets that were performed by the New York City Ballet. The first, Year of the Rabbit, was based on Stevens’ song from Enjoy Your Rabbit, and earned Peck a soloist position with the dance company. In ’14, Peck tapped Stevens to work with him again, this time on a piece called Everywhere We Go, an entirely original work. The two worked together on the ballet, with Peck choreographing moves every time Stevens sent him a sample. It premiered at Lincoln Center that May and again in October.
Number Eleven: Sufjan Stevens Was Commissioned to Write an Art Piece about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in ’07, The BQE was a multi-media piece created by Stevens consisting of a film and orchestral soundtrack. The piece was performed live on 3 consecutive nights with a 36-member orchestra, selling out the BAM Opera House each night without ever being promoted. The award-winning production was given a physical release in ’09 in a package containing a CD of the soundtrack, a DVD of the film footage, a booklet with liner notes and photos, and a stereoscopic 3D View-Master reel. Thanks for reading!
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