Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is nominated for his first Academy Award. He has years of musical experience and the net worth to prove he deserves it.
Sufjan Stevens: Singer and songwriter nominated for his first Academy Award
With an expansive discography, it’s surprising that Sufjan Stevens is only now getting his first award show nomination, and to add to that, of all things, it’s an Academy Award! At Oscar 2018, Stevens will be in the running for Best Original Song, ‘Mystery of Love,’ which is part of the soundtrack for the coming-of-age movie ‘Call Me by Your Name.’ Along with the nomination, Stevens will also perform ‘Mystery of Love’ at Oscar 2018 on March 4, 2018.
I have a dirty little secret: I’ve never watched the Oscars. But I’m just so proud of the film and I’m honored to be affiliated with a director who is so masterful and astute.
Stevens on how he has no idea what to expect at Oscar 2018
As a singer and a songwriter, Stevens’ has gone on record saying that films should not rely on music, but by working on a Luca Guadagnino that calls for an aural experience. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is more than a coming-of-age adventure. The film follows a seventeen-year-old boy in Florence, Italy as he explores and discovers his sexuality. The film ‘Moonlight’ won Best Picture win last year. It’s a film that explores the difficulties and the emotional and physical abuse that someone can endure when dealing with their sexual identity. The Oscars are starting to consistently give light to films that explore LGBTQ plots and issues.
Stevens’ ‘Mystery of Love’ was largely inspired by the romantic relationship in ‘Call Me by Your Name’. The film sheds light on the relationship between characters Elio and Oliver, but it also pulls inspiration from the state of Oregon, where Stevens’ was touring for his album, ‘Carrie and Lowell’ while writing the song. ‘Mystery of Love’ has been praised as capturing the film’s delicate writing as well as the idea of nostalgia’s power to both comfort and cause pain.
His earlier work includes Natalie Portman’s ‘Eve’ and the documentary ‘Beyond this Place.’
Sufjan Stevens, age 42, was born in Detroit, Michigan and his first musical project was playing as a member of the folk-rock band Marzuki. His debut studio album, the first of nine, ‘A Sun Came,’ was released in 2000 in partnership with his music label ‘Asthmatic Kitty’ Records. Along with writing his own music, Stevens backs himself up with the several instruments he plays, including guitar, banjo, keyboard, woodwinds, and percussion.
I feel like I’m the last independent musician standing. When I started out, I was naïve and ambitious. I sent demos around, but no one was interested.
Stevens on his indie-genre roots and starting his own label
Sufjan Steven’s following albums dived into several different genres, including indie-folk, alternative rock, baroque pop, and electronica, which was the style of his album ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit,’ an album based around the animals of the Chinese zodiac. His next big album, Michigan, was an ode to his home state and the people and places he remembers from growing up there. This album launched Stevens’ ‘Fifty States Project,’ a project that would make an album for all fifty states. Stvens admits this was a joke, but he did follow-up Michigan with his most well-known album, Illinois.
Another one of most well-known albums is one inspired by the passing of his bipolar and schizophrenic mother who left Stevens and his father when Stevens was only one. The album, ‘Carrie and Lowell’ (Lowell being Stevens’ stepfather-a co founder of ‘Asthmatic Kitty’ Records) has been met with critical acclaim. One of its most talked-about track is ‘John My Beloved.’ ‘John My Beloved’ is one of the album’s longest songs and one of the deepest on the album. It’s been praised as a hopeful song to remind us to keep moving forward, despite the dark inspiration that can sometimes follow us wherever we happen to go.
Besides Sufjan Stevens’ large discography, he’s worked with a few different film projects, including Natalie Portman’s short-film ‘Eve,; which was her directorial debut. ‘Eve’ follows Kate, played by Olivia Thirbly, as she accompanies her widowed grandmother, played by Lauren Bacall, on a dinner date. Stevens scored the entire 20-minute short.
Natalie Portman on set of ‘Eve’ with Lauren Bacall
Portman later recalled that Bacall was not easy on her even though is was Portman’s first time directing, but she said the criticism helped her grow as a director.
Another project Sufjan Stevens has worked on was the documentary ‘Beyond This Place,’ which is the story of director Kaleo La Belle and his hippie father. Stevens worked with Raymon Raposa, an experimental country-folk artist, to create the documentary’s title track. The documentary earned several film festival awards.
‘Call Me by Your Name’ isn’t the only big movie Sufjan Stevens is associated with this year. Stevens’ most recent single is an ode to the infamous American figure skater Tonya Harding, recently portrayed by Margot Robbie in ‘I, Tonya.’
I’ve been trying to write a Tonya Harding song since I first saw her skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1991. She’s a complicated subject for a song partly because the hard facts of her life are so strange, disputable, heroic, unprecedented, and indelibly American.
Stevens on his admiration for the controversial American figure
His current net worth means he can pick and choose upcoming projects
Oscar 2018 could springboard Sufjan Stevens’ music into the hearts of millions more people as well as land him more big projects, though that’s never been his goal. With his net worth sitting at $4 million dollars, Stevens can pick projects he feels best suit his style, message, and heart. Looking ahead, Stevens’ is thinking of diving into a new genre altogether, dance music, to combat the current political climate.
For me, dance music can be revelatory; it’s physical, and the physical can transcend the emotional and the cerebral in ways that are necessary in these dark times. I think that we are called on now to reject anything frivolous. We need to speak clearly and coherently, with dignity and respect. We need to remind each other what are the basic tenets of being human.
Stevens’ on what’s ahead in his music career
This experimental album could be the uplifting music sensation needed in a chaotic political era, and after millions see Stevens’ performance at Oscar 2018 on March 4, this could be Stevens’ most successful project yet.