In 2019, Torrington native Stevie St. Amand released her album “Reasons to Die” which contained songs including “Pilgrimage” and “Not Impressed.”
Her website at steviestamand.com states that “The story is in the lyrics” and it’s hard to put into words what genre she fits in because, as she said in this interview with The Winsted Phoenix, she refuses to fit into one, or any, genre or label.
Recently, she released a lyric video for “Secretly Bound” from “Reasons to Die.”
In this interview, Amand talks about influences, the fear of being nailed down to a genre, why there is hope in her music, and that not everything is all gloom and doom.
Winsted Phoenix: Why don’t you like being classified in a genre?
Stevie St. Amand: “I think we are at a time where genre lines are always being blurred in so many different ways. When I create a song, if I am trying to fit into a sound that people expect, it’s going to ruin the song. It’s not going to be the song that I was trying to write. It prohibits you from making music. I want to branch off into different genres and be free. There are a lot of times you try something and it doesn’t work out, but sometimes you can hit that one time and go ‘hey – I like that! Now I can polish it and see where this song goes.’”
WP: When did you start making music?
Amand: “I started when I was a child. But originally I wanted to be a poet and live this idealized version of a poet’s life, with people standing on desks going ‘My captain! My captain!’
I earned a Bachelor’s Degree at Central Connecticut State University in English and Literature, and I earned my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence. However, over time I realized that living a poet’s life is not the way things are in real life. I eventually started to take all the skills I had for poetry and put it into music.
But no one would teach me how to play guitar. I couldn’t ask my parents for money for guitar lessons because I was already taking vocal and piano classes. I had friends that I knew who played guitar. I begged them to teach me the basics, but they never would except for one person in college. They told me ‘This is an E Minor, this is a G, this is a D, and this is a C. Now you can play almost any song and any bluegrass song!’
Once I learned those first four chords, I would play seven to nine hours a day, just going through switching chords, plucking each string, and making sure that no string was muted, sitting there doing that over and over again, getting faster, adding other chords to my toolbox. Then I wrote my first song with the guitar jurist after learning my first chords and just didn’t stop.”
WP: What are your favorite musicians and bands?
Amand: “Sound-wise, for myself in general, I like sounds that remind me of everything and sounds that remind me of nothing. It’s a vague answer. But musically I do like everything, except for jazz, which is probably not a popular thing to say. I have not found any jazz that I like. I like things that are a little more resolved and melodic.
My favorite kinds of songs are from the late 90’s rock to early 2000’s rock. I like country music when I am in a good mood. I think Billie Eilish and that kind of anti-pop that’s happening now. I think there’s a lot of cool things happening with that.”
WP: How would you describe your sound?
Amand: “It’s funny you should ask that. My music coach told me that I needed to have an answer to that question and I wasn’t allowed to say all the answers that I typically used. He said ‘You are not allowed to say that your sound is acoustic! Your sound is your sound whether you are acoustic or electric or it’s a mandolin or a piano!’
Vocally, an artist that I associate with a lot is Sasha Sloan. Instrumentally, the direction that I am heading in is going to have the darkness of Evanescence and maybe some influences from 21 Pilots. I feel that the ’90s to 2000’s rock is always going to be there in my music, just because it is so much of what I listened to as a kid.”
WP: Why did you gravitate to that kind of music?
Amand: “Well, I did have a boy band poster on my wall when I was six, but it did get very quickly replaced by a Gavin Rossdale poster.
At a very young age, I had a lot of tragic things happen to me all at once in my life. It became very hard to relate to songs that just seemed very superficial. I had an older brother and he went through and played me these albums. He said ‘Here’s Nirvana! Here’s Aerosmith! And here’s the Meat Puppets!’ As a kid, I started to pay attention to those lyrics and songs. They suddenly made me want to go ‘Yea! That’s how I feel. I feel like I want to be alone in my room and nobody cares about the world!’
I was starting to listen to musicians saying this in ways that are beautiful and make sense. So I kept gravitating to that.”
WP: As an adult, do you still feel that the world is hard and nobody cares?
Amand: “I don’t think nobody cares. I have a lot of people in my life who care. I do think that the world is hard, but I do think it’s beautiful though. There is a lot of that in those sad songs that I did not have the maturity to recognize during that young age. But even the hard is beautiful or it can be. Even if you look at the past year and a half with the pandemic, we saw a lot of beauty come out of that along with all the tragedy. I think music has a responsibility, not necessarily to focus all of that but to recognize that nothing in this world is all good or bad.”
WP: Do you ever find yourself writing a song and then stop because it seems like it’s getting too personal?
Amand: “I had those moments five years ago. It wasn’t a fear of showing myself. It was more about worrying about other people in my life being uncomfortable because I was being personal. I don’t take that into account anymore. I may word things a little more obscure for certain things that are on that line for me. But I won’t shy away from it because that’s what the song is about. If I hit that moment and I’m like ‘I don’t know if I want to share this,’ the thing is that’s probably the most interesting part of the song. It would be a disservice to my art to censor that.”
WP: What gives you hope? Do you think you can’t have hope without sadness?
Amand: “I think you can experience sadness without hope, which is why there are certain tragedies in the world where people take their own lives and things like that. I don’t know if you can have hope without any sadness. Sadness is what kind of inspires hope. I’m Catholic, so my religion gives me hope on a fundamental basis. I feel that there are probably times in my life where I didn’t have hope and I was proved wrong. So now, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem in my mind, I know that’s not necessarily true. Even if a situation is hopeless, I am not hopeless. The world is not hopeless. Life is not hopeless.”
WP: What do you want people to get out of your music?
Amand: “Whatever they need is the real answer to that question. To me, the hope is there is that one person that has had the moment that I have had. With songs, people need to hear whatever they need to feel that connection to either inspire them or to give them hope, or make them not feel alone. Or make them question something that they are doing or how they are viewing the world. My hope for each song that I write is to make that connection, especially for those people who need to hear it at that moment.”
Amand is currently working on new songs and will soon be performing live again. For more information go to steviestamand.com.