Willow Stephens has such a gentle, soothing voice but it carries so much emotional weight. Her new song, "Til the Blue Comes Out" is the cathartic release we all need right now. We talked to her about her upcoming EP, the challenges in her career, and why she wanted to work with an all-female crew on her video.
How did you get started in music?
Willow: I come from a very musical family. My mom is a music teacher so we were immersed from a very early age. I’m classically trained in piano and voice. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that I started writing my own songs. There was always a spark for music, but when I started songwriting it became a bonfire.
Tell me about your upcoming Ep, “A Good Cry” I love that title. I feel that.
Willow: As I was writing my full-length pop album All That Glitters--which is more of a groovy indie pop record, there was a batch of songs that I LOVED but seemed to belong to another project. It’s some of my best writing but it was a different animal. They all share themes of grief, loss and beauty from tragedy. It became clear that I needed a sad songs EP.
I’m calling it “A Good Cry” because I wanted to create a soundtrack for the moments when you just need to curl up in your bed, let it all out and have a good cry. My hope is that the listener can experience some catharsis and healing. I tended to bottle it up as a kid so those moments of release were precious to me. I’m personally on a journey of becoming more acquainted and comfortable with my ugly parts and negative emotions.
Your video for “Til the Blue Comes Out” is gorgeous. What was the inspo behind it?
Willow: Thank you! My Good Cry EP is all about grief, loss, and letting go. “Til the Blue Comes Out" is the little glimmer of hope at the end. The video needed to embody healing and release. I knew I wanted to play with water imagery because water is so healing and cleansing. Dance and movement is also very cathartic for me. I worked closely with the director to create a concept that married those two elements. Not to give too many spoilers but we also played with reverse footage quite a bit. (I learned to sing parts of the song backwards!) We can’t reverse our lives or our decisions, but sometimes we need to go back and deal with our past in order to move forward.
And you worked with an all female crew! We love that! Why was that important to you?
Willow: The music industry is still very male-dominated. USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative did a study In 2019 that showed women make up only 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters, and 2.1 percent of producers. In most of my work, I’m surrounded by men... my bandmates, my producers, many of my co-writers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my collaborators and the things we make together! But when I get a chance to create with a team of women, I definitely feel a different ease and freedom. The whole spirit and approach to collaboration changes.
What has been one of the biggest challenges in your career?
Willow: The life of an independent musician is a precarious balancing act. When you are your own creative director, head of marketing, manager, booking agent, accountant and financier it can be a lot to juggle. It’s not a sexy answer, but learning how and what to prioritize is definitely a huge challenge. It’s a delicate balance to keep the plates spinning and also stay in a creative space where the music is at the highest level possible.