Casii Stephan tried to write a silly love song — but, with apologies to Paul McCartney, couldn’t. That’s how the Tulsa, Okla., singer and songwriter wound up with “Trapeze Artist,” her fifth single, premiering exclusively below in front of its Feb. 7 release.
“I was trying to write another song, actually and trying to challenge myself — ‘OK, write a cute little love song,'” Stephan, a Minnesota native, tells Billboard. “And it was turning out, I felt like crap. So I was sitting there going, ‘Obviously this isn’t working. What am I really feeling?'” The answer came from reading her social media feeds.
“I was seeing my friends’ stories about how they were encountering racism, someone announcing they were getting engaged, and someone pregnant with their first child — and also stories about homophobia in Tulsa, unfortunately,” Stephan recalls. “Reading all that all these emotions were building up. It just felt like I was swinging back and forth — like a trapeze artist. All in the space of a minute you can go through so many feelings and emotions, depending on how fast you can scroll on Instagram and Facebook. You have to tell yourself to stop and take a breath.”
Musically Stephan, who’s been writing songs since she was 16, took “Trapeze Artist” down a dynamic path, starting like an acoustic ballad with a lush, soulful chorus, with an ebb and flow through the duration of the song building to an anthemic, chorale-styled finish.
“I kind of go back and forth between soul and pop-rock,” says Stephan, who worked up the tune with her band Midnight Sun. “Musically I always like to stay in very acoustic instrumentation; I love electronic music, but I never felt like it fit where my heart and soul is and how I write songs. I love anything with strings and horns, and I’m a big fan of choirs. This (song) hits all of it.” She still intended the “cute little love song” to be her next single but was convinced by a friend who heard her play a bit of “Trapeze Artist” during one of her shows. “As soon as she heard that she went, ‘No, no, you need to do THAT one instead,'” Stephan remembers. “She thought it was a cover, actually. But she was right on it, ‘I think you need to do that one…'”
As “Trapeze Artist” flies out, Stephan — who works days doing marketing for a company in Tulsa — is hoping to release an EP before the end of the year. She recently performed at Folk Alliance in New Orleans and will be setting up more live dates soon.