When Casii Stephan moved five years ago from Minnesota’s Twin Cities area to Tulsa, Oklahoma, tapping into her new home’s renowned sound — or any sound, for that matter — was probably the furthest thing from her mind.
Stephan had put her music aspirations on the back burner and was looking for what she categorizes as “a change of life” in Tulsa, not follow in the footsteps of Leon Russell, J.J. Cale and others. Little did Stephan know that her change of life there would include a return to singing, thanks to a persuasive friend she met at church.
Directed to an online stream of a Stephan EP, Amira Al-Jiboori recalls being struck by the “versatility in her voice, her vibrato and her soft subtleties.”
“I knew that if she wanted to start [playing music] in Tulsa, no one sounded like her,” adds Al-Jiboori, who now manages Stephan and also plays percussion in her backing band, The Midnight Sun.
“There’s definitely that sound still there, the Tulsa Sound, but there’s also other genres,” explains Stephan. “There’s a really good pop scene there, along with jazz-fusion. I think I’m unique in the area. I am more on the outskirts, but I’ve been welcomed in by the Tulsa Sound people and others.”
Music is a part-time career for Stephan at this point, and her output since relocating to Tulsa has been a handful of singles. The latest is a good one: the gutsy, dynamic rocker “Letters,” and she describes the recently released video for it as “abstract and a little creepy.”
As for the song, she says, “It was written after a frustrating time with online dating — not getting responses, not being able to connect with someone.”
Connecting with fans through more than a single at a time is in the plans for this year, as is a tour of Texas, where she performed in March as a South by Southwest showcasing artist.
“I’ve been told by people in the industry to not do an album until I’m ready to say something specific,” Stephan says. “I’m just trying to figure out how to do music in a smarter way.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Casii Stephan concert schedule (subject to change):
May 8: Tulsa Performing Arts Center — Tulsa, Oklahoma
May 14: The Shrine — Tulsa, Oklahoma
Casii Stephan in Austin, Texas, in March 2019. Photo by Chris M. Junior