Steph Wood bared her soul on her just-released self-titled EP, we caught up with the Sydney musician for an even deeper dive into her influences, writing process and the importance of “watching some trash tv.”
Steph Wood’s recently released self-titled EP is a striking collection of introspective folk songs that showcase the Sydney-based singer-songwriter’s uncanny ability to capture the nuanced emotions of love and relationships through her intricate storytelling. With a delicate touch on the guitar and the twinkling keys of a piano, Wood creates a sonic landscape that’s both intimate and alluring, inviting listeners into her world with open arms. But there’s more to this rising star than meets the ear, and we caught up with Woods to talk influences, writing process, and the benefits of indulging in some “sad girl music.”
In her debut EP, Wood displays a maturity and vulnerability that belies her young age, delving into themes of unrequited love, self-empowerment, and the inevitability of reconciliation. But as she explains in the Happy Mag interview, her journey as a musician started much earlier, fueled by her love for artists like Mazzy Star and the raw, emotive power of their music. And while her own sound is uniquely her own, there’s no denying the influence of these and other artists on her work.
Ultimately, it’s Wood’s ability to bare her soul through her music that makes her stand out in a crowded indie folk landscape. With her self-titled EP, she has announced herself as a force to be reckoned with, and we can’t wait to see where her musical journey takes her next.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Steph: Today is a life admin day! Trying to get my life in order and catch up on a bunch of stuff that we all gotta do but put it off.
Happy: Tell us about your average day.
Steph: An average day at the moment consists of me usually working till 3pm. I work as a disability support worker, then I come home and dive into some form of creative practice. That sometimes looks like me sitting down and writing, practising old tunes or going for a walk and listening to a new album. I like to keep busy so in the night time I’m often going out to dinner and drinks with friends, watching a local band, or making dinner at home with my housemates and watching some trash tv.
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Steph: My ultimate day would be to wake up without an alarm, go for a walk and listen to a podcast/album, come back home and work on my music all day. Once I had felt satisfied with what I had done I would go to a beer garden get some food and drink and then head out to watch some live music.
Happy: Tell us about your creative community.
Steph: I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by some amazing creatives. I studied music at Uni and met some pretty amazing people who are still some of my best friends and help each other out. Its fun watching everyone start their own projects and watch them grow.
Happy: What inspired you to pursue a career in songwriting, and when did you first realize that it was something you wanted to pursue?
Steph: I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in music. I was just unsure for a really long time about what that looked like. I have been singing my whole life and left school when I was young and went to study Music Business at TAFE. It wasn’t until I went to Uni at 21 that I discovered my love for song writing. I had never written a song before that, I just loved to sing and wanted to work in music. When I was studying I fell in love with writing and decided to change my degree to Songwriting and I have been hooked ever since.
Happy: Your EP covers a range of emotions and experiences, from lust to self-doubt. Can you talk a bit about the creative process behind these songs and how you were able to channel such personal experiences into your music?
Steph: My song writing process always begins at night time. I don’t know why but I just can’t write music during the day. I will usually come up with a chord progression that I’m feeling good about and just start to sing and see what comes out. When I feel like I have nothing to say I will go through voice memos or notes that I have written down when i’m out and about and see if anything fits. I’m not very good at going back and changing lyrics or parts of the melody so most of the stuff you hear on the EP is exactly what came up on the night that I wrote it. I don’t ever have a topic that I set out to write about. I often don’t even know what I’m saying until the song starts to take shape and then I know what the song is about.
Happy: Can you tell us about your musical influences and how they have impacted your own sound and style as an artist?
Steph: My main musical influences are Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Sharon Van Etten, Phoebe Bridgers, and Brandi Carlile. They all influence me in different ways but I love how they’re all strong women who have alot to say. Their vulnerability in their writing has influenced me to follow in their footsteps.
Happy: Your debut single “Ballerina” received a lot of attention and praise. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and why you chose it as your first release?
Steph: Ballerina is ultimately about unrequited love or lust. Feeling as though you are chasing after someone trying to get them to notice you. Wishing that they would turn around one day and say they want to be with you. I had been playing it live for a while acoustically and it was always everyone’s favourite song on the setlist so thats why I chose to release it first!
Happy: What was it like working with producer Tim McArtney on your debut EP? How did he help bring your vision to life?
Steph: Working with Tim is amazing! He is so kind and really took the time to get to know the songs and where I wanted them to go. We were lucky in the sense that we both understood the vision of the EP and was able to get there pretty naturally. He could clearly understand what I wanted and suggested some local musicians (Ken Loh, Charlie Finn, Ollie Thorpe) to come play on the EP that would give it the sound that we wanted.
Happy: Is there any gear that you rely on?
Steph: Not really! I just have my Taylor guitar that I adore and thats all I really need.
Happy: Your music has been described as “melancholic” and “mesmerizing”. How do you strive to create a certain mood or atmosphere in your music?
Steph: I don’t intentionally strive to sound “melancholic” or “mesmerizing”. I think that due to the topics i’m writing about and the style of voice that I have, people perceive my music as that but I do love sad girl music so im not mad about it.
Happy: Your EP is set to be released soon. Can you give us a sneak peek into what listeners can expect from it and any particular songs that you’re especially excited about?
Steph: My EP comes out this Friday and i’m super excited. Most of the songs on the EP have been released as singles but the first track on there “wherever you are” is one that i’m really excited about. It sounds different to most of my other songs and I love the moody, dreamy vibe to it. Aside from that, “Easy to Love” is probably my favourite. It’s the most vulnerable I have been in my writing so far and I was proud that I ended up releasing it as I was scared to for a while.
Happy: What do you hope listeners take away from your music, and how do you hope to connect with your audience through your songs?
Steph: I hope that people find something in the EP that resonates. Whether that be feeling as though they aren’t easy to love, or feeling sad that you have become a stranger to someone you once shared your life with. I hope people can enjoy the EP and process some of their own emotions about those topics along the way.
Happy: Lastly, what makes you happy?
Steph: I’m pretty easy to please. I’m most happy when I’m around good people, eating good food, drinking cold drinks and listening to good music. That’s all I really need.