Marie Claire: What kind of music was playing in your house growing up?
Stephen Sanchez: Leona Lewis, the Beastie Boys and Tenth Avenue North. The first love song I ever heard was “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. A lot of the music that inspires me as an artist – like Elvis – I discovered from going to my grandparents’ house and picking through their barn boxes full of vinyl.
MC: What has been the biggest highlight to come out of the song’s success?
SS: Getting to play at the venues of our heroes in the States. I’m just some Joe Schmo who’s gotten very emotional and now I’m in the shoes of my heroes. I’m just tugging at the laces trying to get them to fit on my feet a little bit.
MC: Whose shoes have you stepped into on stage that gave you a real pinch-me moment?
SS: We’re playing at the Ryman soon, which is a historic venue in Nashville, Tennessee. Elvis played there. He’s my personal hero. You can feel some spirits lingering around.
MC: Who or what was the inspiration behind the new album?
MC: Tell me about fusing your lived experiences with fiction.
SS: With “Until I Found You”, I wrote that song about somebody I dated. I wrote it when I was 18 … it wasn’t supposed to be a hit. We’ve broken up since then and I wish her the best – it is a crazy thing to have to mention it. With this record, I feel like I have more control over the story and the dialogue with the anonymity of people. Mystery is nice. I feel the most connected to this project because I don’t feel the exposure. I can hide.
SS: I thought it was a joke initially and I was a little bit insulted. Then we were in Denver at IHeartRadio and Elton called me and said, “Hello Stephen, it’s Elton.” I dropped to my knees. I wasn’t prepared for it. Even more than a hero, Elton is someone who I can see cares about me. That means a lot.
MC: You performed at celebrity Sofia Richie’s wedding this year. What is it like to be the soundtrack to someone’s love story?
SS: It reminds me of the reason why I do this. If you’re all about fame and fortune, that’s fine, but that’s gonna go away some day. We’re all gonna end up just being soil under people’s feet. We’re not that big in this world and if we have the opportunity to serve other people that’s the goodness. So getting to see her wedding – or [anyone’s] special day – and soundtracking such a beautiful moment of love gives purpose to all the heartache and all the songwriting.
MC: What’s been your biggest realisation about love?
SS: That it doesn’t have to look pretty immediately; it’s something that you work for. It’s hard and messy and you’re gonna hurt each other’s feelings. You’re going to unlearn and relearn a bunch of shit but it’s worth it.
Stephen Sanchez’s new album Angel Face is out now.