Stephen Sanchez is bringing old school back to the mainstream like no one else. Combining soulful falsetto, heart-wrenching lyrics and a dose of ’50s and ’60s nostalgia, Sanchez’s rise to stardom should come as no surprise. In support of the release of his debut album, Angel Face, he came to Eugene on October 29th at the McDonald Theater.
Sanchez’s debut makes one hell of a statement. Covered in crooner-style longing for love with splashes of Sanchez’s devastating, spine-chilling falsetto, it teleports you back to the 1950s, slow-dancing with the love of your life in front of that iconic jukebox. This retro style of pop music is exactly what makes Sanchez such an invigorating presence in the pop realm – he fully embodies music’s most powerful moments.
Rooted in Northern California, Sanchez knew he wanted to pursue music as a career from a very young age. In fact, he has a specific memory that really triggered this desire. “When I saw NEEDTOBREATHE for the second time on their acoustic tour, it really hit me,” Sanchez said. “I just remember sitting in this beautiful theater with velvet seats, thousands of people losing their minds and these guys singing these very stripped down songs. I had this moment where I was like, “I can’t see myself doing anything else. This is what I had to do.
Although Sanchez was born and raised in Northern California, Sanchez has grandparents who lived in rural Oregon. Sanchez said coming to Oregon to live with his grandparents was another source of inspiration for his love of music because of the cold and foggy environment Oregon provides.
“It definitely has an old feel to it. I’ve always felt very comfortable in the countryside,” Sanchez said. “Being younger in the mountains, I always felt good there. It felt like a good place to be inspired by things very easily. When my grandfather played the piano or the guitar, that was the action there. My attention has never been anywhere else.
By 2022, TikTok had a few years behind it as a birthplace for budding artist careers. In late 2021, Sanchez released the single “Until I Found You” and by early 2022, TikTok picked it up, catapulting Sanchez’s career to stardom. Navigating this newfound fame can be difficult for many up-and-coming artists. But it’s important for Sanchez to keep a level-headed outlook.
“Well, that song really is a unicorn, isn’t it?” Sanchez said. “I don’t feel famous or bigger than anyone else. For me to be praised in a way that puts me above other people is super unnatural. The challenge was really just rehumanizing myself and other people.”
As I mentioned earlier, Sanchez’s music is steeped in 50s styles. However, over time, the popular sounds of music are constantly changing, making it increasingly challenging to incorporate older styles into popular music and preserve it. But Sanchez’s musical history made this fusion of sounds easy for him.
“It’s safe to say when you try to record elements of the ’50s and ’60s within the modern era, it naturally falls into modern sounds,” Sanchez said. “Making this record with these styles in mind felt very organic because I’ve spent so many years in love with this music. This new record feels like a passion project more than anything. I wanted to embrace these feelings and sounds that just come out of me naturally.
Not only does Sanchez take you back in time while listening to his music, he wants you to experience the same feeling while at his concerts. “It’s more than just a show,” Sanchez said. “You’ll feel like you’re watching a real concert, while also feeling very theatrical and stepping into another time. The Troubadour and Evangeline and all the things you hear on the record you’ll hear on stage. I don’t think there are any artists doing that right now. I think it’s worth coming to see.”
Headlining his debut album Angel Face tour, he will make a stop in Eugene on Oct. 29 at the McDonald Theater. Keep up with Stephen and his future endeavors on Instagram: @stephensanchezofficial