Stephen Sanchez

What Was, Not Now

Stephen Sanchez

Sitting in his room with a guitar in hand, Stephen Sanchez filters all of the questions, thoughts, and emotions inside of his heart into timeless intonation and raw honesty.

By doing so, he continues to appeal to both listeners and his peers as he’s amassed north of 10 million streams independently and earned the support of mega-creators such as Spencer X, Abigail Barlow, and Jenna Raine. His music sports the sort of dusty individuality meant to be discovered on an old “45” in some mom-and-pop record shop, yet it’s vibrant enough to be found on trending online.

Working with producer Ian Fitchuk [Kacey Musgraves, James Bay] and writing every song himself, this sound comes to life on his debut, What Was, Not Now EP [Republic Records].

“I’m just a guy who sits in his bedroom and writes devastatingly heartbreaking songs,” he states. “My songs have always been written and played in my room. It’s such an intimate place in and of itself. You sleep in there. You spend time with the people you love in there. It’s so inspiring and honest. With this record, I’m inviting people into that space.”

Stephen fell in love with music the old-fashioned way. While visiting his maternal grandparents’ house, he spent countless hours rifling through an old barn where he dug up original vinyl from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Platters, and The Ink Spots. He’d bring those classics home and spin them on his turntable. Meanwhile, his dad’s father played guitar and penned songs.

“When you listen to those old records from the fifties and the sixties, they sound like they’re coming from another dimension,” he observes. “The songs were simple, but profound, romantic, and beautiful. It sparked a desire to write what I was hearing. To me, songwriting is like taking a memory and putting it in a projector for everyone to see.”

Not long after, he picked up guitar and cut his teeth with covers. Eventually, he grabbed a pen. “I was going through plenty of life changes, first love, heartbreak, and all of that. I needed to talk about it from my perspective,he adds.

Oldies music may have piped through his home, but he eventually discovered Foster The People and Cage The Elephant on the radio. In high school, he developed a reputation as “the kid who played guitar and wrote songs.During June 2020, he posted a TikTok cover of Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Day Dreams,” and it exploded with over 161K views. He built an audience through a steady stream of content, attracting over 122.1K followers on TikTok.

After sharing a snippet of “Lady By The Sea,” multiplatinum singer and songwriter Jeremy Zucker reached out and offered to produce the official version for Stephen. Right out of the gate, it gathered 4.5 million Spotify streams and counting. Landing a deal with Republic Records, he hit the studio in Nashville in October of 2020.

Coupling Stephen’s songwriting with Fitchuk’s production, the sound blossomed.

“Ian is the kindest human I’ve ever met,” he smiles. “He carries himself so humbly. It was my first time being in a studio and recording professionally. These songs were so close to my heart, and he held them preciously with me. We were making an emotional record together. It bonded us for life.”

Introducing the EP, “Kayla” pairs delicately plucked acoustic guitar with soft strings and confessional lyrics in a paean to unrequited love. “Two years ago, I had a massive crush on a girl named Kayla,” he recalls. “She didn’t like me back, but I was determined to win her over. I wrote her this song, recorded it on GarageBand, sent it to her, but we weren’t destined to be together.  Kayla was part of my life over the past year though, so the song had a place in this body of work.”

Prior to the EP, the single “Until I Found You” conjured the ghosts of crooners past with its doo wop-style harmonies, airy guitar, tambourine, and hypnotic chant, “I used to say I would never fall in love until I found her.”


“When I wrote ‘Until I Found You’ I was in the worst place ever, he admits. “Then I met someone who was so loving and great to me though. I didn’t feel good enough for this person so I pushed them away. We spent some time apart and when we re-connected it was like no time had passed.” I wrote ‘Until I Found You’ to let them know how important they were to me and to let them know how much of an idiot I was when I pushed them away the first time.”

With its candid lyrics and unshakable melody, “Until I Found You” reacted with audiences in a big way as it caught fire on TikTok before bubbling up on streaming platforms. It became a fan favorite and it sparked a heartwarming trend on the platform. In light of its virality, Spotify highlighted it on coveted playlists such as Retro Pop, big on the internet, goosebumps, and Pop Sauce. It vaulted into the Top 5 on the Spotify Daily Viral Songs USA Chart and Top 10 on the Spotify Daily Viral Songs Global Chart. It also climbed to #8 on the Apple Music Singer-Songwriter Chart and eclipsed 7 million global streams in a few months’ time. Plus, Amazon Music touted it on Fresh Indie and Breakthrough Indie. 

“Hold Her While You Can” stands out among Stephen’s other anthems on the EP. Breezy upbeat guitar brushes up against another soaring refrain before a hummable solo takes hold.

“I wrote it as a reminder we need to hold on to the people we love,” he elaborates. “Beauty only fades if you let it. So, hold on to the beautiful things you do love and be reminded time is fleeting. The time with who you care about is more important than all of the worries happening.”

In the end, Stephen is about to make a much bigger connection beyond his room.

“I’d love for you to hear these songs and receive them in whatever way helps your heart the most,” he leaves off. “Music is healing. It’s therapy. That’s the hope.”

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