Pay It Forward: An Interview with Casii Stephan

Casii Stephan wrote her first song at 16, which she never thought would be something she wanted to pursue. She was incredibly shy as a child and grew up fairly sheltered, making a music career seem like something only seen in the movies. Once that first song was written, however, everything changed.

She has been compared to the likes of Florence Welch, Fiona Apple and Carole King. These powerhouse vocalists were not a part of her childhood, though. In growing her musical palette, she has been able to delve into their discographies and learn from them.

“What I admire about each of them is their own unique tone that makes them stand out,” she said. “I grew up feeling less than because I didn't have the ‘perfect’ smooth soprano voice and I wanted to ‘fit in’ so badly. But I'm realizing more and more that fitting in isn't all it's made out to be. Each of these women has beautiful voices and it's their distinctive tone that gives them an edge. They also sing their own songs. They're all women who aren't afraid to show the world their flaws, their strengths and every aspect that makes them, them.”

When asked if she remembers the moment that she realized she wanted to embrace her voice and pursue music, Stephan said that she is still learning how to embrace her voice on a daily basis. She has help with that by having people in her life that support her. One of those people is her friend/manager/percussionist, Amira Al-Jiboori.

The two met after Stephan moved to Tulsa, and Al-Jiboori’s confident personality charmed Stephan into playing a gig at a local coffee shop. Since then, they’ve been able to work together and create amazing opportunities for one another.

One of those opportunities is MisFEST, a female-fronted festival in Tulsa. As they immersed themselves in the music scene out there, they were coming across so many incredibly talented women that they felt deserved more recognition. They decided to create a festival spotlighting this talent and have been able to showcase women from all over the state in various music genres.

“It's so important because for us it's about making sure these artists know a great experience for sharing their art (we make sure the green room is restful and not stressful and we pay them) and then letting the Tulsa audience know the variety of music culture that their city has,” Stephan said. “If you think you know the Tulsa music scene, think again.”

The fact that Stephan gets to share her art in this community means a great deal to her, as does the kind words she gets from those that have seen her perform.

“My favorite thing is when listeners come up after a show and they tell me how a song really described their life in a way I could never predict,” she said. “Or I wrote the words that they were feeling. It's why I write songs and sing. So people know they're not alone in feeling a certain way. I know how much it helped me get through depression. So if I can pay-it-forward... that's huge.”

Casii Stephan didn’t see her life turning out the way it did, but her chance to immerse herself in the Tulsa music scene and share her songs with people near and far has changed everything for the better.