Doing It So Bright: An Interview with Casii Stephan

by - March 26, 2024

Finding a music producer that connects with an artist on an emotional level can be a daunting task. Casii Stephan jokes that she is her own version of Elizabeth Taylor, with ex-producers instead of ex-husbands. She constantly wants to challenge herself and try something new, so when she found a connection with Ben Tanner, she knew they could make something magical.

“One of the reasons I picked him was that on the phone calls with him he wasn’t afraid of silence,” she said. “That really intrigued me because he doesn’t feel the need to fill the space and talk too much. I really felt like he listened and I could hear myself think working with him. There was just space to absorb the song and listen to the song.”

When Stephan sent over some recent demos, Tanner immediately gravitated towards “Can’t Handle Me”. It was inspired by her roommate’s night out, where an intoxicated, married individual was insistent that she join him in his hotel room. When she returned home and relayed the story, it sparked an idea.

“I wrote this because anger really is a good inspiration for me,” she said. “I wanted to write ‘Can’t Handle Me’ to say things to these men that I don’t feel as women we can always be honest about. You just don’t know what they’re going to do, being drunk, so there’s that aspect of, ‘I need to protect my life and my safety and I need to just smile and nod’ and so I wanted to write some lyrics out and some thoughts out about what I really think about these men. It’s not them; they really can’t handle everything I’m thinking right now. Their ego would be absolutely deflated. There’s anger in the process of writing but I think in the actual song it’s very fun and joyous, and hopefully people feel that energy.”

When Tanner chose “Can’t Handle Me”, he also suggested that they consider creating an EP rather than just record a single. Stephan pitched six additional songs, and Tanner chose three: “Average Man”, “Wine and Gold” and “Without A Box”. They met in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and spent three days with a live band before returning a month later to record horns.

She wanted to make sure that she didn’t leave these sessions with any regrets. This recording process was such a different experience for her, but she trusted Tanner and his expertise. It felt like a leap of faith for Stephan that became her proudest achievement.

She admits that when Tanner chose the four songs, she initially struggled to see the overall message. She kept asking herself, ‘What is the theme?’ Sonically, it told a story. But what about lyrically? The more time she spent with the songs, the more she discovered that each song was a different relationship status. From single to taken to it’s complicated to acceptance, the listeners walk through a journey of recognizing each status and realizing it shouldn’t define anyone.

Sometimes creativity comes out of limitations, and having that challenge is what helped Casii Stephan create her upcoming EP, Relationship Status. “Can’t Handle Me” is the song that started this creative journey and brings forth a conversation on negative societal norms.

“These statuses help us grow and they help us become more and more the person we’re supposed to be,” Stephan said. “No matter who you are or where you are in life, it does help define you and refine you as a woman. We have to go through these experiences. We don’t get out of life scar-free, but a lot of times there’s things that happen better than what we’ve ever planned on. It’s about letting go and just receiving the journey that we’re on and not holding tight to our previous expectations.”

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