Sufjan Stevens Biography
Stevens has released albums of varying styles, from the electronica of Enjoy Your Rabbit and the lo-fi folk of Seven Swans to the symphonic instrumentation of Illinois and Christmas-themed Songs for Christmas. Stevens makes use of a variety of instruments, often playing many of them himself on the same recording, and writes music in various time signatures. Though he has repeatedly stated an intent to separate his beliefs from his music,Stevens also freely draws from the Bible and other spiritual traditions, often incorporating mystical elements into his music.
Stevens was born in Detroit and lived there until the age of nine, when his family moved to Petoskey, Michigan. He was raised by his father Rasjid and his stepmother, only occasionally visiting his mother Carrie in Oregon after she married her second husband Lowell Brams. (Brams would later become the head of Stevens' record label Asthmatic Kitty). He attended Petoskey High School, the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and graduated from Harbor Light Christian School. He went on to attend Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and earned a Master of Fine Arts from The New School in New York City.
Sufjan is an Arabic and Persian name meaning "comes with a sword". It predates Islam and most famously belonged to Abu Sufyan, a figure from early Islamic history. The name was given to Stevens by the founder of Subud, an inter-faith spiritual community to which his parents belonged when he was born.
A multi-instrumentalist, Stevens is known for his use of the banjo, but also plays guitar, piano, drums, xylophone, and several other instruments, often playing all of these on his albums through the use of multitrack recording. While in school, he studied the oboe and English horn, which he also plays on his albums. Stevens did not learn to play the guitar until his time at Hope College.
Stevens currently lives in Kensington, Brooklyn, in New York City, where he makes up the Brooklyn staff of Asthmatic Kitty Records. His brother Marzuki Stevens is a nationally recognized marathon runner.