Wanderland Lineup: Get to Know Stephen Day

The singer-songwriter is set to attract new fans at the two-day fest.

When the full lineup for Wanderland 2020 was announced, fans immediately reacted favorably to artists like Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), Indonesian artist Niki, Ali Gatie, and a bunch of others. They join previously announced artists like Foals, Raveena, and Bruno Major, among others. 

Unfortunately, Novo Amor and Sabrina Claudio have had to cancel for varying reasons. Wanderland organizers Karpos Multimedia have said, however, that new acts will replace them and will be announced soon. 

But of the artists in the announced lineup, I was personally most excited to see Stephen Day’s name in the list. The singer-songwriter is hardly known in these parts, but thanks to Spotify, I’ve become quite acquainted with his music—a sometimes languid, sometimes trippy mix of thoughtful songwriting and dreamy melodies.

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Thanks to the folks at Karpos, which is mounting the eighth edition of the country’s best indie music festival, I got the chance to chat with the twentysomething artist through an email. Here are excerpts:

Esquire PH: Please tell us where you are and what's outside your window.

Stephen Day: Today, I’m home in Nashville, Tennessee, sitting at my dining room table after eating a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I’m watching a construction crew put down the foundation for a house they’re building next door. It’s a pretty dreary day, but a great day for pondering while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

What is your earliest musical memory? When did you first become interested in music?

I can remember singing in the children’s church choir and hating it. We had to do hand motions and sing as loud as we could. I chose to do neither because I was shy. It wasn’t until middle school that I found my mom’s old nylon string acoustic guitar in her closet and asked her to show me all the chords she knew. Then I was hooked. 

What made you want to become a songwriter? Who are your songwriting inspirations?

I started writing songs pretty early on. It was like that was what I was supposed to do if I was learning to play guitar. I always knew I didn’t just want to be a guitar player or a musician. I wanted to try my best to do it all. I would say Room for Squares by John Mayer was the biggest influence on me to start writing though or at least think of it as a possible career. After digging into John Mayer, I started to listen to his influences like Stevie Wonder, which really got me into soul music in general.

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Was there ever a point when you knew you wanted to pursue being a musician as a career? Did you have to give up other dreams or was this always it?

I like to think there was always an undercurrent telling me this was my thing. I’ve sat down over the years many a time trying to think what else I would rather do and it always comes back to music. So, I’m thinking I’ll lean into it until it backfires on me. Then on to carpentry or something.

What are your top 5 favorite albums of all time?

1| Room for Squares - John Mayer

2| Blonde - Frank Ocean

3| Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves

4| Black Messiah - D’Angelo

5| Mylo Xyloto - Coldplay

Please tell us about your songwriting process. Does the melody usually come first or the lyrics? 

Depends on the day honestly. Melody is definitely the driving force in my songwriting, but I don’t always start there. Sometimes I’ll work from just wanting a certain song to have a specific title or have a phrase I think is cool and try and write with it. Most days I’m trying to figure out what words go with my melodies though. 


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What can't you leave home without?

Lame answer alert, but definitely my phone. I’m attached to it because it’s a part of doing business and making sure I’m available. 

What do you know or what are your impressions about Manila and the Philippines?

I’ve only heard great things and honestly can’t wait for the sunshine. Especially on a dreary day like today in Nashville. 

What can audiences expect from your set at Wanderland?

I love playing live because it gives me a chance to breathe new life into the songs on a record. I’m excited to give the songs a little more of a rock band-like sound with good energy.

Who were you rooting for to win at this year's Grammys?

I think Billie Eilish deserved a lot of praise, but I am a huge Bon Iver fan so it was sad to watch him not get some recognition. But he doesn’t seem like the type to get down after something like that!

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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