After releasing 16 albums and 13 standalone singles, I permanently closed the lid on the William Steffey catalog. William Steffey’s swansong was the single “Sparkle”, which sees our stalwart protagonist’s ashes shot into space and sprinkled across the stars.
“Sparkle” is about the death of ego, and a perfect song to wrap the musical catalog of a borderline-alcoholic sad-sack who wanted little more than for you to “Check out his music and let him know what you think.” While I’m still using my legal name for writing projects, there will be no more music from “William Steffey.”
Enter recording artist William Is. The pandemic and subsequent lock-downs provided me the monastery I never knew I needed.
In my relative solitude it dawned on me that, pre-pandemic, I had been surrounding myself with a cadre of ultra-negative people- not the least of which was my ex-publicist / drinking-too-much-buddy who was sure to rail against any good idea I had (“You pressed 500 copies of your album? Those are gonna be tough to move.” and “You can’t change your name now!”) I see now this was hardly personal, as he had at least one shitty thing to say about each of his clients when they weren’t around. I’m going to postulate this guy’s in the wrong line of work.
Eventually, I quit talking about my projects around certain people because I didn’t need or want to hear the “worst case scenario” or any other negative shit these folks are pros at coming up with. But I quickly got tired of staying quiet and “playing small.” I’ve since assembled a highly-supportive crew where I can be myself and talk about my projects with excitement- as well as hear about the exciting projects of others in my circle. No jerks allowed!
To be fair, I’m sure I unconsciously cherry-picked those negative people to propagate my ancient childhood narrative that it’s impossible to make a living doing music and that I’d better play it safe- completely ensuring I never find reward. This narrative had for so long colored my whole attitude about the music busines, and saw me sabotaging every real opportunity that came along. I am no longer focused on the failure stories and negative talk- from artists I don’t even like!- and instead pay attention to how successful and how much fun that artists I *do* admire are having- generally with support from a major record label.
The benefits to recording under a created name are many. I’m able to completely sculpt “William Is” as I see fit, whereas I had only so much leeway when I was creating under my legal name. William Is can be anything I want him to be, and he can sing about a variety of topics- via a variety of tones and voices- that William Steffey could never have pulled off.
It was a lackluster ride living inside the “what could be” world that defined William Steffey. It’s time to make space for what is.