Steph Casey; singer, songwriter, talented musician from Wellington, New Zealand, releases her debut album ‘Whisper & Holler’. With a style that feels familiar, and a voice that’s unique and soulful, there’s something new to discover throughout all 13 tracks of her album. She shares a life’s journey through her meaningful lyrics and creative musical intonations.
First off the album is ‘Nice To Almost Know You’, also her first single released from the album, easily one of my favorites. You can follow the song here:
It begins with a single guitar and a round of the catchy chorus that completely makes the song, and sets the mood. Instantly memorable, Steph’s vocals are simple in range, but her accent that slightly shines through the lyrics make her voice unique and something signature.
“It was nice to almost know you
There are places I’d like to have shown you
And songs I could have played for you
Nice to almost know you”
The drums are added in, laying down the perfect musical foundation for a song I could listen to over and over again. The melody doesn’t stray far from beginning to end; trading off and on, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus. No bridge, no need, the song is a delicate piece meant to portray a feeling, a memory of someone loved but lost, and all the things special you wish you could have shared but never had the chance to, because now they’re gone; your love for them still remains. This is easily a song I can hear on the radio as one of those you hear once and it’s stuck in your head before you even know all the lyrics.
Track four takes us down a quiet and heartfelt path into the soul of Steph Casey in; ‘Probably’. Beginning with a simple guitar that’s finger-picked, her vocals drift in adding a second layer, followed by a third layer with a second harmony vocal, the musical and vocal layers just building and building so delicately and intentionally, yet never losing the essence of what the lyrical message is. Sung with pure emotion, every note both instrumentally and vocally has a dominant presence. Not once over-played, there’s a breath throughout the song which demands the audience to take a moment of silence and just…listen.
“Could a shadow block the sun?
Could the tides turn?
Will this be another lesson I must learn?
Will there be a time when it’s alright?
For now, please just stand by my side”
The biggest build in the song is in the chorus, with just enough depth to really move you with her lyrics, she adds an overlay of spoken word, giving me the feeling that this song is really a conversation that she only had the courage to have if it was sung. Fading into a beautiful outro, like the downward spiraling of a staircase, the song slowly unwinds into nothingness; like a final exhale..a last breath.
The story that’s being told wouldn’t be complete without album-titled number; ‘Whisper and Holler’. Track 10 among the 13, the harmonies are what really stand out for me in this song. Continuing with something similar to previous intros, she opens with her acoustic guitar, followed by a short harmonic solo, giving this song a more folk-like feel. Her vocal counterpart adds a rich lower tone, while Steph leads with some higher runs, reaching a peak on her vocals. I love how even in her higher range, her voice still contains a breathy abandonment, allowing for a feeling of effortlessness to seep through her music in a beautiful way. The two share the song well, perhaps the most raw and stripped-down song on the album; you won’t hear more than layered guitars, harmony vocals, and lovely touches of harmonica and shakers. It leaves plenty of space for a beautiful acoustic guitar solo 3/4 of the way through the song.
“You got me
You got me
You got me
Searching for a sign between every line
You want me
You want me
You want me”
Saving one of the best for last? Could be, with track 11; ‘Kapiti’. Full of the summer season, free-spirited, pina colada flavor; I’m reminded of a favorite Dido song of mine; ‘Sand In My Shoes’. Instantly in love with this alter side of Steph, she still keeps the beautiful simplicity of what I’ve come to know as her wheel house; with a musical arrangement of dominant shakers and guitar.
“I dig my toes into the sand
And gaze out into Kapiti land
It’s great to be out of the city”
What some musicians will do, in an attempt to “fill the space”, is add in multiple vocal and instrumental effects, more often than not overwhelming the song with too much of “that” (whatever “that” is), and distracting from the classic sound of pure instruments, beautiful vocals and meaningful lyrics. But the thing I’ve come to appreciate most about Steph’s music is that she does none of that. The most “effect” you’ll hear in this song is some whistling. She delivers real unique heart-touching songs in all 13 tracks and never fakes it, or plays it up to be something it’s not; it leaves her very vulnerable. I think it’s paid off.
For someone who has placed as a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest in which more than 7,000 entries are submitted every year, the humbleness that Steph demonstrates is a lesson to us all. Being a musician myself, I can see and hear the difference in a song when the lyrics are from the heart, pulled from a place of deeper meaning, rather than when something’s being said just because it fits into your rhyming pattern. The release of ‘Whisper & Holler’ is yet another accomplishment she should be very proud of, and one I’m honored to have had the privilege of reviewing.
By Pranam Bai Richter
Head of Global Publicity, the Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, The Richter Sisters
You can read more about Steph at her Fish Pond profile here.