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January 9, 2018

Incredible closeness ft. Stephan Nance

Incredible closeness ft. Stephan Nance

Erika Balint
CONCERT REVIEWS

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Tales of love and loss forged an incredible closeness between audience and musician when Stephan Nance gave a heartwarming Low-Fi concert at Think.dk.

Tales of love and loss forged an incredible closeness between audience and musician when Stephan Nance gave a heartwarming Low-Fi concert at Think.dk.

It’s a December evening in Copenhagen and my friend and I are on our way to Stephan Nance’s Low-Fi concert, fighting the cold wind with brisk steps and eager hearts. Finally! The right courtyard. We hurry inside and upstairs, past the wooden mushrooms and lit candles that line the steps up to the first floor at Think.dk. ‘Poetic piano rock…’ — we sneak in before I read the rest of the poster.

They’ve been expecting us. Literally, us. Our host Anja greets us by our names and welcomes us into the cozy space that is Think.dk. Modular couches, lounge chairs and a handful of people are spread around the large room, mingling. Stephan is among them, talking to one of the audience members. All songs in the booklet are played in order and the audience follows the intricate lyrics closely. Like clockwork, Stephan chuckles and thanks us after each and every song, taking a second to look downwards – but mostly within – before facing us with a charming smile.

"They sit down at the piano and – straight
out of the gate – it is unmistakably Stephan: theatrical and upbeat, playful and plain charming."
"They sit down at the piano and – straight
out of the gate – it is unmistakably Stephan: theatrical and upbeat, playful and plain charming."

More than being a skilled pianist with an astounding knack for wordplay, Stephan captivates with their effortlessly genuine and infinitely warmhearted nature. Between songs, they share deeply personal anecdotes and memories that humbly illustrate the extent of their graciousness. One of these confessions happens just before playing a song entitled ‘Wooden’:

"When I was 16, I ended up running away from home because things were bad with my parents. I was living with my grandparents. At some point, my grandpa gave me a rock that said ‘always’ on it. When I asked him why ‘always’, he answered: ‛Well, you’ll always be Stephan and I think that’s a good person to be. As long as you are not hurting anyone, you are doing the right thing by me’, which was touching. I keep that rock with me to this day.

I’m non-violent to the point of not defending myself. 5-6 years ago I was assaulted in my town and got beaten up and pushed into blackberry brambles. It was really bad. I didn’t hit back or anything. When I was writing the song I was thinking about that and I was thinking about what my grandpa said. I can’t imagine hitting someone even if they’re hitting me. Violence is so illogical to me that I can’t even comprehend self-defense, which isn’t healthy I think. I was questioning whether always being Stephan means that I’d sooner die than hit back. Maybe I should try to be a little different. These are things I think about. I don’t have an answer. " This was advertised as ‘the dark part’ of the show. And dark it was – from lyrics, to delivery and melody, it all fit together seamlessly.

"I can’t imagine hitting someone even if they’re hitting me. Violence is so illogical to me that I can’t even comprehend self-defense."
"I can’t imagine hitting someone even if they’re hitting me. Violence is so illogical to me that I can’t even comprehend self-defense."
Stephan Nance looking out a window

Just before we reach the last song in the booklet, we negotiate the encore. To our pleas to play Song for Losers, Stephan responds:

Stephan: That’s funny. They also made me play it in Gdansk. I can play it [chuckles]

Audience: You don’t have to. You don’t like it anymore?

S: I was so young when I wrote it. It was 10 years ago and I’m worried it sounds preachy. 

A: Do you think the rules have changed since then?

S: No, I was just so much younger, and I guess it sounds so much more fragile and vulnerable, which is fine. I am vulnerable in other songs in other ways. It makes me think of when I was so young. I can play it.

Everyone nods.

The last song is now over and the only divider between the audience and the musician – a wall of applause – disappears. We are all at the same level, having a conversation.

Audience: How is your writing process with these complex lyrics?

Stephan: Usually there’s something at the beginning that involves both music and lyrics. Then there’s a long time where I’m researching and writing a lot of things that are possible for the song. I create a vocabulary for the world of the song and then shape it from there. That’s how they end up being lyrically complicated — because of the research. I really like learning new words and facts while writing a song and incorporating them in some way.

A: I am really impressed by the complexity of your songs and I still can’t figure out what they remind me of. And I think that’s a good thing. You keep us intrigued all the time.

In the end, the whole ordeal feels like a beautiful, lucky mistake. The handful of us in a gorgeous Copenhagen loft, fire crackling, reading and smiling along to the music. Why is the rest of the world not forming a line outside the door? I am not sure, but I am sure thankful to be here. When my friend and I finally get back into the Danish winter night, we are not ready to hit reality just yet, so we walk another few kilometers, gushing about the warmth in our hearts and mirroring each other’s smiles. 

Keep up with Stephan on their website.
A little bird told me new music is on the way.

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