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A singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Detroit-born Sufjan Stevens started venturing into the music world while attending Hope College as a member of Marzuki, a folk-rock band based in Holland, Michigan. Following the release of two full-length albums with the group, Stevens decided to go solo in late 1999, investing fully in a career that was waiting to shine by itself. Sun Came, his debut album, appeared in 2000, confirming his superior musical command, complex instrumentation, and sparkling melodies. The promotion of the disc included playing on the road with the Danielson Famile, with whom he began regularly working. The heavily electronic Enjoy Your Rabbit, a song cycle concerning the animals of the Chinese zodiac, hit record stores in 2001, followed in 2003 by Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State, a 15-track conceptual piece produced and performed by Stevens -- he played over 20 instruments -- that placed his home state under the writer's microscope. Despite the record's narrowed focus, it was among the best reviewed work that year and made many critics' year-end lists. In 2004, Stevens released his follow-up, Seven Swans, a thoughtful, spiritual, and quasi-mystical collection of standalone songs produced by Danielson Famile mastermind Daniel Smith.
Stevens returned to his ambitious "states" project in 2005 with the epic Illinoise (extended title: Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come on Feel the Illinoise), which became one of the best-reviewed album of 2005, spawning accolades both regional and international -- it was also smacked with a lawsuit concerning the depiction of DC Comics icon Superman on the cover, who was eventually covered by a balloon sticker and subsequently removed from further pressings. The 21-track Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album and the five-disc Christmas box set Songs for Christmas arrived in 2006, followed in 2007 by the instrumental BQE, a self-described "symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York City's infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway" that was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and performed on three consecutive nights (November 1-3, 2007) in front of a film shot by Stevens, who had officially relocated to New York in 2000. Run Rabbit Run, a version of 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit performed by the Osso String Quartet, and a recorded version, BQE, arrived in October 2009. In 2010, Stevens surprised everybody by releasing All Delighted People, a nearly 60-minute EP of new music. An all-new studio album, the surreal electronic pop manifesto The Age of Adz, arrived later, in October of that year. In 2012 Stevens released the five-EP box set Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10, the sequel to 2006's Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5.
Sufjan Stevens (/ˈuːɑː/ SOOF-yahn; born July 1, 1975) is an American singer-songwriter and musician born in Detroit, Michigan. Stevens first began releasing his music on Asthmatic Kitty, a label co-founded with his stepfather, beginning with the 1999 release, A Sun Came. He is best known for his 2005 album, Illinois, which hit number one in the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, and for the song "Chicago".
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."Sufjan Stevens' artist profile". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved October 23, 2008. Peschek, David (June 25, 2004). "Michigan review The Guardian". London. Retrieved May 2, 2008. "Comes With A Smile – Number 15 – Summer 2004". All Good Naysayers, Speak up!. Retrieved June 16, 2007. Sylvester, Nick (August 8, 2005). "Without a Prayer". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 27, 2006.
ContentsBiography1.1 Career1.2 The Fifty States Project1.3 The BQE1.4 Run Rabbit Run1.5 All Delighted People and The Age of Adz1.6 2012 and collaborative projects
Stevens was born in Detroit and lived there until the age of nine, when his family moved to Petoskey, Michigan. 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 or 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, 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 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.
Stevens began his musical career as a member of Marzuki, a folk-rock band from Holland, Michigan. He also played (and continues to play) various instruments for Danielson Famile. While in school at Hope College, Stevens wrote and recorded his debut solo album, A Sun Came, which he released on Asthmatic Kitty Records. He later moved to New York City, where he was enrolled in a writing program at the New School for Social Research.
While in New York, Stevens composed and recorded the music for his second album, Enjoy Your Rabbit, a song cycle based around the animals of the Chinese zodiac that delved into electronica.
Stevens followed this with the first album to be released as a part of his "Fifty States Project", a collection of folk songs and instrumentals inspired by his home state of Michigan. The result, the expansive Michigan included odes to cities including Detroit and Flint, the Upper Peninsula, and vacation areas such as Tahquamenon Falls. Melded into the scenic descriptions and characters are his own declarations of faith, sorrow, love, and the regeneration of Michigan.
Following the release of Michigan, Stevens compiled a collection of songs recorded previously into a side project, the album Seven Swans, which was released in March 2004.
Next he released the second in the 50 states project, titled Illinois. Among the subjects explored on Illinois are the cities of Chicago, Decatur and Jacksonville; the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the death of a friend on Casimir Pulaski Day, the poet Carl Sandburg, and the serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
Over the 2005 winter holidays, Stevens recorded an album with Rosie Thomas and Denison Witmer playing banjo and providing vocals. In April 2006, Pitchfork erroneously announced that Stevens and Thomas were having a baby together, but were forced to print a retraction. Witmer and Thomas later admitted it was an April Fools' prank. In December 2006, the collaborative recordings were digitally released by Nettwerk as a Rosie Thomas album titled These Friends of Mine. The album was released in physical form on March 13, 2007.
On September 11, 2006, in Nashville, Tennessee, Stevens debuted a new composition, a ten-minute-plus piece titled "Majesty Snowbird". On November 21, 2006, a five CD box set Songs for Christmas was released, which contains originals and Christmas standards recorded every year since 2001 (except 2004). Stevens undertook in the project initially as an exercise to make himself 'appreciate' Christmas more. The songs were the work of an annual collaboration between Stevens and different collaborators, including minister Vito Aiuto; the songs themselves were distributed to friends and family.
In April 2007, in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, Stevens made unannounced appearances on Thomas's tour in support of this album. In 2007, he did a Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon standing on a roof in Cincinnati. In 2007, he played shows sporadically, including playing at the Kennedy Center to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Stage concerts. He was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music to create a "music and film work" titled The BQE, described as "a symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York City's infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway". It premiered at BAM's Next Wave festival on November 1–3, 2007. Stevens has also worked as an essayist, contributing to Asthmatic Kitty Records' "Sidebar" feature and Topic Magazine. He wrote the introduction to the 2007 edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading, a short story about his early childhood education and learning to read titled How I Trumped Rudolf Steiner and Overcame the Tribulations of Illiteracy, One Snickers Bar at a Time. That winter, he hosted an "Xmas Song Exchange Contest" in which winner Alec Duffy won exclusive rights to the original Stevens song "The Lonely Man of Winter." The track has never been uploaded, and can now only be heard by attending private listening parties at Duffy's home in Brooklyn.
Stevens has contributed to the music of Denison Witmer, Soul Junk, Half-handed Cloud, Brother Danielson, Danielson Famile, Serena Maneesh, Castanets, Will Stratton, Shannon Stephens, Clare & the Reasons, and Liz Janes. In 2007 alone, Stevens played piano on The National's album Boxer, produced and contributed many instrumental tracks to Rosie Thomas's album These Friends of Mine, multiple instruments on Ben + Vesper's album All This Could Kill You and oboe and vocals to David Garland's 2007 album Noise in You.
He has contributed covers of Tim Buckley ("She Is"), Joni Mitchell ("Free Man in Paris"), Daniel Johnston ("Worried Shoes"), John Fahey ("Variation on 'Commemorative Transfiguration & Communion at Magruder Park"), The Innocence Mission ("The Lakes of Canada"), Bob Dylan ("Ring Them Bells") and The Beatles ("What Goes On") to various tribute albums. His versions of "Free Man in Paris" and "What Goes On" are notable for only retaining the lyrics of the original, as Stevens has taken his own interpretation on the melody and arrangement. His rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" has a similar rearranged melody and arrangement as well as a whole new verse.
His songs "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders" and "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" were featured in the 2006 British comedy-drama Driving Lessons, starring Harry Potter's Julie Walters and Rupert Grint. In 2008, he produced Welcome to the Welcome Wagon, the debut album of Brooklyn-based husband and wife duo Vito and Monique Aiuto, The Welcome Wagon.
In February 2009, Stevens contributed "You Are the Blood" to the AIDS benefit album Dark Was the Night produced by the Red Hot Organization. In April 2009, Stevens uploaded a song about director Sofia Coppola online. This song was written while Stevens was in college, from a series of songs about names.
"[...] A few weeks later, our dog got hit by a snowplow and I forgot all about the problem of names. Until college, when I learned to play the guitar, and, as an exercise, started writing songs (very poorly executed) in the same way that Henry Ford produced the automobile: assembly-line-style. I wrote songs for the days of the week (poor Monday!). Songs for the planets (poor Pluto!). Songs for the Apostles (poor Judas!). And, finally, when all else failed, I started a series of songs for names. [...] Each piece was a rhetorical, philosophical, musical rumination on all the possible names I had entertained years before when my parents had given me the one chance to change my own. Oh fates! I sang these songs in the privacy of my dorm room, behind closed doors, pillows and cushions stuffed in the air vents so no one would hear. And then I almost failed Latin class, my grades plummeted, my social life dissolved into ping pong tournaments in the residence halls, and, gradually, my interest in music (or anything divine, creative, fruitful, enriching) completely waned. I turned to beer. And cigarettes. And TV sitcoms. And candy bars. Oh well! A perfectly good youth wasted on junk food! That is, until a few months ago, when I came across some of the old name songs, stuffed onto tape cassettes, 4-track recorders, forgotten boxes, forgotten shelves, forgotten hard drives. It was like finding an old diary, or a high school yearbook, senior picture with lens flare and pockmarks, slightly cute and embarrassing. What was I thinking? [...]"
In September 2009, Stevens began performing four new songs while on his Fall tour, "All Delighted People", "Impossible Soul", "Too Much" and "Age of Adz". That year Stevens contributed to an album with his step father, Lowell Brams, entitled Music For Insomnia. The album was released December 8, 2009.
In November 2009, Stevens admitted to Exclaim! Magazine, in regard to the fact that he recently called his fifty-state project a joke, that "I don't really have as much faith in my work as I used to, but I think that's healthy. I think it's allowed me to be less precious about how I work and write. And maybe it's okay for us to take it less seriously."
In June 2010, The National's Bryce Dessner claimed Stevens was at work on his next full length album and stated the band was working on the new album.
The Fifty States Project
Beginning with the album Michigan, Stevens announced an intent to write an album for each of the 50 U.S. states. Several years after completing a second state-themed album, Stevens admitted that the project had been a "promotional gimmick" and not one he had seriously intended to complete.
Stevens had spent the second half of 2004 researching and writing material for the second album, Illinois. As with Michigan, Stevens used the state of Illinois as a leaping-off point for his more personal explorations of faith, family, love, and location. Though slated for general release on July 5, 2005, the album was briefly delayed by legal issues regarding the use of Superman in the original album cover artwork. In the double vinyl release, a balloon sticker has been placed over Superman on the cover art of the first 5,000 copies. The next printings had an empty space where the Superman image was, as with the CD release.
The widely acclaimed Illinois was the highest-rated album of 2005 on the Metacritic review aggregator site, based on glowing reviews from Pitchfork Media, The Onion A/V Club, Spin, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, KEXP, and The Guardian. The 2006 PLUG Independent Music Awards awarded Stevens with the Album of the Year, Best Album Art/Packaging, and Male Artist of the Year. Pitchfork Media, No Ripcord, and Paste Magazine named Illinois as the editors' choice for best album of 2005 and Stevens received the 2005 Pantheon prize, awarded to noteworthy albums selling fewer than 500,000 copies, for Illinois. In April 2006, Stevens announced that 21 pieces of music he had culled from the Illinois recording sessions would be incorporated into a new album, called The Avalanche, which was released on July 11, 2006.
Though Stevens' subsequent work was sometimes speculated to tie into future "States" projects, and Stevens himself would make occasional statements alluding to the future of the project, The Guardian published an interview with Stevens in 2009 in which he stated in relation to the Fifty States Project: "I have no qualms about admitting it was a promotional gimmick".
On May 31, 2007, Asthmatic Kitty announced that Stevens would be premiering a new project titled The BQE in early November 2007. The project, dubbed a "symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York City's infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway", was manifested in a live show. The BQE featured an original film by Stevens (shot in Super 8 mm film and standard 16 mm), while Stevens and a backing orchestra provided the live soundtrack. The performance used 36 performers which included a small band, a wind and brass ensemble, string players, horn players, and hula hoopers. There were no lyrics to the music. The BQE was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of their Next Wave Festival and performed on three consecutive nights from November 1–3, 2007.
The performance sold out the 2,109 seat BAM Opera House without any advertising. After three weeks of rehearsing the piece with the three dozen musicians involved, he presented the 30-minute composition. The BQE was followed by an additional one hour of concert by Stevens and his orchestra. The BQE won the 2008 Brendan Gill Prize.
The multimedia package was released on October 20, 2009. The release included a CD of the show's soundtrack, a DVD of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway footage that accompanied the original performance (not a film of the performance itself), a 40-page booklet with liner notes and photos, and a stereoscopic 3D View-Master reel. A limited edition version that features the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl and a 40-page BQE-themed comic book starring the show's hula hooping wonder women, the Hooper Heroes, was also released.
Run Rabbit Run
On October 6, 2009 Stevens' label released an album of versions of his 2001 album Enjoy Your Rabbit rearranged for strings and performed by the Osso String Quartet, entitled Run Rabbit Run.
All Delighted People and The Age of Adz
In 2010, Stevens was featured on The National's album High Violet, released in May, and sang backing vocals for the band on the Late Show with David Letterman. Following the release of High Violet, band frontman Matt Berninger mentioned that Stevens was recording a new album in the band's studio and that The National would appear on some of the tracks. In early August, Stevens announced North American tour dates across dozens of cities. On August 20, 2010, Stevens suddenly and unexpectedly released a new collection of tracks, the All Delighted People EP, for digital download. The EP is built around two versions of the title track, "All Delighted People." The EP surprisingly rose to #27 on the Billboard 200 albums solely through its digital sales. On August 26, Asthmatic Kitty announced that Stevens would release his newest full length album, The Age of Adz, on October 12. NPR streamed the album until it was released on October 12, 2010.
The two albums featured a wide range of arrangements, from orchestral to electronic. Song lengths were also extended; the track "Djohariah" from All Delighted People is 17 minutes long, while "Impossible Soul" from The Age of Adz is 25 minutes long. The albums also feature many styles from disco to folk.
Stevens has stated in interviews that in 2009/10, he suffered from a mysterious debilitating virus infection that affected his nervous system. He experienced chronic pain and was forced to stop working on music for several months. He said: "The Age of Adz, is, in some ways, a result of that process of working through health issues and getting much more in touch with my physical self. That's why I think the record's really obsessed with sensation and has a hysterical melodrama to it."
On October 12, 2010, Stevens began his North American tour in Montreal, featuring virtually all new material. The tour lasted just over a month and ended on November 15, 2010 in New York.
Stevens toured Australia and New Zealand in early 2011, featured as part of the Sydney Festival, and appeared on-stage with The National during the last of three sold-out Auckland shows. He also toured Europe and the United Kingdom in April and May 2011, playing there for the first time in five years. His shows mostly consisted of new material, but he did play many older tracks from Seven Swans and Illinois. Stevens ended the Age of Adz tour with two shows in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.
2012 and collaborative projects
On February 27, 2012, it was announced Stevens would release a collaborative EP called Beak & Claw on March 20 with artists Son Lux and Serengeti under the name S / S / S on the Anticon record label.
Stevens released a 7" with close friend Rosie Thomas for Record Store Day 2012, entitled Hit & Run Vol. 1.
Stevens, along with fellow Brooklyn musicians, Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner began performing their classical project, Planetarium, a song-cycle based around the planets in our solar system in countries such as England, The Netherlands, Australia and France from March to July 2012.
On October 2, 2012, it was announced that Stevens would release a second set of Christmas albums, Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10, on November 13, 2012. Silver & Gold contains 58 songs, allowing for a total of 100 when combined with his first set of Christmas albums, Songs For Christmas. To support this new release, Stevens performed in 24 cities around the United States for his 2012 tour titled, “The Sirfjam Stephanapolous Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Spectacular Music Pageant Variety Show Disaster.”
On December 11, 2012, Stevens released Chopped and Scrooged, a Christmas-themed hip-hop mixtape featuring music from Silver & Gold.
On March 18, 2014, Stevens released the self-titled album, Sisyphus, with Son Lux, and the rapper Serengeti."Retrieved on March 30, 2009". Asthmatickitty.com. Retrieved October 31, 2010. Harrington, Richard (September 23, 2005). "Sufjan Stevens's Musical States of Mind". Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2006. Satran, Pamela. "Nameberry – Baby Name Sufjan: Meaning, Origin, And Popularity". Nameberry. Retrieved December 4, 2008. Odland, Jeffrey (May 12, 2004). "Junkmedia: An Interview with Sufjan Stevens". Junk Media. Retrieved August 27, 2006. Guarino, Mark (July 2006). "Sufjan Stevens: Wonder Boy". Harp Magazine. Retrieved November 29, 2006. "About Us". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved November 29, 2006. "Sufjan Stevens". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved December 22, 2007. "Sufjan Stevens Hypothetical Tracklists". Stereogum.com. April 13, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006. "Sufjan E-Mails Smack Down". Filter Magazine. April 13, 2006. Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006. Crock, Jason (May 15, 2006). "Interview: Sufjan Stevens". Pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved November 29, 2006. "April Fools". www.denisonwitmer.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Sufjan Stevens, Paramount Theatre; Austin, TX 09-16-2006". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Video/MP3: Sufjan Stevens: "Majesty Snowbird" (Live)". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Songs For Christmas". Ashmtatic Kitty Records. November 21, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006. "Sufjan Stevens and friends @ MusicNow – Sufjan Stevens and friends @ MusicNow – LA BLOGOTHEQUE". Blogotheque.net. Retrieved October 31, 2010. "Live: Sufjan Stevens; Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., 5 February 2007". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. BQE: Helpers, hula hoops, and birds, Asthmatic Kitty Records news release, November 1, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2008. "Sufjan Goes High Art for Brooklyn Academy of Music". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Sufjan Stevens Pens Personal Essay for Topic Magazine". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Sufjan Pens Eggers' Nonrequired Collection Intro". pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. Dave Eggers and Sufjan Stevens, The best American nonrequired reading 2007, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin (2007). ISBN 0-618-90281-3. "Listening to Sufjan's "The Lonely Man of Winter" in Crown Heights". Village Voice. Retrieved February 9, 2009. "Hoi Polloi's Sufjan Stevens Winter Song Exclusive Listening Sessions". "Star Spangled Banner". brendoman.com. Retrieved June 16, 2007. Lindsay, Andrew (April 27, 2009). "Sufjan Stevens posts song about Sofia Coppola". Stereokill.net. Retrieved April 27, 2009. Stevens, Sufjan. "What's in a Name?". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved May 17, 2009. Stosuy, Brandon. "New Sufjan Stevens – "There's Too Much Love"/"Age Of Adz"/"Impossible Souls" (Live In Ithaca)". Stereogum. Retrieved October 11, 2009. Michaels, Sean (October 5, 2009). "Sufjan Stevens records album of 'background music'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved October 11, 2009. Khanna, Vish. "Sufjan Stevens' Inner State". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved October 31, 2010. Breihan, Tom (June 11, 2010). "Sufjan's New LP Features the National". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved June 14, 2010. Purcell, Andrew (October 27, 2009). "Sufjan Stevens's symphony for New York". The Guardian (London). Retrieved October 28, 2009. "Illinois now available on vinyl". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved June 16, 2007. "Best of 2005". Metacritic. Retrieved November 29, 2006. MP3.com: Music News – Sufjan Stevens nabs Pantheon Cohen, Jonathan (April 7, 2006). "Stevens revisits 'Illinois'". Monsters and Critics.com. Retrieved November 29, 2006. Dahlen, Chris (July 13, 2005). "Art of the States". SF Weekly. Retrieved August 10, 2009. "Brinkley, Ark., Embraces 'The Lord God Bird'". National Public Radio. July 6, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2006. Yuan, Jada (February 24, 2008). "Sufjan Stevens Plans Ode to New Jersey Turnpike – New York Magazine". Nymag.com. Retrieved October 31, 2010. Botts, Nathan (November 8, 2007). "A look at the future – Sandow". Artsjournal.com. Retrieved October 31, 2010. "Asthmatic Kitty Records : Sidebar". Asthmatickitty.com. Retrieved October 31, 2010. "Sufjan Wins Prestigious Prize for His "BQE" Thing". Pitchforkmedia.com. Retrieved October 31, 2010. "Asthmatic Kitty Records : News » Sufjan Stevens' Enjoy Your Rabbit Reimagined By Osso As Run Rabbit Run". Asthmatickitty.com. July 9, 2009. Retrieved October 31, 2010. “” (May 13, 2010). "The National – "Afraid Of Everyone" 5/13 Letterman (TheAudioPerv.com)". YouTube. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) "Sufjan Stevens". Sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com. October 12, 2010. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) "Chart Moves: Katy Perry, Vampire Weekend, Cee-Lo, Taylor Swift". Billboard.biz. September 2, 2010. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) "Sufjan Stevens The Age Of Adz". Stereogum. August 26, 2010. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) Hilton, Robin (September 26, 2010). "First Listen: Sufjan Stevens, 'The Age Of Adz'". NPR. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) "Sufjan Reveals Health Issues, Has Career-Best Sales Week'". Stereogum. October 22, 2010. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) Khanna, Vish. "''Sufjan Stevens Discusses His "Mysterious and Debilitating" Health Issues'', Exclaim!, 22 October 2010". Exclaim.ca. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) Zuel, Bernard (January 29, 2011). "Sufjan Stevens". The Sydney Morning Herald. [ Sufjan Stevens Announces UK and European Tour, February 23, 2011] "Sufjan Stevens Teams With Son Lux and Rapper Serengeti as s / s / s, EP Due on Anticon | News". Pitchfork. February 27, 2012. Missing or empty |url= (help); |accessdate= requires |url= (help) "Rosie Thomas / Sufjan Stevens". Record Store Day. Retrieved 2012-10-14. Mark Beaumont (April 10, 2012). "Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner – review | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-14.  "Sufjan Stevens to Bring Christmas Tour to U.S.". Asthmatic Kitty Records. Retrieved 2012-10-30. Battan, Minsker, Carrie, Evan. "Here's Sufjan's Christmas Rap Mixtape Chopped and Scrooged, With Das Racist, Kitty Pryde, More". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 12, 2012. "Announcing...Sisyphus". Joyful Noise Recordings. Retrieved 12 March 2014. http://pitchfork.com/news/53400-listen-sufjan-stevens-son-lux-and-serengeti-announce-lp-as-sisyphus-share-calm-it-down/
Many of his songs have spiritual allusions. He says he does not try to make music for the sake of preaching. "I don't think music media is the real forum for theological discussions," says Stevens. "I think I've said things and sung about things that probably weren't appropriate for this kind of forum. And I just feel like it's not my work or my place to be making claims and statements, because I often think it's misunderstood."
Such themes are most notable on his album Seven Swans, the songs "Abraham", "Seven Swans", "To Be Alone with You", "He Woke Me Up Again", "We Won't Need Legs to Stand" and "The Transfiguration" refer to Christian themes. In "Abraham", Stevens recounts the Old Testament story in the Book of Genesis. The lyrics of "The Transfiguration" appear to follow the Biblical accounts of Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9: 1–8, and Luke 9:28–36. The title of "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" is a quote from Isaiah 55:12.
His Christmas albums feature many traditional hymns and original religious songs.
During a 2004 interview with Adrian Pannett for Comes with a Smile magazine, when asked how important faith was to his music, he responded, "I don't like talking about that stuff in the public forum because, I think, certain themes and convictions are meant for personal conversation."
Sufjan's most recent music features less clear statements about religion and spirituality. In an interview released on October 12, 2010 (the same day as Sufjan's album The Age of Adz released), Sufjan acknowledged that he is a Christian.Cite error: The named reference Sylvester was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Isaiah 55:12 (New Living Translation)". BibleGateway.com. Retrieved November 29, 2006. Cite error: The named reference All_Good_Naysayers.2C_Speak_up.21 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Features | A Quietus Interview | Adz And It Shall Be Given Unto You: Sufjan Stevens Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved 2011-08-06.