Sufjan Stevens: 15 Facts You Didn’t Know (Part 1)

Sufjan Stevens has become known for his eclectic musical style over the course of his 15-years in the recording industry, bouncing from genre to genre with each new album. Releasing more than seven studio albums in that time, his sound has encompassed everything from electronica to lo-fi folk, pulling inspiration from everywhere. Read on to find out more about Sufjan Stevens, and look out for part two of our list, coming soon.

Number Fifteen: Sufjan Stevens Co-Founded a Record Label

Stevens, along with a number of friends in the town of Holland, Michigan, started Asthmatic Kitty Records in 1999. Though they’ve all scattered around the country now, the label is still very much active. Stevens has released every one of his albums through the label and is also currently home to artists such as Lily & Madeleine, The Welcome Wagon, My Brightest Diamond and Castanets, among others.

Number Fourteen: His Name is of Persian and Armenian Origin

Pronounced “Soof-yahn,” Sufjan is an Islamic name meaning “comes with a sword.” His parents were a part of an interfaith spiritual community when he was born, with the community’s leader giving him his name.

Number Thirteen: He Wrote an Album Based on the Zodiac

Enjoy Your Rabbit was released in 2001 and features songs that coincide with each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. While the album has a more electronic feel, it was rearranged and re-released in 2009 under the title Run Rabbit Run, with a more orchestral, string-based approach.

Number Twelve: He Started the ’50 States Project’ as a Joke

In 2003, Sufjan Stevens released Michigan, the first in what he dubbed the “50 States Project,” claiming that he was going to release 50 albums inspired by each of the 50 states. He released the second one, Illinois, in 2005 before admitting that the entire project was a joke and that he never intended to complete it. A joke or not, Illinois received a lot of critical praise, earning the Album of the Year prize at the 2006 PLUG Independent Music Awards and a number of publications naming it their best album of 2005, resulting in it becoming the highest-rated album of 2005 on Metacritic.

Number Eleven: He Recorded Two Christmas Box Sets

As a way to “make himself appreciate Christmas more,” Stevens released the first set, Songs for Christmas, in 2006, featuring collaborations with a number of artists on original songs and classics recorded between 2001 and 2006. The second set, Silver and Gold, was released in 2012 with 58 more songs.

Number Ten: He Was Commissioned to Write an Art Piece about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

Commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in 2007, The BQE was a multi-media piece created by Sufjan Stevens consisting of a film and orchestral soundtrack. The piece was performed live on three consecutive nights with a 36-member orchestra, selling out the BAM Opera House each night without ever being promoted. The award-winning production was given a physical release in 2009 in a package containing a CD of the soundtrack, a DVD of the film footage, a booklet with liner notes and photos, and a stereoscopic 3D View-Master reel.

Number Nine: He Wrote a Song About Sophia Coppola

Recorded during his college “name song” era, “Sofia’s Song” was written about the director as an early songwriting exercise. In 2009, Stevens unearthed this song and posted on the Asthmatic Kitty website’s blog. Check back soon for part two of our list of 15 interesting facts about Sufjan Stevens.