Stephen Sanchez Talks Becoming 'Elvis Meets Marlon Brando' On New Album 'Angel Face'

22 September 2023 | 2:00 pm | Anna Rose

Stephen Sanchez discusses becoming the "Troubadour" character on his debut album, 'Angel Face'.

Stephen Sanchez

Stephen Sanchez (Credit: Caity Krone)

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The momentum of Stephen Sanchez’s popularity has been rapid. With the release of his new album, Angel Face, the Nashville singer-songwriter tries not to make any kind of purposeful comparison between his past work and his more recent output.

The release has been pre-empted by singles Be More, Only Girl, Evangeline, and Until I Found You. Sanchez says these songs have been more uphill. “Fans have been really into them,” he says, “faster than the other ones have back when.”

A fictionalised version of Sanchez, Angel Face explores the life and times of “The Troubadour Sanchez”, who, in the 1960s, is part of a gang called The Bad Mile.

Set between 1958, when the lead character finds fame following the release of his single Until I Found You, and 1964, Angel Face talks about The Troubadour Sanchez and his longstanding, triumphant career and how it all comes to a halt when he meets and falls in love with Evangeline, the girlfriend of his fellow mob member, Hunter. Stealing her away, The Troubadour Sanchez is gunned down on stage.

It's a thrilling tale - one of passion, unadulterated love, desire, vengeance, and fury. Such riveting sensations are delivered through the real Sanchez’s rich crooner-pop tones, his ardent passions unwavering and unmistakable. As most of us know, fiction is often largely based on truth.

“To a degree,” Sanchez says cautiously, “or another’s truth, who knows?” This album, Sanchez says, highlights elements of his life where he reflects on having loved someone but hating them at the same time. “Desiring somebody when they don’t desire me is the theme of this record,” he says.

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“There’s tonnes of humanity in it, and lots of vulnerability between The Troubadour and Evangeline; The Troubadour is longing for love and desperate for it, and he wants an escape from the fame he’s experienced. He meets Evangeline, who is desperate for the real-deal kind of love and the love he’s showing her. Then there’s Hunter, this horrendous, wicked guy who’s ruthless to those who try and steal his girl.

“There are definitely elements that appear fictionally, but also now.”

The romantic elements we hear in Angel Face have certainly not been heard in this style of music of the last two or three decades. There’s something about the artistry and lyricism demonstrated by crooners of eras gone by that speaks to Sanchez more than recent efforts in music. “It still speaks,” he says. “It’s 60 years later, and it still has a voice, still talking to young lovers and people falling in love for the first time.

“For me, it’s extremely interesting; tap into that world [and] there are artists like Marty Robbins who was obsessed with the country western spaghetti romance; I’m obsessed with that sound.

On the other side of it, apart from the dramatics of it all, at the other side of things, it’s the elements of timeless romance, and the way that love is spoken about that contributed to Sanchez’s adoption of this style.

The stories the music carries, he observes, are spoken about softly, gently, spoken about passionately – it’s always “I’m sorry, I long for you, be mine, I’m getting misty” – it’s the lyricism and cleverness of that that’s interesting to Sanchez. “Growing up with that, to create a project within that vein and style is exciting for me,” says Sanchez, “and comes naturally for me, and feels really, really good.”

There is an element of theatre to that style of pop; were anyone to grapple with it now, we’d be quick to call it cheesy. And yet, we still talk about and listen to the works of the likes of Elvis Presley, Paul Anka and Tony Bennett, who were at the forefront of that time. Along comes Sanchez with an Elvis meets Marlon Brando in his music. “There’s definitely voices like them at the forefront of that inspiration,” Sanchez says. “Definitely sonically, the tone of the guitars, that was a huge thing for us when we were in the studio, was listening to a lot of that music.

“Intrinsically, I was already listening to a lot of that, so it was natural to step in and put those chiming pianos and glockenspiel and like, you know, strings and background vocals, and we were all wrapped around a microphone.

“For those guys back then, that was their life and how music was made back then. It was interesting to recreate what was natural for them in the studio now. It’s 2023 now, so the way of the recording in the 1960s is very different to what it is now.”

Continuing, Sanchez, “Back in the day, those crooners were writing records strictly for certain emotions. Like Roy Orbison’s Only The Lonely [from] Lonely In Blue. Just sad songs. I think this whole record is all of that. It’s lonely, it’s blue, it’s happy, longing, mourning, hating somebody.

“I’m very romantic as it stands, apart from all the music. It’s who I am in a massive way. Growing up with that music and being surrounded by that dialogue was very influential in my living as well, so it felt very natural to do the crooning.”

Though a run with the style of music may be ingrained in his being, Sanchez can’t attest to his serving as a way has served as a modern introduction to the styles of the past. Humbly, he says, “I can’t speak for anybody on that, but there is more at the shows [of] kids in the crowd who are 15, late 20s, in their 40s, parents, grandparents. There’s definitely a level of this could be that. 

“I definitely feel like there’s an element of when the fans bring the energy; it feels like it takes the songs into a different place; it takes me into a different place, and I feel like I can press into The Troubadour character.”

Stephen Sanchez’s debut album, Angel Face, is out now via Mercury Records/Republic Records.