Abigail Stauffer
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Abigail Stauffer

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Neo Soul


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"What the folk? The totally unexpected interview with a local singer-songwriter"

Abigail Stauffer and Chris Bathgate

8 p.m. July 15

The Ark ($15)

316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor


It felt like I'd known Abigail Stauffer for years. She greeted me with her friendly good-to-see-you smile, and just mere minutes into our interview on the top-floor tearoom of Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor, she reached out her hand - as I walked away from the table to order our drinks - not for a handshake, but to take a nice, firm hold of my bottom. Shock came over me, even if I kind of liked it. I knew this wasn't going to be any ordinary interview with any ordinary singer-songwriter.

While I'm away, Stauffer leaves me a message on the recorder set up on the table in front of her. "This is a secret message for Chris Ass-o-party," she teases, having already probed my adolescent nickname out of me with her own set of questions before the ass attack. "I like your name and I'm excited to be interviewing with you."

But this isn't just an interview; this is an hour-long conversation, something the 22-year-old insists on early in our chat. And just as soon as we sit down to talk, drinks in hand, she recognizes a friend.

"Hi you," Stauffer calls, that smile rehashing. "He's gay, too," she adds, looking at me like she's about to hook us up.

They engage in small talk, and then she tells me, "I know a lot of people. I'm really, really friendly. So it's funny to add-on the music thing, because everyone's like, 'You know a lot of people because you're a musician.' But it has almost nothing to do with it."

Right. She's a musician. We're here to talk about music.

Stauffer released her debut album, "Alone to Dream," this past winter, launching it with a release party at The Ark in Ann Arbor. She'll play there again at 8 p.m. July 15, sharing the stage with fellow Michigan musician Chris Bathgate.

"Alone to Dream" was recorded similarly to Bathgate's latest album - in the same studio with the same producer: Backseat Productions in Ann Arbor with Jim Roll. "If he had been a high-stress person or if he'd not been as amazingly fun to be around," she says of Roll, "I probably would've fallen to pieces."

And she almost did. "I didn't like the person I turned into for a while," Stauffer admits.

Who was she before? Where did these songs come from? Stauffer acts like she doesn't remember, reaching across the table to look at my copy of the album. "I'm cheating," she says, scanning the track listing and noting that the handwritten text looks off. "That R looks like an A."

Then she finally gives me the rundown: "Alone to Dream" reflects thoughts on her relationships - with friends, with her mom, with God - over a couple of years, but some of the songs were written earlier.

"Beloved" was penned at the end of high school, to comfort a sad friend - and it was one of the first songs she wrote after her three older brothers went in on a guitar for her as a Christmas gift. "College, Love and Cheesecake," a song open to interpretation (Stauffer says it's about God), was written during her freshman year of college.

She also started "Take Me as I Am" early on, but took months to finish it. The song came from a single situation - a "friend" who was hurt by Stauffer's coming out, something this "friend" thought was selfish - that mirrored many of her relationships at the time. Stauffer only came out a couple of years ago, and it happened fast - by the end of that school year she was posting about gay things on Facebook. I ask her if, currently, she likes both men and women.

"I appreciate you saying 'currently,' because it's so fluid," she says. "Maybe later I'll only like one."

And if she likes a man, she hopes that doesn't change the fact that she genuinely has interest in both. "I could end up marrying a guy and people wouldn't necessarily think of me as gay or queer or bi, and it's a shame that identity is based upon - in other people's mind - who I'm in a relationship with.

"When I'm with a girl, I must be really gay. And when I'm with a guy, I must be not very gay. I don't feel like I'm less queer when I'm seeing a guy. I feel like it's just who I am."

Part of who she is - a big part - is where she comes from: Dexter, a quaint community that houses her childhood home, situated next to some horses and across the street from some cows. As a little girl, she played piano and cello, knowing all along she wanted to professionally pursue music. Her dad majored in music, but he never took that any further. And so Stauffer went the opposite route - she majored in linguistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she now lives. I ask what she'll do with that degree. "Music," she says, laughing.

But that's not all. Stauffer, who's also a nanny and works as a barista at Espresso Royale, has other to-dos. She wants a garden, most of all. And that's no surprise, given how earthy she looks - her curls from four years ago are now dreadlocks supported by a headband, and oftentimes she bikes to get around town (this interview was her third ride to downtown Ann Arbor that day). So this garden seems like something she'd already have, and if she did, she'd have asparagus.

She recalls once wanting to make asparagus, "and I was going to go to the store and buy some. And my housemates, they're older than me and more responsible, said, 'Oh, we have asparagus in the backyard,' and I'm like, 'I need a garden.' How cool that you can want asparagus and there it is - in the backyard."

Not everything comes so easily, Stauffer knows. She's mostly played locally, or at gay events. "When I get to travel, it's new - and it's always for gay things," she says. "The LGBT community is so, 'Hey, you're part of us, you must be great.'" Because she's already been embraced within the community, she's played the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference when Ann Arbor hosted it earlier this year.

She also opened for pop-folk performer Ingrid Michaelson, who handpicked her from a group of online competitors to perform with her at The Ark. Stauffer's a fan, but she admits her musical scope is limited. I tell her she sounds a lot like Dar Williams, one of the more recognizable performers in the singer-songwriter genre, but she's not familiar. "I would really like to mix up my style more," she says. "So it's cool to listen to people in different genres instead of people I already sound like."

Some of her favorites are Sufjan Stevens, Corinne Bailey Rae, Feist and Regina Spektor. There's another, but she can't remember his name - so she breaks into song. "I feel good, I knew that I would," she sings, coming up with the answer seconds later. "James Brown!"

She obviously sounds nothing like him, but that soulful side of her is clear in the bluesy bottom of her voice. There's pain and hope buried deep in it, and it comes to the surface when Stauffer sings.

"When I first played the songs at a show, I didn't realize how much I'd been compartmentalizing, and I was bringing out all these issues that weren't resolved yet. I didn't cry, but I was emotionally exhausted," she recalls. "Now it tends to be more of like, 'This is a recollection of something that was difficult and now it's not a present issue or not as bad.'"

Stauffer's music heals her, and she hopes it does the same for the people who listen. She likes to know she's that person making someone's life better. And she doesn't just want to do that with music; she has plans to heal with her hands, too.

"I've always wanted to do massage therapy since second grade," she says. "I do like touching asses, but it's not just asses. I think it's really cool you can help someone and improve their well-being and health by touching them. I'm a very affectionate person and therapy is great, like talking through someone's problems, but I'd rather touch through their problems. I don't know; that sounds a little weird."

Weird, but somehow expected. She tells me at one point, "In my spare time I like to run, and kiss people." "Who's the last person you kissed?" I ask. "I'm not telling," she says coyly.

Later, it's clear why: "I always think about everything I'm saying and think, 'What would my mom think?'"

And then I can't help but think of our first few minutes together, and how I got my butt grabbed. Oops. - Chris Azzopardi

"Ann Arbor musician Abigail Stauffer stretching out with new album, headlining The Ark"

Last fall I once again had the pleasure of taking my 107one morning show out on the road for a series of "Music and Mocha" broadcasts, which took place at some of the finest coffee houses in Washtenaw County. One of those shows was at the venerable Drowsy Parrot in Saline, and one of my guests that morning was the Ann Arbor-based singer and guitarist Abigail Stauffer, who delighted us coffee achievers with her emotionally charged and beautifully played songs.
I’ve been looking forward to hearing new studio material by Stauffer ever since then, and her brand new album "No Contradictions" lived up to my expectations and went way beyond them. The material on her second album is certainly grounded in the world of heartfelt indie-folk, but the added elements of electronic dance music and rap also came as a welcome surprise.

Abigail Stauffer will celebrate the release of her diverse and adventurous new album with a CD release party this Thursday at the Ark, followed by a performance at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Grove Stage at Top of the Park on Saturday, July 6.

I recently had the chance to catch up to the talented 24-year-old musician and ask about the making of "No Contradictions."

Q: So when did you begin working on your new album?

Abigail Stauffer: I started working on it last summer with Christopher Norman. He’s now in Houston but was in the Ann Arbor electronic music scene for quite a while. It was really cool to add some electronic elements, and while some of the songs are really folk, I don’t just want to be seen as that. I had a song or two in mind where I thought that Christopher could add his electronic stuff to it, but I wasn’t planning on doing a whole album.

It was a stage for me of overcoming a fear of collaborating with other musicians. I don’t know that much about music, so when it comes to playing with other musicians I’ve had a lot of fear. He presented the idea of doing an EP, and that was his way of easing me into this idea of doing another album. It’s exciting but financially draining; it takes a lot of time and energy and I wasn’t feeling up for it at the time. Initially we thought we’d do a couple of EPs: Abigail exploring electronic music on one, Abigail doing blues and soul on another, that kind of thing. In the process I also started rapping.

Q: I wasn’t expecting that hip-hop and rap element on your album and I love it!

A.S.: It totally fit in with the concept of doing all these things all on one album. At first it was going to be on separate EPs, and then we thought why don’t we throw it all together. It fit in with the idea of branching out a lot and the uniting theme is doing different things. It’s united in its diversity.

Q: Who else plays on "No Contradictions?"

A.S.: Mike Shea is on drums and Joe Dart is on bass. They both were with My Dear Disco/Ella Riot. So not only am I overcoming my fear of working with others but I ended up working with these really talented, really experienced musicians; they were a key part of the process. Last time I recorded I did the songs with me on the guitar and then I would add someone else on top, but this time we learned these songs together and recorded them as a unit, which was really a lot of fun. We just played our first show together fairly recently and we called ourselves Abigail and the Butt-Touchers (laughs)!

Q: Is that the lineup we’ll see at The Ark?

A.S.: Fortunately and unfortunately, because of Joe’s awesome success as part of the Darren Criss tour (which comes to the Michigan Theater on June 13 as part of Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch series), I’m bringing in Sam Collins, a 17-year-old bassist, plus Mike Shea and Christopher Norman will be there.

Q: There’s a gorgeous duet on the album entitled "World or the Windowsill." Who is that singing with you on that one?

A.S.: That’s Chris Dupont! Chris has been 110 percent supportive of my music. Certain people come into your life and they say, "I just want to help you and I think you’re awesome." I wrote that last summer when I was hanging out with Christopher Norman but got stuck and couldn’t figure out how to end it. I went to Thailand for a month and while I was gone, Christopher Norman sent it to Chris Dupont. It’s amazing what he did to it! Not only does his voice sound incredible, he wrote the words to the second half of the song and pulled it all together.

Q: It’s interesting to hear you talk about how self-critical you are about your own talents. When you played live at the Drowsy Parrot last fall during my radio show, I thought you exhibited a lot of poise and self-confidence, not at all rattled by the hissing of the espresso machines or customer conversations. How long did it take to get to that level?

A.S.: That’s interesting because a lot of the lyrical content on this album is about that idea of moving from a place of insecurity and a lack of confidence to a place of stability. It took a minute; it’s been a series of steps. Any performer knows that there are so many different pieces to musicianship; part of it is musical skill and then there’s that aspect of confidence and comfort, and that has to do with relating to people. That works out for me pretty well, because I really like people and like engaging and interacting with an audience. - Ann Arbor News

"Abigail Stauffer: Unfiltered Ann Arbor Musician On New Album, Taylor Swift & Being True To Herself"

Abigail Stauffer is having a hard time concentrating on this interview.

It's not her fault. As she's strolling down an Ann Arbor street and talking to me on her cell phone, there's a lot contending for her attention. There's a street band providing background music, there are friends she runs into on the street, ("Oh my God! I'd love to talk to you, but I can't!" she calls to one) and there's the ever-present thought somewhere in the back of her mind that maybe she shouldn't be telling me all of this.

"It's more a matter of, 'Will I regret this later?'" the singer-songwriter explains. "Like, 'Oh, I didn't want you to put that!' In the last Between The Lines interview I had (in 2011) I was like, 'Oh, my mom's gonna read that! OK, no filter for a second.'"

For Stauffer, the lack of a filter isn't a bad thing. The 24-year-old, who releases her second album "No Contradictions" on May 30, takes the same open-book approach to her confessional songwriting, with lyrics about love, relationships and spirituality.

"It's just letting people in on exactly how I was feeling at the moment or am feeling," Stauffer says. "There's really deeply emotional things I tend to write about. Sometimes it's a struggle. I use my songwriting a lot to kind of process my own difficulties and let someone in on what kind of weakness I might have."

One weakness lately seems to be how she's viewed. After lending her voice to Detroit nonprofit Rap for Food's video "We Are Never Ever Eating Bad Together," a take on the Taylor Swift song "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," to promote the organization's sustainable food message, Stauffer has been pegged as sort of a dreadlocked vegan poster girl. That image, though, couldn't be further from the truth. Healthy eating is great, she says, but she's no one's food role model.

"I'm always going to eat cheesecake and cookies and sugar," she says. "Even if someone said that was the absolute worst thing I could do for my body. You should make that the title of your article!"

She said she wasn't afraid to cover a Taylor Swift song. She enjoys Swift's songwriting. But she was worried that the song and video would come off as cheesy or second-rate, concerns she said subsided when she saw the finished video for the first time.

"I didn't want my name and face on something that turned out to be mediocre," Stauffer says. "And it didn't. The video quality was amazing; the whole arrangement of everything was really high quality. So it makes me look like a professional, which I'd prefer. I don't want to look really amateur."

Stauffer, who will hit the stage at The Ark with Nervous but Excited's Kate Peterson the same day her record is released (two days later, on June 1, she'll perform at Ferndale Pride), seeks to correct misconceptions about herself and her music with "No Contradictions," which features elements of electronica and even rap under the guidance of Houston-based producer Christopher Norman.

"That's why I titled it 'No Contradictions,'" she says. "These genres might seem like, 'Oh, you're playing banjo on one song and you're rapping on the next one,' but they really do, to me, feel like they tie together."

While recording, Stauffer said she used the new musical direction she found with Norman (who became her "gay boyfriend" during the long-distance recording sessions) to explore new lyrical paths. Where "Sleep to Dream" heavily explored the relationship Stauffer, then newly out as a bisexual, had with religion, "No Contradictions" delves more into the human experience.

"I am a spiritual person however I label that spirituality," she says. "And there can be a tendency for some spiritual communities and queer communities to clash with each other. I find that to be a place to be like, 'It's not a contradiction to be one and the other.' Whether it's about spirituality and people who are gay, or whether it's about some other aspect of my identity or my music, it all unites in the fact that I'm just being me. It's all me. It doesn't contradict."

Growing up in a musical family in Dexter, Stauffer said she always sang and wrote music, to varying degrees of success. As a child, she idolized Amy Grant and said she wanted to be famous, like most kids do, even though she didn't quite know what that entailed. As she grew, so did her songwriting, until she was trading in small local venues for larger ones, with the ultimate goal of supporting herself with her music.

And though she's developed something of a following, beyond just the Ann Arbor locals who stop her on the street, she remains leery of what large-scale fame could mean.

"I don't want to be tabloid material," she says. "I want to be able to just share my music and my thoughts with people - and I feel like in some sense I've already done that. In some sense I've already made it, although it's not financially sustainable quite yet."

Until it is, Stauffer works part-time jobs. She nannied for a while, and now works as a massage therapist and at a local shop called Grateful Dreads, where she creates dreadlocks like the honey-colored ones that are pulled back from her face.

She's passionate about each of her side jobs, she said, because, they help keep her afloat while she focuses on her growing music career. And above all, they allow her to meet, befriend and share parts of herself with other people.

And as she politely ducks into corners to avoid street noise and asks almost as many questions of me as I do of her, it's easy to see that this people-loving thing, this open-book thing, it's not an act. It's just her. No contradictions. - Between the Lines


Alone To Dream

1. Alone to Dream

2. Snowy Love From Michigan

3. Beloved

4. Take Me As I am

5. Mama

6. Hips

7. College, love and cheesecake

8. Tonight

9. I am there

10. Familiar Intruder

11. Bruised Reed

12. Psalm 139

13. You Inspire Me

No Contradictions

1. Just A Disappointment

2. Wounded

3. Fire & Comfort

4. Suddenly

5. Give Love

6. Push

7.  World or the Windowsill

8. Ride Away

9. Gardening

10. Anchor

11. Treat Me Like Gold

12. Took A Shine



Abigail Stauffer is not afraid to be vulnerable. Her live performance is a death defying leap of pouring her heart out on stage; and it's not just a gimmick or a cry for attention. "Stauffer's music heals her, and she hopes it does the same for the people who listen. She likes to know she's that person making someone's life better.... that soulful side of her is clear in the bluesy bottom of her voice. There's pain and hope buried deep in it, and it comes to the surface when Stauffer sings." -- Chris Azzopardi, Between the Lines.

Abigail's voice is unique, and distinctly recognizable. She sounds a bit like Regina Spektor, Ani Difranco, or Corinne Bailey Rae. The songs on her sophomore album, "No Contradictions," explore a wide span of genres from folk to electronic to hip hop, yet there is no disconnect from one song to the next. What ties it together? Her voice.Her influences include Sufjan Stevens, Feist, and Lauryn Hill.

Abigail has opened for musical greats such as Ingrid Michaelson, Shawn Colvin,  James Vincent McMorrow, Greg Laswell, Brian Greenberg, and Melissa Ferrick. She plays The Ark regularly, and has played at Summer Camp Music Festival, Ann Arbor Summer Fest, Blissfest, Arts Beats and Eats, Buttermilk Jamboree, Toledo Music Fest, Ferndale Pride, Sonic Lunch and Detroit River Days.

Abigail releases her new album "Where I'm Going" in the beginning of 2015, and plans to hit the road soon after to support it. On her third full length album, Abigail has refined her folk/neo-soul style. "Where I'm Going" features a cello, drum, and guitar/ukulele trio. On an album exploring themes of being alone, it’s fitting that she has finally found a tight group to perform with. The trio brings a unique sound with a rootsy, world music feel. Don’t be misled, though: Abigail’s solo set is unparalleled. After exploring the darkest sides of loneliness, you’d better believe she knows how to go it alone.

A bit of a wanderer, Abigail brings the soundscapes, experiences, and emotion of sacred moments to the stage. Her music is a celebration of hope and perseverance. Finally, an artist who writes about the things that really matter; It's hard to believe each song isn't specifically about you. Her new album's anthem is, "I'll get to where I'm going" - and that journey promises to be epic. You won't want to miss it. 

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