If any Sufjan Stevens fans were still hoping that he would ever finish his early ’00s mission to write an album dedicated to each of the 50 states, the acclaimed singer/songwriter has issued another reminder that it’s not happening.
“I feel like my whole music career has been an exercise in calling my own bluff,” Stevens says in an interview with Vulture’s Craig Jenkins. “I go on all these excursions and I feel they’re indulgent and slightly megalomaniacal in their approach. At some point, I realize how absurd and unhealthy and unsustainable it is, so I am fine moving on.”
Stevens first released Michigan in 2003. It was followed by 2005's Illinois, which propelled him to indie royalty with the success of songs like “Chicago” and “Casimir Pulaski Day.” He then went on to bring other remarkably specific subjects to his music, like the visual artist Royal Robertson and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Stevens has also released 100 Christmas songs over the span of his career.
“I think it’s the original impulse that generates the work and allows me to bear down in isolation and create as lavishly as I can, but at some point, you have to go,” he continues. “You’re an artist, so you understand. There is a kind of sadomasochism inherent in what we do. It requires that we completely give ourselves over to the work.”
All is not lost, however. Back during the darkest days of 2020, comedy writer Joey Clift crowdsourced musicians to pick up where Stevens left off, going above and beyond to include Puerto Rico and the moon, as well as re-dos of Michigan and Illinois. Stevens also recently returned to Christmas music, releasing the song “We Should Be Together” earlier this month alongside his frequent collaborator Rosie Thomas.
You can check out the full conversation with Stevens over at Vulture, which also features the Oscar-nominated artist’s thoughts on Beyoncé’s Renaissance, Christmas as a reminder of mortality, and “the binary aspect of morality.”