Genevieve Stokes' debut EP Swimming Lessons is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.
Image: Abbie Pitre
Soulful-alternative singer-songwriter and pianist, Genevieve Stokes has made her debut with her stunning EP, Swimming Lessons. Through the exploration of the human existence, Stokes creates vivid imagery with her powerful lyrical story telling.
Featuring Surface Tension, the release is made complete with six additional new tracks, recorded last year during a handful of sessions at a cabin located near Stokes' childhood home. Lonely and Bored and the intense Running Away see the singer recalling on experiences from her highschool years, with a remarkable blend of closeness, distance, rawness, and sincerity. Across the EP Stokes captures timeless moments in her songs, making them relatable pieces of art.
Having taught herself piano at the age of eight, Stokes spent much of her teens developing her own unique sound, inspired by iconic female musicians like Cat Power and Regina Spektor but infused with personal experience and perspective. In high school, Stokes used time between classes to keep pushing forward, recording, and uploading over 50 songs to Soundcloud. These early compositions informed her creative DNA. Ultimately, Genevieve’s senior project and a performance video she uploaded via YouTube caught the attention of her management.
Swimming Lessons is out now! Read our interview with Genevieve Stokes below.
Tell us a bit about how you started your musical journey...
I fell in love with songwriting and playing piano when I was 8, but I’ve been singing my whole life. I was in a band throughout all of high school and wrote songs and performed regularly, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I decided to fully pursue music. I truly can’t imagine doing anything else.
Congratulations on the release of your new EP, Swimming Lessons! We’re absolutely enthralled by your latest release. You explore a range of themes to do with life and the world around you, creating vivid images and stories. Can you tell us a bit about some of your specific inspirations and how that affects not only what you’re saying within each track, but how it influences the overall sound on each particular track?
Thank you! I’ve been inspired by so many artists, but Regina Spektor was the first to really shape my songwriting style and overall sound. My songwriting for the EP wasn’t directly influenced by any artists, but my production was definitely inspired by Lorde, Bon Iver, and countless others. I was super pumped because my manager/producer owns an OP-1 synth (a little box synth Bon Iver used to produce 22, A Million) and we ended up using it on ‘Running Away’ and ‘Portland Nights’.
Could you talk us through your creative process when writing and recording this collection of songs?
I usually start by playing chords until a melody starts to form, and then I record myself singing until lyrics emerge. I never go into the songwriting process knowing what i’ll write about.
Your latest music video for single Surface Tension came out a few weeks ago. How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on a track? What was the experience like working on this single?
The visuals are so important to me and it’s definitely been one of my primary focuses this year. My best friend, Abbie Pitre, is also my creative director and we’ve worked together on everything from single artwork to music video treatments. It has been so rewarding to watch our creative vision take shape and evolve so quickly.
Can you tell us a bit about the significance of the actual EP title Swimming Lessons?
Maybe it’s because I’m from Maine, but I’ve always felt compelled to write about water— more specifically the ocean. There is something so beautiful yet scary about the ocean, and I want my songs to have that same eerie, dark quality. The EP is my first real project, so I also think of it as dipping my feet in the water for the first time.
I have to say, listening to Swimming Lessons, for me, I experienced a variety of emotions. How does it feel putting your feelings and emotions out there? Between the initial genesis of the track to having people hear and take your vision on?
It’s honestly pretty scary. I’ve always written confessional music but to have it be heard by so many strangers is definitely not something I’m used to. At the same time, being able to connect with people over something I created is such a surreal and beautiful experience.
How do you feel your music speaks to listeners, or rather are there any hopes you have when it comes to the messages you explore and how you hope listeners respond to these topics?
The EP is about self discovery and all of the hardships that come with being a teenager, but I think a lot of the concepts are pretty universal and timeless. I just hope it resonates with people and helps them through difficult times.
If you had to pick one song off the EP to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would it be and why?
Probably Surface Tension! I’ve had to listen to it an absurd amount of times and it still makes me feel emotional so I’m guessing that’s a good sign.
What’s one song from the upcoming EP you’re most excited for audiences to listen to and why?
I’m so excited Parking Lot is finally out! It’s the last song I wrote on the EP and it was also the last to come out. Even though it’s a sad song, it’s pretty energetic and fun and I’m so pumped that people can finally hear it!
If Swimming Lessons was a piece of Visual art, which artwork would it be and why?
For me, this EP is like a collection of vintage postcards from my home state of Maine. Each song is a snapshot of a memory, much like the letters written on the back of a postcard. It’s a very wistful, melancholy feeling that I hope to capture in my music.
What’s one line from the whole EP you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
“And I’m nothing but the things that I tell myself”
Things have changed in the world over the past year, how do you feel you as an artist worked in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, did you encounter any challenges, or did it perhaps allow you the time and space to explore a whole new sphere within your creative world?
It’s actually given me a lot of time to develop as an artist. I’ve focused a lot on creating a visual world for my music that ties everything together in a unique way.
Things like touring and performing live are currently on hold, but looking forward once artists can again take to a stage what could audiences expect from one of your live shows? We truly hope to see you perform in Australia soon!
My whole show is going to be centred around me and my piano! I also really want to work on creating a set that is both sonically and visually really interesting.
Frank Ocean, Regina Spektor, Lorde, Bon Iver and Thom Yorke.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Blonde by Frank Ocean or In Rainbows by Radiohead
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Experimental, organic, sincere.
A release you are most looking forward to in 2021?
Hopefully a Kendrick Lamar record.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Circles by Mac Miller.
Best concert you have been to?
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. tour.
Last concert you went to?
Guilty music pleasure?
Not really guilty, but Meet Me Halfway by The Black Eyed Peas.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Michael Jackson or Aretha Franklin.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Keep listening to your higher self!
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I heard Regina Spektor for the first time.