Stephen Sanchez conjures jukeboxes and early rock n’ roll on debut album ‘Angel Face’


For his debut record, “Angel Face,” Stephen Sanchez travels back in time with songs that you can imagine listening to in a Ford Thunderbird or watching a performance of on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“Angel Face,” out Friday, is a concept album, about a fictional musician in the late 1950s, known as The Troubadour Sanchez, who finds fame with a hit single. The Troubadour meets and falls in love with a woman named Evangeline and ends up in a dangerous love triangle.

“Telling stories that aren’t entirely my own I think is a lot more fun,” said Sanchez, “then I’m not having to relive like a devastating moment over and over and over again.”

Sanchez is only 20, but he’s been a fan of retro music since he was a child, listening to his grandfather’s record collection. He feels “honored” to be “carrying the torch” by sharing his version of the sound with a new generation, and hopes to delight older fans with its nostalgia.

The record comes after a whirlwind year. Last September, he released the ballad “ Until I Found You, ” which now has more than 1.5 billion streams. He performed the song at Sofia Richie’s April wedding to music executive Elliot Grainge, and was invited by Elton John to take the stage with him at the Glastonbury Music Festival. At first, the plan was that they would perform one of John’s songs, but John later decided he should sing “Until I Found You.” He was also nominated for an MTV VMA. The song is also a popular cover by aspiring musicians on social media.

“I used to do the same thing, so to have people do that for my song, it’s a very cool thing,” said Sanchez. He and his bandmates like to listen and create an evolving Top Five list of the covers.

He expects to explore other genres in the future, too.

“I definitely want to try new stuff, ” he said, adding that “Angle Face” “is a singular story that has a start and it has an end.”

“I’m enjoying it a lot right now, you know, and I think until I stop enjoying it, then I’ll go do something else.”

Sanchez grew up in the Sacramento area where he would bring his ukulele to high school “every day” until learning to play the guitar. He became known as “the guitar kid” who would forego eating to hold 30 minute concerts in the school cafeteria during lunch.

Despite his musical talent and showmanship, Sanchez insists he was “pretty dorky in school.”

“I didn’t really have a lot of girls like me in high school. Or maybe they just never came up to me and told me… I’m still a dork now. Like, nothing’s changed other than I dress a little better, do my hair a bit better. I hope.”

The self-professed “dork” does have the support of his hometown and former classmates.

“I’ve had folks from high school just reach out like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so insane. Like, it’s happening.’ Sanchez will soon go on tour where in November he will return to Sacramento and play a sold-out show at the Ace of Spades theater. “I’m really excited for that because teachers, family and friends from high school are going to be in that crowd… It’s going to be really cool.”

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