Senior popular music major Katie Stump was waiting in a Nashville terminal for her late flight to Los Angeles when she befriended a girl with a guitar. At the time, she had no idea that the friendship would change her life.
“I saw she had a guitar, [so] I went up to her, and I just started a conversation because I figured somebody on a plane from Nashville to L.A. with a guitar [was probably] somebody I would get along with,” Stump said.
The girl, Stump would soon find out, was 15-year-old Sophie Rose, a singer/songwriter who had recently signed with famous producer Dr. Luke, who has worked with artists such as Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne and P!nk.
Several months later, in December 2014, Stump attended Rose’s birthday party where she had the opportunity to meet several big names in the industry; among these was Grammy-winning producer Mikal Blue, who, along with working on Rose’s EP, has worked with artists such as Colbie Caillat, OneRepublic and Jason Mraz. Blue heard Stump play one of her original songs, “Treasure Map,” at the party, and asked for her contact information.
“[Blue] and I started talking, and I sent him more of my songs, and he was just really impressed with what I did,” Stump said. “He said he wanted to produce a record for me, and I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
It was then that they started work on Stump’s newest EP, Feels Like Home.
Stump had been writing songs for the record since March 2014. The following January she and Blue began pre-production, and that March they began recording.
“[Blue] pushed me to have a lot of production ideas and tell him what I wanted,” Stump said. “I feel like I gained a lot of confidence in that area of my music.”
One such instance occurred when she asked Blue if he had any ideas for the percussion in one of her songs.
“He was like, ‘Oh, I have the perfect instrument,’ and he [brought] it out and [told me to] play it,’” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m not a drummer, I don’t play.’ [But,] I tried it and I just fell in love with that thing. I never would have thought to put myself in that position.”
In addition to learning more about production, Stump, who had previously considered herself a folk/pop artist, said she found herself opening up to different styles of music.
“[My trip] to Nashville last summer really influenced my writing,” she said. “There was a lot of inspiration everywhere, and I wrote two of the songs that are on my EP during that trip.”
One of these songs, “Sweeter,” showcases this inspiration.
“I never really branded myself before as a country artist,” Stump said. “I still really don’t, but [“Sweeter”] just has that [country] sense, and that’s going to change things for me.”
Stump’s EP contains five songs: “Treasure Map,” “Stutter,” “Sweeter,” “It’s Alright” and “Minnesota.”
“Treasure Map,” the first single of the album, was co-written with Jason Afable in Nashville in 2014. Stump was inspired to write it after having traveled extensively that summer.
“Every time I got on a plane, I would look out the window and just try to imagine my life in that city,” she said. “[But] every time I left, I would think, ‘You know, I don’t know if this is it.’ [What I realized] was that I was really more drawn to the people that I have in my life [rather] than where I geographically am.”
Stump entered the writing session with Afable with this feeling of traveling and never feeling settled. What was special about this instance, she said, was that she began the writing process with no concrete ideas.
“I was [explaining my feelings] and Jason was looking through his notebook, and he was like, ‘Well, I’ve had this title in my notebook forever, and I don’t know what to do with it. It’s called “Treasure Map,” and that sounds like the perfect fit for what you’re going through,’” Stump said.
Having agreed on the title, the two artists finished the song within a few hours.
“Treasure Map,” along with the rest of the songs on the EP, is special because it accurately represents Stump as both an artist and a person, she said.
“I [think] there [is] a lot more truth in this record than there has been in the past,” Stump said. “A lot of it came really directly from my heart, which is something I was not necessarily the best at in my last album.”
Stump’s efforts to channel herself into her work paid off: She and her EP, which was initially released on Sept. 18, were recently featured on KCAL 9 and E! News.
“[The interview] at KCAL was just very eye-opening,” she said. “It was different from anything I’ve ever done. I’m just very, very lucky and very thankful.”
Stump plans to promote her EP to USC students at Tommy’s Place on Thursday, Oct. 15. She will be performing with artists Drew Tabor and Trousdale.