When Stephie Coplan was 14 years old, the empty pages in her first songwriting book were as much an escape as they were a creative outlet. The French-language camp the Maryland student attended in Switzerland prohibited cell phones or laptops, and she quickly got tired of watching the two movies her residence hall offered. But there was a lonely piano in the dining hall, similar to the one her parents bought her after she failed art class at age eight. The program offered a talent show at the end of the semester, so Coplan bought a notebook— what would become the notebook— from a nearby grocery store and started writing.
FASCINATION STREET "It goes in two directions: creepy people-watching or stalking, or past relationships," Stephie Coplan says of her songwriting.
"I performed two songs, my first two songs I ever wrote, and the crowd response was really good," Coplan says by phone from her New Jersey home. "So I continued writing when I got back to the United States."
Earlier that day, she had filled up the last page of the notebook — that notebook — finishing a song called "Love Sometimes." Two hundred compositions after language camp, Coplan is ready to emerge with her trio, Stephie Coplan & the Pedestrians.
That her release party for her debut, homonymous EP is at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge is no small coincidence. Coplan spent a few years at Tufts University, living in the Somerville and Cambridge area and frequenting the area's bars, pubs, and clubs, and the Pedestrians' drummer, Shane Considine, is a Winthrop native. (Bassist John F. Hebert completes the group.) Though Coplan was born and raised in Rockville, Maryland, her parents relocated to Dallas when she was in college, uprooting her from her mid-Atlantic origins and making Boston her adopted hometown.
While attending Tufts, Coplan performed at the Lizard's open-mic Monday nights under Tom Bianchi. Like the significance of the notebook that can't fit another word, the show at the Lizard represents many things to the rising singer-songwriter with a sharp wit and articulate storytelling ability. "So much of my social life centered in Somerville," she reflects. "Freshman year I had a job working in Starbucks in Davis Square, 40 hours a week. Most of my friends were co-workers and people I met at open-mic nights. The one at the Lizard was really great, the host ensures everyone is quiet and respectful. And people were taking me seriously."
One person who wasn't was Coplan's boyfriend at the time. "I dated a songwriter 'in the scene' for three years, and he wasn't supportive," she says. This admission leads to one thought: that the inspiration behind her breakout hit, "Jerk," is about someone living here in Boston. But that's not the case. The "jerk" in question was just some random guy, a fast and easy fling, not the source of Coplan's relationship frustration. "I have no real-life connection to the actual 'Jerk,' " Coplan says, laughing. "The biggest slap in someone's face is not caring."