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Stephanie Joanna’s big moves have led to a big moment at Summerfest

Stephanie Joanna opening for Hozier at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom earlier this year.
Mayli Krebs
Stephanie Joanna opening for Hozier at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom earlier this year.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

As the frontwoman for Milwaukee band LO/ST, Stephanie Glyzewski had plans. They didn’t include the band taking a break or her recording under a new name They didn’t include moving to Nashville. They didn’t include releasing two albums a year apart.

But, when she walked into the Radio Milwaukee studios this week, she did it as Stephanie Joanna just a few days after finally finishing a move to Music City, a few days before opening for Lauren Daigle at Summerfest, and a few months before she delivers new album I Had No Idea.

The record follows her solo EP, While We Circled the Sun, which debuted last September and included “Blown Away,” the very first Milwaukee Music Premiere I wrote for Radio Milwaukee. The track was so clearly a departure from Joanna’s work with LO/ST and carried so much promise. The only question was whether the rest of the seven-song EP could clear the high bar set by the lead single.

It did. Joanna wound up opening for Hozier at The Rave on May 19 and will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, July 6, with big plans for a performance that celebrates her musical past, present and future. In our interview, you’ll get a preview of those plans, her story about a 30-second meeting that turned her into a Nashville resident, why she’ll always have a soft spot for Summerfest and whether she plans to unleash her powerful vocals more often on the new album.

You can find highlights of our conversation below and listen to the full interview using the player at the top of the page.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On why you should go to her Summerfest show:

Definitely going to get all of While We Circled the Sun. That, by the nature of the set list, is going to be more top half. And then some of these transitional songs that we’ve actually started releasing with “LO/ST & Stephanie Joanna” as a shared sort of record that we’ll build on as we have time.

We’re playing some new LO/ST songs that are unreleased and some from this new phase, like “Rose Petals. Playing “Blue City” because we have to because it’s the song that kind of built me with those guys. … And then also playing covers that are meaningful to me, just a couple, because I’m just trying to use the opportunity to show people the kaleidoscope of all these things we’re talking about. It can be pop rock. It can be empowering. It can be fun. It can be flirty.

I will have my dream team of five other musicians, and we’re going to play — I will mention a Coldplay cover, a U2 cover and a 1975 cover. So all of those bands have been intrinsic to what the rest of it sounds like.

On Summerfest as a fan:

I love Summerfest. I was also a late bloomer to it. I didn’t really go in high school just because I was, again, afraid of everything. But in college I started going and was like, “Why don’t more people obsess over this festival?’ Because it’s like two weeks of the names you love just amongst random names and mozzarella sticks. … You get to be just really Midwestern and Northern and everything at once.

But there’s also, like I remember seeing The National at Summerfest and Manchester [Orchestra] and Brand New and all of these artists that made me. I’ve seen them a mile from where I live for free. (laughs) It’s such a unique thing that’s very near and dear to my heart. But it's just wild and one of those things you don’t understand if you’re not from here.

On LO/ST’s musical and personal impact:

LO/ST is something that just keeps giving. Those boys kind of took me back to Third Eye Blind and Brand New and Manchester Orchestra. … They all brought different skills to the table: production, arrangement, guitar-teaching. They literally raised me as a musician but also taught me what happens when you bring your idea and your vision into a shared space, and then it becomes a much more collective conversation.

On the new album:

LO/ST is like the screaming approach to the “Why?” question. And you then realize, “Maybe I need to get on the ground and just talk about my experiences as a person and not kind of be doing this angsty rock thing.” I Had No Idea is the through line that’s a combination of this sky view and also being able to have these angsty, gutteral sounds come out in a way that it’s not just venting or wondering why. It’s actually claiming my place and who I want to be.

On getting inspired by powerful female artists:

In one of my milestone moments, I wrote this song kind of about becoming Stephanie Joanna and how I got there called “Genesis.” It was one or two weeks after this experience I had this night before a show at The Cooperate in Milwaukee … I was listening to “Younger and Dumber” by Indigo (De Souza), and that song just f***s me up. And it’s so epic and so grand, but it’s also her saying it directly: “The love I feel is so powerful.” It just describes something very feral and intrinsic to divine womanhood.

I’m kind of getting to the phase in life where I have more frequent access to those feelings — fortunately and unfortunately. … I feel like that is the thing all these female artists are starting to get at. Just having a perspective that holds things together a little bit.