Performing under the moniker The Half Earth, Conor Stephenson has supported the likes of Lucy Rose and Rae Morris before releasing his debut EP Light Breaks In.

I met Conor in Sheffield café and bookshop, The Rude Shipyard. Its rustic salads and cakes, and book-filled shelves are a perfect microcosm for the city. Conor joins me on a shabby leather sofa for a cup of coffee on a bright Saturday morning.

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When did your relationship with music begin?

My parents are the biggest music fans. They were, and still are, always dedicated to finding new music. As a child, I was listening to Björk, PJ Harvey and Radiohead. My Mum introduced me to Modeselektor when I was 14 years old and that started my love affair with electronic music. My Uncle is an incredible guitar player and he gave me an acoustic guitar when I was eight. I was more interested in David Beckham and running around at that age but I picked it up again and learnt an A Minor chord and an E Minor chord. I'd sit and play them for hours. Just the rhythm, that got me.

It all changed when my uncle asked if I'd like to borrow a Fender Stratocaster. He's a very kind Uncle. I was messing around in my room after university making ambient, atmospheric music. I started thinking more about songwriting and making proper tunes, and that's when The Half Earth happened.

Conor Stephenson - Half Earth

So The Half Earth is a solo project?

Yes. I've got Ben Alexander Walker in on keys who works incredibly hard. He's done some parts for the live sets that aren't on the EP and I'm really happy with them. It's cool, I'm super happy to give him input into the live shows because he's done so much work. I write by myself because I really found it difficult to be in bands. We're adding Nat - I've basically got the PEAKS backing band - for our Tramlines show to do drums and samples. I want that show to be special.

How was the tour with Lucy Rose?

It was so great. I've known Lucy for a few years through my Cousin Rae [Morris]. She called me up one day to see if I wanted to go play something like 25 dates with her. We were in Ben's 1999 Renault Scenic - Bertha - and we got to see new cities and new venues everyday. Lucy and her band are beautiful people and really hilarious. It was a wonderful experience and it taught us a lot about playing a string of shows. We've never really got into that mad rhythm before.

Conor Stephenson - Half Earth

Talk me through your EP Light Breaks In.

I always wanted to be a producer so making music was a way in for me. I'm really into digital workspaces because there's so much scope. There's a beauty to those analogue desks but digital seems endless. I worked with a guy called Rich Cooper who has worked with Rae and people like Banks and Josef Salvat. He came to a show of mine and afterwards said he wanted to do something with me. He picked out 'Glass' and gave me a few pointers, which I went away and revised, then we got to work at his home studio in Deptford.

He started playing the bass sound on an MS-20 Mini and I knew that was the sound I needed. I've bought one myself now. That sound is as important as the guitar now. I released 'Glass' and then I went back to record two more tracks. They both turned out really emotional because I'd just got back from Glastonbury and I was feeling the blues. One of those was 'End' and I recorded 'Boarders' as a later date so that recording was quite disparate. It was a pleasure to work with Rich, he's such a cool producer and still relatively young so I'm excited to see where he'll be in the future.

Conor Stephenson - Half Earth

So you're excited for Tramlines?

I think it's probably my favourite festival, actually. Every space with enough room for a mic will have music on. You just can't escape it. And I can't believe the acts they've got on this year, the line up is amazing. My parents are going to come and watch my set then we're going to go watch James Holden. My first time I went to Tramlines was the day I graduated. I was up at something like 4.30am and then drove to Sheffield, did my ceremony, played two gigs for Tramlines, threw all my stuff into my parent's car then went out.

Conor Stephenson - Half Earth

And what about plans for the future?

I've got a new song 'The Balance' that I worked on with Rich. I've just had it mastered and it's sounding pretty big. I really want to get that out before Tramlines. My management are quite London-centric but I've told them this is the biggest date in my calendar. Then just the usual - gigs.


The Half Earth plays:

  • Koppaberg Urban Forest - Sunday 12th July
  • Tramlines, Sheffield Cathedral - Saturday 25th July
  • Cambridge Folk Festival - Friday 31st July