Wootton Grad Talks About That Time She Was Almost a Rock Star

It wasn’t high school, and it wasn’t college. It was New Jersey, when — working an important if uncreative job — Stephie Coplan, formerly of Rockville, thought she could be a rock star.

With bass player John F. Hebert and drummer Shane Considine, she formed Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians. With a song in heavy rotation on college radio (“Jerk”), videos on YouTube and their music on BandCamp, the website where musicians distribute their music, mostly for free, she and her fans might have thought she was poised to be a big thing.

Only she wasn’t.

And then it ended.

Coplan, 30, was born in D.C., and lived her first 18 years in Rockville. She learned piano at 8. In 2005, she graduated from Wootton High School and headed to Tufts University, just outside of Boston. At the time, she was thinking about giving up music.

“By the time I got to college, I wanted to see what life would be like to not just be ‘the piano girl.’ … I wanted to try out a different identity,” Coplan said.

Fast forward: she has graduated and has found herself working at that New Jersey job, a nonprofit in Newark. It’s an important job, she said, but it offered no creative outlet.

Skip the playhead a little further and she has posted a Craigslist ad looking for people who want to start a band. That was when Herbert and Considine showed up, and the three became the Pedestrians. They cut songs, release an album and film videos. It’s 2011, and the band seemed poised to reach the next level.

“At that point, I definitely had dreams that this was a real band, and we were going to get big,” Coplan said.

From the point of view of people who want music careers, Coplan was “big.” But when she used the word to describe her success, she insisted it had a lowercase “s.” She’s humble about the level she reached in the music business, she said.

“It’s surreal, it’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t know if this is a female thing but there was definitely a lot of imposter syndrome that I felt because I think success came too easily to me.”

A surreal moment: People waiting an hour to meet her at an album release party in Boston. One fan did a hula hoop routine to one of her songs. Another surreal moment: A fan recently reached out for a replacement T-shirt because his got damaged in the wash. She found one in the back of her hall closet. How weird is it that someone wanted to wear her name and face?

Describing herself as a half-extrovert, half-introvert, she described her discomfort in those moments.

So she walked away.

Performing was too stressful, she said. Instead, she preferred the behind-the-scenes aspect of the music industry: writing and recording.

Still receiving quarterly checks for her music, Coplan left performing and moonlighted as a songwriter after work. But her work at her day job, as an advertising copywriter in Toronto, started to be more appealing than songwriting.

“That was a red flag to me that music maybe wasn’t something that made sense for me anymore,” she said.

And regrets? Not really.

“For me, when I asked myself years ago what would the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a music career look for me. Best case scenario, I would have had No. 1 song on iTunes which people would have been crazy about a few months, and then I would have faded away,” Coplan said.

“I realized that the only realistic goal I could see for myself was being a one-hit wonder. Every time I get jealous or I had regrets, I remind myself, ‘Stephie, you wouldn’t have been happy what success would have looked like for you in music.’ And then I’m kind of like, ‘Oh yeah.’”

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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