On his debut single “Lookalike,” Stefan Poole laments a distressing emotional plight: When your ex replaces you with a carbon copy. “Congratulations,” Poole sings in his sultry tenor, “You found a knock-off of me, wasting all your love on a lookalike.” “This actually happened to me,” the L.A.-based singer, songwriter, and musician says. “After my last relationship ended, I went to my ex’s Facebook page and found out that she was already dating somebody new, and this guy was basically my doppelganger — same haircut, same facial hair and style. And I thought, ‘You couldn’t have me, so you found the closest thing.’ Writing helps me emotionally vent in a safe environment, so of course I wrote a song about it.”
Honesty is a signature asset in Poole’s songwriting arsenal, though sometimes the songs are more frisky. “Her Boyish Looks” is about “falling for hot, androgynous dancer girls in North Hollywood,” Poole says with a laugh. “That actually happened to me as well.” Whether heartfelt or playful, the songs come alive thanks to Poole’s considerable musical talents. He sets his stories against a backdrop of gleaming dance-pop studded with flashes of rock, neo-soul, and electro-funk. “For me, it’s all about the groove,” says Poole, who records under the moniker STF. “Michael Jackson and Prince are my two biggest influences. I like pop music as long as it makes me move. I have to feel it all the way down in my core.”
Releasing his first original songs is a thrilling moment that Poole has anticipated ever since he began pursuing music as a career right after high school. The son of an American entrepreneur father and Italian fashion designer mother, Poole is a dual Italian-American citizen who was raised between Tucson, Arizona, and Milan, Italy. “Italian was actually my first language, so I struggled a lot in school in Arizona,” he says. “I had an accent, was between languages, and was just very awkward.” His love for music came from his dad, a classic rock fan who put a guitar in young Stefan’s his hands at age 13. Poole also studied piano, violin, and drums, “which I loved, but playing drums meant always playing other people’s songs and I wanted to be part of the creative process.”
Poole stuck with guitar, began singing and writing songs at 17, and, after graduating from high school, moved to Los Angeles to attend Musicians Institute where he formed a funk-pop band that made the rounds of Hollywood clubs like The Roxy and House of Blues on Sunset. Poole got his first professional break when he was cast as a musician on the hit FOX series Glee. In between seasons, Poole went back to Italy to appear on a talent show called Amici, which he describes as a cross between American Idol and Big Brother. For the six weeks the show was on the air, Poole was a star. “I would walk down the street and get mobbed by people wanting to take pictures,” he recalls. “I’d pass by the newsstand and my face was on magazine covers. It felt like a dream. One moment nobody knew me, the next moment the whole country knew me. Then it all stopped when the next season started because there was a new cast.”
The fleeting fame messed with Poole’s head. “I was always focused on the music, so to have people talking about me for something other than that, and then to have it go away so fast, it was hard,” he says. “It was also bad timing because I didn’t have any music ready while the show was airing, so I didn’t capitalize on the moment.” In fact, Poole had recorded a bilingual album for Sony that wound up being shelved. Poole decided to move back to L.A. and rejoin the cast of Glee, but other setbacks followed, including a deal with an indie label that didn’t pan out, a painful break-up, and health issues.
“At that point, I didn’t have the energy to make original music,” he says. “But I needed to pay my bills and I wanted to do it through music.” Poole became a touring musician, hitting the road with singer-songwriter Bridget Mendler, Andy Grammer, and Jack & Jack, with whom he toured the U.S. this summer.
“My motivation and inspiration slowly began coming back,” he says. “Now I feel like I’m a bit wiser, a bit more experienced, and less naïve. “I’ve come to know myself more and have realized that as much as I love being on tour and playing for other artists, there’s still that itch of wanting to be a front man who sings my own songs. It’s like an addiction that connection I’ve experienced between myself and the audience — when they’re in the palm of my hand and we go on a ride together. There is no better feeling. I just want the audience to be able to experience the same joy.”