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Stephen Sanchez on joining Elton at Glastonbury: ‘his selflessness blows me away’

Exclusive: Stephen Sanchez on *that* Glastonbury appearance and why performing his own song wasn't always on the cards.

By Nick Reilly

Stephen Sanchez and Elton John (Picture: Getty)

Stephen Sanchez has discussed how Elton John gave him the opportunity to perform his own song during the music icon’s headline set at Glastonbury last weekend, as well as their burgeoning friendship.

Nashville-born star Sanchez performed his TikTok smash ‘Until I Found You’ to a crowd of thousands at Glastonbury and millions more watching at home last weekend, after being personally invited by Elton to be a part of his last ever UK show.

“I’m still kind of beyond the clouds a bit,” the 20-year-old tells Rolling Stone UK days later. “I haven’t come down from that high and I’m still up there right now.”

Sanchez first came to Elton’s attention last year when ‘Until I Found You’ – a track which leans heavily into 50’s balladry – was placed on the music icon’s radar by the team that produce his Rocket Hour podcast. After playing the song on his show, Elton took the time to personally call Sanchez.

“My manager said he was going to call me, but I let that idea slip out of my brain for a while because that’s a pretty insane sentence for anybody to say, especially somebody who loves music and has grown up with Elton John through stereo speakers. I was playing in Denver when he first rang and that’s where our relationship began. Right from that first phone call he just affirmed so much about me and the song and it feels like we’ve almost been inseparable since. It’s been really fun.”

After staying in touch over the following months, Elton presented Sanchez with the biggest of propositions earlier this year while the pair attended a MusiCares event to honour Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson in Las Vegas.

“Me and the boys had just performed and someone grabbed me and pulled me over to Elton’s table,” he recalls.

“He sat me right in the middle and goes ‘Steven, that was electric. You know I’m the headline for Glastonbury this summer? I would love you to come out and perform with me’. I was just thrown sideways!'”

Curiously, Sanchez explains that a performance of his own song wasn’t initially on the cards. He recalls how a series of phone calls and meetings over the following months saw Elton perfecting a duet on ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’, until Sanchez’ performance at LA’s Troubadour Theatre changed everything.

“We’d spent weeks doing that and then he came to see me and the boys at The Troubadour. The week after, he just rang me and said ‘Stephen, I’ve had a thought. I don’t want you to sing one of my songs. I think it would be far better if you sang your song and we gave you this big moment for you and your career’.”

“I was just blown away by that selflessness and his desire to, you know, expose new artists and new music,” he adds.

As well as Sanchez, Sunday night’s show saw Elton championing the new talent of Gabriels frontman Jacob Lusk, who joined him on ‘Are You Ready For Love’ and Rina Sawayama, who assumed the Kiki Dee role on ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.

“He’s just so incredibly intentional with things like that,” Sanchez adds.

“He knew what that would do for oour careers and he knew that it would sit in the glory of being his last show in the UK. He wants to champion other artists and pass the torch, so to speak. It’s just amazing. It’s been a huge honour.”

Days before Glastonbury, Sanchez played an intimate show to 320 people at London’s Omeara. Now, fresh off from the Pyramid Stage, he’s raring to return to the UK.

“When you’re on the Pyramid Stage and you hear all those voices screaming at you, it’s almost like they’re wrapping you up and it feels spiritual. It’s really, really wild, the visual memory of a sea of heads and faces and people with their own lives and memories.

“Now, I just can’t wait to come back.”