Stephanie Croff’s unafraid sense of humor, trenchant lyric writing, and vocal panache bear testimony to a life well traveled. While Californian by assimilation, Stephanie Croff cut her musical teeth in the Black hills of South Dakota, amidst a hardy rural community and the ubiquitous open skies of the Midwest—a landscape that instilled in her subtle songwriting intuition and a firm handshake.

Beginning in her teenage years, Croff traipsed through myriad venues from L.A. to Salt Lake, guitar in hand, honing her musical acumen and sampling life in her trademark honest manner. She lived hard and sang harder for the better part of the last decade, till her transience sputtered and stopped, parking her in Buellton, California, a sleepy town nestled in the oak-dotted hills near Santa Barbara. Finally, Croff had the peace and vantage to write and release Why Do We Sing, her most honed album yet.

Swelling with years of roiling content, this album resonates with delicate piano, eloquent string accompaniments, and charged vocalizing. As in all her songwriting, Croff exudes the perfect musical balance: pluck tempered by uncertainty, melancholy shored up by resolve. Nowadays, you can find her in her studio, surrounded by cats, an old piano, and a spirit that still travels—even if her body doesn’t.