Stevens was born in
Michigan, and lived there until the age of nine, when his family moved to
Petoskey, in the northern part of the
Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He was raised by his father Rasjid and his stepmother Pat, only occasionally visiting his mother, Carrie, in Oregon after she married her second husband Lowell Brams. His mother is deceased.
 Brams later became the head of Stevens' record label
 Stevens is of Lithuanian and Greek descent.
Stevens attended the
Detroit Waldorf School, Petoskey High School and
Interlochen Arts Academy, and graduated from Harbor Light Christian School. He then attended
Hope College in
Holland, Michigan, and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from
The New School in New York City.
Sufjan is a Persian name
 meaning "comes with a sword".
 It predates
Islam and most famously belonged to
Abu Sufyan, a figure from early Islamic history. The name was given to Stevens by the founder of
Subud, an inter-faith spiritual community to which his parents belonged when he was born.
multi-instrumentalist, Stevens is known for his use of the
banjo, but also plays guitar, piano, drums, xylophone, and several other instruments, often playing all of these on his albums through the use of
multitrack recording. While in school, he studied the
English horn, which he also plays on his albums. Stevens did not learn to play the guitar until his time at
Stevens lives in
Kensington, Brooklyn, in New York City,
 where he makes up the Brooklyn staff of
Asthmatic Kitty Records.
 His brother Marzuki Stevens is a formerly recognized road runner, who competed in the marathon and other distances.