Meet Lennon Stella, actress, singer, and songwriter. At 19, Lennon holds in her hands both her childhood success as an actress and child star, and the promising beginnings of her solo musical career.
Between the viral video that catapulted her and her younger sister, Maisy Stella, into fame 8 years ago, and her starring role on ABC/CMT’s Nashville alongside names like Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, Lennon has been in the spotlight since she was 12. During the show’s 6 season run, Lennon, along with other cast members, developed a country music fanbase thanks to the show’s extensive discography including both covers and original songs. Nashville’s sixth and final season served as a due end of an era, with the series finale airing only a couple of months before Lennon’s 19th birthday.
Now signed to RECORDS LLC. / Columbia Records, Lennon released her first EP in November of 2018, rebranding herself as a solo artist and creating music that finds her creative vision at its core, a departure from the years she spent doing covers and co-writing made-for-TV songs to be sung by her character on Nashville.
Her 5-piece EP, “Love, me”, is a collection of songs that take on a confessional tone, with each listener becoming a stand-in for the people Lennon addresses her songs to, from love interests and people who have broken her heart, to her own family. Calling herself an open book, Lennon is candid about her use of songwriting as a means of catharsis, admitting that her song Bad is directed at an ex-boyfriend who had secretly been in another relationship for 6 years, and Breakaway, a song she says was the hardest to write, about shaky family ties.
Lennon embarks on a series of tours over the course of the next year, from her first tour headlining US and Canada this spring, to supporting Anne-Marie this Summer in the UK and Europe, followed by an additional 40+ date tour opening for The Chainsmokers this Fall through Winter.
Today, releasing her first single to follow her debut EP, her new song, BITCH, confidently expresses the sentiment that it takes one to know one.
THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR BREVITY AND CLARITY.
Are you excited that you'll be back in Canada this month for your tour?
“I’m so excited. All of my family is still [in Canada], so I’m so excited to have my family at the show and I think it’s gonna be so much fun. I’m also stoked for some cold. Is it snowing right now?”
(looks outside) Yeah, there’s snow.
“Yay! I want snow so bad, I’m so excited! That’s what I like to hear.”
You released your first EP a few months ago, and it's something that people were definitely waiting for. Did you have a sense of what your music was supposed to sound like and how did you discover your sound?
“Well, being on [the TV Show Nashville] for so long, I was on it for 6 years, that kind of gave me that time to explore and create and discover my sound and figure out what I want to make. There’s so much that I love and it was hard locking in something. I love so many different kinds of music, so I think that having that time to explore, that was when I was able to find it.”
The interesting thing about being young and being an artist is that you're discovering yourself through art, and you're also growing outside of that and creating from that place of self-discovery. How do you balance the two?
“I honestly feel like they’re just one in my life. I’m such an all-or-nothing person, that I’m very hyper-focused on one thing at a time. It’s very hard for me to balance my “personal life” with [my music], so I kind of just view it as one thing. You’re so right, it really goes hand in hand because I’m creating out of my personal experience. In my mind, it doesn’t really feel like a job, it’s more like… I feel something and then I write about it and sing about it. It helps me get through things I’m going through in my personal life by writing about it. Maybe later down the line it’ll feel more separated, but right now, it feels like my life is my music.”
You've mentioned in other interviews that your decision to go solo has a lot to do with you and Maisy finding your own paths and expressing yourself. What's the biggest thing you've discovered about yourself thus far on your solo journey?
“I think I just grew so accustomed to having somebody else to lean on, like a director when I was on the show, and my mom was super involved in Maisy and I’s career, and making music. There was always somebody telling me how to do things and I didn’t realize how much I leaned on that. Now that I’m on my own, I keep forgetting that I’m the one driving and that I’m actually the only one that is in charge. It’s different than having a director on set and having other people be super involved in every song you sing. All of a sudden, it’s just me and I have so much freedom and I can do whatever I want whenever I want it. In a way, there’s more pressure because everything is in my hands and I feel so much pressure, and I put so much pressure on myself. I’ve realized that the expectation that I have of myself is unreachable. That’s something I struggle with, to be honest. I struggle with truly trusting my own intuition without asking for anyone else’s opinion. I’m trying to work through that.”
All of the songs on the EP are really personal. How does it feel to put your feelings out to the world and have people listen to it and try to dissect it?
“It’s interesting, it’s definitely something I haven’t felt before. It’s different because on the show, I was putting out so much music, but it wasn’t my own thoughts. It’s different putting my thoughts into words and singing them and having other people feels what I felt or even just hear what I felt, it’s an interesting thing, but it’s so cool. It’s really special, being able to go through something and then write about it and having it help someone else feel understood. It’s such a special thing.”
IS IT SCARY AT ALL TO HAVE PEOPLE LISTEN TO YOUR INNER THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AND SAY, “THIS MUST BE ABOUT THIS RELATIONSHIP”?
“Honestly, I’m such an open book. I’m so open about everything and anything in my life. It’s the equivalent to some random person on the street asking me what my deepest, darkest secret is… and I would tell them. I genuinely would. So it’s the same thing for me to sing about it and put it out into the world. That part isn’t as scary for me as I think it is to some people, just because I’m not a really private person. It’s more therapeutic for me to write and have it help other people feel understood. It’s bigger than feeling like [I’m sharing] too much information.”
Do you have a favorite lyric you've written on the EP?
“I’ve never been asked that before. It’s hard. One [lyric] that everyone else always picks is from Fortress that says, “All the words that you don’t say speak the loudest,” and I think that’s a pretty line. Maybe that?”
Was there a song that you really enjoyed the process of making? A song that really just fell together and clicked when you were making it?
“Honestly, all of the songs on the EP really did. My favorite song to ever write was “Like Everybody Else”, it’s not on the EP, but it was released an an acoustic version before the EP came out. That song wrote itself. It’s my favorite.”
On a poetic level, the songs on the EP take a very confessional tone. Is that why you called the EP Love, me?
“Yeah, it was. It was me pouring it out there and it’s such a personal thing. It feels like a letter to whoever [listens to the EP]. Also, when I was growing up, my parents… every card, every Christmas gift, they signed it off “Love, me”, that was my family’s thing. So that was also why I called it that.”
This Summer, you'll be turning 20... and in some ways, that's when your adult life really begins. What's one thing that you know now that you didn't know last year?
“I’m growing so much right now, I feel like I’m in such a growing stage in my life. My mind is being opened to a lot of things. One thing that I’m focusing on this year is trying to understand the meaning behind everything that happens and understand that everything happens for a reason. Genuinely, when something happens, finding the reason why… if I’m arguing with someone, focus on understanding. It sounds cheesy, but it helps so much because you find the root of any issue and clarify why it was meant to happen. If you find the root of it, you can find a clear line as to why it was or wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s something I’ve been focusing on this year, and I definitely wasn’t as aware last year as I am now in a lot of different ways.”
What big projects do you have planned for 2019?
“I’m going on tour with Anne-Marie in Europe, and then I’m going on tour with The Chainsmokers at the end of the year, so those are big things that’ll be taking up a bunch of my time. In the meantime, in between the tours, working on the album! So, I’ve been writing a bunch for the past 2 months, I’ve been in LA, writing and writing. I just got back because now I have my tour first. Definitely the album. I don’t know when it’s gonna be out, but I’m just writing towards it. Whenever I’m not touring this year, that’ll be what I’m focused on.”