While a debut album is an important milestone in any artist’s career, the significance is heightened for Lennon Stella, who’s been anticipating its release for longer than most. Records such as Three. Two. One prove that despite the growing emphasis on streaming and playlisting, LPs are more important than ever. Records allow the listener to fully immerse themselves into the multi-faceted emotional journey inspired the album’s formation, allowing them to form a beautifully unique emotional attachment to the record.
Throughout her debut album, Stella effortlessly demonstrates that it’s possible to make music that’s both devilishly catchy and heart-achingly emotional. While anthemic tracks like “Kissing Other People” and “Fear of Being Alone” may be the most attention-grabbing tracks, throughout Stella showcases her earnestly affecting songwriting prowess.
On Three. Two. One. she incorporates an exceptional amount of diversity, with her music proving to be an emotional irrespective of the track’s tempo. In the run-up to the release of the album, we caught up with Lennon Stella to talk about the surreal nature of releasing an album during lockdown, her journey so far, songwriting, and more.
Given the current situation, how does it feel to be releasing an album? It’s such strange timing but in a way, there’s something really special about it coming out in a time when music is so needed. I think any way people can connect with each other right now is so important and there’s something special about putting music out right now because of that. Right now, everything’s like stripped back and the way we’re all living right now is super minimal. So it’s cool to make a music video in my living room; it just feels more simulating.
I’m like finding ways to be creative and make it work. It’s kinda nice and out of my comfort zone, which is making me feel a little bit more creative instead of just relying on knowing that there’s going to be a bunch of people producing and directing it and all those things. Every bit of this has been made into something that’s a bit more creative meant we’ve needed to find ways to work around what’s happening. I’m just excited for it to be out.
How do you think it’ll feel to be sitting at home when it’s released? Like around you nothing’s like physically changed or altered but, in another sense, so much will have. That’s honestly probably going to be the weirdest part. Like normally you’re out and you’re meeting so many different faces and you can just feel the energy of the release. But like now I’m literally only going to be feeling it through my iPhone.
It’s going to be bizarre to be like sitting in my bed and then being like “oh yeah, my albums out.” But I think it’s going to be cool because now, more than ever, we have time to listen to a full-length album and I think people are interested, so there are definitely good things about it also. It’s also kind of nice being in the comfort of my home and feel that stability. So like when I’m putting out this album, my feet are like firmly on the ground.
The album starts with “Much Too Much” and ends with “Goodnight.” How did you decide to bookend it like that? I liked the idea of starting with “Much Too Much” because that’s really when like the initial feeling started and that was what I was going in the relationship. Then I wanted it with “Goodnight” because it’s hopeful and it feels like there’s more coming. That whole feeling of wanting to say goodnight rather than goodbye because you don’t want it to end. I like ending the album on that note because it feels open and doesn’t like super closed off in any way.
How did you decide the tracklisting and what songs to include? There were a few songs that came naturally, and I was certain that they were going on the album. But there were too many songs that I really wanted on it and I really wanted there to only be 13 songs on the album. I was born on Friday the 13th and my sister was born on the 13th. Thirteen has been our lucky number throughout our whole lives and I really thought it’d be special to have 13 songs on the album.
I didn’t think about that when I was initially sorting out them and figuring out how to eliminate some of the songs. I wanted so many more on it, but I think the songs that were chosen all work together nicely. There were songs that I loved as individual pieces, but they didn’t fit clearly with the context and evolution of the record; they just kind of felt random. So, I really just chose the songs in order of what actually happened.
I adore JP Saxe so much and finally saw him for the first time supporting you in London. How did your collaboration with him come about? I’m such a massive fan of his and he’s just the coolest person, which makes it that much better. Initially, I came across one of his covers on Instagram and I went way back like stalking so far. Then I sent him his own video from like way back, like from like an embarrassing amount of stalking in, and was like this is insane.
Then I realized that he had already messaged me a couple of times and I hadn’t seen it. He was like “I’m such a fan and I would love to write with you.” I was like “oh, my god” because I thought I was like messaging him for the first time and didn’t even realize he followed me back. So it was very cool, and we were both on the same wavelength. I think it’s very cool when it happens like that, it’s just like natural and there was a connection that we both had musically.
We started DM’ing a little bit and then a couple of weeks later, I was figuring out my tour and was posting about it. Then he just DM’ed me and was like “if you’re looking for anyone to open, I would love to” and I was obviously like “yes please.” So I literally wrote to my manager and was like if this at all possible, that would be amazing. It was really cool because I’m never that involved in the process of all that. Then we just set up a session and the tour.
“Older Than I Am” and “Since I Was a Kid” are so beautiful and two of my favorite songs on the album. They’re both so vulnerable and open. Are you ever apprehensive about sharing that about yourself through your music? With both “Older Than I Am” and “Since I Was a Kid,” I felt the most scared about opening up but I’m a completely open book and normally never feel that way. I think with those songs they’re about things I don’t talk about, much less write about or sing about. It’s not like a comfortable topic to talk about all the time. Those are things that are more personal and feel like I’m being vulnerable more than usual. Normally I’m just like open and it doesn’t even feel like I’m being vulnerable.
I don’t ever feel afraid of being honest and open; it never freaks me out, but with “Older Than I Am” and “Since I Was A Kid” because they’re about a topic I don’t really discuss often it feels a little bit scary. It feels a bit fragile. In the same token, I feel like with those songs people will be able to draw a parallel to their own lives and I think it can make other people feel understood, as it makes me feel understood.
The album is devoid of singles that weren’t released as part of the campaign. Was that always your intention? It kind of happened naturally. I guess the past two years has been working towards making the album, but it’s been kind of like just figuring out what songs feel best and at the time feel right to put out. Then from there, it’s been like “okay cool, it’s time to make the album.” The EP was like put together of the songs that were already made and pretty much already finished. So the EP wasn’t nearly as thought out as the album was.
You supported 5 Seconds of Summer and The Chainsmokers on their US arena tour and Anne-Marie on her sold-out UK and European tour. What did you take away from those shows and that experience? Opening for an artist is a totally different thing and I learned so much from it. It feels slightly like a challenge every night because you’re going out and people aren’t there for you. A lot of the time they don’t really care and it’s much more of a thing to get people to listen and also make it feel like there’s a warm energy in the room. It’s really good for me to feel that to learn how to navigate crowds and bring energy, even when I’m not necessarily getting the energy. It’s really a good thing.
On the Chainsmokers tour, there was a lot of energy all around. They put on such a party and people just came ready to party. It was also in arenas so that was a totally different vibe but on both of those tours, I took so much away from them. I think it reflects a lot in my own shows now when I’m headlining. I could feel the difference from before and after doing those tours.
Your music obviously has pop sensibility but there’s such an emotional gravity to the tracks. Did you encounter any sort of difficulty to sort of combing the sort of pop sound with such resonating lyrics? Like making music that means a lot to you personally but also having it be accessible to a wider audience. I think it’s important to have that balance. It’s cool to have lyrics that can have that can be heavy at times but sonically having it sound fun, so you have fun and sing along to it. I think it’s fun to have that balance.
A lot of your songwriting is quite melancholic, but the production is often more spirited. I feel like “Fear of Being Alone” is a perfect example of that. How did that sort of contrast form within your music? I feel like that’s something I’ve always been drawn to. Like even on the EP, “Bad” is definitely a sad song but you can dance to it. I also think it makes it easier to have songs like “Older Than I Am”; I think it like earns that. So you can have a ballad that’s sad and nothing else. It gives you that freedom to do that. I think if I had like really giddy, happy upbeat songs and I wanted to do a song like “Older Than I Am,” people would be like “what?” I’d probably be like that too. I don’t feel great when I’m singing like sunshine and rainbows songs; I’ve just never felt like I connected to them. I like it when there’s a weight, but I want to be able to dance and I think it’s fun to have a bit of movement in them also. I think balance is key.
Across the album, what was the songwriting process like? I did a writing camp for 11 days and I got work with my favorite writers and producers. I just got a group of people that I felt really comfortable with and went to do this writing camp for the album, which is where the majority of the album was written. That was like the first time I’ve ever done something like that. Prior to that, I was like in so many different rooms with so many different people and I would just walk in and meet them that day, and then we’d write a song.
With the album, it was important to me that I be with people that I really felt understood me and I understood. So there was like a mutual vibe and we could write a song really knowing each other. I think it’s a totally different experience. With this album everyone that I wrote I was in the room with and we worked together a bunch, that was the first time I’d really done that.
Out of the unreleased songs, are there any specific ones that you’re most excited for people to hear? My favorite that isn’t out yet is “Pretty Boy” because sonically I just love it so much. Then probably “Older Than I Am” also. Those two stick out to me as songs that haven’t been really heard yet.
I absolutely love the album; every single song feels so packed with emotion. Also, every time I listen, a different song is my favorite. What do you want fans to take away and feel from listening to the album? Also, was that ever something you thought about during the creative process? I love what you said about your favorite changing so much. It sounds so simple but when I’m writing I feel like the only way to connect with people is to just be honest. Just in life too. The only way to connect with people is, to be honest with yourself and say how you feel. If you’ve felt something, there’s going to be a lot of people who either feel it too or have felt it. I just wanted that.
Things that are harder for me to sing about, like “Older Than I Am,” feel so draining when I think about it because it’s such a heavy concept. I just think that if I’ve been through it and I can share that with other people who’ve been through it then that’s such a thing to share together. Within the album, there’s definitely different topics and all different things I think about in it, but ultimately, I just want to be honest. I think if I’m being honest people will resonate and connect with it.
Your career sort of started on YouTube and then you were obviously on Nashville. As you’ve progressed through your own solo musical career, what have been some of the most impactful or surprising moments? It’s such a different world. From like being in a show to then having a solo career. With that, you start to obviously make your own creative decisions and it’s so cool to have that creative freedom and space. It’s amazing to sort of have that space to be able to explore. The biggest culture shocks were probably the Chainsmokers tour and the Jonas Blue and Liam Payne collaboration; they were both so different from anything that I’d gotten used to. I don’t know if there was anything surprising, it was just that those experiences were so far out of comfort zone and so different to anything I’d done prior. I think those experiences are the way you grow and it’s fun too.
It’s a bit of strange question given what’s going on in the world right now, but what are you most excited about in the future and hold to stay true? My upcoming tour has been pushed back and we don’t know the date yet but it’s being rescheduled, so I’m looking forward to that. Whenever that happens, I know it’s going to be really cool and really special to experience these songs live. I’m excited to play them live and have them have a life and feel them in the energy of actual humans, not just virtually. It’s going to be really cool and fulfilling. Just the fact the album is coming out is consuming my brain. I’m excited about the response and to see how it affects people and how people feel it. That and then touring it and finding ways for it to have a life like it should.