Singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly on time, conversations, people-watching and more

The Australian indie artist come to the NJ area Sept 28 and 30.

Similar to many musicians who recorded any music from 2020-2021, Australian indie singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly discovered that she had more time to make an album that she—any of us, really—truly wanted. As a result, the process for her recent album, Flood, was different from her first LP, Beware of the Dogs. 

“I had a lot more time to record Flood,” explains Donnelly via email. “So there was more exploration, and more fun with this record.”

The album is also a timestamp for the early stages of the pandemic as well. The song “Flood” was written during lockdown in Australia, and the rhythm of the song is an ode to getting to go outside during lockdown. 

“’Flood’ went through several different versions before landing where it did,” says Donnelly. “I spent a lot of time locked in my little recording space at home getting that finished. I wrote it in Melbourne during the extremely long lockdown and made the tempo of the song suit the rhythm that I would walk at each day when we were allowed to leave the house for exercise one hour a day.”

While “Flood” was recorded at home and the rhythm of the song pays homage to the lockdown, Flood isn’t necessarily a pandemic album, and Donnelly explores different themes in the record. One of those themes is avoiding having a serious conversation, which is explored in the song “How Was Your Day.” 

“Each of these songs came about in different ways,” says Donnelly. “’How Was Your Day’ was written live with the band in a single afternoon and explores the dynamic between two people who need to have a serious conversation, but keep avoiding the topic.”

With the song “Lungs,” Donnelly explores working and middle-class issues such as housing—it doesn’t matter if you’re in Jersey, NYC, Philly or Australia because housing is a universal issue.

“’Lungs’ was more of a studio song, built with synths and other fun studio tricks,” says Donnelly. “The song paints the picture of suburban working class issues.”

Donnelly isn’t shy to feature issues that are affecting the world in her music. Her previous LP, Beware of the Dogs, touched on issues such as reproductive rights, racism and toxic masculinity. And her first solo EP, Thrush Metal, featured “Boys Will Be Boys,” a song about society’s tendency to victim-blame victims of sexual assault. The song was written in a pre #MeToo sorld, and Donnelly honed in on her hometown of Perth. 

“I think a lot of people have tied that song to the entertainment industry because I released it only a few months before #MeToo re-emerged in that industry,” explains Donnelly. “I was writing it from my small hometown in Perth; I had absolutely no grasp of the entertainment industry or the things that were happening. I was just documenting what was happening in my community.”

Thrush Metal was the EP that pushed Donnelly onto the mainstream, and she still believes that the EP holds up pretty well a couple years later; the EP will always be a special one for her. 

“The recording of Thrush Metal was very low key and relaxed,” recalls Donnelly. “I was playing in a bunch of other bands at the time and my mind was taken up more by those projects than my own music. It was a real surprise when it was given the attention that it got.’’

Even though Donnelly has an impressive catalog of music, she is enjoying playing songs from Flood, and says the experience of playing the songs live has been “really exciting and fresh.” 

Donnelly is a native of Fremantle, Australia, a city with a music scene that she calls “nurturing and small,” a scene where everyone would play in each other’s bands. Donnelly got into music by listening to songs on the radio and her dad’s cassette tapes. She’ll be coming to Brooklyn on Sept. 28 with a performance at The Hall at Elsewhere, and performing in Philly on Sept. 30 with a performance at World Cafe Live. 

She doesn’t get to spend a lot of time exploring the cities due to her touring schedule, but she does partake in people-watching, which she does form a bar.

“I have only visited NYC and Philly while touring so I try to see a little bit of them each time I go, and my experiences have been amazing,” says Donnelly. “I went to a batting cage in Philly which was super fun, and I love sitting in bars in New York looking at couples walking past and trying to guess what they are talking about.”

Stella Donnelly will be playing at The Hall at Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Sept. 28 and in Philly on Sept. 30 at World Cafe Live. For more information, go here.