Stella and her younger sister, Maisy, spent six years starring as sisters on the Connie Britton-led ABC/CMT series about fictional country music singers in Tennessee. Soon after the series wrapped in 2018, Stella signed a deal with Columbia Records and started writing music.
Stella, of course, had already been musical ― showing off her chops as part of the sister duo Lennon & Maisy and showcasing her singing skills on “Nashville.” Although she had long yearned to pursue a music career (much like her “Nashville” character Maddie), Stella said she’s glad she waited until now to jump in full time.
“Looking back, I thought I was ready at 14 years old to go in and do my career in music. It just wouldn’t have been smart,” Stella told HuffPost on Build Series last month. “I feel like it would have done damage as far as really going for it at that age and being taken seriously. It held me down, and I really couldn’t put out my own music until I was 18. So it made me stop and slow down and live in that moment.”
After releasing her first EP, “Love,” in 2018, Stella’s popularity grew. Refinery29 highlighted Stella as one of the top rising young celebrities to watch last year, and Teen Vogue put the Canadian native on a list called “16 Musicians You Need to Be Listening to In 2019.” And the accolades continue. Amazon named her an up-and-coming artist to watch for in 2020.
Does all the attention add some extra pressure?
“One hundred percent,” Stella said, though she admitted more than half of that pressure is self-imposed.
“I kind of like to keep that pressure there. … I think it’s important to keep that to keep me moving and wanting to be better all the time,” she said. “And also, there’s definitely a pressure I feel from outside and I don’t ever want it to affect my music.”
Now 20 years old, Stella is ready. On April 24, she released “Three. Two. One.,” her debut solo album featuring pop and experimental sensibility with relatable songs about love, relationships and breakups. Some of the songs are more serious, while others — like “Kissing Other People” — are simply lighthearted and fun.
In order to focus on her songwriting, Stella attended a 10-day writing camp in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which provided safe space for her to be creative and compose music.
“I got inspiration from living life and things that inspire me, or even writing about how uninspired I am,” she said. “I just try to get as in tune with myself as I possibly can.”
The singer-songwriter created the album alongside some of her favorite writers and producers, including Malay (Frank Ocean), Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift), Eg White (Sam Smith, Dua Lipa) and Tyler Johnson (Harry Styles).
Her sister, Maisy, is even featured on the song “Weakness.” And for curious fans, yes, they are still very close.
“We couldn’t be tighter,” Stella said. “She’s literally my best friend. She’s the most supportive. She’s the first person I send every song to, and literally her response to the song determines how I feel about it.”
Her sister, who is living in Nashville, just turned 16 and got her license, Stella added. She noted the importance of maintaining some normalcy during those seminal years, having grown up as a teenager on “Nashville.”
“It definitely was a different way to grow up,” she said. “And looking back now, it was definitely more unique than I realized it was at the time, because it was all I knew and I didn’t really think much of it.”
“I was in public school until middle of 10th grade,” she added. “It was very normalized at the time. … I see a lot of my tendencies for sure came from being on that show and full-on working from the time you’re 12.”
Now armed with a new album, Stella is eager to see where her musical career takes her. Although she would like to return to acting at some point (possibly in movies or short series), she doesn’t expect to do another long-running show anytime soon.
“I can definitely see myself tapping back into it, no question,” she said about acting. “I want to see what happens when I put full energy and full heart into music and give that a chance that it deserves.”