Meet Stella Donnelly. She wants to see more diversity on festival lineups, her bedroom is always messy, and her songs are unapologetic statements of intent formed from observation.
Name: Stella Donnelly
Mission: To right the wrongs of the world with quick wit and brutal honesty.
The clearest and earliest memories that Stella has growing up in Perth are the light summer nights that come near Christmas time, and the delightful smell that they would leave in the air. Smells of BBQs and sunscreen, sea salt and mosquito spray; the simple, smaller things that have shaped her to be the person that she is today.
Stella has always sung, but never allowed herself to believe that she had a decent voice. Until high school. Even then, she wasn’t sure. But with encouragement from her dad, she kept pursuing music. Today we have her debut EP, Thrush Metal. A collection of poems and short stories, brewed from observing the everyday and tired of just putting up with moments and actions that are unjust, they’re bittersweet and relatable. Almost, a whispered sleepover conversation with a friend, huddled under a safety blanket.
‘Mean To Me’ is a swirling confrontation to everybody to tried to put her down; whether they told her that her jokes aren’t funny, or tested her patience with a lack of manners. With an angelic vocal and soothing guitar, there’s a fuelling strength by the end, perhaps even a sultriness that reigns in its independent power. ‘Grey’ however, is a pleading love song; “I wish that I could paint myself / in all your favourite colours” showing simple infatuation, and ‘A Poem’ delicately compares this love to a bee-sting.
Her debut single, ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ was a powerful debut introduction to Stella as an artist. As an attempt to try and make sense of society’s tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault and rape and make excuses for the perpetrators, the track matter-of-factly relives the emotions and aftermath. It forces people to listen, and to understand the “invasion of innocence”, getting angrier as the honesty spills.
“I wrote it in 2016, I was in a space where I felt finally strong enough to articulate the things that I had experienced.” Stella explains, “I didn’t want the song to be about me though. I wanted it to be more of a mirror to everyone about the way that we THINK about sexual assault and rape. It is targeted at society as a whole, not just boys and men.”
She goes on to discuss how “eradicating patriarchal ideals will benefit everyone in our society, not just women,” but to do so our generation “needs to listen and not argue.” Referencing the #MeToo campaign, Stella believes that it has led to more men acknowledging the situation that we are in right now, and taking more responsibility to call out bad behaviour when they see it.
‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is a staple addition to Thrush Metal, an EP where the motive was to keep it really simple and just let the songs be the main event. Working alone without a studio or band took the pressure off, and that comes with thanks to her housemates who persuaded Stella to pursue her music solo. “I will always be grateful for that, it helped me trust my instincts a lot more. I only work with people that I trust on a human level that practise integrity in their careers as well as their lives.” she says. ‘Mechanical Bull’; one of the quicker paced tracks, spoken with venom about wanting to be alone, touches on this. That, and her strong belief that everybody should strive to be the main character of their own life. “Don’t allow the media to dehumanise and objectify you.” Stella states. Lyrically the track is hungry for space, to get away from all that is toxic, threatening to throw people off like a mechanical bull. “So many aspects of living makes it difficult to form a self that isn’t reliant on your relation to men or your value as a commodity. I think a lot of us still struggle with having our own definition of ourselves through relationships, occupying public spaces, and working for money.” The message is to be sure of yourself, and to run with what feels right for you in that very moment.
Stella Donnelly makes you want to sit up and listen. In fact, they give you no choice. Her honeyed vocal and gentle riffs are irresistible, her sentiments and intent impossible to ignore. The future is now, and this Australian songwriter could lead a movement herself.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan