From Perth, Australia, singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly is a force to be reckoned with.

Her warm Australian accent greeted me first thing in the morning, and while I’m not a morning person, I was more than happy to get to know her just as the sun was just rising on my side. As our conversation unfolded, I discovered how she stands up for her beliefs and fights the patriarchy (and how she looks and sounds cool doing it).

 

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

 

Stella Donnelly grew up in Wales before moving to Australia, which gave her a true multicultural childhood, contributing to her being a trilingual adult, speaking Welsh, English, and Spanish. Originally, she was studying sociology and anthropology before her EP took off and she abandoned her studies for a life on the road. “I’m really fascinated by people and fascinated by systems. I’m constantly analyzing, I’m scared of flying but I actually do love airports. I love sitting in an airport and watching people from all over the world walk past and interact and look at where they’re going.”

Wildly different than her brief studies, her musical success means a whole lot of travelling and a lot of spectacular new experiences. “You have these moments, like that, where you can’t really explain it to people when you go back home. You can only really just go, ‘Yeah, it’s super crazy’, it’s hard to kind of put it into words. Those are things that I’m going to personally cherish for a long time, but, also, I think the main thing for me is getting to meet so many amazing artists… I think that’s probably the most beneficial thing that I get from touring, is experiencing other people in that way.”

 

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Touring isn’t just rainbows and sunshine, though.

While she divulges that it’s actually much easier to stay in the present with a busy tour schedule, her life is filled with missing people and often being away from home. “It definitely makes you appreciate the people you have in your life when you’re away from them. I think that’s a big thing – being away, it gives me that insight into how lucky I am to have those people, and, when you miss them, you appreciate them so much more. That’s how I’ve got to look at it. I don’t really know how I deal with that. I mean, writing letters and showing them that you’re thinking of them is the best way. It can be lonely sometimes out there, but you just find people that are very much like-minded.”

She goes on to tell me that she doesn’t “get to be home as often as I’d like, but you find home in other ways. I mean, you find it in the people that you surround yourself with. I’m very lucky to have a band that’s made up of my best friends – two girls and two guys who I’ve been friends with for a long time. To me, they are very much home, and they keep me grounded, and they treat me the same just as they treated me before this music thing kind of took off… That’s really important for me, having people in my life that stay real in that way.”

Another difficulty of touring, Stella tells me is tackling the biggest obstacle so far in her life, her “fear of flying… There have been a few moments where I’ve been vomiting in a bathroom like thirty seconds before I had to get on a tiny propeller plane, which is just awful. I’ve never let it stop me, but it’s something that really exhausts me – having to have a panic attack every time I get on a flight. Sometimes on my Australian tour, you have to take like eight flights a week or something. It can get really, really hard, and for some reason, it just doesn’t get easier for me. I don’t know why. I’ve been chatting to a few pilots and aeronautical engineers and trying to get to the bottom of why I go through this. I think that’s the biggest obstacle as a touring musician is… if I could catch a boat or a train everywhere, I would. Unfortunately, it isn’t realistic.” Moreover, she tells me, “I find that touring the US is a lot more fun sometimes than Australia because there’s always a city or town not far away to drive to.”

 

“The female artists are out there representing Australia in such a good way.”

 

Australia may be spread out, but the women musicians are fierce. “The amazing thing about it is we are all very confident … The music industry in the past few years has brought a lot of the female artists together… The female artists are out there representing Australia in such a good way.” She goes on to gush, “I love Lucy Dacus’ lyrics; she’s really inspiring for me. Courtney Barnett, an Australian girl, you know, she really paved the way for women in Australia to get out there.”

 

And Australian rock girls have been making some waves in the world lately. Particularly, Stella’s single, ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ had its video launch just “two days before Harvey Weinstein was called out online… It was the most bizarre experience.”

 

Beware of the Dogs Album Art

Thrush Metal EP Artwork

 

“The privilege I have as an Australian – that comes with a lot of privilege – and I feel like that also comes with a lot of responsibility to use that privilege to speak up.”

 

 

What does she have to say about how we, as a society, should move forward to combat sexual assault and misogyny? “I wish I had the answer to that. I feel like if we did have the answer to that, we would be putting it in place. All we can do right now is communicate, and I think it’s spoken about so much more than what it was.”

“Conversations like that, I think, have definitely made the music industry [better] for me, and, hopefully, that plays out in every other part of society… I feel like the victims of these crimes deserve to be angry. I hope that we can get to a point where we’re able to have compassionate conversations with people of all genders or non-gender-binary and move forward in that way. I think policy is another big thing. The lawmakers need to respond to what’s happened, and we need to see these things being implemented. Now, in the political system, we need those kinds of boundaries to be in our laws for things to properly change.”

Stella Donnelly is no stranger to standing up what she believes in, on and off the stage. “I’ve always been someone that stands up and speaks up about things… I’ve always kind of been that person that kind of questions things. I’m lucky to have a family that’s done the same. My mum went out to the women’s marches. They’ve always thought about the bigger picture, and I definitely got it from them. It’s only natural for me to have done that through my music as well.”

“The privilege I have as an Australian – that comes with a lot of privilege – and I feel like that also comes with a lot of responsibility to use that privilege to speak up. There may be people far more deserving, but I may as well do something with it.”

 

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

 

It’s not just about politics – it’s about authenticity. “For me, I wouldn’t feel right if I was putting on a mask and putting on a costume and going out on stage and being someone that I’m not… I’m a terrible actor. I think that would be a lot harder for me to get across to people and I think people would see right through it straight away, that I wasn’t being authentic to myself.”

Not only is she cool, fresh, and authentic in her outlook on politics and music, but she also has a fun outlook on style. She strives for “this feeling of freshness in how you dress, or it can even just be a new hat or a new perfume or something like that. I love that feeling [you get when you are wearing something new], and feeling like I’ve just added something to my story or to my identity… it’s finding stuff in vintage stores that you just won’t see anywhere else, and it comes into my enjoyment of life and my expression as well.”

Of course, though, her main mode of expression is through her music. “Writing for me is always a therapeutic thing. I write songs about adult life, and working through whatever it is that I’ve been going through or whatever it is I’m thinking about or whatever it is that’s sitting in front of me… I think this album gave me time to really do that. I think that’s the beauty of an album, is you’ve got more songs to get yourself across. I can really take my time with it… I feel like, that has really given me a bit of insight into how I was dealing with things in my life then.”

 

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

 

Check out Stella Donnelly’s new album, Beware of the Dogs, and don’t miss her Canadian tour dates later this month!

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