Whereas numerous auditions, gruelling hours and consistent rejection once made a child star, today all talented 12-year-olds need is a webcam and Internet access to hit the big time. Lennon Stella, along with her sister Maisy, joined the likes of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber when their cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” catapulted them to overnight success — the pair’s husky harmonies garnering millions of views, solidifying their starring roles on hit TV drama, Nashville.
Six years on, Stella is of age and on her own, oft leaving the Tennessee town behind to travel the country as a solo sensation. It’s about time. The young artist has outgrown her television stardom and YouTube virality. She’s now collaborating with Jonas Blue, embarking on headlining tours and just last month, she released her debut EP, Love, me, her dreamy manifesto on heartbreak and womanhood.
It’s a highly resolved debut offering, articulating growing pains with grace and maturity over catchy downbeats. In person, at the launch of Sofar Sounds and Hyatt Centric’s new collaboration, Stella is the embodiment of both attributes, revealing the trials of navigating the music industry as a teen and the pressures of sustaining popularity post-Nashville.
You’ve only recently gone out on your own, which must be a huge shift for you— suddenly navigating the industry solo, and evaluating who around you is real and genuinely wants to see you succeed.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been reevaluating people and life and what makes me happy, genuinely. Actually the more I travel, the more I love Nashville—the vibe is not competitive, people want to see you succeed. I’m appreciating it so much more—and what’s so special about it—now. Really solid people and it’s so welcoming. Not that it’s not like that in L.A or anywhere else but it’s definitely harder to find those people. [In Nashville] everyone welcomes you with open arms and wants to see you do well until the death of them. It can be blinding in L.A.
At times it also feels as though there’s more emphasis on popularity than talent in L.A. and the music landscape at large.
Oh, yeah. [Online] popularity, was never, ever a thing for me and now, because it’s such a thing, it’s just always on my brain. When you’re a new artist like me, it’s all about how many people are listening and then you start thinking about what are they going to like or resonate with. That’s when you’re going to stop making music that you love. Once you make music that way, you’re thinking of followers, charts, streams, numbers or math—it takes the heart out of it. That’s something I really, really try to not let happen. It’s addicting. I just don’t want to engage.
Was that a consideration too in your transition from country? Now you’re this indie-pop star, but you cultivated such a big fanbase in a completely different genre. Did it feel like starting from scratch?
Yeah, it was a thing for sure. Being on the show, all that stuff, the folk-y singer-songwriter, was my character. It wasn’t me. So it was a huge consideration, how to bring people over in a natural organic way and not shock people.
Do you feel that’s happened?
I really do. It’s been pretty organic. Everyone has seemed to be weirdly positive. I was not expecting it. I thought there was going to be all this backlash with my sister and I splitting up.
And you’re four years apart, which is such a big life gap. I can’t imagine going into this world as a 14-year-old.
One hundred percent, and she is so aware of that. But as much as we can both understand that, I really didn’t think the world was going to. Everyone loves to pick things to say, and I really thought there was going to be a lot of talk and there just wasn’t. And I think she’s clearly been so supportive, so I’m really lucky in that sense.
Have you had to contend with any criticism, moving into this new world?
I mean there is always obviously some. But it’s shocking how positive it’s been. I go in my DMs and so many people just want to let me know how much they love and appreciate me. I’ve just been getting the most beautiful, perfectly articulated novels. This one girl recently just listed off how I make her feel. Like, “I feel understood when you sing,” it was so intense. I don’t know how I lucked out, people are really good to me on social media.
As a society we’re so conditioned to believe every child star ends up totally insane, but you’ve always been so grounded. What do you chalk that up to?
I think, my parents? They’ve just always understood. Also I think the show itself, you know it wasn’t a Disney show—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but it was just a bunch of really pure, talented humans. Everyone talks about all these horror stories of Hollywood, and we’ve always been like, “What? It’s been great for us.” But I think because that was also the first acting thing I’ve ever done, I feel zero entitlement.
You’re not thinking, I belong here.
No, I’ve never thought that I belong here. For me I didn’t have the dream of like, ‘I would do anything to get here,’ because acting wasn’t a dream of mine. I always wanted to focus on music.
Is there a specific milestone that will make you feel like you do belong here?
Once I have an album that is an entire piece of my being, I will feel that way. That will be the milestone. I talk to my mom about this all the time, I feel all the time like, how did I make it here? How did this happen? But also, with music, I have always known. I’m not a hugely competitive person so I thought, I’ll just put this in the universe.
You manifested it.
Yeah, I’ve just been sitting back and manifesting.