Stella Donnelly is a young songwriter with a knack for wrapping unapologetic, brutally honest lyrics with a soaring lullaby to mesmeric effect. Raised between Wales and Western Australia, where she currently lives, Donnelly got her start singing Green Day songs in her Aussie high school rock band, eventually turning her interest to jazz and contemporary as an adult studying at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
With just one EP release to boot, last year’s lauded Thrush Metal, she has already attracted critical attention worldwide. She unanimously won Bigsound 2017’s Levis Music Prize, which is given to emerging talent most likely poised for international success, amongst a swathe of industry awards in her home-soil and was a featured artist in The Great Escape’s London showcase in winter 2017. In a sterling start to 2018, she announced her signing to Secretly Canadian and will take the stage at SXSW and The Great Escape later this year amongst touring worldwide and recording her debut album.
Stella’s first single, “Boys Will Be Boys” is a particularly striking introduction to her vital, standout songwriting. New York Times described it as “A delicate waltz [that] carries a bitter reproach to blaming the victims of sexual assault. ‘Why was she all alone/Wearing her shirt that low? she sings, and then her voice rises and roughens.” Written in late 2016, the track tackles society’s tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault and rape and making excuses for the perpetrators. Donnelly says;
“Writing this also helped me work through things that had happened to not only my friends but to me as well, it helped me relieve a lot of the shame that victims are so often forced to feel in silence. I hope that this song… will open up difficult yet important conversations between family members, friends, government bodies, organizations and most importantly, boys and men.”
Yet this insightful account isn’t limited to “Boys Will Be Boys”. The rest of Thrush Metal features sharp lyrical punchlines that, when merged with Stella’s beguiling vocals, present an endearing and relatable but equally empowering guidebook to female experience in this age of Trump, Tinder and third wave feminism. Take new bonus track, “Talking”, which explores the ever-so-common feeling that you’re in a one-sided relationship from a distinctly millennial perspective and “Mechanical Bull”, a pithy but potent track that addresses the male tendency to persist unwanted sexual advances.
Stella teamed up with director Charlotte Evans (who has also worked with Aldous Harding) to create her new video for “Mechanical Bull”. Shot in a rockabilly diner, it blends dreamy Wes Anderson colourscapes with the sort of sharp humour imbued throughout the EP in a shrewd critique of the objectification of women in modern day dating scenarios. A fitting and lighthearted cut that only furthers Stella’s ability to poignantly bring the modern day women’s struggles to the forefront of her writing.
Secretly Canadian will release Thrush Metal on vinyl for the first time on June 22, 2018. The first pressing will be limited white color vinyl and includes new bonus track “Talking”.