Interview: Lennon Stella Talks “BITCH,” Her Debut LP & Collaborations
Lennon Stella’s Love, me was one of the most original EPs (debut or otherwise) of 2018. An eclectic five-song set that bounces seamlessly from alt minimalism to country earthiness, it heralded the arrival of an artist willing to push the boundaries of pop. The 19-year-old picked up where she left on last month’s “BITCH (takes one to know one).” Falling somewhere between a breakup song and a female empowerment anthem, Lennon stands up for herself over propulsive beats and fuzzy synths.
I recently caught up with the “Breakaway” hitmaker in her tour bus outside of The Fonda in Los Angeles. We spoke about her next move (she has her heart set on releasing an album) and working with a mind-boggling line-up of A-List producers on Love, me. Lennon also opened up about collaborating with Jonas Blue and Liam Payne on worldwide hit, “Polaroid,” and revealed the best and worst things about tour life. Get to know the breakout star a little better in our Q&A below.
“BITCH” is such an explosive single title. Did a real-life experience inspire the song?
Honestly, every other song I’ve written has been very specifically about something I’ve gone through, or something that’s happened to me. But this one is actually a concept that a friend of mine in Colorado came up with. She had this idea of, “It takes a bitch to know a bitch.” And having it be a boyfriend to a girlfriend, calling her a bitch and she just says, “It takes a bitch to know a bitch.” I thought the concept was cool. It wasn’t actually a thing that happened to me. I just think it’s a cool reply. Don’t let them walk all over you.
Have people interpreted the song like that?
Yeah, totally. They have. Honestly, even more so than I thought they were going to. I didn’t want it to be mistaken for a girl saying it to a girl. That’s so catty and it’s not really the message I want to put out. So I definitely was concerned that some people may read it like that, but honestly, no one has. And the response has been great.
Let’s talk about the video. I love the use of colors. You seem to be a very visual artist.
Thank you! Visuals are so important to me — capturing a vision that conveys the way a song feels is really important. I wanted the colors to be pastel, because I wanted the video to have a Wes Anderson vibe. And Drew Kirsch, the director, he just did a killer job of making the video feel like it was almost a film. Just the way it was shot was so cool and so smooth. It’s almost like it’s one seamless shot.
At first, I thought it was a one-take thing until you changed outfits.
Yeah, I’m changing outfits and hair and makeup. Drew really killed it, because at first that was the idea [to have a one-take video], but I definitely wanted to change outfits and wanted there to be different scenes. He figured out how to do it where it still looks as if it’s one shot and still feels like a seamless.
Is it your favorite video?
I also loved the “Breakaway” video. That’s so good.
Thanks! I love “Breakaway” too. I mean, I love them all. They’re all super special to me for different reasons. But “Breakaway” was very much exactly what was in my head, which was really nice. I just put a bunch of pictures and colors together. And I was like, “This is what I want.” And they just made it happen. So that was really cool, because it was exactly in my brain. Whereas this one was way more collaborative.
Love, Me didn’t come out that long ago. Is “BITCH” a standalone single or are you going to be releasing a larger body of work?
I’m hoping to do an album. As of now, I’m just writing a bunch and seeing where that leads. But definitely, an album is my goal.
Will it be all new songs or include some from the EP?
All new ones. The EP is living its life right now. You know what I mean? I think that if I were to do an album, I would have all new songs and have it be a different story.
You worked with so many incredible producers on Love, Me. Busbee, Joel Little, Greg Kurstin, STINT. How did that all come together?
Honestly, my team has been working really hard at finding the right fit and I think connecting with these producers as people helped a lot with that. The team set all that up and then I just really connected with all of them as people, and as obviously as musicians, and I think it just felt really natural. It really was a dream. They’re all so incredible.
The EP is so eclectic. Did it take a while to settle on your sound?
Oh yeah. Totally. There’s so much that I love. Even with just what I listen to, I’m all over the place. I’m just moved by so many different things for different reasons. It was hard for me to lock into something and be like, “Okay, this is what I’m wanting to make for the rest of however long I can see myself doing it.” Just as a person, and as an artist, you’re going to grow and evolve and I’m open to that. I’m not going to lock myself and be like, “This is my sound and this is what I’m going to stay with forever.” Because I think it’s important to be able to feel free and creative. But right now, I feel like I definitely locked into what feels great and natural.
Will you be working with any of the same producers on the album?
Totally. Honestly, I love everyone that I wrote with for the EP. It felt so good. I love Greg Kurstin. He’s amazing. I want to do much more with him.
Is it a bit daunting to go into the studio with someone who has produced songs for Adele and all these incredible artists? Where does that self-confidence come from
I don’t even know that it’s self confidence. It’s more that I’m clueless. I’m just kind of oblivious. I live in my own little world ,and I try my best not to be intimidated. Ultimately, we’re all just people. Just because someone is famous or well known, once you let that get into your head, then you’re not going to feel comfortable enough to create honest music. I wouldn’t be able to be my true self. So, I try and stay oblivious. It’s probably not the best way to do it, but before a session, I honestly don’t even know what their credits are.
When did you decide to embark on a music career of your own?
It grew for a while and it was kind of building up, and then I think probably near the end of the last season of Nashville is when it kind of was like, “Okay cool. This is what feels right.” When I finished filming the show, I was able to do it on my own and really go for that. And that was kind of when it actually ended up happening. Yeah, it was at the end of the last season.
Were you nervous or excited?
Oh, I was so nervous. I don’t think I was even excited until later. It was such a big decision. I felt a lot of pressure. But then once it happened and once everyone was on board, it was clear that it was the right move and everyone sees that now, too.
How did “Polaroid” come about? It really exposed you to a new audience.
Totally. Yeah. That’s exactly what it was for me too. I think it just kind of introduced me to a bunch of people that maybe wouldn’t have known me before. Especially over in the UK. It was a lot of fun.
Would you do another club collaboration?
Probably, yeah. I can see myself doing it. I think it’s fun. I mean that song is obviously so much more pop than anything I was doing, way more mainstream. It’s cool to do stuff like that as a feature and then have my stuff feel completely different. You know what I mean? It’s fun to be a part of that for features. Because it’s not me necessarily, but I can be featured on it and not have all the pressure on me.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
There are so many people. I really love Alec Benjamin right now. I think he’s so awesome. Such a good writer. I just love his writing so much.
Do you get the opportunity to mingle with other young artists?
Yeah, it’s pretty open. I think that it’s cool, just with social media and all these things, we’re all able to be so connected. Everyone seems so open and wants to work with each other. It’s not as competitive, you know? So it’s nice. I’m constantly talking to other artists, getting their opinions and advice on things.
What do you love about tour life?
I love being able to meet everyone. I think it’s so fun and so cool to actually be able to really just hold conversations with people in real life, instead of just being online. That’s really awesome and so refreshing. After the show we have a meet and greet. It’s so cool to meet everyone.
What’s the worst part of being on the road?
I really like silence. Silence is like my favorite sound in the world. There are just so many people on the bus. I live alone and I like to be alone. I don’t really get that on the road. But at the same time, I’m learning to love this. I know that I’m going to get that when I get home. I’m just soaking this up. Because it is kind of cool to always have company and be with people that you enjoy and love. It’s been fun.
One last question. How long before we get new music?
Soon-ish for sure. Yes! Soon-ish. 100 percent. I’m writing right now, so there will be something out before the album. 100 percent. A couple of things, I imagine. Something’s coming for sure.
Thanks so much for your time.