Lennon Stella is an open book. She's also busier at this moment than she's ever been in her life. It's taken a good few months and twenty odd emails to pin the nineteen year old pop singer down for an interview, but now that we're finally talking, everything is easy. I'm in our mutual hometown of Toronto, and Stella is somewhere in New York readying for the Anne-Marie tour, which begins on May 2nd in Zurich. Today though, we're reminiscing about the first night of Stella's "Love, me" tour in Toronto, where the "Bitch" live video was shot. Stella strikes me as one of those women who might be fictional if she weren't so real: cool, wise beyond her years, beautiful in a way that radiates outward from some central place in her heart, and in complete control of her own creative vision.
"Honestly, it was so cool having my first show be in Toronto. I saw all my family who I haven't seen in so long—I have a massive, massive family all living in Canada so it was really wonderful to be able to have all of them there," she tells me, vivacious in the face of plane travel. I was in the audience that night, standing next to Lennon's mother, MaryLynne Stella, who was shouting the lyrics to her daughter's songs along with everyone else. When Lennon first walked on stage, I chanced a look to my left and locked eyes with a teary-faced MaryLynne. "Oh my god I can imagine, my Mum and my Dad were both hysterical…yep, that's my parents," she laughs. The energy in the Danforth Music Hall was palpable and genuine: say what you will about Canadians, when one of our own makes it this big, we go off. Stella had skipped the prerequisite three venues musicians usually play before selling out two nights at one of Toronto's biggest independent venues. This is, in part, due to her success with her sister as a viral internet duo, but also the product of an extreme amount of hard work and dream-catching.
The multi-instrumentalist boasts a whopping fanbase, thanks to her stint on the popular country music soap Nashville and the aforementioned viral video, but her parents infamously raised her and younger sister Maisy Stella without Internet or cable TV. Still, she's grown to love social media. "I think it's such a cool way to connect with people," she says. "You feel like you're all friends. In a way, it's super invasive…You have no privacy, everyone is super in-your-life. If you don't involve them they lose interest. But, it's been so positive for me and I've been so lucky, in the sense that I've been able to be myself." The distinction between Lennon and her "fans" is heavily blurred, thanks to her openness on both social media and in her life. She's telling me about a wild night spent with her best friend in Dublin, a story that begins warily and concludes gleefully:
We went to this pub and—sorry I'm going to tell you this story, this is probably not what you're looking for—this girl was staring at me. It felt like Mean Girls…Hours later, this [other] girl comes over and says 'my friend's so nervous, she didn't want to come up to you but she's such a fan and she's in the bathroom. Would you please go say hi?' So of course I went to the bathroom. We end up talking and becoming, like, best friends with these people and the pub actually closes down, but they're having this party there, where you literally have to have a secret knock to get in. And we ended up singing songs with this whole band. I had the most fun night of my life."
This is a classic Irish lock-in. When you're a tourist in a strange city, a lock-in can make you feel special or extremely nervous, depending on the kind of person you are. It's this hunger to try everything that makes Stella so enigmatic. So, what would Lennon Stella do for a day, if she and her sister had no phones and absolutely nothing on her schedule? "Oh, we'd sleep our little butts in," she laughs. "Watch movies. The other day we did this—god, it was so fun—we had a little picnic. So we'd probably go to the park and lay in the sun and eat."
Her speech is peppered with these stops and starts, a reminder of her youth even as she tells me in a distinctly old-souled fashion about how her parent's split helped her personal growth. "Breakaway" from Love, me chronicles this feeling, and as a child of an amicable split as well, I'm consistently impressed by Stella's songwriting prowess: it has an ability to reach across all sorts of lines. "In a lot of ways, I learned—I'm a planner, whenever things don't go the way I plan, it's very hard for me to readjust. I'm also a very big comfort person—I think the most important thing I learned with my parents splitting up was that it's okay if things aren't exactly how you imagined them playing out in your mind," she sighs. If this isn't a subject she's interested in discussing, she doesn't let it show, answering with the same enthusiasm she had when I asked her my first question. She invites you to join her introspection. "And it doesn't mean that it's not good," she continues. "I had this perfect vision of my family [and] being happy, and it's okay if it's not like that…honestly it's better. And that's just something I learned as a human. Being able to adjust to changes and form with them, and not fight every change."