Andrew Chats with Stella Donnelly

Andrew Chats with Stella Donnelly

 

CONTENT WARNING: sexual assault is talked about in this article.

Andrew saw Fremantle-bred songwriter Stella Donnelly play a whopping six times at SXSW, partly because she was at all the best showcases, but mostly because she’s worth it! Stella found some time during her insanely busy schedule to sit down with Andrew on a lovely Austin patio and chat about Australian and Welsh music, their intersection, and why it’s important to talk about the things that are hard to talk about. It went a little something like this:

Andrew: Thanks for being here Stella!

Stella Donnelly: Thank you so much for talking to me Andrew!

A: Is there any album or artist you listened to where you thought “I have to do this?

S: Yeah! Well early days, there’s a Welsh band called Catatonia that was really important for me. Cerys Matthews manages to get her aggression out in such a sweet way, so I was accidentally influenced by her, I love her so much…Billy Bragg, his “Workers’ Playtime” album is really special, he always manages to find a suburban way of talking about the heavier things in life which i love. One line in particular, where he sings: ”no amount of poetry can mend this broken heart, but you can put hoover round if you want to make a start.” I love that line, it totally encompasses what real love is. So, those two back in the day. More recently, Angel Olsen’s “My Woman”, Aldous Harding from New Zealand, her album “Party”…so many artists I can’t think of off the top of my head! Cate Le Bon from Wales, so many from Australia…

A: So, it just so happens my two favorite music countries in the world are Australia and Wales.

S: That’s amazing! And I’m a little combo of both!

A: I know! How’d that combo happen?
S: Well my mum is welsh, dad’s Australian, so that’s how it happened. I lived in Wales for a portion of my childhood then moved back to Australia, so I’ve got very strong ties to both countries, beautiful families on either side, and big music influences, which is great. It’s been really lucky…my dad really got into the Welsh music, so he’d always be playing Stereophonics and Catatonia, and my mom really got into the Australian music and loved Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil…they both love music, and really supported each others’ tastes.

A: Every band you’ve dropped is lighting up my world right now.

S: Awww that’s so sweet!

A: I have to ask–are you a Manic Street Preachers fan at all?

S: You know, my parents–I actually never got given that. I really need to get in there and listen to Manic Street Preachers!

A: Oh man, this is the moment I wish I had a stack of records to hand you. Because other than Smashing Pumpkins, Manics are my favorite band of all time.

S: Okay, I’ve got to have a listen!

A: So when did you first start writing?

S: When I was 16. I’d played guitar and piano since I was 9, had lessons for like 10 years…I wrote a really bad song about my grandma’s house, which was sweet at the time, but looking back now, I think I rhymed “place” with “place,” which is as bad as Pitbull rhyming “Kodak” with “Kodak”…so yeah, I started writing little songs and it continued from there. I started playing gigs when I was 17, mostly covers. Then I worked my way for 8 years, and here I am now.

A: What covers did you have in circulation?

S: Back in the day? So many. Green Day, Oasis, “Dear Mr. President” by Pink, old Missy Higgins songs…I’m embarrassed to even talk about it! I did so many random covers, like “Free Fallin.”

A: So all the songs people play alone in their room on guitar?

S: Basically.

A: Awesome. So do you speak Welsh?

S: (Speaks Welsh) A little bit, yeah. I probably talk better Welsh than I talk English, considering I just said “talk English.” I grew up speaking Welsh and then I lost, it but it’s coming back. As soon as I’m surrounded by Welsh people it comes back, it just takes some time to re-enter my heart and soul.

A: It’s one of my dream languages to learn.

S: It’s not the most romantic language. Like, you wouldn’t want me to whisper sweet Welsh nothings in your ear…(Speaks Welsh angrily)

A: You say that, but then you listen to the bridge of “Patio Song” by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci…

S: So beautiful! It’s a beautiful language, so much poetry in it cause it’s so ancient, so much history encased in it.

A: Exactly! You look at a song like Yma o Hyd, it’s basically a myth turned into a singalong belter!

S: Exactly! And there’s this great indigenous Noongar artist from Australia called Gina Williams–she sings in language, and the reason she started writing in language is because she came to Wales back in the 90s when Welsh was dying, and met these artists who talked about how they kept their dying language alive through music. She took that back to Australia, because Indigenous Language needs help in Australia and no white people are doing anything to help save these dying languages. There’s something unexplainable when I hear Gina Williams sing in Noongar…you feel this thing that you can’t explain.

A: I’m definitely listening to that when I get home.

S: Yeah! Listen to Gina Williams, or Gurrumul. He passed away last year…

A: So young, too.

S: Too young. There’s also an amazing band called Kardajala Kirridarra–

A: Oh Yeah! I really liked “The Rain Song” of theirs.

S: “Rain Song,” “Women’s Song…” both are really special.

A: One last question: Thrush Metal has taken off. “Boys will Be Boys” is one of the most important songs of the decade. How do you feel knowing that ppl listen to you and feel the same way you felt about Cerys Matthews, for example?

S: It’s so hard for me to imagine that happening cause i still feel like a young kid looking up at these amazing artists! I just want to tell stories…that song in particular I wanted people to realize what it’s like to be a woman when something happens to you. This is a heavy topic, but they call it “the second rape:” when you’re raped and you open up about it, society rapes you in a way that they question every little detail, pick at your story, doubt you..

A: Make you re-live everything…

S: Re-live everything, and sometimes they don’t even believe you after all that. I just want people to understand what that can be like for women.

A: Yes. And it is a heavy topic, but it needs to be talked about, and I just want to thank you for talking about it.

S: Thank you for listening, I really appreciate it. It’s all we ask.

A: Stella, it’s been such a pleasure.

S: Thank you so much for talking to me Andrew, and thanks for listening to my songs out there!

 

Andrew and Stella soaking up the Austin sun.

 

Open in Spotify

 

Stella’s EP “Thrush Metal” is available for download from all the usual sites.

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