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Foundation Sounds: Stella Donnelly

Written by Brodie Popple

Photograph by George Foster

Foundation Sounds is in its second month and I couldn’t be more chuffed to have Perth's golden child Stella Donnelly involved. Stella has had a massive year blowing socks off the feet of people all around the world with her beautifully crafted debut EP Thrush Metal.

The singer songwriter has captured the hearts and minds of everyone in her path with her stand out tracks Boys Will Be Boys and Mechanical Bull being some of the most influential and important pieces of music to hit the air waves in the past year. After an absolutely huge 2017 playing the likes of Bigsound, Falls and our very own Against the GRAIN festival, Stella has started 2018 on a strong note, smashing a home town performance at this years Laneway in Freo.

To top it all off, Stella has just announced her biggest and best tour yet alongside her pal Alex the Astronaut and if that interests you (which it REALLY should) you can check out the dates for that below. I was lucky enough to catch Stella for a quick chat about her Laneway, her down time and the five songs that made her into the incredible human/musician she is today.


How was your Laneway experience and what did you think of the festival?

My Laneway experience was pretty special for me because I had my family and friends there. It’s also a festival I had been attending for years so to be on that stage was an incredible moment.

You just announced a huge run of shows with the incredible Alex the Astronaut, what does Alex’s music mean to you and what are you most excited about for this tour?

Alex and I are going to have so much fun while we’re away. I think she’s going to teach me how to bake a cake and I’m going to teach her how to surf (even though I can’t surf and she can).

Since your massive week at Bigsound you’ve been to the UK and all round the country and in the coming months you’re heading to the US and all around the country again. I just want to know, whats your favourite thing to do when you get some occasional free time?

When I get free time on tour my favourite thing to do is go for a walk wherever I’m staying and have a bit of quiet time. I’m not going to lie, I do get hit with the occasional homesickness bug so when that happens I go running until I feel better!


Song 1: Road Rage

Who it's By: Catatonia

What It Means To You: I first heard this song when I was a little girl living in Wales with my family, mum and dad had the cassette tape of this amazing Welsh band Catatonia. I didn’t realise this at the time but the front woman Cerys Matthews had so much depth to her voice and her lyrical content. She really managed to encapsulate sweetness, sarcasm and anger in one song. Catatonia has stuck by me because it makes me proud of the gravel that I get when I sing in a certain way, it also gave me permission to say things that are deemed as ‘ugly’ for women to say.

Song 2: The Short Answer

Who it's By: Billy Bragg

What It Means To You: Billy Bragg is another artist that I grew up listening to. His Worker’s Playtime album in particular was a big one in my life. This song from that album has always stuck with me, whether it’s because of how the instrumentation is purely there to work around the vocals which are telling the story or because of his lyrics. Bragg is an amazing ability to talk about love, heartbreak, death, politics in such a suburban way. For example ‘no amount of poetry can mend this broken heart but you can put the hoover round if you want to make a start’. I understood that lyric from quite a young age and it made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now.

Song 3: Lost and Found

Who it's By: Lianne La Havas

What It Means To You: The first time I heard this song I was actually watching a live studio session for Billboard on Youtube in 2013. It was her, standing there with a buzzing Dan Electro electric guitar, playing the most amazing chords underneath the most scathing lyrics delivered in a very subtle jazzy way and I literally went to the guitar shop a week later and spent all my money on an electric guitar and reverb amp. I had only played acoustic guitar up until this point but Lianne La Havas was a huge catalyst for me developing my sound.

Song 4: Tears in the Typing Pool

Who it's By: Broadcast

What It Means To You: I only heard this song for the first time two years ago, and I wept like a baby. Maybe it was the fact that Trish from Broadcast, had died unexpectedly right after a tour to Australia that gave it so much more weight when I listened to it. The harmonies, the mellotron and an acoustic guitar make this song what it is.

Song 5: Blend

Who it's By: Aldous Harding

What It Means To You: This is a new one for me, it will hopefully shape how I approach songs in the future. The drum machine coming in the second verse as she says ‘Thailand’ and then a real drum kit layering over it makes this song so haunting. I love Aldous Harding so much and her live sets are just as beautiful and intense as her album ‘Party’.


Check out Stella's new video for Mechanical Bull below!


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