Flood

Stella Donnelly

Flood

“It was the fear of what people would think,” Stella Donnelly tells Apple Music. The Perth-raised, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter was unable to write songs for some time before beginning work on her second album, Flood. It began even before she’d released 2019’s Beware of the Dogs. Her debut album had been finished in 2018, months before its actual release date. But between touring and other commitments, she had only two weeks off in a year—and the constant hustle, not to mention the growing vulnerability that accompanied her expanding audience, took its toll. “I was gradually getting more and more creatively unwell,” she says. “When I’m able to create and write, I feel like I’m healthier in my mind. That was definitely blocked, which started creating all sorts of issues for my mental health—I was doubting myself, doubting whether I was a real musician.” Eventually, as the pandemic sent the world into silence, Donnelly found time to breathe, gather herself, and write new music—which she understandably describes as a massive relief. The end result is an 11-track snapshot of where she is in her life right now. From reflections on long-gone relationships to observations on how lockdowns affected us all to songs designed for future live performances, this is Stella Donnelly in 2022, for better or worse. “There’s a big scope as to who I am and what I think about, and it’s kind of varied,” she says. “I might not feel some of the songs when I’m listening back, but they’re a representation of where I was, so it’s important for me to set a timestamp on my life.” “Lungs” “I’d written the rest of the record, and I felt like I hadn’t been looking forward while writing these songs. I’d been doing a lot of looking back, and I hadn’t actually pictured myself performing the songs because there was no one performing any songs on any stage in the world at the time. I was like, ‘Oh, fuck, this is really slow.’ It felt kind of stuck in 2020 or 2021. I wanted to create a song that I’d really enjoy performing live and that would bring a certain energy to the stage and to the show.” “How Was Your Day” “It’s capturing a dynamic. I wanted to bring to life this feeling that often happens between people who love each other very much—that fear of losing that person, so you avoid having the difficult conversation, whether it leads to breaking up or not. And it was brought on by lockdown. A lot of people were either breaking up or getting married. It was like make or break. So, I feel like it was just trying to capture that feeling of the couples having to have that talk because they’re either going to have to choose to live together for 100 percent of their days or live separately for 100 percent of their days.” “Restricted Account” “This one came about in a weird way. I was getting kind of incessant DMs in my ‘other’ account on Instagram, and I would block that person, but they’d get another account and then message me on that account. It was always these really long, sprawling paragraphs of their life, and dotted between devotion towards me, but they were actually always talking about being devoted to someone else as well, so it was quite confusing. I wanted to try and capture that feeling of devotion to a stranger that so many people get. In some ways, it’s like a love song from someone else’s perspective. But there’s this uncomfortable feeling about it, and I was trying to bring that out in the flugelhorn and the piano, and the guitar at the end, building up to this almost unbearable frequency.” “Underwater” “I did an ambassadorship for the Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence in Western Australia, which is a women and children’s refuge for family and domestic violence situations. I met with some of the residents and staff members, and we received a lot of interesting education on the statistics. The most profound and interesting statistic I came away with was the fact that, on average, it takes seven attempts to leave a situation of coercion or any sort of abuse. It takes seven attempts before they are successful in leaving. I feel like there’s a lot of shame around not being able to leave an abusive relationship, and I hope that statistic provides some comfort to people. As worrying as it is, it’s the norm. So, I looked back at a particular relationship I’d been in, and I just wanted to kind of say a final fuck-you to that person and try and just kind of process that time in my life.” “Medals” “Life gets pretty tough for people who peaked in high school, and I think I’m just trying to capture that in a humorous, gentle way, like, ‘Come on, everyone’s waiting. You can get out of this funk. Like, you can let go of it. You can take your school medals off now. You can kind of go out and live your life and not be so scared of it.’ It’s definitely just a playful, fun song.” “Move Me” “’Move Me’ is a love song written to my mum, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago. It’s kind of written from my child self, like, I’m almost having a bit of a tantrum about it. I’m kind of having a little bratty moment, but for the most part, in the verses, I’m just singing to her and keeping it kind of humorous because that’s how we speak to each other. But also finding a way to express the shock and the pain and the fear. But I wanted it to feel like it was quite free—people don’t always realize that it’s the years before you get a diagnosis that are the hardest. So, in a way, it’s almost like this celebration of mum being able to finally get the treatment she needs and find her way to live now with this thing.” “Flood” “I wrote this song in Melbourne. We were stuck in a six-month lockdown here, and I wanted to write a song that was kind of at the pace of walking, to capture the feeling of that one hour that we were allowed outside to exercise each day. I didn’t want to capture the feeling of being stuck at home, but I also still wanted to capture what it was like and the sadness that was around. So, it was this sad little adventure that I wanted to create. My representation of the feeling of lockdown, which was kind of warm but sad.” “This Week” “This song’s me trying to grow up. It’s just where you feel like you’re just winning at life for a bit, you know? You’re just doing all the shit that you say you’re going to do. And you just feel like a capable, upstanding citizen for a little while.” “Oh My My My” “I wrote this song about my grandmother, and so, in a way, that old-time feeling, that sort of gothic sound is feeling that forlorn, almost morbid sadness. I wanted to write a little homage to her and the feeling around when you lose someone that you love so much. I tried to capture that moment with grace and earnestness. I’d never been able to fully capture it on guitar for her. I just didn’t feel like it was genuine or just didn’t feel right. So, finding that keyboard sound was perfect—and it was actually on my housemate’s keyboard that his grandmother had bought for him.” “Morning Silence” “It’s a bit of a nod back to my EP [2017’s Thrush Metal] in a way. I really wanted it to be rough in its production—simple and capturing the feeling of hopelessness in the world and how I was feeling. It’s like a sequel to ‘Underwater’ in a way, but a far less hopeful one in some senses. I just wanted to have that little moment to say what I need to say and then have it over with, and not make it too big in its delivery.” “Cold” “I wanted to kind of keep looking forward with the record. Especially after ‘Morning Silence’ and ‘Oh My My My,’ I wanted to send it out the park, energy-wise, and look to the future in some way. It was such a fun song to make. It’s about an old argument with someone. It's just me trying to get the last word on it and just capturing that time, how fraught our relationship was. I’ve just always wanted to write a big song, and so that was my attempt.”

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