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Interview: Lena Stone talks new EP Princess, Song Suffragettes and life in lockdown

The rising singer-songwriter recently released her second EP.

Lena Stone
Credit: Logen Christopher

Lena Stone began writing songs at the age of just eight – and she hasn’t stopped since.

With over 600 tracks under her belt in the last few years alone, she’s written for artists including Kalie Shorr and Kasey Tyndall. She released her self-titled debut EP in 2018 and the follow-up, Princess, came out this April. Additionally, she was one of the founding members of the all-female Nashville songwriters’ round Song Suffragettes and appeared in their viral Time’s Up video.

I recently caught up with Lena to talk about the EP, her new video for the title track, how she approaches her songwriting, her work with the Song Suffragettes and how she’s been keeping herself busy during lockdown.

Your latest EP Princess came out in April – can you tell us more about that?

Yeah, so the Princess EP is my second EP. I put out my first EP in 2018 and that was self-titled, called Lena Stone. So this is kind of my sophomore project. It was really exciting to take this next step in my musical journey and I feel like I’m continuing as time passes in my career to find my voice and find my lane, and I feel like this EP even more represents who I am and what I wanna say. So I’m really proud of it.

Do you feel your approach to your music has changed with this EP compared to your first one?

Definitely. My first EP, like most people’s first projects I spent many, many years writing for it. And it kind of came together through some of the songs ended up being demo recordings that we upgraded. Whereas with this project I went into it very intentionally, and I worked with a new producer, new to me, Dave Pittinger here in town who’s incredible. We sat down and we really thought about the project as a whole, and planned out how we wanted it to sound, how we wanted it to feel and what we wanted it to say. So the word that I had the most in my brain for this project is intention. The EP itself is very on purpose, if that makes sense.

How did you narrow down the song selection from 600 to just five?

It is always hard to figure that out! To be honest a big part of that comes down to being an independent artist and being self-funded. And only having a certain size budget [laughs]. And so I like the format of EPs. I think in this environment where people are so hungry for new content all the time, I think that doing these shorter bursts of content is a little easier for independent artists to release. So that was kind of why we went with five songs. But then just picking five songs out of 600 is a challenge [laughs].

Were any of the songs on the EP particularly easy or difficult to write?

These ones, I think what’s special about the songs that ended up on the project was they were all very easy to write. And I think that’s an indicator that there’s something special about a song, that it just kind of pours out like it’s second nature or something like that. Then it’s really my truth and it’s really authentic to me. And then when it comes time to picking the songs for the project, I think back to the days of writing those songs and I think back on them really fondly, so I’m like ‘oh this is just meant to be’. So maybe it’s meant to be on this project too.

I particularly wanted to ask you about Out Of My Hands which is such a powerful track. What’s the story behind that song?

Yeah. Well first of all thank you so much. That’s my favourite song on the project. And I think it’s kind of become the standout track on the project, I love that it’s getting that moment to shine. This song is the most personal song I have ever released. And it came from this place in my life where I had gone through this falling out with somebody, and it was someone who I thought I was gonna have in my life forever. There was no vision of the future of my life that didn’t have this person in it. And you know, life happens, things happen and this person and I had this big falling out and I was left having to say goodbye to someone I never thought I would be saying goodbye to.

I’m a real type A person so I like to kind of control things, and I gave myself time to be sad about it and I was like, ‘OK, now I need to be happy now and it’ll be fine’. And as I’m sure all people can agree, you cannot control that kind of thing [laughs]. And so this song really came from this place of me throwing my hands up and giving up control and just saying, ‘I’m gonna give myself some grace, I’m gonna give myself some freedom to feel the way that I feel and to process this as long as it takes, and to understand that it’s OK that my heart is hurting and that’s just kind of part of being a human’. So that’s where the song came from.

Do you approach writing for other artists differently to writing for yourself? Or is it all pretty similar?

I think it depends case to case. Especially when writing for female artists, it’s not all that different than writing for myself. Obviously if I’m trying to write from the point of view of a male artist then I kind of have to wear a different hat for that process. But my favourite way to approach songwriting is just to go into a room and write the best song with the best idea possible, and then from there kind of figuring out where the song lands. I think that sometimes it’s really easy to get hung up, even before you start writing the song, about, ‘OK, who’s gonna record it?’ or ‘where is it gonna be?’ or ‘they have to have it for this project for this reason’. Some of it I guess is a way of harnessing creativity. So I just try to write a great song and then we’ll figure out where to go from there.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so how do you deal with it?

Yes. Absolutely, writer’s block is real for songwriters as much as it is for novelists and poets and all kinds of other writers. I think one thing that I do is I have a really specific way of looking for new ideas. I read a lot of books and stuff like that, and I’m constantly on Pinterest and looking at quotes and trying to pull some ideas so I always have this list on my phone that I can go to and be like, ‘oh, here’s some words, here’s some phrases’. Maybe that’s a jumping off point.

But I also think that with writer’s block, as important as it is to keep using that muscle and to keep being creative, it’s equally important to take a break and to recharge, and that looks different for everybody. For me it’s going back up to my old house and spending some time with my family and just resting my creative brain, and living a little bit of life so that I have some life to write about. I have found that’s the best cure for writer’s block, is living my life [laughs].

You’ve recently released the video for Princess – what can you tell us about that? It looked like you had so much fun making it…

Oh my God, it was a blast. Yeah, so part of the reason that I wanted Princess to be the title track of this project is the lyrics are super visual. When we recorded the song we were like, ‘there could be such a cool music video for this’. And my video director Logen Christopher who I worked with on all of my videos, is one of my best friends in real life. And so he knows me really well and he knows my sense of humour and my personality, he knows all of that background which is so important to creating things together.

I sent him the song, I said, ‘OK we gotta do a video, what do you think? What are your ideas?’ And we didn’t wanna go too literal, we didn’t want the whole thing to be a princess in a castle with a knight and whatever. So I feel like we kind of struck a really cool balance of playing on the theme of princess literally and also this kind of idea of putting on a face and acknowledging the best kind of a joke, and it’s all kind of an act and that’s OK. And then of course having the horse as the main star of the music video was just so funny.

I also wanted to ask you about how you got involved with Song Suffragettes in Nashville…

Yeah, I am one of the founding members of Song Suffragettes. So we started Song Suffragettes back in 2014, so six years ago, and I was on the stage for the very first show. We were playing in a tiny little green room in the back of a venue, and I am so so proud of this movement that it started and was on the forefront of this discussion that’s happening in Nashville about female representation in country music. And the community that it’s built, the number of women who’ve been involved, the number of people who have heard that message I think is so special. I played every single show for four years, so every Monday for four years I was on that stage which was incredible. And then around the four year mark I stepped back, and really just kind of let it pass on to the next group of girls who are coming up in town. And I loved being able to watch over like a fairy godmother from afar and seen it continue to grow. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of.

Do you feel there’s been a shift recently for women in country music, particularly in terms of the new artists coming through and finding success?

I have definitely noticed a shift. It has been slower than I would have liked it to be. I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s also a lot of work to be done in representation in country music as far as racial diversity, as far as socio-economic diversity – there’s a lot of diversity that still needs to be brought into country music and female representation is still a big piece of that. But I’m encouraged when I see so many of these new female artists who are getting signed to record deals having success. I mean earlier this spring Ingrid Andress had her first number one followed immediately by Gabby Barrett having her first number one and they were both their debut singles, back to back weeks. That gave me so much hope and made me feel so encouraged. OK, it’s still slow and there’s still so much work to be done but these conversations are having an effect. And it’s just time, because the number of incredibly talented women in Nashville is as I’m sure you know just countless. And we need those voices.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?

Oh my gosh! That is so hard. You know, there are a couple. I think one that is kind of universal in Nashville is The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert. That is just… it gets you in the feels every time. One of the newer songs that I have been loving is The Optimist by Kelleigh Bannen that she released just a few weeks ago. I heard it and I was like, ‘oh! I wish I had written this!’ I mean the list goes on – there’s a million songs I wish I had written. But those are the two that come to mind right at first.

How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?

I’ve been still writing and still continuing to be creative, on my own and over Zoom and virtually as best as I can. But I’ve also been, like I think a lot of people, I’ve been attempting to become a better cook [laughs]. And just trying to get outside as much as possible. I had a birthday last month and my parents got me a bike, so I’ve been going for long bike rides which has been a really great way to explore the city and get some fresh air and get some exercise. So I’ve been riding my bike a lot.

What new recipes have you mastered?

I did my first successful eggplant parmigiana a few weeks ago, which was delicious but which was pretty labour intensive. Most of my dinners are pretty easy and quick to make, and it was delicious but it took like two and a half hours [laughs]. So maybe not an everyday occurrence!

Are you thinking about new music at all yet? Is there an album planned at some point?

I’m actually gearing up to work on another EP which will be four songs. I would love to do a full length record at some point. That’s for sure on my bucket list, at least one if not many. I think at this point, especially while I am an independent artist, it feels a lot more feasible to do EPs. That’s at least in the short term. But I would love to do a record at some point, for sure.

Can you give us any hints about the next EP? Is it going to be similar to Princess or something completely different?

It’s gonna be a little different. We’re still very early in the process but it’s gonna be a little different. It’s gonna be a little bit more like the music I grew up on, which I am very excited about. And what’s even more special to me is that I solo wrote a lot more of the new music. So all the songs on my past EPs have been very collaborative traditional Nashville songwriting, and these new songs are really my words [laughs] which I hope people will love.

And lastly… when we can travel again safely, do you have any plans to come over and tour in the UK?

I would love to. I was in London last year just on vacation and had just a wonderful time and have been itching to get back ever since. So if I can find a way to make a return visit and play some shows, I know that the country music fan base over there is incredible and very enthusiastic. So if I can make it work I will be there in a heartbeat as soon as it’s safe to travel.

Lena Stone’s new EP Princess is out now.

 

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