Making a leap from one genre to the next is never an easy decision, nor is it ever an easy feat, but for singer-songwriter Lena Stone it was a necessary choice—it only felt right. I had the opportunity to speak with this rising artist on the transitional moment she is going through as she begins to showcase her ability to genre bend. I am even more honored to say that we at Channel Sounds get to premiere her single “Taking Up Space” which comes from this transformational time for Lena, who was once siloed into the country sphere and is now taking form as a pop star in the industry.
"I feel like as I've gotten older I have tried to really figure out what I sound like, just me. Not what I sound like because I'm here in Nashville, right?"
What I loved about our chat is the confidence I felt in her voice when we jumped on Zoom. She truly exudes a divine feminine kind of aura with her sweet smile and her calm conversational tones. I know that for any girl growing up comes from experiencing life, and for this artist, she perfectly depicts that growth and evolution through her music. We earn glimpses into her life through her sonic prowess, which all-in-all truly demonstrates how her music helped her become the powerful woman that knew where she was headed and what she wanted in her life. Just give her music a listen and I think you’ll see what I mean. Her music always is injected with energy, even when the concepts of the songs may not be such uplifting narratives. The fact that this artist, hailing from Massachusetts, found herself in the country world is already amazing as is, but then to have a true talent in it is another. Now, the fact that she is able to toggle between both genres of country and pop gives her that dynamic spectrum in her artistry.
In addition to just the overall picture, Lena understands how to tell a damn good story, and that’s exactly why she got into this to begin with. She has been recognized by American Songwriter and Refinery29 just to name a couple. As a song-writer, you could see the way she plays with words and describing these moments in her life through her music. From projects like Princess that takes away the glitz and glam of having it all and makes the damsel in distress her own hero, to her self-titled EP that showcased a more delicate and bold compilation of ballads, you can tell this girl was meant to sing and story tell. Her lyrics are detailed with relatable and memorable lines that help paint the picture in your mind and recall exactly a moment where you went through the same motions. Her music will probably remind you of pop-centric, vibrant artists like Olivia Lane, Taylor Swift, Aly & AJ, and Maren Morris.
This new single, “Taking Up Space”, is off of her upcoming EP which will contain 4 tracks in total, including “Lightweight”, “Wrong Place” and “Attention”. These were released a little bit earlier this summer, but “Taking Up Space” is the final piece of the puzzle. What is wonderful about this song in particular is that it is the one and only on the project that truly gets slowed-down and simplified to make the words and piano spotlighted together as it goes through the memories of an all too familiar story. Even with the slower pace and the more somber tonalities, the song remains hopeful, reflective, and energetic like much of her other songs. When the bridge kicks in, it is such a beautiful shift in the single. For a moment her voice becomes so airy and so liberated, you can feel this positive space fill out the room with the instrumentals and her vocals as they gradually grow and reverb as if they themselves begin to unapologetically take up space and finally feel free from the anxious thoughts they were harboring.
Lena, herself, admits that this is the most vulnerable track she has written and shared with her fans. Earlier this week she posted on Instagram, “F R I D A Y // The most vulnerable song I’ve ever released. I’m (slightly) terrified to share so many of my insecurities, but I’ve found there’s freedom in speaking your truth and then letting it go. I hope this song means to you what it means to me.”
Once again, I’m excited to have had the opportunity to speak with this talented young artist and be able to share this amazing new chapter for her (in more ways than one)!
Here is our Interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh [NM]: I would love to hear how this all started for you: how you got into music and how you ended up where you are now.
Lena Stone [LS]: Totally. So yeah, so I have been singing my whole life. I'm the oldest of three girls, and we all sing. I’m the only one who sings professionally. But we all sing all the time. And there's just a lot of music growing up in my house. My dad wrote songs when he was in college. My grandma was a music therapist, so she always wrote songs. So, I just kind of thought that everyone wrote songs. I didn't realize that that’s not how everyone expresses themselves. So I never had a diary, I just wrote songs instead. As I got older, I started listening to more music. And then obviously Taylor Swift happened, and that changed my whole life, and I picked up a guitar and taught myself to play guitar by learning the entire Fearless record. So needless to say, when the re-release came out this year, I was just an emotional wreck. Haha.
But yeah, I've just been kind of making music as long as I can remember, and when I was 18, I moved to Nashville, so I could pursue music and be in the place where everyone said to go if you're doing country music, and I've been here for 10 years now. As I'm sure you kind of heard, sonically things have shifted in the last year and a half, and I've switched to doing this new pop project. That was just a super organic transition for me, because the songs I was writing just sounded different, and I wanted to put them in their best light, and that just happened to be kind of a more pop production.
[NM]: I love that you have that family background that everyone was kind of somewhat, in their own capacity, musically affiliated. That's really cool that you had kind the environment which I'm sure helped feed a lot of inspiration and encouragement in doing this for a living.
[LS]: So much! My family was and is now my biggest supporters, and I always joke I'm the oldest of three girls and my middle sister Audrey is by far my biggest critic. She is harder on me than anyone else in the world, but she’s also my biggest fan. She still knows all the words to songs that I wrote in high school that I could not sing you if you had a gun to my head, and she could sing you the whole song.
[NM]: Oh, I love that! Haha. So, where are you from originally?
[LS]: So, I'm originally from outside of Boston. I’m from a town called Carlisle. It's kind of like the Concord/Lexington area.
(We raved about how we both had that Massachusetts affiliation, and she shared a hilarious story of how she got accidentally booked for a hardcore festival at the Palladium in Worcester when she was 16 and her grandparents and little sisters came to watch. We then discussed Nashville and when would be a good time for me to come and visit.)
[NM]: Who were some of the country artists that kind of inspired you to start out in country (aside from Taylor)? What drew you to country in the first place?
[LS]: I think what really drew me to country music was the storytelling. I feel especially in the early 2000s, early to mid 2000s, when I was really starting to write seriously, pop music was very vague. There was Kesha and Katy Perry, and all that stuff, which was cool and fun to dance to, but there wasn't storytelling, and that's what I'm really drawn to. American Idol was big then, so I loved Carrie Underwood—she was a big one for me. I loved Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, and Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban and stuff like that… it was kind of just a pop-country moment in 2005 and 2008, and I was all about it—that was what I loved. Then I moved to Nashville, and I always was doing more crossover pop-country, like it was never super twangy and southern just because I'm not from here, and that would have been inauthentic. But you know, that's what I was around, so that's what I was writing. I feel like as I've gotten older I have tried to really figure out what I sound like, just me. Not what I sound like because I'm here in Nashville, right? So, writing this new project that I've been working on, I feel like I got to do it much more by myself and find my own voice and not be influenced too much by co-writers or the environment that I was in. That kind of coincided with pop music, having this real songwriter moment where you have like Lennon Stella and Julia Michaels and JP Saxe and all these “pop artists”, who are still really storytellers, and that feels like the space that I want to be in.
[NM]: For sure. I love that. I think that's a really good point. Country is very well known for having these narratives, and I think that it's been really cool to see that transition of artists like JP Saxe, Chelsea Cutler, it's really about the lyrics these days. Songwriters are really finally getting the spotlight. So, for this project in particular, what was the underlying inspiration for some of the songs themselves?
[LS]: I'm still working on what the title of the project is going to be, but I knew as we were writing over 2020, and that was when my now fiancé and I were starting to talk about, “ok, we want to get married”. There's something really cool to me about when you're in a really healthy, stable relationship. It gives you really great hindsight to all the crazy shit you did before that, and all the good, bad, ugly, messy relationships from before. So, I feel like it was this really cool moment where I just had a really great perspective on relationships I'd been in earlier in my life, and I wanted to kind of dive back in and look at them with a new lens, and kind of almost have this project be all the relationships up until this point that got me to this really great one.
[NM]: That's awesome that you could do that. I think that with love songs, you're usually getting a lot of people who are in the breakup mode, so it's nice to kind of see this more, I don't want to say “positive” because obviously some of it is sometimes sad to look back and remember those moments that you put yourself through, but it's still kind of more positive because you're coming now out of positive place looking at all of this being like, “I'm good now, but back then, it's funny and kind of now I can laugh at it even though maybe some of those times were some of my worst”.
[LS]: Totally, that's exactly it.
[NM]: I would love to also know some influences that you have nowadays. If there's anybody that you'd say is a big influence now and maybe even some new finds/new artists that you're really just jamming to that are just completely new to you.
[LS]: Totally, so I mean, you know, Taylor Swift will always probably be my number one—especially her transition to pop obviously that will happen long before I kind of switched into the pop space. Even though, the music that I'm making sounds nothing like Folklore or Evermore, I'm just continually impressed by her. Chelsea Cutler is a great example of someone who's kind of newer who I'm just like obsessed with, I love Sasha Sloane, I think she's amazing, Maggie Rogers—I just love the lady singer-songwriters.
"But to me, I feel like my voice is my writing voice, and being in a city where the art of a well written song, genre aside, is the most important thing has just pushed me in ways to write better, to write more true to myself in a way that I don't think living in any other city would have pushed me to do."
[NM]: I feel like it’s been a good past five years for some really powerful forces in the industry of women songwriters.
[LS]: 100%. On the more pop side, I love Fletcher, I think she's unreal. Again, Lennon Stella, Julia Michaels—I just love this space that is happening in pop music right now, where it doesn't have to just be dancy-Disney pop. It can be more mature, introspective, lyrical pop. I'm all about it.
[NM]: You’re naming all these artists I adore! Is there anything outside of music that you do that people may not know about you?
[LS]: I feel like I've always been someone who really loves to exercise—just like to move my body. So that was kind of what has kept me sane for the last year and a half. Obviously, we weren't going to gyms, so my parents bought me a bike for my birthday last year, and I've been biking all over Nashville, with my helmet on, because safety first. Most of my free time is going to wedding planning, which is fine, but also like a big project.
[NM]: For sure, would you be performing at your wedding?
[LS]: I will not be performing at my wedding, and neither will anyone that I know. I want all of my friends, who are so talented, to be able to enjoy the day as guests and not feel like they have to be on or not have that glass of champagne because they know they're gonna have to sing later. I just want people to enjoy., and because I am a music lover, we are going to have a full 10 piece band complete with a brass section. So, we're going to do the whole thing that they will be hired professionals who are not my friends.
[NM]: That's definitely fair. How has Nashville after 10 years, which is definitely a long time to be in a particular city, changed you as you've grown and matured both musically and personally?
[LS]: I loved growing up in Massachusetts. It’s a wonderful place—I had the most idyllic, wonderful childhood, but what I do appreciate about living in Nashville and living in the south is that it is a very purple city. There are a lot of people with a lot of different beliefs and a lot of different values. That's not always easy, but I do think that I have a lot more compassion for people with different viewpoints than I might have had, had I always lived in a place where 98% of people agree with me. So, I'm really grateful for that. I’m just really grateful for that growth personally, and especially as I've gone from being an 18 year old moving here to now being in my late 20s, and those 10 years are when you figure out what kind of person you want to be. I feel having that kind of diversity of perspective is really helpful as I've kind of grown up just to have respect for all people, even if we don't agree on things for sure.
[NM]: Definitely. So, what made you choose Nashville over maybe the two other major music cities that everyone goes to: LA and NYC?
[LS]: New York City kind of scares me. I love visiting and my best friend lives there, but I don't think I could live in New York. So, that was never really on the table. LA is so cool, but I don’t know. Nashville really just drew me because it is “Music City”. Like it is the definition of what it is called—That’s not even our cute nickname for it. More than that though, it's a songwriter city. There are so many people here whose whole life is about songwriting. And to me, I could never be an artist who records other people's songs. I have so much respect for people who do that; people who are like Reba or Tim McGraw, who just have that kind of voice. But to me, I feel like my voice is my writing voice, and being in a city where the art of a well written song, genre aside, is the most important thing has just pushed me in ways to write better, to write more true to myself in a way that I don't think living in any other city would have pushed me to do.
[NM]: Absolutely. I love that you said that, “your voice is also your writing voice”. It’s crazy to honestly see how much Nashville has grown musically as well.
[LS]: Totally. It has become a pop music scene. There's like a growing hip hop scene, which is really cool. There's so much music here.
[NM]: That's awesome. Now, with this project coming out, do you have anything else coming out soon that people should be excited for?
[LS]: Yeah, so I'm actually, it's one of things I have to do today. I am working on the treatment for the next video, which will come up for next single. I have so much fun making videos to go with songs. I feel like that's such a fun way to show off a song in maybe a different way than people have thought about it when they first listen to it. So people can definitely expect a lot more music and a lot more videos over the next, however long, next couple of months.
[NM]: It's like another layer of storytelling, kind of piggybacking off what you were saying. You now have a visual element to the storytelling for the song, so that's awesome. Very excited to see those.
[LS]: I'm so excited too. I get to pick out my wardrobe and some clothes, which is like my favorite part of the whole process.
[NM]: It sounds girly, but it is the best part of the process.
[LS]: It’s work. haha. It’s work to order her clothes online.
[NM]: If you had to choose a word to describe yourself to people, what would it be?
[LS]: I would hope it would be “confident”. I don't know if it would be, but I would hope it would be confident.
[NM]: Love that. If you had an album that was the only album you could take with you for the rest of your life, what would it be?
[LS]: Continuum by John Mayer.
[NM]: Yes! So good.
"Ultimately, you only live once, you only get to make so much music, you might as well be making music that you like, and that way you will never have any regrets."
[NM]: So, here at Channel Sounds, one thing we learned a lot is for artists, it's really hard when they're trying to brand themselves or even do a transition in their music like you. What would be your best advice for that?
[LS]: I think my best advice would be at the end of the day, just make sure that you like what you're making, because you can't control if anyone else is gonna like it, listen to it, find it, the algorithm is going to show it to them. Ultimately, you only live once, you only get to make so much music, you might as well be making music that you like, and that way you will never have any regrets. That's I think what made me feel so confident going through this transition. I was like, "You know what, I don't know if anyone's gonna like this new sound or this new music for me, but I love this music." At the end of the day, that's all I can really ask for.
[NM]: Yes. That's really good advice. Out of all the songs on this project, which one do you feel like is most defining of who you are or is most special to you?
[LS]: There's a whole lot more in the pipeline. But I would say the one that's coming out in a couple weeks [“Taking Up Space”]. The next single is probably the one that is the most special to me.
So this is the one everyone—“Taking Up Space”—give it a listen on our playlist here when it's released this Friday!
Thanks so much, Lena, for chatting with me! It was a pleasure and we’re excited to premiere this amazing project! Congrats!
*All photo credits to: Logen Christopher*