One year after Edward Burnett's last chat with Irish-Canadian singer 0Stella, the two catch-up and reflect on a year none of us saw coming as well as 0Stella's Christmas traditions and career plans for 2021.
RNRR: Hello and welcome to our second Christmas Special of Spotlight featuring friend of the page, 0Stella! So 0Stella, how are you doing? The last time we chatted was in the first Spotlight interview of this year back in January and of course a lot has happened since then! What have you been up to in this extremely strange year?
0STELLA: Oh man. I’m ok. A lot has happened! It’s actually been really fun watching Rock N Roll Reports grow over the year, you’ve had some whoppers, congratulations. It’s funny how you don’t realise what you’re in the middle of until it’s over. My 2020 was shaping up great. I had just heard I was shortlisted to open for a major artist at an Edmonton festival and it was looking like it was going to be the year to properly launch onto the touring circuit in Alberta. There was also an EU tour through Ireland, UK and Germany being booked. January was New Years in Berlin, then Dublin and then back to Edmonton for a busy month of gigs in Alberta including my first appearance as a Sidedoor artist (house-show, now online platform run by Canadian musician, Dan Mangan). My real first show with Sidedoor had to be cancelled on account of it being -40°C outside. No one’s going to step outside their door at those temperatures, no matter who you are! Their car probably won’t even start. February was Toronto for a week of writing, then to Dublin to play a wedding. I’d been contacted by a band from Saskatchewan, Rymestone, asking if I wanted to join their tour. I was planning on going down to L.A to the new SOCAN writing house for a week, but decided to do the tour before I left. My final single from my debut EP, ‘Little Yes, Little Know’ came out on Friday 13th March. I picked it on account of the fact it used to be considered a GOOD luck day back in pegan Ireland, so I’d figure I’d bring back a bit of luck. That was also our first day of tour. And the onset of lockdown. Restrictions were limiting shows to 250 people, so we soldiered on through Alberta and into British Columbia (including a stop at Jasper ER to stitch up a guitarist’s knee) but never made it into Saskatchewan, where we had 2 dates booked. I was really looking forward to playing there for the first time. In February I joined a 6-month course to learn to write for sync, so that kept me focused and productive - most of the time - and then on to more songwriting camps. I’ll be running my own month-long songwriting camps in the new year.
RNRR: For those unaware, you’re based in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. How severe have the restrictions and number of cases been in your living area? Have things started to ease at your end with news of the vaccine being passed for use?
0STELLA: Well currently we are the Covid capital of Canada. Obviously every nation is stabbing in the dark at how best to deal with it and very few have got it right. We stayed relatively loose when the U.K and Ireland were severely locked down, but my how the tables have turned! A very isolated Christmas 2020, indeed.
RNRR: One major change involving you this year is undoubtedly the weekly podcast, ‘Imperfections’, you co-host with Callistan. How important is this show to you and do you find that thanks to this year there are more and more successful podcasts/recorded webcasts? Will this trend carry on following Covid’s eventual end?
0STELLA: I think covid has been a very fertile ground for creatives - once we can drag ourselves out of the deep, deep depression we’ve all been oscillating through. I’ve absolutely loved doing 'Imperfections' with Callistan. He and I reunited during lockdown, having worked together in Dublin over a decade ago. We collaborated on a reimagining of my track ‘Fire’ and Imperfections evolved out of that as a means for us to dive deeper into the themes we explored in the song. It’ber been great to have the routine of it - something we all have discovered is so essential to stable mental health this year - and it’s been immensely humbling and heartwarming having our special guests on, who have been so vulnerable with us. I love all the audience participation, too. People are courageous in what they choose to share with us. I feel like we’re building a lovely community around the music we both make.
RNRR: So as I said at the beginning, this is of course a Christmas Special of the feature so I can’t let you go any further without listing your favourite Christmas songs of all time and why they mean so much to you?
0STELLA: There’s too many! But if I could play nothing else, I’d be happy with the following songs. The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' as I bristled at this for so many years as a youngster. It is the antithesis of a Christmas song and now I’m in love with it. I played it at a Christmas party last December in Dublin and I’ve never been on the receiving end of an Irish crowd like that. It was magic. Slade's 'Happy Xmas Everybody'. Just a raucous 70’s rock Christmas song, all British, bad teeth, magnificent hair and hooks to sing all the way home. Honestly, this was one of the standout songs I hand on a Christmas special cassette that Pampers used to include on the box. 6-year-old me used to dance around my living room, eating spoonfuls of butter icing and having a great time to this track. Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas'. Also featured on that same cassette. How can you not adore this song? I got to see Elton John last year and I am so, so thankful for that. Then there is Judy Garland's 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. I had my attention turned its way when Tori Amos did a cover of it in the middle of my obsessive Tori fandom days. The richness of Judy’s voice in that song, in particular, makes me swoon every time I hear it.
RNRR: On the subject of Christmas songs, you yourself have of course released a festive song of your own this past month entitled ‘My December’. Talk me through this song, how long did it take to write and has it always been a career dream of yours to get your own Christmas song out?
0STELLA: No not at all! I’ve always wondered, but never thought I would. Until some friendly competition simmered up between myself and Callistan. This song was a bugger to tease out. Of course, songs are never done, but I’m happy with where it’s at. Just something to capture the felling of getting home to your familiar airport and the taste of tea and rashers and some ungodly hour of the morning when your body doesn’t know what’s up or down. I can’t get home every year anyway, but the lack of choice this year, in whether we can travel to see our families, is what is exacerbating the feeling of loneliness, I think. I just wanted to shine a light there for anyone that needs a good cry into their dry-ass turkey this year. Doesn’t have to all be Mariah Carey (though I love her!).
RNRR: Carrying on the topic of Christmas and festivities, I wanted to ask you what your traditions are for this time of year? Are there any films that you simply have to watch to get you into the Christmas mood each year or is it the decorating of the tree that truly shakes your snow-globe?
0STELLA: Well, being a music teacher too, I can’t help but reference 'Die Hard' and 'Home Alone' every year and send my students to explore Beethoven and John Williams! I have a weird obsession with 'Batman Returns' I love to watch. 'Meet Me In St. Louis' and 'Love Actually' - this year might be a great year to try the 'Love Actually' drinking game, finally. I do love to shake my snow-globe though, so if I can just crank some tunes and have a dance somewhere, anywhere, I’m happy.
RNRR: So we are at the end of a very rubbish year as we’ve established for everyone and especially those in the music industry. What are you looking forward to the most in 2021 regarding music? Are there any bands you need to see live or any shows you’d like to play in particular?
0STELLA: Playing. Live. For. Humans. Again. EVERYWHERE I can. I plan to not come home.
RNRR: On a similar vein, what are your own career goals for the coming year? Any new 0Stella music in the pipeline that we should be prepared for?
0STELLA: Well, competition for grants has gotten really steep this year, so I’ll be slow releasing a bunch of music this year. I’ve a number of things percolating. ‘My December’ was my first home recorded and self-produced track, so more of that I think. This year I want to open for Garbage….I should have said that in my letter to Santa too...damn.... In addition, Skye Wallace, The Beaches and Hermitage Green. In a perfect world, I’ll meet St. Vincent too. I think since everything must balance, 2021 will be the ying to this ghastly yang of a year. So I feel my odds are good.
RNRR: As we are now talking about the end of this year, I wondered if you’d be so kind to give us your New Year roundup for the new music you’ve heard this year. What new songs, albums and artists have you discovered and heard this year which have been a saving grace of such an otherwise dismal year?
0STELLA: So Skye Wallace - Self Titled: I’m obsessed. Also Megan Nash - 'Seeker': freaking obsessed. Grace Petrie - 'Black Tie'. Dan Mangan's 'Troubled Mind' (though a piano student brought this to me a year or more ago, I’m thoroughly in love with it now). Miesha and The Spanks also as although I’ve known them a long time, I’m getting really into their discography this year. Finally, Gary Clark Jr. - 'This Land'. I heard it the weekend BLM kicked off and it floored me.
RNRR: Finally I need to ask you our favourite question on Spotlight which we ask every guest at the end of the interview as you well know. Way back in January when I asked you the old desert island album question, you sided with Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’. Has your opinion changed since?
0STELLA: That album and Skye Wallace’s go head-to-head on every long commute I go on, and Megan Nash is the umpire. I may have to smuggle a few extras onto the island!
RNRR: Glad to see you're still of the same opinion with loving that classic. Well thanks for being on Spotlight and our very last feature of 2020, 0Stella. We wish you the very best for what we hope is a much improved year in 2021.
Photo Credits: Marta Mora Photography
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