Italian born and Singaporean raised singer, Stella Talpo, now based in South London, is a rising star on the indie scene. With stunning melodies and heart wrenching lyrics, she has quickly found her way onto our playlists. After her recent release of ‘shark’ and ‘mona’, I wanted to sit down for a (Zoom) chat with her.
Talpo claims to be driven and motivated to communicate in her music the nuances of human behaviour, addiction, nostalgia and an existential search for purpose and meaning. Heavy themes, which are not of course, simple to communicate. These subconscious themes often permeate her songwriting due to her upbringing, according to Stella.
“My parents both come from a self development background. My mum is a counsellor and coach and my dad is a counsellor as well. That kind of focus on language and dialectic to communicate human behaviour was always interwoven into my thinking from childhood.”
Writing music about different kinds of addiction to that of the mainstream of emotional songwriting, she writes songs such as “Greys” about being stuck in one place, and pushing people away because we are scared. She says writing about these things matter to her, because she has been an “addict and a self saboteur” and is now in a place to reflect on these parts of her life.
A fan of philosophy and psychology bred through her experiences, upbringing and education, Stella said insightfully that she finds how our conditioning as people effects our lives fascinating. She also shared that she is currently reading the Nietzsche novel in four parts, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Having studied a philosophy degree, she and I bonded over our mutual love (and often confusion) of existentialism. Stella reflects greatly in her songwriting on this new wave of self education, understanding and philosophy.
This self understanding and reflection has not always been a part of Stella’s life however. She found it hard to find her sound, her place and her aesthetic in the music industry. It wasn’t until she saw the correlation between her philosophical world view and her sound that she truly felt she became herself in her music. She said,
“I am a creator. If I am creating what I want to create, someone, somewhere will listen to it.”
An important convention of music, the idea of the “tortured artist” who must bleed for their art, was once at the core of what Stella believed she had to be to make good music.
“I always wondered could I ever write anything that surpasses a heartbreak EP? It felt like I only had one way to go. Maybe this has changed in the last decade but it feels like a woman only writes about love and heartbreak and that is how people connect to your lyrics and music.”
Her song “girl” is a song looking at who she once was and the girl she wants to grow from and grow into. She started to realise she could write about something other than how happy or sad a man made her feel. Nostalgia, according to Stella, no longer has to be “about missing a relationship”, it can be for youth or carefreeness, or the “flavours and palettes of life”.
The Hysteria Collective recently promoted Stella’s new single “mona”, with a video directed and acted in by Hysteria icon Maelle Leggiadro. The song is a heady combination of drums, summer vibes and emotion. About this song, Stella said:
“We were inspired by a song by my favourite artist, called Bonga from Angola, and his song is sampled throughout mona. That song came out in the 70s. I loved the real side of me that song represented. I am fun, I love to dance and to feel that free spirit. I don’t think my music had been able to encapsulate that before.”
This song truly does capture so much of Talpo’s free and effortless vibe, and the path she is taking of fate and trusting the work she is putting out into the universe, that the universe will provide her with the right path. You get a true sense of calm and wisdom talking to Stella, and her songwriting represents that perfectly. Her wisdom can be summarised in such a short titbit of insight:
“When we let go of our grip, actually that is when we are most available”
The very visual lyrics of this song reflected the process through which Stella wrote the song. Seeing these images of the place her lyrics should go in her mind, she created a nomadic sound and free feeling. She says she felt like writing this song and being immersed in its creation “was like a rebirth”.
Coming from an Italian family, I was interested to see how her heritage had influenced her as a creative who had grown up in Singapore and was now creating music in the UK.
“It has been a journey of trying to figure out which culture has nurtured me more… I feel that I do have that mediterranean, Italian, extra passion, loudness and sometimes volatility is a typical Italian trait. I don’t think, if it wasn’t for that hot Italian fire I feel in my belly, I would have carried on creating music for this long.”
Despite the often deep and emotional themes of the music Stella creates, her social media is a sanctuary of positivity, radiance and honesty (please check her out on Instagram @stellatalpo). I wanted to know how she stays so positive in such a hostile industry.
“I have come a long way from ‘tortured artist’ and I have had many mental health issues myself in my late teens early twenties. It’s only very recently that I have come into my own in terms of feeling this jovial, full hearted person come out. I wasn’t in a good way. I was in a place to write heart wrenching music. Gone are the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll being a genuine way of life. I want to be present in my life.”
Stella now has staples in her life to help keep positive. Meditation, journalling and yoga, have been retreats for many of us over the last four months of this pandemic, but for Stella these things are a constant in her life to stay afloat in such a chaotic industry, without having to subscribe to the risky, ‘bleed for your art’ narrative. As an inspiration to us online, I wanted to know who inspires Stella to keep real and positive online. She said that she loves Joy Crookes, who’s honest song writing has seen her rise onto the mainstream music scene in the UK. She said she loves “her sincere, explicit way of being herself, and how free she is.”. Her ‘fuck it’ attitude is so liberating, and Stella describes it as something it took may years to understand and come to terms with herself; “fuck it comes with really loving yourself”, she says.
Stella also reflects on a conversation she had on a podcast with Australian singer Holiday Sidewinder, who is an indie pop singer songwriter who is her own team, own PR and who jumps on any tour that she can find, be that with The Killers or Mac DeMarco. She refuses to fit into any box, and you can see how her vibe and Stella’s could be harmonious together.
With insight and peace at the core of the music she is creating, Stella is taking the company she keeps and the conversations she has and cultivating these beautiful sounds, and thoughtful lyrics, and we are so happy to watch her grow and develop both in and out of this industry. Make sure to check out her music on Spotify and listen to her new EP coming out on the 7th August and her new single, Babies.