In a new interview with triple j, Stella Donnelly explained the origins of her new single “Lungs” and how it fits into the labyrinthine puzzle that is her upcoming second album, “Flood.”
Donnelly co-produced “Flood” herself, alongside Methyl Ethel (aka Jake Webb) and Anna Laverty (best known for her work with Camp Cope and Courtney Barnett). Webb’s contribution was notoriously crucial to the genesis of the album, Donnelly told reporter Al Newstead, as he was directly responsible for “Lungs” – a song she joked “was the bane of [her] existence” – becoming what it is.
“It was such an uphill battle,” Donnelly said of her journey while writing “Lungs,” admitting she “kept listening, ‘This is shit.'” Once Webb hit the scene, the song took on a different shape. She continued, “He did some of the production on it and came up with a different drum beat that we could use and that opened it all up. It was a journey for sure, some songs happen in two minutes but it was more like weeks.
Musically, Donnelly explained that “Lungs” was born out of a desire to avoid the indie-rock sound of his previous work, most prevalent on his debut album “Beware Of The Dogs.” “I had never gotten into this kind of genre before,” she told triple j, laughing that she “[doesn’t] don’t even know what kind it is!
“But I had never written anything that was an avant-garde attempt at firecracker. I tried to create something that I can really dance to on stage. It’s really different from the rest of the album, it’s more upbeat.
For the video that accompanies “Lungs”, Donnelly plays a character inspired by the banded stilt, a nomadic shorebird most commonly found in South and Western Australia (and plastered all over the cover of “Flood”). She described her key influence as “a wonky adult, doing her best with her new set of legs and responsibilities, trying to make it easy but very unstable”, alongside the themes she explores on the track herself. .
The birds would become a source of inspiration for the new album as a whole, Donnelly explained, as she moved through the lush tropical landscapes of Bellingen, NSW during the album creation process. In her spare time, she took up birdwatching, became a 2021 Backyard Bird Count Ambassador and concluded her recent Australian tour with a “hilarious birding Q&A”.
“My favorite bird right now is the Gang Gang Cockatoo,” she revealed. “You get it in the east, you don’t get it here in WA. They have the most haunting sound, like a creaking clothesline – it’s amazing! They are under threat at the moment so I am donating the money from every tote bag sold to Bird Life Australia so they can help conserve their population.
Donnelly has moved a lot over the years that spanned the writing of “Flood.” Before settling in Bellingen, she lived in Fremantle, Margaret River, Melbourne and elsewhere, all amid the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I often had no choice but where I was,” she told triple j, noting that her location and circumstances often inspired the creative direction of the material she wrote. “There’s no denying that not being able to access your family with the borders closed zooms in on the parts of your life you care about.”
Donnelly is said to have written a total of 43 songs for the album, with members of his touring band credited as co-writers. Announcing ‘Flood’ yesterday (May 10), the WA artist called it his “rediscovery record: the product of months of risky experimentation, hard times of introspection and lots of transition”.
During the process of writing the album, Donnelly reconnected with his “little self”, explaining, “[I] was able to lose that sense of someone’s reaction to me. I forgot who I was as a musician, which was a humbling experience to just be.
“Flood” looks at “relationships, whether family, romantic or platonic”, Donnelly explaining that she “loves[s] observing human dynamics” and “entering the mind of someone we have all been at some point”.
The album is due out independently (and via Secretly Canadian outside of Australia) on August 26. It’s the sequel to 2019’s “Beware Of The Dogs,” which, in a four-star review, NMEHannah Mylrea has been hailed as “exciting and extremely relevant”.