Hailing from a small Italian town but now a well-established fixture in South London’s music scene, Stella Talpo serves up her newest track, “DUST.” The record teems with the primal energy that the singer borrowed from her previous singles “GOOD GIRLS” and “QUICKSAND,” but cranks up the intensity just a nudge. With mythological motifs setting the stage for her forthcoming debut album MEDUSA, the song serves as a raw anthem of resilience and transformation.
Talpo explains, “‘DUST’ is a call to action and a celebration of the human spirit’s resilience and ability to rise above adversity. It’s an Invitation to rise, and refers to the energy surge when a woman feels the monster within her come alive.” Elsewhere, the songstress employs an engaging narrative, painting an exhilarating journey to visit Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry, creating a palpable sense of power and exhilaration in every note.
Slated for October, her debut album MEDUSA represents a fearless exploration of societal constraints and oppressive ideals. Throughout the 11-track compilation, Stella incorporates primal and visceral imagery to confront and normalize parts of life deemed too ugly or brutal by our sanitized society. The LP weaves a rich tapestry of darkness and light, soul and electronica, realism and myth, taking inspiration from feminist literature such as the works of Gillian Alban and Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
Having spent years experimenting with different records, Stella Talpo has concocted a soulful blend of R&B that’s been laced with a hint of ethereal darkness, creating a new alt-pop sound. Below, we spoke with the singer-songwriter about her introduction to music, “DUST,” her bucket list, and more.
How did your journey begin? What first made you fall in love with music?
I suppose it was quite an elusive starting point, it happened gradually but also not at all because it was almost always just a knowing, if that makes sense. I don’t remember not wanting to be a performer, and I started to show that inclination as young as 3, putting on shows for my parents and their friends. Bless them all for their patience. As I entered my pre-teens, music became more of an escape, and I think that’s when I started to take the path more seriously, teaching myself to write songs to express myself and what I was going through.
I don’t remember a day where I was like, “Right, I’ve decided performing is going to be my career.” I just remember there never being an alternative, although I was conflicted for a while about whether to go into musical theatre or contemporary music. I think because songwriting was such a non-negotiable for me, and contemporary music had saved my life on so many occasions, that’s how I ended up picking this road.
Tracking back to some of your early work in 2016, you’ve experienced a lot of growth as an artist. How did you get to where you are today and how do you feel you’ve grown as an artist?
Oof, this would take a long time to answer. I got to where I am today with a lot of facing the music (pun intended) and my fears. I had to go through a lot of personal growth to understand where I was still playing small and feeling self-conscious about being totally myself and also trusting my own sense of what I like or don’t like. I was really lost in 2016, and in many ways, that was when this process of ‘unbecoming’, if you will began in my personal life, and naturally, that bled into my creative life.
I’ve grown as an artist because I’ve learned to be my own voice of reason and compass. I used to be so afraid of getting something wrong or just being wrong generally that I didn’t have the capacity to ask myself what it is that I wanted or enjoyed. I was just in a hurricane of emotional s**t frankly, and I had stopped trusting myself as a writer, and there was a lot of shame around who I was. I felt like I always had to prove myself, had this unnerving sense that if I wasn’t a multi-instrumentalist or the best at everything, then I wasn’t a worthy artist.
That’s definitely taken years to shake off, but I feel that growing into a more confident and unapologetic women has meant growing into a more confident and unapologetic artist.
Your latest release is the gorgeous single “DUST,” which serves as a celebration of the human spirit’s resilience. Can you dive into what inspired the song?
You know when you see someone who just has lost their faith in themselves or just doesn’t see their power the way that you can? And you just want to shake them awake and be like, look at how fucking amazing you are, you were born for greater things? I really wanted to write a song that was like the wake-up call, the “on” switch, that would help someone breathe the truth of themselves in and kind of kick them into gear to feel they are capable of anything. I wanted to write something that I could play myself when I was feeling despondent or powerless to remind myself that that primal strength is in me, and I got this.
How do you want listeners to feel when they hear this song?
Like a badass who can take on anything with strength and grace. Powerful as f**k.
Between your new release, and records like “Good Girl,” how do all of these songs fit into the fold on what you want to deliver through your project?
They’re all in some way meditations and reminders about the fallacy of the limitations we are being held back by. The project itself is me coming face to face with the parts of myself I always felt pressured to hide, “too messy”, “too crazy”, too whatever… all those judgements that you learn to have about yourself and this innate fear of what would happen if you were just safe to be unwittingly yourself.
In accepting all those sides that you try to deny, you become more of a whole person and can get in touch with your power in a way that you can’t when you’re trying to hide those aspects of yourself. What you resist persists, and sometimes you have to walk through the fire to get to where you want to be. As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is through,” and I guess this project is a collection of songs to reconnect myself and the listeners with their true, wild selves.
Let’s talk about the cover arts for “Dust” as well as Medusa — I love the looks! Can you tell me about your makeup and glam for the cover shoot?
Thank you so much; I’m so glad you do! I was really inspired by doing something that was a little dark and not stereotypically “pretty”. The record was hugely inspired by the book “Women Who Run With Wolves,” and I loved this theme of women embracing their wilderness. Medusa was a great mythological example of a woman alienated and villainized, and she served as the metaphor for the “hidden primal self” that we oppress so as to be accepted into society.
Same happened with witches in history, so I wanted something to represent that world and be a little disconcerting. I thought to use the curls on my face as a reference to Medusa’s snakes and the nails to the wise old hag in folklore.
What kind of hair products do you swear by?
Oh, this is ever-changing and made so much more difficult since turning to non-toxic products because my favorite products were all not fully “clean.” I have been really enjoying Abyssinian’s Anti-Pollution Club range; their mask is incredible. I also swear by the hair growth oil by Ayumi, which I treat my hair with overnight once a week. And I’ve just discovered and started to dig into Innersense’s range, and I’m loving it so far.
Being an artist, what is your favorite makeup hack?
Great question. When it comes to makeup, I love ease. So I suppose my favorite makeup hack would be liquid concealer rather than foundation, matted out with a light powder and a natural-looking bronzer.
Pivoting back into music, what else is on your bucket list?
The top thing on my bucket list my whole life was completing an album, so that feels amazing. I would say next on would be a tour or to film a live video with Colours.