AN INTERVIEW WITH STELAHR
Berlin based musician Stella Franke, who records under the name Stelahr, has only one song on her Soundcloud. However, when it comes to Stelahr’s work one song is more than enough to draw anyone in. With “No Name #7,” Stelahr crafts a song that is both ethereal and blissfully dark. Stark and beautiful, “No Name #7” is an emotionally wrought piano ballad. Melted caught up with Stelahr to discuss the Berlin music scene, her creative process, and female artists that inspire her.
A BACKGROUND ON YOUR MUSIC?
I grew up on Queen, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and ABBA - those were the only non-classical artists my parents, and therefore I, listened to until I was 14, at which point I started discovering all sorts of different genres - house, techno, electro, then folk, classic rock, soul. It was a world that I felt was completely my own, that my parents, who are both professional classical musicians, couldn’t judge or criticise. I became obsessed with discovering music, and soon grew to love Radiohead, Grimes, Elliott Smith, James Blake, iceage, Frank Ocean, Pixies, Burial and many many others.
For every artist I become obsessed with, I want to change my style completely, have an identity crisis, do a 180 flip in my writing. Some styles have suited me better than others! The biggest comparisons I get, though, are Elliott Smith and Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, which I can’t complain about!
CAN YOU PINPOINT THE MOMENT YOU BEGAN TO SEE YOURSELF AS A MUSICIAN IN YOUR OWN RIGHT?
Though I’ve been making music essentially since birth, that’s still something I’m figuring out… I have always been confident in myself as a person, in my opinions and knowledge, though when it comes to owning my creative work, I find it really hard. It’s a fear of owning my vulnerability.
I’d say, though, that this year I have felt more at peace and more inspired about my artistic identity than ever, with newer female artists such as Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis and Susanne Sundfør inspiring me to continue doing what I love.
HOW HAS GROWING UP IN BERLIN INFLUENCED YOUR MUSIC? WHAT IS THE MUSIC SCENE LIKE IN BERLIN?
I think Berlin has shaped me musically in the sense that I feel there is little judgement here. You will find an eager audience for anything you do. People respect and love art, and will go out of their way to help you progress.
I identify strongly as a Berliner. In my eyes being a Berliner stands for individuality, strength of character and enthusiasm for other cultures, creativity and free expression. I love that there is always something creative going on - I can walk down the street and listen to free jazz music and dance to world renowned techno by the river any day and night of the week.
So, the main thing Berlin has given me is freedom.
Whatever comes out, comes out. That’s how my best songs have happened. I will feel like I need to write something, and it will come out. Though often times I write down notes in my phone, make voice recordings or spend weeks on a tiny piano bit - then never find a use for these bits. Sometimes they fit together like a puzzle, they strike me emotionally, and a song forms. Other times I will play them until I hate them, then never listen to them again.
FIRST ARTIST YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH?
The Beatles. I spent ages 14-16 listening to the Beatles every day. I was absolutely obsessed — ask my friends, I wouldn’t talk about anything else! I remember crying watching A Hard Day’s Night and Help! because I loved them so much. They definitely shaped me to an extreme extent at the beginning of my songwriting.
Though before the Beatles I also had a few obsessions - Alison Krauss, Lana del Rey (whom I still unironically and unashamedly love today), and Queen.
ARTISTS YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE KNEW?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt of Iceage, Vår and Marching Church, my friend Tara Nome Doyle, JPEGMAFIA, and, though they are well known, James Blake and Elliott Smith deserve all the recognition they can get.
photo by JULIA PETERS