Stella Talpo is a soulful, spiritual and evocative artist.
Provoked by human behaviour, nostalgia, art and addiction, the Italian songstress’ striking voice and ability to mould a melody has been turning heads across the board. Now based in South London, Talpo’s sultry vocals have fast become her signature.
Following the release of her latest single mona, we caught up with Stella Talpo to talk staying creative when the odds are stacked against you, the ambiguity of her sound and more.
Listen to the stunning mona below.
Hi Stella, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Where are you holed up at the moment?
Hi, thanks for having me! I’m currently living out COVID-19 lockdown in sunny Streatham.
How have you been coping with everything that’s going on?
By doing a lot of soul searching. I enrolled in an online course and restarted Julia Cameron’s 12 week Artist Way book, which changed the direction of my life a few years ago. I’m normally a chronic over-doer (or over-committer), which funnily enough would burn me out rather than bare much fruit, so I’m using this time to slow down and learn to be more present and grounded. It’s interesting to watch all the sides of myself surface in the face of crisis and fear, been coping with the fear of the unknown by letting go of expectation and trying to control everything all the time.
What have been your golden rules for staying creative in lockdown?
1. Being patient and compassionate with yourself. It goes a long way.
2. Giving myself the luxury of time and not being so demanding with my productivity. I’ve been reminding myself it's okay to not feel this constant desire to be creative right now given everything that’s going on but rather be like, ‘Okay, this is really happening, how can I nurture myself so that I can be of service to the community, what do I really feel good about doing right now with my time.’
3. Creativity comes when you least expect it, not when you most want it so another golden rule is to be generous with yourself. You can afford a day off, in fact I’ve found the days off are when the songs and words actually start a-flowing. I spent too many years playing the tortured artist, the nature of creativity is not born out of struggle, which kind of leads onto next golden rule…
4. Playfulness and not scrutinising everything so much but just letting what comes come and ultimately having fun, which is why I fell in love with music to begin with. It’s been nice to have more time to just muck about rather than being so regimented in order to squeeze a London day into 24 hours.
Have you found any unexpected sources of inspiration?
Funnily enough, since slowing down I’ve been finding a lot more gratification from the repetitiveness and mundanity of practising an instrument - something I thought would never come over me. I’ve been able to listen to more music and read more books and articles as well as spend more time in nature (I love trees), which have all been feeding the ticking writer in my mind. It’ll be interesting to see how all the different elements manifest themselves into songs or lyrics soon but I must admit I’ve found it challenging to sit still and face the page since this global emergency began. I like to think of it as gathering inspiration and information for when the time comes to enter create mode.
'I think the lack of roots and sense of alienation that moving around a lot can give you comes across in my lyrics.'
You were born in Italy and raised in Singapore. How much would you say your varied background influences the music you make?
I think sonically, the cultures that I grew up in and with are yet to make their grand debut in my music, although I have finally visited my Italian-ness in mona. I like to think that the variety and the transience of my upbringing shows up in the ambiguity of my ’sound’ and my curiosity to try new things or visit and tap into different subcultures.
I think the lack of roots and sense of alienation that moving around a lot can give you comes across in my lyrics. I feel like I can’t own a narrative or a story because I’m Italian but I’m not, I’m Singaporean but I’m not, I’m English but I’m not, so in a way I guess I’m as fluid and impermanent musically and lyrically as I have been geographically and culturally.
One thing I’m certain of is how much I owe my romanticism and nostalgia, which have both hugely influenced my music and writing, to my very emotive Italian parents.
What can we expect to hear from your forthcoming single, mona?
A sample of one of my favourite tracks, a chorus I didn’t know I could sing until it came out of me, a verse in Italian and a lot of desert imagery. Imagine Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist as a song, with accompaniment from Angolan singer and guitarist, Bonga. I can’t imagine that either!
We saw that you posted a call out to fellow creatives to contribute to the single’s accompanying video. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I thought it would be a really cool way to connect with new people across the world during a time that would otherwise be so isolating and for some people dark and uninspiring. I loved the idea of seeing mona transmute through the different interpretations and feelings it stirred in first time listeners. The only direction I really gave was to let one's intuition take control and do the work, let the feelings unfold and be surprised by the end result: no pressure, no expectation, no rules, just total freedom of expression.
I was also genuinely curious to see what creativity could mean to different people in lockdown times; art has such a cool way of freezing time, of giving a moment in time a voice or a flavour and each video is like this time stamp, this story, of what each individual has gone through over the last couple of months. What they’d been feeling that week or day, it’s captured in their videos. I felt honoured and moved to have those moments and that time offered so generously to ‘mona’ and it’s been really incredible to connect and meet so many amazing, fun and fearless people.
'One thing I’m certain of is how much I owe my romanticism and nostalgia, which have both hugely influenced my music and writing, to my very emotive Italian parents.'
Live streaming was far more nerve wrecking than I could have ever imagined but I honestly had the best time and can’t wait to do it again. I thought it would be more like singing to myself in my room. The only way I can describe it is as if the whole world and no one was there at the same time.
There’s something so intimate about sharing your music in your own space, welcoming listeners into your world, just a really cool experience. The live chat feature is something I didn’t expect to love as much as I do, I never get to engage in that way and surprisingly am quite nervous about putting myself out there like that but I get to connect and speak to viewers who enjoy my music that I may never have met before and I am really here for that.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2020, coronavirus permitting?
I'm happy to say there’s more music coming in the summer and I’m so excited for it to be free unto the world! I hope to go on a few adventures too.