STELLA // JAMES have been impressing us since we first heard “Stella,” a timeless, harmony-heavy ode to a woman that, much like the song, walks in an instantly commands the attention of all she encounters. The trio, Ty Graham, Rachel Bradshaw, and Sarah Davidson, are far from new to the music scene – their endeavors as a group are only two months old – but each has been involved in Nashville for years. At their inaugural show at The Basement at the end of February, they looked and sounded polished, strong, and commanding, and they packed the room with fans and industry vets alike.
We caught up with Rachel and Sarah following the show.
How did you guys come to be a group?
Rachel: We’ve all been really good friends for a long time, written together, and we were all just at my house talking and writing this beautiful song called “Songbird,” and I just looked at them and I was like do you guys wanna be a band? And I saw Sarah’s face light up and it was just the best feeling ever, and I just knew, we all knew that we wanted to be in a band.
Sarah: We all were going through a lot of transitions in our careers and our lives – I’d just gotten out of a record deal and my management deal like two weeks before, Rachel had literally that day had a conversation with someone that she was planning on having management with and they parted ways – and we all kind of were just at a place where we just were over striving to make these deals and be these people. We really felt like magic happened on that back porch. I really felt like when Rachel was like, ‘Do you guys wanna be a band’ and we were writing that song, I just knew in my heart that that was what was meant to be, and Ty felt the same thing. Since then it’s literally been no question.
R: I was like, are you guys serious, are we really in a band? ‘Cuz I was afraid that they wouldn’t be serious about it because I was so dead serious about it.
S: Then after “Songbird” came “Stella” and “Red Flag” and “Highway” and all of the songs just started coming out. I’ve never been so inspired as I am writing with Rachel and Ty, like they truly bring out the best in me. And I’ve been in Nashville writing 9 and a half, 10 years, and Rachel is the same thing. I grew up in South Georgia, and I kind of was at a place in my life, and I feel like Rachel is too, where we kind of had like real life to write about, and really wanted to go there and not just write the typical what is on the radio country songs ‘cuz we were to the point to where like that’s a dream of ours, we wanna be on the radio, but like, chasing that down was no longer a concern of ours. Making music that we love that fills our souls and fulfills the people that we are and truly inspires us is really what we wanna do. We’re not concerned with who doesn’t love it, as long as we love it and we’re making music that inspires us and hits us in the stomach, gets somewhat of a response from our friends, we’re happy. So it’s just been such a blessing to have it come even this far, and we’re so excited about it.
It’s got to be a huge weight off your shoulders.
S: Oh my gosh, right? ‘I have to have this song that’s like this song that we take to radio and radio’s gonna play it’ and it’s just like not having to worry about that and making music that we like.
R: People still want to hear real stories and real things, and as a band it’s stories, it’s about deep stuff. We’ve been through a lot, we’re all in our 20s, and we’ve just been more things than most people have in lifetimes.
There’s certainly a realness to your music, and a timelessness too. It definitely feels country, but isn’t particularly confined to any era or sub-genre.
S: We’re not trying to do a genre, we’re not saying we’re country music or Americana or pop or anything, we just want to make music and the people that respond to it, those are the people that we connect with and that we want to go out on the road and share the music with. I feel like there’s such a shift in the mind of the people that are buying the music they don’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, I’m only gonna listen to country, or this,’ it’s more about ‘I like that song ‘cuz I identify with it and I’m going through that same thing,’ or like ‘hey, Stella, like that’s me when I walk in the bar with my friends on a Friday night and I’m on point, like, I’m Stella.’ And that’s what we wanna do, we wanna bring out the best in everyone, bring out that fun, authentic confidence in the women that we sing to, feel like ‘hey, you’re awesome.’ We just want to empower people through our music.
Grab STELLA // JAMES’s debut release, a free group of acoustic demos, here.