When The Stellas took their first trip to Nashville in 2008, they were still a relatively unknown husband-and-wife duo from the Toronto suburbs, armed with little more than two voices, one acoustic guitar, and a catalog of smart, catchy songs.
A lot can change in a short time.
These days, The Stellas are songwriters who have written 90% of their material on their own albums, as well as songs for other artists. They are artists who have won numerous awards. They are parents of Lennon & Maisy, two sisters known to most of the TV-watching public as Maddie & Daphne from ABC’s “Nashville.” They’re also creators of their most recent album “It Wouldn’t Be This”, which mixes the duo’s country-roots songwriting with sharp lyrics and a few left-of-center curveballs.
For Brad and MaryLynne Stella — two Canadian natives who met at age 20 and logged more than 15 years in Ontario’s music scene while working as janitors during the day to support their music habit — the turning point arrived during a short trip to Nashville. While there, The Stellas talked their way into playing an impromptu show at the Commodore Grill, which led to a second show the following night. A publisher was in the audience that evening, and he liked what he heard. The Stellas were offered a deal on the spot.
A year later, they were on the hit CMT show “Can You Duet?”, moved to Nashville and signed a record deal with EMI Canada. They became genuine stars in Canada after releasing their self-titled album, in which several songs from that album shot towards the top of the charts. In two years, The Stellas were nominated for more than 10 awards. They took home the CCMA trophy for “Duo of the Year” in 2013, earned highly coveted placements on two volumes of the Canadian “Now Country” CD series, and became in-demand songwriters.
Back in America, one of The Stellas’ biggest fans, platinum-selling music titan Zac Brown, asked the duo to join his band for a series of sold-out shows. They agreed, adding those shows to an impressive touring roster that also included gigs with Johnny Reid and Terri Clark. The connection with Brown was later strengthened when Brad and Zac co-wrote “Let It Rain,” a song released on Zac Brown Band’s 2013 EP, The Grohl Sessions. “Let It Rain” was the EP’s only song featuring Dave Grohl on drums.
In November of 2014, The Stellas released a new original Christmas song called “All Wrapped Up In Christmas.”
They followed that by putting out their most recent album, “It Wouldn’t Be This”, on May 4th of 2015. The album contains the song “Gravy,” a blend of twang and tongue-in-cheek humor that doubles as the first single from the duo’s second album. Fred Wilhelm, who helped The Stellas write “Gravy,” co-wrote several other songs, including the standout track, “It Wouldn’t Be This.”
The record includes fast, folky tributes to wild times (“Kitchen Party”), lighthearted tunes about crazy romance (“One of Us”) and rootsy renditions of older tunes (“Baba O’Riley,” originally performed by The Who). The album shows the full scope of the band’s abilities, from stripped-down acoustic songs to full-band rockers. Brad, who has worked alongside a variety of artists, produced the record in the band’s own studio. This is The Stellas’ first internationally-released album. “In some ways, we’re making a first impression all over again,” MaryLynne says. “This is the album we always wanted to make. This is us.”
“Back when we first started our career,” Brad remembers, “we came across a lot of musicians who had a ‘woe is me’ story. They used to live in their car, or they had to wait tables for years before signing a record deal. That sort of thing. We had that story, too, but we didn’t view it as a negative thing, we thought of it more like camping! Life was hard because we had no dough, but we were happy. We were positive. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
In early December of 2015, Brad & MaryLynne joined the “Nashville” cast (including daughters, Lennon & Maisy) on ABC’s special episode, “Nashville: On The Record 3”. The episode features The Stellas’ song, “It Wouldn’t Be This”.
Brad and MaryLynne’s authentic songwriting has continued to go unnoticed. In January of 2016, they each signed a worldwide publishing agreement with Warner Chappell Music Group.
It’s been a busy decade for the entire Stella family, but Brad and MaryLynne aren’t ready to pump the brakes as they enter this new chapter in their lives.
“We have a love of all music, says Brad. There’s very little music out there that we don’t appreciate. Our entire motivation is the love of what we do and we will continue to make music for audiences big and small – from the kitchen to the stage.”