New Music Monday Featuring Isabelle Stillman - Sophomore Album, Heartrender, Out Friday 10/16
Thank you for talking with us and congratulations on your new album! Where did you grow up and how has that influenced your style of music? I grew up in St. Louis, MO, where we listened to a lot of country music. My mom always had country radio on in the car, and my friends would burn each other CDs with Tim McGraw and Deana Carter on them. Growing up with that influence has definitely given my music some country sounds.
For newer fans, how did your passion for music and career come about? I’ve always loved to sing and play guitar, and I’ve always loved writing stories. In college, I sang and played covers, and I studied creative writing, but I never mixed the two until a couple years after I graduated. Finally, when I’d just moved to a city where I knew almost no one, I picked up my guitar one day and an original song came out. And I was like, “This makes so much sense, why haven’t I been doing it all along?” Since then, I’ve been writing, recording, gigging, and releasing my music.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about pursuing a career in music?
The best piece of advice I’ve gotten is to write the most honest feeling you have – even if it’s painful, embarrassing, confusing, or weird. Write the truth. The best songs come from the most honest parts of us.
What song that you have recorded means the most to you and why? This might be a cheap answer, but I feel really connected to all the songs off my new album, Heartrender. “Party Dress,” “Why Didn’t You Tell Me?” and “Tragicomedy” especially came from really honest places in me – recording and sharing them feels almost like sharing a diary entry. I feel so lucky to have an audience that I trust with those painful parts of my story.
Looking back, what was the first album or “Vinyl” you bought? Probably Hillary Duff or something in that genre. Maybe Avril or Kelly Clarkson. They ruled.
What is your favorite breakfast? I have a thing for breakfast burritos. Every weekend, I try a new place somewhere around town and have a definitive ranking of all the places I’ve been. (The key is the tortilla.)
What is one food that most people seem to like, but you cannot stand to eat? I really hate peppers. I think they taste like soap!! I don’t understand how people eat them raw, and it’s even more baffling when people put them in tacos – it ruins the whole thing!! Madness.
What is your favorite sandwich? Probably a pulled pork sandwich. I love all things BBQ. If you could put ribs on a sandwich, then I’d say a ribs sandwich. But that doesn’t seem very practical.
Where is your favorite place to eat in your hometown? My family’s kitchen table. There is nothing like a good home cooked meal with the whole gang when you’ve been away for a long time.
Most memorable meal while touring. Where were you and what did it involve? On tour, I lived off of string cheese from gas stations. Top notch highway food. Really hits the spot on a long drive.
Finally, if you could be sponsored by one food/drink brand who would it be and why? I would love to be sponsored by Trolli Gummy Worms. Free gummies!
About Isabelle Stillman:
Isabelle Stillman finds inspiration from balance, whether it is her dual life as an English teacher and touring musician, or her upbringing in Missouri to her present day in a crowded Los Angeles, she — a guitarist, songwriter and singer — has grown to find a harmony that resonates deeply within her music.
Stillman was raised from Midwestern roots, often attributing her groundedness to her strong family life. She craved music from an early age, always singing and growing up with her parents’ music as the soundtrack. Stillman was a teenager when she first picked up guitar; but school remained her primary focus. Systematic learning satiated her — the definition of “success” so clearly defined. Raised in a community that valued structure, Stillman embraced it. And yet her creativity continued to flow.
Following a family tradition set by her great uncle, southern writer Peter Taylor, Stillman went to study Fiction Writing in college, growing to create worlds, people and messages on a page. As she continued to search for a place her writings and drive could affect social justice, Stillman was offered a teaching job and relocated to Denver to spend two years as a high school English teacher. Still unfulfilled, she went back to her guitar and started to delve into songwriting. As Stillman simply puts it, “It was something of a relief – in a society where progress is the goal, and achievement and productivity often define our worth, I could capture my heart and it felt in equal parts rebellious and healing.”
Stillman taught by day and gigged by night. By the end of her second year teaching, she had produced a full-length album. Her debut album, Middle Sister, paid homage to her family and upbringing while launching her onto a path abandoning traditional genre and ignoring guidelines. Released in 2019 to good reviews, it reflected the confusing process of becoming an artist and a grown-up, cohesive in lyricism, addressing themes of grounding and aspiration, love and loss, independence and reliance. As Taste Magazine wrote, “Isabelle’s love of words and depth as an artist are apparent...”; the project brought into full focus the intersection of all of Stillman’s worlds.