Three. Two. One. Lennon Stella’s Music Career Takes Off

Lennon Stella
Frank Hoensch / Redferns / Getty Images
– Lennon Stella
performs at the Columbia Theater in Berlin, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2020.

Life ain’t no picnic, unless sometimes it is. In the lead-up to releasing Lennon Stella’s first EP, Love, Me, in November 2018 and booking her first headline tour, she and her team gauged interest by announcing on Instagram that she was hosting fan picnics in a few cities’ parks, which her team set up with balloons, popsicles, soda and speakers to play her new songs. 

“That was a way to engage and also to some degree, a way for me to try to figure out … what do I think we can sell in terms of hard tickets?” manager Genevieve Thompson told Pollstar. “Those were a great indicator for us to see, OK, she has this many people coming out just off an Instagram post and she’s not even [performing]; she’s literally playing music from a speaker. That helped inform us of what we should do with her first headline dates. It worked like a charm; all her first headline dates sold out within minutes. And it just grew from there.” 
The 20-year-old singer, actress and multi-instrumentalist had already built a fanbase thanks to her six years starring on the ABC/CMT musical drama series “Nashville” (2012-18) as Maddie Conrad alongside her sister Maisy as Daphne Conrad. But this isn’t a story of an actress transitioning to music. Rather, music has always been a part of her life, growing up as the daughter of country music duo The Stellas’ Brad and MaryLynne Stella.
“All of their friends are musicians, they always had music shares, writers’ rounds in our living rooms. It was never a decision of ‘I want to make music,’ it was inevitably what was going to happen,” says Stella, who got her first guitar as a Christmas present when she was 5 and wrote her first song at age 7.  
The family relocated from a farm in Claremont, Ontario, to Nashville when Stella was 9 and a few years later she and her sister were cast on the TV show named after Music City. A few months before the first episode of “Nashville” aired, she and Maisy posted a video on YouTube in May 2012 of their cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” with the girls, age 12 and 9, singing in harmony, using empty margarine containers as percussion. The video quickly blew up and earned the siblings press including an invitation to perform on “Good Morning America.”   
Thompson recalls coming across the video and being “floored” by their ability to sing at such a young age and their “undeniable talent. She says, “And as I got to know them I loved them as people too. It’s very rare for me to get that type of excitement where I really want to invest and get those clients everything.” 

While “Nashville” was on the air, the sisters played a few one-off tour dates as Lennon & Maisy, along with appearing on the “Stars of ‘Nashville’ Concert Tour” in 2015. During that time the sisters continued to post stripped-down covers of a variety of artists including Cage The Elephant, Charli XCX, and Major Lazer and DJ Snake. 
Although Stella’s character on “Nashville” transitioned from the country world to pop, her own music has always been outside of the genre. Growing up she was influenced by music her mom played around the house, including Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan, as far as the “songwriting aspect of it,” but names artists like Tame Impala and Beach House as having an effect on the sound and production of her R&B-tinged indie pop sound. 
Lennon Stella
CeCe Dawson
– Lennon Stella
“What we tried to do with the covers, to some degree, was bridge that gap with people understanding, ‘OK, with the stuff that Lennon & Maisy is putting out, none of it is country, it’s all stuff from different genres,’” Thompson said. “So that people would hopefully connect the dots that by the time [Stella] released her own music, it wouldn’t be country.” 
Stella also appeared on the 2018 dance pop song “Polaroid” with producer Jonas Blue and One Direction vocalist Liam Payne. 
Creative Artists Agency started working with Stella while she was on “Nashville,” representing her both as an actress and musician. When Columbia began rolling out the initial songs from Stella’s EP, the agency tested the markets with solo shows at Nashville’s Basement East, New York’s Mercury Lounge and West Hollywood’s Troubadour. 
“Those shows sold out in probably 30 minutes,” CAA’s Lindsey Myers said. “That was a really amazing barometer to know what we could do. … We decided the best next steps would be to do a true headline run in major markets.
“Basically all those dates sold out on the presale or the week of the onsale, many rolled into doubles. … There was just this immediate gravitation to her with fans and something special going on with her.”
Stella’s first headline tour in spring 2019 (which included a March 28, 2019, show at Chicago’s Metro / Smart Bar that sold 1,150 tickets and grossed $24,940) was followed by support dates for Anne Marie in the U.K. and a slot supporting fellow CAA client The Chainsmokers on their fall 2019 North American arena tour. 
She just wrapped her own run of headline dates in the U.K. (including a double play at the 2,000-capacity Shepherd’s Bush Empire March 2-3) and she’ll return to North American stages in May on the “Three. Two. One: The Tour” excursion, named after her forthcoming full-length debut album due out later this year.   
“On the heels of new music being out, we wanted to plan something that was really strategic and took that next step up in the markets based on the success we had previously,” Myers said. 
Thanks to strong support in her home country of Canada (including Juno Award nominations for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Single of the Year for “La Di Da”) Myers says the team was able to “get really aggressive in Toronto” and book a May 26 show at the 6,500-capacity RBC Echo Beach. The routing also includes a headline show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and an appearance at Bonnaroo.
Thompson notes that Stella probably could have played bigger venues on her first headline run, but it was important to develop her career properly. 
She adds, “It’s always been about let’s make the right moves, instead of just chasing a buck. Let’s look at her career in terms of long-term strategy, and how do we build thing in the correct way. I’d always rather just take things slow and steady, the same way we built her as an artist.
“She started doing writing sessions when she was 14 or 15 and took the time to develop as an artist before she even signed a deal.  
“She probably could have done the Ryman earlier, but again, I believe you just build it the right way, start at the right venue, which you feel you can sell out, go have a great show and make people wish they were at the show, so that the next time you come back around, they’re one of the first to buy tickets because they don’t want to miss out. … Now we’re going on to the next level.”

Lennon Stella
CeCe Dawson
– Lennon Stella
For Stella, she’s had time to find her stage presence. 
“It’s just been a matter of doing so many tours and being on so many different stages with different audiences and different vibes – now I’m at a point where I’ve figured out how I want to be on stage and how I want to be perceived.“ 
CAA’s Lee Goforth says this is just the beginning for Stella. 
“We are all working together so if the plan works she’ll continue to develop across the world, not just in touring but everything else that could come her way as far as brands, social media, film and TV. It feels like building the right way to have a global superstar.”