INTERVIEW BY CHARLOTTE RYAN
To say the last year or so has been weird is perhaps putting things lightly. Weird it has been though, for me, and for many around the world. Talking to musician Stella Rose Bennett — or Benee as we know her — there are levels to this weirdness, and it comes with a kind of conflict. After all, amid a global pandemic, she has seen massive success.
“I sometimes feel guilty, about feeling good, do you know what I mean?” Her understanding that “well, I shouldn’t”, that she (and perhaps, we) needn’t renounce all joy and happiness in the face of global upheaval feels important to remember. Even so, it can be hard:
“... but then I don’t like being a person that’s like ‘oh my god yeah, everything’s so amazing.’ And then it’s like sorry, look at this, look at what’s happening here. You kinda can’t not think about all that when good stuff is happening to you.”
But Stella, after all, is an artist. She brings joy during tough times. I mean, the L.A Times called her song Supalonely ‘The Coronavirus Hit’. If it weren’t for the pandemic, she would have been touring internationally, doing media from 6 am day after day. So, she admits:
“It’s been kinda nice, definitely. It’s nice not having to go anywhere … I’ve done everything in my room. On Zoom. So it’s been a dream, to be quite honest. There are obviously some downsides to it, like I can’t tour and that’s something that I’m missing the most right now, but hey.”
How surreal, to meet with such well-known figures (the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert) from the confines of her bedroom, or Auckland’s familiar Roundhead Studios? With this success comes an ever-growing platform, and an awareness of responsibility. So, what about politics? Stella is quick to assert: “I have some pretty strong opinions, and I’m always posting on the socials. I think people know who I voted for…” For anyone in doubt, both Chloe Swarbrick and Jacinda Ardern featured heavily in the lead-up to Aotearoa’s 2020 general election. It is clear Stella wants to share — her opinions, her beliefs, causes that matter to her — and she has the confidence to engage where others just don’t get ‘involved’. For this she makes no apologies:
“A lot of people message me and say ‘don’t get political’. I think that’s ridiculous. I talked a bunch of crap about Donald Trump, because why the heck not, he’s the worst person in the world, and I had all these people message me saying he’s done so much good? Shut. Up. Just unfollow me … I think for the most part my followers are on the same page ...”
Some of the beauty in Stella’s success is that even for those who aren’t on the same page — politically, ideologically — her platform can offer inspiration and education, too:
“That’s the thing with sharing resources and stuff, because that’s what I’m trying to do. When I look at people’s stories and posts, there are all these resources for Black Lives Matter and LGBQTI+ resources and I’m learning constantly and it’s like, if I share this to my followers, then they will learn too.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlotte Ryan is an award-winning broadcaster with almost 20 years’ experience. She’s hosted high-profile shows on Radio Live, Kiwi FM, and Auckland’s 95bFM, as well as co-hosting political TV shows. Alongside her broadcasting work, Charlotte has managed bands, run her own publicity company, worked for music festivals, and international and local touring artists. Charlotte is now the host of Music 101, Radio New Zealand’s flagship contemporary music programme, broadcast on RNZ National.
Auckland, New Zealand