On “Attention,” Lena Stone has returned to her root: pop. “In so many ways, pop makes more sense for me,” says the Nashville artist. “I wasn’t raised on country music— I found country music. Pop has always come so naturally to me. I grew up listening to James Taylor, Sarah Bareilles, John Mayer, Pink, and Britney Spears.”
Still grateful for her time in country, Stone says her years of collaborating with artists on Music Row has been priceless, and taught her how to truly write a good song—something she will transfer into this new chapter of her music.
“What I’m most grateful for during my time in country music is that I really learned how to write a good song,” shares Stone. “Country music is known for its storytelling. I can now move what I’ve learned into a sound that’s a bit more effortless for me as an artist.”
“Attention” is Lena Stone’s effortless transfer of power into pop. Her alluring vocals maneuver through barer lyrics and the euphoria of those first moments falling in love in I feel the fire from your fingertips / Lighting up a fire when you touch my skin.
“‘Attention’ is that exhilarating, amazing, but also kind of terrifying beginning of a relationship with someone that you think might be the person,” says Stone. In the production of the song, adding elements like live drums gave the song a bigger feel, almost like a movie, says Stone, since that moment in a relationship is so epic.
“I wanted to capture that moment,” says Stone. “There’s so much excitement there, but it’s also so scary when you meet someone, and you’re thinking ‘you do something to me that no one has ever done before, and you make me feel things that I’ve never felt for anybody else.’”
Produced by Phil Barnes, Stone wrote most of “Attention” and several other songs during quarantine. “They’re basically all my quarantine babies,” jokes Stone of her upcoming project, which was mostly recorded by her and Barnes in 2020. “In the pop world you don’t typically record with a full band in the room. The producer kind of plays all the parts, so we were able to really make this music, alone in the studio—safely, socially distanced, and in person.
As Stone was finishing up her 2020 EP Princess, she immediately jumped into a few writing sessions with Barnes for this new project. “We didn’t really put any limits on ourselves,” says Stone. “We didn’t sit down and say ‘we’re going to write a pop song,’ but we didn’t say we were going to write a country one either. Even my last EP was very pop-influenced. It’s obviously country songwriting, but production-wise, instrumentation-wise, and melodically like, there’s a lot of pop influence in there.”
Stone says the pandemic also took some of the pressure off having to release something locked into a specific timeframe. “We got to take our time with it and experiment and write some songs that absolutely did not fit the project but were just kind of fun to write,” says Stone. “One song turned into a bad version of an Ariana Grande song, and I quickly realized that’s not my vibe.”
Upcoming releases “Taking Up Space” and “Lightweight,” and “Wrong Place” are just a handful of songs that will propel Stone deeper into the pop world.
“This project is the product of a girl that’s spent years collaborating with others on Music Row, but has spent more time in the past year turning inward and relying solely on herself to tell the story,” says Stone. “If you left me alone in a room by myself, this project is what that would sound like.”
On this project, everything flowed out naturally over the past year. Typically a song will come to Stone as a word or phrase, an idea filed away in phone, or something she’s been thinking about for days.
“The older that I get, and the more years I’ve been making music professionally, the more comfortable I am with myself,” says Stone. “I think back to my earlier years in Nashville, and I see now that what I thought was me being my authentic self was me actually trying to do whatever was cool at the time. I’m just more comfortable with myself, and I’ve gotten to take the reins so much more lyrically than in any country projects.”
At first, Stone admits that she was trying to fit the new songs into a “country box,” and something wasn’t connecting. “There was no point,” says Stone. “If they were going to exist as the songs that feel authentic to me and feel like they are where I am right now, I feel like they should sound like me. I just let them be what they are, and that’s pop.”
Shifting to pop as a songwriter in Nashville isn’t a strange phenomena for Stone. On the contrary, it’s the most organic thing she could have done for herself, and for her art. “It feels so natural to me, musically and creatively,” she says. “The pop scene in Nashville, while it’s growing, is still very small, so there’s the logistical questions of ‘where does this fit into the greater world of Nashville music,’ but then you have people like JP Saxe and Julia Michaels, who are truly pop artists doing a lot of songwriting and collaborating in Nashville.”
Stone adds, “I do think that Nashville is opening up to other genres in a really cool way, and I feel like I got lucky to overlap it as I’ve been going through this switch in my own music.”
Still, she loves the collaborative nature of songwriting in Nashville, but says the more solitary nature of writing has allowed her to show her own vulnerability and get more personal in her stories.
“I love that key mentality where everyone brings something different to the table,” says Stone. “It makes the song better, and I love that, but I do think that sometimes the vulnerability of the artist’s voice gets a little bit lost when it’s so collaborative, whereas these [new] songs, I got the top-line by myself. Even if other people don’t love it, or it doesn’t speak to them, it really speaks to me in a way that nothing I’ve put out before does.”