Midwestern English teacher Isabelle Stillman is balancing her professional career with her love for music with aplomb, releasing her second album Heartrender this October. Using her background in fiction writing and a lifetime of playing music with her family, Stillman breathes life and character into her songs, encouraging her listeners to grow with her. She uses her music as a way to escape from the expectations of a bustling world, taking a moment to create for the love of it, and it shows in every note. “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,” she said.
This album comes from a place of growth and discovery that Stillman decided to share with her audience after some self-discovery. The heart of this album lies in “Why Didn’t You Tell Me,” a song that expresses the confusion of a girl in heartbreak. Growing up with her parents’ healthy marriage as her example for relationships, Stillman shared the shock she felt when her experiences differed. “With such a beautiful example in front of me, I didn’t learn about the darker side of love – the ways people can twist it, abuse it, mess it up, and mess you up,” she revealed. “Those parts I had to learn through experience, as I think a lot of other young women do. Sometimes, I wish someone had told me that love isn’t always perfect, but that the way other people mess it up doesn’t mean anything about who you are or what you deserve.” Throughout all of her music, Stillman covers topics about finding your identity beyond childhood and the truths of love with grace and wisdom, bringing a sense of beauty and understanding to listeners who may have struggled with the same confusion.
“Why Didn’t You Tell Me” takes the listener through the valleys of discovering that not all love is true and good. Stillman’s anguish, carried by her clear, crooning voice paired with a lone guitar and soft percussion, pulls on the heartstrings. “I remember you told us it was all about true love,” she sings. “But, dad, why didn’t you tell us you were one of the good ones?” Her song speaks to the question in the heart of every adult that grew up into pain that they didn’t know was waiting for them, but she doesn’t blame her parents for these experiences. Instead, she speaks to the growth she has earned, and she affirms the journey that led to becoming the artist she is today.
Heartrender is being released on October 16, and “Why Didn’t You Tell Me” will be available to stream on Stillman’s Spotify.