Hi Isabelle, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
A little lonely, ha. But mostly good!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Gun”?
“The Gun” was the third single off my latest album, Heartrender. It’s my take on victim blaming and my way of coming back after some toxic relationships. The song definitely has some grit to it, some rock elements, which made it really empowering to write and record. To me, it feels like a fierce reclamation of the truth of what happens to so many women: we get blamed for the violence and abuse others inflict on us, when the truth is that it’s the fault of the person who does the hurting.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I think it was more a conglomeration of events – being in relationships where I was blamed for the pain I endured, and also seeing the way the world treats women who call out men when they do damage. Our society is so quick to say “She shouldn’t have worn that” or “She shouldn’t have ‘led him on’” or “She shouldn’t have trusted him” instead of to say “He hurt her.” We have to give credit for harm where credit is due.
Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?
Not yet….stay tuned!
The single comes off your new album Heartrender – what’s the story behind the title?
Listening back to the album once everything was recorded, it really struck me that all of these songs came out of some lesson my heart learned about the world. I’m often a really type A, plan-focused person, and I’ve lived a lot of my life thinking instead of feeling. In the past year or so, I learned to let my heart lead instead of my head. The result was a lot of pain and a lot of beauty, and I think that’s what these songs capture – my heart meeting the world for the first time, in a lot of different settings and manners, and the impressions and lessons and renderings that came from that.
How was the recording and writing process?
I wrote this album during the year I was quitting my teaching job, going on the road to pursue music full time, and then staying inside during quarantine. The writing took place over a lot of different places, times, and transitions, and I think that’s part of the reason a lot of the songs feel really different genre-wise, but they hang together in that theme of heart-based learning. I started recording the album at CCM Studios in Denver, and then, when the virus hit, was finishing the first four songs via FaceTime. I moved from Denver to LA in June, so I was never able to get back to the studio. I thought we might have to put the album on hold until after the pandemic, but then, in LA, I started to teach myself how to use GarageBand. I recorded and produced the last four tracks on my own, from my new apartment here in LA. So the recording process was also happening during a time of a ton of change, and looking back, I really love the way that all of the parts of the process have that imprint of transition and growth and learning on them.
What role does LA play in your music?
I’m really new to LA, so I’m not totally sure yet! I just moved here in June and, like I said, made the second half of my album from my apartment here. It’s definitely a creative city, which helped inspire me to finish the album on my own and encourage me to go out on a bit of a limb. I’m looking forward to getting to know the city more deeply, but I definitely have a good feeling 🙂
What aspect of relationships did you get to explore on this record?
The songs on the album cover a lot of relationship ground – from romantic relationships (break-ups, falling-in-loves) to my relationship with the world. I learned a lot about what love is in the last year and a half – what good love is, more particularly – and a few of the songs capture that learning. I’ve also learned a lot about who I am in the world, how I find my place, how I let go of things I can’t control. So definitely my relationship to myself and my surroundings is explored here too.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Life, man! Things I experience and work through with friends or family. Things I can’t quite figure out yet. Things I’m wondering or worrying about. My songs are like a diary of allllll the feelings.
What else is happening next in Isabelle Stillman’s world?
So many possibilities! I’m excited to get back to writing and recording again, and see how my music grows in LA. I’m a high school English teacher and a grad student as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing how all those experiences appear in my music and writing. Looking forward to the next creative chapter here in LA!