By: Sarah Cai

On April 5, 2023, our very own Bella Stahl released her debut EP, Emerald Isle, as a part of her STRNAD project. After a year of writing, recording, and planning the release, Bella’s hard work has paid off and you can stream her EP on all streaming platforms (insert proudly crying emoji). I was lucky enough to be there for milestones of almost every part of the process, whether that was when the first song was finished, when we blasted a song in the car for the first time, or asking for opinions on lyrics. 

I went into my voice lesson with my teacher Helen Todd (Bella’s mom) one Saturday morning to find Helen beaming with joy, ready to play an audio file labeled “Luna” for me. Bursting with excitement, she informed me that Bella had finished recording her first song, and when she pressed play, I could immediately hear the Taylor Swift influences in the heart wrenching ballad-pop song that began to blare out of her iPhone speakers. “With this song,” Bella shared in an Instagram post speaking about her first track, Luna, “I wrote the lyrics with the intention of personifying the moon to have a memory of everything, while also sharing and taking a part in our own. Luna is about how the moon has and continues to exist, witnessing all lifetimes and stories” (Stahl, 2023). This idea and lyrical intention is clearly expressed throughout the song, using lyrics such as, “Misty clouds can’t keep her out/ She’s glowing through,” and “Listened to the prayers I knelt to pray/ She was there for it all/ Saw me fly, saw me fall,” personifying the moon and using it as a symbolic constant throughout everything she has been through. The production of the first track is insane, with glistening chimes and synths that paint a picture of the starry night sky: the song’s intention. Luna is a perfect first track, as it shows off Bella’s talented lyricism and imagery as a writer while its production builds a whole world that immediately connects you to the lyrics.

Walking out of HB Singers one day, I was not too surprised when I bumped into Helen, on her way in to teach a voice lesson. Her expression was one I had seen before, when she had first played me Luna; she exclaimed that Bella had almost finished recording her second track, titled “Give Me A Name.” I remember listening to it for the first time completely in awe of the setting of the song depicted in the lyrics and the production. I heard the song for the second time when we blasted it in Bella’s car on our way to Panera one weekend, and I constantly listen to this song: I’ve added it to pretty much all of my playlists. Even though I have heard it so many times now, my reaction to it is still the same every time. Give Me A Name shows the upbeat, pop side of Bella’s writing. The song starts off with the lyrics, “Driving down the road to Emerald Isle/ To spend the summer in North Carolina.” Immediately, Bella sets the scene for her song, foreshadowing a tune about a delicate summer romance in NC. The whole song highlights the desire for closeness between two people at the start of a relationship, and how new and fragile the beginning of emerging feelings for someone can be. Bella shares, “The inspiration for this actually came from a total stranger, who I didn’t have the nerve to talk to. I made up a storyline and setting about holding back from a crush and wishing they could know. It’s not a serious song, but it’s something fun and relatable” (Stahl, 2023). The song highlights the rush of feelings and different emotions that come up for someone who can imagine the whole thing playing out, only to be afraid to initiate something big. It’s a wonderful track and fully encapsulates the rushing feeling of something new that can be relatable for everybody.It was December, and after a long two hours of Christmas shopping for our families, Bella and I sat down at the food court to enjoy a large slice of pizza from Sbarro. I asked her how the EP was going, and she began to tell me about her latest and final song she was recording. “I think I’m going to call it Jupiter,” she said. A few months later, she had the whole song written and was ready to bring it into the studio. At the end of February 2023 she had her first studio session for her track titled “Jupiter,” and I,  along with Bella’s sister, Julianna, was lucky enough to be a part of the process. By sitting in on this session, I experienced the recording process for the first time. In the three hours that we were there, Bella and Pete,the producer,created a chord sheet, a piano line, added drums, guitar, string (legato and pizzicato), and the first round of vocals. They changed the key a couple of times to fit Bella’s range, and experimented with different vocal and breathing techniques along with coming up with a few ideas for harmonies. I could tell that the recording studio was Bella’s natural habitat. She shined in ways I had never seen before, taking initiative on certain musical elements she wanted to add, and wasn’t afraid to express her voice and opinions when it came to the production of the song. “The idea of this song is about tuning out to hold focus on someone else. It’s meant to encompass those scenes in movies where everything but one person is blurred out. “‘I’m in the eye of the storm on Jupiter’ was the best way to put it” (Stahl, 2023). The lyrics and production of the song clearly show that Bella’s attempt at conveying the idea of her song was successful. Jupiter is a song to first dance to at a wedding, and it’s the soundtrack to every movie’s falling in love scene. Bella has completely wowed me with her album, and Jupiter completely ties the album together.