Lena Stone is a blonde bundle of dynamite who, at twenty-four year old, has written over five-hundred-songs and never sipped a single cup of coffee. “I like tea!” she laughs. Amid the old-school glamour and classic traditions of Music City, Lena Stone is on a not-so-secret mission to change country music for women in Nashville, TN and, like Agent 99 from Get Smart, is doing it with some sass along the way.
With big, blue eyes and lips that curve into a knowing smile, Lena’s effortlessly flirty personality and business smarts are making waves Music City, changing the game for women in country music. Today, she chatted with me, upbeat and happy over the phone, gushing over a Women in Music mixer she is going to tonight (“I’m so excited!”).
Lena grew up in a small Massachusetts town listening to James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, writing songs on her bedroom floor, and dreaming of being a singer. Funny, how life hasn’t changed much! Her Grandmother, (“I call her Mima,” Lena inserts), was one of her first guiding forces that shaped her sound today.
“My Grandma is the coolest.” she says seriously. “She only wears purple, sings all the time, plays guitar and piano.” Lena is big on crediting the women who have positively influenced her life, and gives her Grandma all the props for letting her know she could follow her dream. “She chose music as her career, working with mentally and physically challenged children to help them communicate through music, so I knew that I could do something with music too.”
Accepted into the Los Angeles Grammy Camp during her high school years, teenage Lena got the opportunity of a lifetime to share her music and begin collaborating with peers and professionals alike in a major music capital. “Oh, it was incredible.” Lena enthuses, proceeding to talk about the many kids focused in various areas of music who attended the camp.
“You know, a couple years ago, I got to see Brandi Clarke, Josh Osborne, these multi-multi-multi hit writers, and they said something that really stuck with me: ‘Don’t worry about trying to get in the room with hit writers. Find your people. Maybe you’re all beginning level, but find people with the right heart and the right passion.’”
Having connected with peers at camp and become infatuated with the idea of living in a city filled with other talented musicians, Lena was already on board going to a city with music at its core. That being said, it was only when hit songwriter Dale Brown (“You’ll Think Of Me” by Keith Urban) said, “Go to Nashville,” that she truly began taking the idea of moving to Music City seriously.
But first, Lena had to finish high school and get prepared for college. “If I’m completely honest, I considered other schools [not in Nashville]” Lena reveals. “Vanderbilt was the only school I applied to in Nashville, so when I got in, I was like ‘Okay, this is the sign. You are supposed to be here.’” Majoring in Economics, Lena balanced the rigorous curriculum affiliated with the widely-regarded “Ivy League of the South” with a publishing deal. “Well,” she humorously sighs. “I really didn’t sleep my senior year.” And with what time would she have done so?
To have a publishing deal, (for most in Nashville, a full time job that consists of hours of co-writing in a room every day), Lena spent half her time studying the social-behavioral sciences and the other half songwriting, an extraordinarily stressful experience. “Haha, I wouldn’t really recommend it,” Lena only half jokes. “I mean, it is possible to balance if you set your mind to it, but it’s hard.”
These days, Lena isn’t kept busy with a job as an Economist, but rather stays on the go as a full-time songwriter/performer/music-business boss. “So, I get up at 6:30 AM, go to the gym first thing in the morning, come back, make breakfast, answer emails, head to a writing session at 10, write for the day, then go to a meeting or band rehearsal or something, and then at night, I perform or see friends perform.”
Of course, Lena left out that on Monday nights, she leads one of the biggest events today in Nashville, Tennessee; the Song Suffragettes or the female-only singer-songwriter showcase at the Listening Room that has taken Nashville by storm with its scores of up-and-coming superstars.
“Song Suffragettes has been incredible.” Lena says humbly. “We started it about four years ago. When we first started, we had a really wonderful production team that built the set, the brand. They had reached out to me to see if I wanted to be a foundational block of the group. All I did was say, ‘Sure, why not!’”
Quickly transforming from a small event, (“uh, the first night, there were 15-20 people there maximum, mostly roomates or family” Lena laughs), the event became a staple of the town and a greatly sought after gig for up-and-coming women in country music. Soon, the event attracted the likes of Kelsea Ballerini, Carly Pearce, Emily Weisband and many more major country artists.
“Looking forward, I had never been like ‘This is going to be big’” Lena admits. “It’s only been in reflection I’m like ‘Wow, this got really big! When did this get really big? Why wasn’t I paying attention!?’”
Currently, Song Suffragettes is one of the only women-centred events in Nashville in a time when women struggle getting placements on radio and getting gigs in country music, so it is extraordinarily impactful in the town. “You know, I think there are a lot of expectations for women.” Lena says blatantly. “People think women only have one perspective. They say, ‘Oh, now that we’ve got Kelsea and Maren, we’re good’, but Song Suffragettes is trying to present all of these women every Monday and say ‘Look how many different voices and styles and opinions and points of view there are. Look how different we all are even though we’re all women.’ We are trying to celebrate diversity!”
Regarding the next couple of years in Nashville, Lena is hopeful and already seeing that the times-they-are-a-changin for ladies. “With respect to anything with music, everything comes in cycles.” she says. “Five years ago, it was only bro-country on the radio. Now, that’s getting really dated and we’ve got people like Brett Young singing to women in this wonderful, respectful, kind, loving way. So, just like bro-country had its moment, I think women in country music are coming back. It’s infuriating to wait, but we are gonna get our moment.”
And it seems major corporations and massive music industry companies are agreeing with Lena! Now filled with industry professionals looking to find the best new up-and-coming female singers/songwriters, Song Suffragettes has led to many performers getting opportunities simply due to its reputation for talent. Lena herself got a major placement from Song Suffragettes, recognized by Radio Disney Country and chosen to perform at the CMA Fest. “Radio Disney Country has been so good to me.” she smiles. “Talk about supporters of women in country music! They actually premiered my first single, ‘Nervous’ on their radio back last year, and then they invited me to play on their stage for the festival which was the most fun thing ever.”
Speaking of Lena’s own music, she currently has two singles out with an EP to come very soon, and her music is totally, captivatingly country. With wah-ing electric guitars, funky beats, bright pianos, and uplifting lyrics, Lena Stone’s style of country music is probably better than that cup of coffee she’s never had.
“I get so excited about releasing new music, just because I feel like all of these songs get to show off a different side of my personality!” she giggles. “On the EP coming up, there’s a girls-night-out song, a ballad about love lessons, flirty stuff, sassy stuff, the whole spectrum. All the different sides of me!”
If you listen to Lena’s music, you definitely get to know the real her too. When asked about her “Can’t Think Straight” lyric, “Fake IDs, sure had some close calls,” which has been played over 29,000 times on Spotify, Lena almost audibly blushes. “Okay, I don’t wanna say anything that’ll get me in trouble,” she begins slowly, “but I had a college experience when I may or may not have had a fake ID.” She pauses for a moment, but then rushes on. “I was never really in danger of getting in trouble, but the year I moved to Nashville, I turned eighteen and it was so hot to be out at night so there I was, fake ID at hand, ready to explore the big city. And I never got in any trouble…so…yeah.”
I have to laugh when she seriously, (and oh-so endearingly) queries after her anecdote, “I can’t get in trouble retroactively for this, right? Like, if you publish this, cops aren’t going to come up to my door telling me I wasn’t allowed to have a fake ID, right?” In this moment, she almost embodies her own song, “Nervous” in which she tells the story of a boy getting nervous (you’re breaking all your rules // making you sweat) seriously cracking me up.
What with Lena’s super smarts, crazy work ethic, upbeat personality, acoustic guitar, and microphone all in her grasp, it seems she’s gonna be going pretty far. Whether it be as the woman who starts blaring her guitar in your car radio, the beautiful young lady who accepts an honorary CMA Award on behalf of her changing the role of women in Nashville, or even as the genius who writes a song for Eric Church and becomes your summer jam, it seems that Lena Stone is the woman who will be “stealing your breath” and “driving you out of your mind” in the best way possible, so…get her on your radar now.