Stella Weakley
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Stella Weakley

Bloomington, Indiana, United States | SELF

Bloomington, Indiana, United States | SELF
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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"Stella & Jane press release 2009"

Chance meetings often yield the most favorable results, especially when talking music. What if a young Paul had never seen a skiffle group called the Quarrymen and never met its frontman, a teenager named John? History and record collections the world over would be quite different.

Maybe not quite on that level, but tasty nonetheless was the occurrence of Stella Suzette Weakley meeting a co-worker of hers, Bobbie Jane Lancaster, and their decision to compose music together.

“(Bobbie) was an employee at Bloomington Realty, which I own,” explained Weakley, who plays guitars and sings. “We discovered that we both wrote music but . were frustrated that what we were writing wasn’t suitable for the bands we were in.”

Weakley and Lancaster were both performing in other local groups at the time they met. Weakley was with a classic rock outfit and Lancaster in a blues group, but neither was contributing original material to their respective bands.

Weakley’s experience performing music goes back further than 2005, when the ladies first teamed up. In fact, her earliest memories of being in front of a crowd is when she and her sister would warm up audiences for Johnny Cash at state fairs as children.

“I remember how exciting it was,” she said. “I don’t know how much money we got, but I do remember a big roll of tickets for the rides, and that’s what was important.”

But when they got together for the first time to compose their own songs, the result was a flood of ideas that would solidify into a soulful mix of what they term “alt-rock with a country folk edge.” That’s pretty close, and there’s definitely some traditional American influence, but there’s a complexity in the music that description doesn’t cover. Especially with recent the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jeff Foster to their ranks, Stella and Jane create a multi-layered cake of emotive expression.

- Hoosier Times Newspaper


"Stella & Jane press release 2005"

Stella & Jane
New acoustic duo strips county music raw
by Nicole Kauffman, The Scene
March 17, 2005

Stella & Jane (also known as Suzette Weakley, left, and Bobbie Lancaster) perform at Second Story March 10. The acoustic duo features two local musicians known for their work in other groups: Weakley in Lost Boys and Lancaster in Code Blue.

Stella & Jane had planned their trip to Nashville Tennessee for eight months: They would sign up for an open mike night at the famous Bluebird Cafe, pull on newly purchased cowboy boots and sing and strum their hearts out. Since they had joined forces as a songwriting team less than a year ago, the women were overwhelmed by ideas. Songs were coming so fast they barely had time to write them down.

The Bloomington women, whose real names are Stella Suzette Weakley and Bobbie Jane Lancaster, describe themselves as "alt-rock with a country-folk edge." "Between Lucinda Williams and Alison Krauss and Mick Jagger!" Weakley said, laughing. Americana fits the bill, they say, and visiting Nashville was a way to gauge those up-and-coming in that scene.

Weakley and Lancaster are best known in Bloomington as members of other bands: Guitarist, pianist and mandolin player Weakley is a longtime member of '70s-style rock band The Lost Boys, and Lancaster fronts the popular blues group Code Blue.

Their new venture is all-original, acoustic and raw, with Weakley harmonizing with Lancaster's booming voice. "Part of the spirit of the music is that it's stripped down, bare bones. It's got kind of an old spirit to it, an old soul," Lancaster said.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Stella & Jane will be at the Players Pub, with old-style delta blues players Curtis Crawford and "Hambone."

DIXIE DUO

Weakley and Lancaster met when Lancaster began working at Bloomington Realty, which Weakley owns. They were colleagues for about a year before realizing how in-sync their musical interests were. One day, Weakley told her co-worker of her burning desire to perform original music, which over the years has been piling up in a box in Weakley's home.

Lancaster had several tunes of her own to show off. "I was writing stuff that didn't fit with the Code Blue sound" she said. Influenced by everyone from Etta James and Patty Griffin, to the Rolling Stones and Gillian Welch, the duo now has enough material for at least three albums.

Although far apart in age, Weakley is old enough to be Lancaster's mom, but that's all she'll say about that. Their writing styles and personalities are similar. "It really is weird sometimes how much we have in common," Lancaster said.

They settled on the name Stella & Jane when they impulsively tried out their songs at the Refuge Inn on an open-mike night. Lancaster announced to the crowd they were "Stella & Jane, the Cleaning Monkeys." "It's like naming a puppy, because then you have to keep it," Weakley said.

Weakley even had to borrow someone's guitar, but the brief performance convinced the musicians they were on to something good. "It was just dead silence in the room. I looked up and the entire room was just leaning toward us," Weakley said. Plans were made for Nashville in February, part girlfriends' road trip, part taste of a big country-music city.

SEEING THE SCENE

Shortly before the trip, though, Weakley broke her strumming hand. Then Lancaster strained her neck and was unable to turn her head to the right. "It was so pathetic it was funny," Weakley said.

They loaded the car anyway, with Weakley steering and watching the road while Lancaster switched gears. Stella & Jane appeared as the fifth act at the Bluebird Cafe on Feb. 21. Things went well, they said, even though the performance before theirs also was a duo with a mandolin and guitar. (The Bluebird Cafe performance can be seen in the online archives at www.bluebirdcafe.com.) "I expected to go down to Nashville and be overwhelmed," Lancaster admitted.

Weakley is getting used to the idea that people generally are surprised by the energy of Stella & Jane. "I've got kind of a big voice," Lancaster said. "I've got a big guitar," countered Weakley.

Already, Bloomington fans are asking where recordings are, and the women are happy about that. They call their musical abilities a gift. "Everybody's got their gift -- a little something different in 'em," Lancaster said.

Weakley grinned at her friend. "There's a song waiting to happen," she said.


Nicole Kauffman can be reached at 331-4357 (email)
- Hoosier Times


"Stella & jane press release 2006"

Music review: 'Myths & Dreams'

Audibles with Elizabeth Ross
The Scene
June 22, 2006

When Audibles interviewed Bobbie Jane Lancaster of Stella and Jane last April, she mentioned the group's first album, "Myths & Dreams," commenting, "(Our first) CD was recorded in just one day at Airtime Studios. We didn't really know what was going to happen there, but we're proud of the music that is on the CD." As well they should be.

"Myths & Dreams" kicks off with the strong "Not Gonna Settle" (for the blues), written by Andrea Fiedler. The song is slightly bluesy - a little dark - but catches the ear immediately through its regular, rhythmic strumming and pristine but self-confident lead vocals.

The next song, "You're Still On My Mind," is a loose contrast but far from lazy. Though it relaxes into a catchy, folksy, chorus-driven melody, it's a track with a bright, clear energy. A lovely, brief fiddle solo by Andrea Fiedler is interjected perfectly to color and advance the song and blend into it gracefully, slipping in and bowing right back out for the vocals. The complementary harmonies and lead vocals punctuate the group's honest, pure delivery, which is Stella and Jane's most immediate and magnetic quality.

After listening to these first two tracks, it's tempting to backtrack and replay them. Right from the start, these two very different songs exemplify the CD. Though the most striking examples of refreshing variety come in the first half of the album, it does nothing to diminish the quality of the track listing as a whole. Whether playing evocative, gentle tunes or punctating the bluegrass influence, the ladies of Stella and Jane make it seem easy to bring distinction to their songs' character, though they're using the same ensemble of instruments.

"Compelling" and "infectious" describe the first two tracks, but overall the straightforward, breezy, down-to-earth manner, with which Stella and Jane delivers almost every element of its music, asserts itself from the start and breathes a fresh life into a recording that is anything but static.
- Herlad Times


Discography

'Myths & Dreams' - released 2005

'On With the Show' released early 2009

'Hoosier Honey' to be released 2012

Photos

Bio

'Stella' is Stella Suzette Weakley. I perform solo as 'Stella' - and with selected Singer/Songwriters as 'Stella & Friends' - performing 'In the Round' most of the time.  I am also a member of 'Hoosier Darling' a tight vocal harmony group that specializes in clever arrangement and fun-filled program.  

 I promote and produce an annual Song Competition called Blooming-Tunes (www.Blooming-Tunes.com), and I am an active member of Bloomington Indiana's - community radio station wfhb (online; www.wfhb.org). I have won a number of song competitions, my favorite (thus far) being 'Masterpiece in a Day' held in Indianapolis IN, 2006. I am available for co-write opportunities and can help with either the music or lyric content of your songs. songbird3820@hotmail.com is the best way to contact me for co-write opportunities.  I can compose music for your special occasions too!

Thank you for visiting my site and I hope you enjoy my music.

Band Members