Lennon and Maisy Stella, quite possibly the world’s coolest preteens, shot to viral fame last week with their harmonious cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” Nina Strochlic talks to the talented sisters about what’s next. Plus, watch video of seven more YouTube prodigies.
If you’ve spent any time trolling the Internet over the past few days, you’ve probably stumbled on Lennon and Maisy Stella. The adorable kid sisters, 12 and 8 years old, rose to viral fame last week with their soulful YouTube cover of Swedish singer Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” performed in the style of Swedish a cappella group Erato using empty margarine containers for percussion. In days, the video has soared past a million views, and the girls are now fielding calls and emails from Amy Poehler and Damian Kulash, lead singer of the band OK Go, hoping to collaborate.
Spend five minutes on their YouTube channel, and the high-profile love isn’t surprising. Some of the Stella sisters’ other YouTube recordings (which have also seen a spike in views) may be even more impressive than their Robyn cover, showcasing their budding guitar skills and stunning harmonies and revealing the depth of their talent. (Check out their cover of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” or Maisy’s rendition of Missy Higgins’s “Secret.”) The precocious duo seems destined for pop stardom. Or at least a lengthy segment on Ellen.
The Daily Beast caught up with Lennon and Maisy this weekend and can attest that, yes, they’re as impossibly cool as they seem. The self-proclaimed best friends grew up on a 170-acre farm on the outskirts of Toronto without television, Internet access, or even phones. They prefer listening to vinyl records and love to pen their own songs. They’ve been playing instruments, singing, and acting for as long as they can remember. As for their musical influences, both girls agree that their vocally talented parents are the reason they got into performing in the first place. Lennon’s also “in love with” the Swell Season.
The sisters spoke to The Daily Beast from the road—they’re currently driving from their new home in Nashville back to Canada, where their parents, country artists MaryLynne and Brad Stella, are embarking on a summer tour, playing music festivals across Ontario. (The elder Stellas finished in fourth place on CMT’s Can You Duet?a few years ago.) But their mom is quick to stress that music was never forced on the girls, and they’re still just kids—albeit “painfully talented and super cool” ones. And she couldn’t be prouder of her daughters. “It’s exactly what they’ve been of dreaming their whole lives,” she says. Then she laughs. “All 8 to 12 years of it.”
The duo spent two days learning the Robyn cover for a school talent show. They’ve performed it only twice since then: once for the YouTube video and the other time for a live audience and millions of TV viewers on Good Morning America Friday. Their mom, MaryLynne, uploaded the recording at 2 a.m. Wednesday. When she checked the next morning, the ticker showed 304 views. Wow, that’s incredible, she thought. Turns out the volume of traffic had frozen the counter. The next day, the whole family was flying to New York, where the girls performed the song on the morning show. They had their first taste of celebrity on the plane ride, when a passenger did a double take, pointing to the pint-size artists and whispering “butter containers” to her friend.
The girls are still processing their overnight fame. “It happened so fast that it’s a lot to take in,” Lennon says. MaryLynne describes the family’s last few days as “the definition of whirlwind.” So much so that they didn’t even have time to practice before their television spot. But even during the live performance, which could be nerve-racking for veteran singers, they showed no fear. “I felt really confident,” Maisy says. “I think we did really good.” Her older sister agrees, saying that even though it was a huge deal, she was more excited than scared.
The girls’ friends might be even more freaked out by their fame than they are. “They’re losing it and going insane,” Lennon says with a laugh. Asked if they feel like celebrities, they burst into giggles. “Yeah, a little bit.”
The girls had their first taste of celebrity when a fellow traveler pointed and whispered “butter containers” to her friend.
Both sisters hope to be professional singers and actresses and, if possible, work together in their careers. The girls, who will be entering eighth and fourth grades this fall, also look forward to performing their own songs someday. “I have so many beginnings to songs, but I can’t finish them,” Lennon says. “It’d be great if I could finish them or write with somebody and then perform them.” They’re already dreaming about possible collaborations. Maisy would pick Neon Trees, and Lennon, naturally, the Swell Season. (Watch their cover of the latter’s Once hit “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and be awed.)
Their brand new Twitter account already boasts a few thousand followers and is filled with exuberant thanks to their fans. “We think it’s important for people to realize how grateful we are,” says Lennon. And they plan on showing it: they’re working on a song to thank everyone who watched their Robyn video. Stay tuned.
As talented as the sisters are, their virtual fame is a little ironic for a family that spent so many years disconnected from the online world. MaryLynne says with a laugh: “I should have gotten that Internet thing sooner, I guess.”