Zelma Stone’s Dreamland EP emerged from an outpouring of grief. Singer/guitarist Chloe Zelma Studebaker began writing music at age 14 after losing her 19-year-old brother Brett to a tragic car accident. In the decade that followed, Studebaker has experienced the passing of her mother, grandfather, and close friend Jenny in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire. Channelling her feelings of pain into a healing process of creation, this five-song cycle has a palpable sense of resilience, compassion, and vulnerability in its slowly swaying bedroom pop.

A Bay Area native currently living in San Francisco, Studebaker has become an active participant in the region’s music community. The majority of Dreamland was recorded at the storied Tiny Telephone studio with producer Maryam Qudus (Tune-Yards, SASAMI), while its title track was crafted with Carly Bond and Rob Shelton of Oakland band Meernaa. Over the past two years, Zelma Stone has shared stages with acclaimed artists such as Miya Folick, Mal Blum, Lola Kirke, and Laura Viers.

The EP’s first single “Fly”, dedicated to Studebaker’s grandfather, aims to conjure the timeless aura of his favorite songs by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, and Doris Day. However, its soft-focus sound infused with twangy slide guitar and tender vocals may also bring to mind contemporary influences such as Big Thief, Amen Dunes, and (Sandy) Alex G. The lyrics of “Dreamland” trace another connection to a lost loved one, switching between the perspectives of Studebaker and her brother. In the melancholy space of her sleeping mind, she wonders what it would be like if he returned today. “Body Talk” is a reminder to slow down and practice self-care, before “We’re All Gonna Die” closes the EP with a stirring, romantic invitation to live each day to the fullest.

“Music has helped me immensely with my grief and got me through a lot,” concludes Studebaker. “Many people in our culture are afraid of death and the unknown. Fear can bubble up inside, so if we don’t talk about it or process it through making art, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Grief is something you shouldn’t walk away from because it will always follow you. You won’t heal unless you face it.”

Despite the heavy inspiration behind Dreamland, the path ahead for Studebaker looks bright. The EP showcases growth in her songwriting and the most realized vision of Zelma Stone’s sound to date. Studebaker looks to tour with her band throughout 2020, with a follow-up release right around the corner.

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IMAGES: To download, click above. Credit to Allan Wan.