Premiere: Zelma Stone Debuts New EP ‘The Best’ – Stream It Below
The Best EP Is Out August 20th
Aug 19, 2021
Photography by Andy Hoffman
Zelma Stone, the moniker of Bay Area-based singer/songwriter Chloe Zelma Studebaker, is back with her third EP, The Best, tomorrow August 20th. Coming quickly on the heels of her 2020 EP, Dreamland, she describes her latest work as a look forward, set against her stirring songwriting. “I spent a lot of this year learning to trust myself and embrace new chapters,” says Studebaker. “The theme of moving forward and accepting change is very present throughout this record, and it was exciting exploring these ideas with a fuller sound and more dramatic dynamics.”
Zelma Stone is releasing the full EP tomorrow, but you can get an early listen and read Studebaker’s track-by-track guide to it below, premiering with Under the Radar.
Inspired equally by classic country songwriters like Patsy Cline and indie singer/songwriters like Amen Dunes, The Best sees Studebaker crafting some of her most detailed and knotted songwriting yet. Opener “Gift Horse” sees her glide effortlessly between ethereal and snarling, all while thick reverb-drenched guitars wind beneath. Elsewhere, she traverses sparse and desolate territory with the midnight meditations of “Money Honey,” only to ascend upwards into a soaring distortion-laden climax in the track’s final moments.
Pedal steel guides the ambling country tones of “You’re Now 2,” while “Sea of Diamonds” conjures a weighty indie rock soundscape. Meanwhile, “Come Back” serves as the EP’s most outright catchy number, with an earworm chorus concealing a heartfelt plea for belonging just below the sharp hook. Finally, the EP ends on a final moment of brilliance with “The Best.” These final moments are filled with beautifully arranged synths and dextrous winding guitar passages, along with some of Studebaker’s most simply openhearted songwriting yet一“I have things to say / I have many feelings / I’d like things to go away / I’d like things to stay the same.” Those words capture much of the beauty of The Best as a whole; her multi-faceted songwriting reverberates with winsome humor and unguarded honesty, laying open her fears and embracing the contradictions in her heart.
Check out the full EP a day early and read Studebaker’s track-by-track guide below.
The origin behind “Gift Horse” is the expression “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, a phrase that my dad used to repeat to me and my siblings religiously. This old saying is about receiving gifts and acts of kindness with gratitude instead of feeling disappointed if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted. “Gift Horse” reflects on the idea that how we receive anything in this life ultimately comes down to our perspective. It’s a reminder to myself on my most frustrated days to be grateful for everyone who has lent me a helping hand throughout my journey.
I wrote most of this song at 2 AM, which is a rare hour for me. I remember sitting with my guitar on the corner of my bed in a half-asleep state, but the lyrics that were flowing out made so much sense and I didn’t want to lose the moment.
My mom and I were very close, and I relied on her a lot for advice. The week I found out she was dying, I asked her out of desperation, “What am I going to do with my life? Can you tell me everything now that I need to do?” She didn’t have much strength or words by then, but she took a big inhale and looked at me, and said, “You’re wise.”
My mom also used to always say “fake it til you make it”, and when I would come to her sad, she would say “you are fine, you are okay”. She would say it in a tough-love way, but also a gentle and sincere way that made me believe her. “Money Honey” is a song where I’m telling myself that I’m fine and faking til I make it. This song means a lot to me because I feel it channels my mom’s fierce and powerful energy that I miss so much.
You’re Now 2
This is one of my favorites on the record. I feel it’s not your typical lovey-dovey love song but rather a more straightforward take on the vulnerability and intensity of falling into love. This song is me saying: Sorry but you are stuck with me — all of me. You get my good qualities as well as all my faults and imperfections. So thank you for loving the whole package.
I love playing this song with my band. The dynamics are so fun and satisfying. Tyler’s eerie pedal steel sounds in the last chorus are my favorite part of the production.
Sea of Diamonds
I have a love-hate relationship with this song. Most of the tracks on ‘The Best’ were written in the last couple years, but I wrote this one when I was a teenager. I actually recently found the original demo that I made on GarageBand and It was wild to hear how much the song and I, as an artist, have evolved. Listening to it made me cringe a bit, but I also couldn’t help but want to hug my fragile teen self and tell her that she is doing great. Because it was born during a very awkward time of my life, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include “Sea of Diamonds” while recording this record. I ended up being really happy with this version and I’m glad that I allowed it to make the cut.
This was written at the beginning of a new relationship. It’s a song about my fear of codependency, wondering what qualities I’ve inherited from my parents, and trying my best not to fixate on death. Despite the intensity of the lyrical theme, this song materialized musically with a more upbeat feeling, trusting that things will ultimately be okay.
I wrote the chorus while experiencing intrusive thoughts about something terrible happening to someone I loved. Stemming from deep trauma, the chorus could be a desperate cry of grief. Or possibly, I’m calling out to my crazy dog to come back after escaping for the 90th time, praying she doesn’t come home with a neighbor’s dead cat.
A reminder to myself and others. We’re all just doing the best we can. <3