This week’s guest, Chelsea O, is host of The Scene, on WBFO The Bridge: a show that focuses on broadcasting artists from the Buffalo and Toronto area and is also an alt/pop/rock artist from Buffalo, NY with her project, Stress Dolls. You can find Stress Dolls on Youtube and Spotify.
Stress Dolls is the moniker of Chelsea O’Donnell, an alt/pop/rock artist from Buffalo, NY.
O’Donnell began playing around Western New York in 2013, initially calling herself Wolf and eventually forming a band. After releasing one EP, the group went through a few different line-ups and, in time, changed their name to Stress Dolls. In the Spring of 2016 the band recorded a self-titled EP at GCR Audio and released the recording later that same year. Over the next several months they performed in Buffalo as well as neighboring cities and towns, and opened shows for national acts such as Shonen Knife, We Are Scientists, and USS.
Due to differing pursuits the band split in early 2017, but O’Donnell decided to keep playing under the name Stress Dolls. She made a move to Nashville, TN but wasn’t even there a year before chronic health issues she had been struggling with – Crohn’s disease and gastroparesis- sent her to the hospital to undergo a feeding tube procedure. Following the surgery she moved back to Buffalo, and after a period of recovery, began writing, performing, and recording again. Largely due to the tentative nature of her health, O’Donnell established Stress Dolls as a solo act in order to decrease stress and go at her own pace.
From 2019 to 2021 O’Donnell independently recorded and released new music with a few different collaborators, including Charles Dusel (Lonestar Sailing), Jay Milton (The Demos), and Marc Hunt. In early 2022 she was invited to work with producer Jim Wirt (Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, Incubus) at Superior Sound Studios in Cleveland, OH. After recording several songs together, including her upcoming single, “Body,” she was offered a record deal with Sun Pedal Recordings.
Currently, Stress Dolls takes on several forms live: solo with O’Donnell and her acoustic guitar; as a duo when joined by longtime collaborator Sally Schaefer on violin; or as a band when combined with members TJ Luckman (bass), Jordan Smith (lead guitar), and Josh English (drums). The project’s sound has drawn such comparisons as “Joni Mitchell meets Nirvana,” “Avril Lavigne and Foo Fighters in a blender,” and “Kathleen Hanna fronting Modest Mouse.”
Urge Surfer is an electro-pop project comprised of Chelsea and her friend Jordan Smith. For now, they’re exclusively studio-based and all about experimenting with different sounds and styles with no intention aside from having fun.
Port of Ships is her solo instrumental side project. During the pandemic Chelsea grew bored with the way she traditionally wrote songs and wanted to experiment with making music without lyrics, instead featuring finger-picking on the guitar, keyboard, and sparse vocal harmonies.
Chelsea’s radio relationship with local music began in college when she created a show called The Local Lo-Down on SUNY Fredonia Radio. Upon graduating from SUNY Fredonia, she landed a job at 107.7 FM Alternative Buffalo and was able to take the exact format from that show and bring it to commercial radio as “Localized”. She was introduced to so much amazing regional music from hosting that program, not to mention she had the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people (some who may be reading this right now!) “I’ll forever be grateful for that experience.” said Chelsea.
“I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever have the opportunity to get back into radio, but I’m so happy that I’m getting that chance with a station like The Bridge, whose focus on community and the arts made me a fan from day one. Hope you can tune in, and submit your tunes!” — Chelsea O