Stress Dolls is the moniker of Chelsea O'Donnell, a songwriter 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 was only there 6 months 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 singles "Body" and "Ghostwriter," 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."
Read more about Chelsea's work in radio here.
“As she belted out each song full of heart and soul I kept trying to place just who it was [Stress Dolls] reminded me of. It was familiar yet still felt like something I had not heard before… All the while her voice feels like a combination of Joni Mitchell, Linda Perry, Lzzy Hale, Courtney Love, Fiona Apple, Patti Smith… And I know some of those are pretty big names but, I’m telling you, so is the voice coming from the stage.” - Chris Chavez
“Since Chelsea O’Donnell first found a Buffalo stage… she’s carved out an independent presence, one that could inhabit the spotlight alone, yet fill a room with a group’s worth of raw expression.” - Michael Farrell