Stella Ruze is an award-winning folk rock band from Philadelphia, PA. They blend four-part vocal harmonies with infectious rhythms and horn arrangements to create a new, genre-bending sound.

The band has performed at WXPN’s XPoNential Festival, Philly Music Fest, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. They have been featured on WXPN and Radio 104.5, and won the Folk category of the 2019 PHL LIVE Center Stage Awards. They closed out their 2021 season opening for Yonder Mountain String Band and released “Pinch of Salt” as a single in 2022. Now, with an EP, LP, and full-length album to their name, Stella Ruze is producing new material for 2023.

Stella Ruze is a point of local pride for XPN and the Philly folk rock scene.
Their blend of New Orleans sounds and jam scene energy — bolstered by mandolins and four-part vocal harmonies — is perfectly engineered to get a crowd (especially a tipsy one) out of their seats and dancing.


Stella Ruze is…

Brendan Johnson – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Katie O’Donnell – Lead Vocals, Mandolin, Percussion
Mason Hunter – Keyboard, Vocals
Alex Styer – Trumpet, Percussion, Vocals
Sean McIntyre – Drums
Ted Mayo – Bass
Gabe Preston – Saxophone

Picture by Joe Mac Creative

They want you on your feet, ready to dance, and they give you the energy to do it, singing about life and friendship and community.

John Vettese – Editor of The Key, WXPN


Stella Ruze was founded in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia in 2014 when bandleaders Brendan Johnson and Katie O’Donnell joined with keyboardist Mason Hunter and trumpet player Alex Styer. As a 4-piece band they released two studio recordings: their 2016 LP So Here and a 2017 self-titled EP. Both consist of songs penned by Johnson and performed by the quartet. Marking the release of the EP, Stella Ruze performed a sold out show on Friday, October 6th, 2017 at Milkboy in Philadelphia with co-headliner Josiah Johnson from The Head and The Heart.

Following the EP’s release, Stella Ruze added drummer Sean McIntyre, bassist Ted Mayo, and saxophone player Gabe Preston. The band has established an enthusiastic following, receiving praise from WXPN hosts Dan Reed, Mike Vasilikos, and Helen Leicht. They performed at the 58th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival as one of the Philadelphia Music Co-Op’s featured local acts and have played shows with nationally-touring acts like Pete Francis of Dispatch, Kuinka, Waker, and Blue Water Highway.

Stella Ruze returned to the studio in 2019 to record their first album as a full band. Brendan Johnson wrote the new material to describe his battles with self doubt and the ever-evolving struggle to survive as a full-time musician.  The Greater Dog was released in January 2020 with three singles, “Open,” “The Trollop & The Tippler,” and “Travel Song,” which received airplay on WXPN and Radio 104.5. The band celebrated the album’s release with a sold out show at Boot & Saddle in Philadelphia.