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Interview: Ella Eyre

Thursday 25 September 2014
Words Ailis Mara

Big hair, big voice, big personality. Ella Eyre stormed into the music industry with her vocals on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ and on DJ Fresh’s ‘Gravity’ which proved to be quite the summer anthems and a showcase of her rasp and power. However, Ella now releases her own work which encapsulates her experiences and journey from age 16 to 20.

‘Comeback’ is the first single off Ella Eyre’s upcoming album and indicates that maybe, we shouldn’t mess with her. She tells me ‘I’m a bitch.’ Her words, definitely not mine.

Ella, it all kicked off with Rudimental! And then lots of stuff has been going on leading up to your album. What have the milestones been for you?

I think the biggest milestone will be my album because it’s a long process, I started writing it when I was 16, about 3 years ago. It’s been a long process finding the sound that I wanted and knowing what kind of artist I wanted to be. So it’s definitely the longest project I’ve been a part of. And very enjoyable because I write quite honestly about things that I’ve experienced and what I’ve been through in a way people can relate to. So if anything, it’ll be a bit of a relief to finally have it out there.

Your lyrics definitely come across honest. Do you ever question saying what you want to say? I know you’ve mentioned being cautious with your Twitter feed…

(Ella laughs) Yeah, I don’t want to offend anyone! My kind of humour can be quite cynical, particularly when I’m hung over.

Like today Ella, feeling a bit worse for wear are we?

Like today! So I have to be very wary because where I find something funny, it might offend somebody. I’m not censoring myself because I need to be a certain type of person, I just don’t want to be an asshole.

You want to be respectful. But you don’t feel you need to censor yourself at all when it comes to your music?

No, when it comes to lyrics it’s a very personal thing and I think it is a choice that you make to be that honest and that open about it. For me, it has helped a lot of situations. I listen back to some of my songs and remember what I went through and almost laugh because that time and that frame of mind is very different to how I feel now. ‘Comeback’ for instance, I was 16 when I wrote that. I look at it and think it’s quite childish to use that many swear words in a song and claim to burn somebody at the stake but its metaphorical. I’m not a murderer. I’m not encouraging murder either.

Well these things are always good to clarify.

Let’s talk about ‘Comeback’. I love the lyric ‘Let that motherfucker burn.’ We’ve all thought it, so why not say it. I particularly liked the video, reminded me at the beginning of JT’s ‘Cry Me A River.’ It looked like so much fun to shoot! You got to thrash a house! 

It was definitely one of the funnest videos I’ve ever done!! None of the stuff that was getting sent to me was really working for me. I was so specific about what I wanted for this… So John John, who’s done a lot of the Macklemore videos, we sort of worked together and discussed how to make it work. I wanted more storytelling and I wanted it to be fun like, ‘I’m a bitch.’ But at the end it all is supposed to be a dream! The idea is everybody can feel this way and get so angry at someone you think about how to ruin their life, so the idea is everybody has thought it, just not everyone does it.

And that helps other crazy bitches not to feel alone! Because they just thought it, just didn’t do it. 

‘Comeback’ of course is from the new album! Written from when you were 16, up now that your 20. So you’re taking us all on those 4 years with you, right?

Essentially! When people first asked me if there was a theme I would have said no, but listening to it now and listening to the lyrics in particular and seeing how I deal with a breakup at 16, (‘Comeback’) to how I deal with a break-up now, which is the last song I wrote for the album, there is quite a lot of difference and essentially I think I may have matured lyrically.

How was the recording process?

It was a long process because when I first started writing I hadn’t written a song in my life so it was a case of developing and working with a lot of different producers. It was a lot of fun because it was a bit like discovering myself and refining the type of music that I loved and that I wanted to make. I’ve learnt so much about how it all works!

I was fortunate enough to go to LA, Sweden, obviously London and went to Germany at one point too! You get to go to all these different places and meet like-minded people. With my writing I get quite protective over my lyrics so I like to work with people that are quite open-minded and are able to leave me to it. Because it is so personal and not particularly something I want to discuss with anyone, I just want to do it.

A lot of your lyrics seem to come from situations which aren’t the happiest of moments. Do you think sadness and troubles give way to deeper lyrics? What emotions inspire your words?

I think it really depends on the situation and how dark that situation is. The sadder songs do tend to get deeper because only you can describe your own pain. Writing does get very dark and does get very deep but I like to write in quite a vague way so people don’t feel their listening to my problems, or to me moaning, but so people can relate to what I’m saying. That’s the kind of music I enjoy listening to, and the lyrics I enjoy so that inspired me to do the same with my music.

Open interpretation.

I also think that artists who write their own songs, you believe every word they’re saying because it comes from them. Someone like Adele who writes an album about heartbreak, you believe her, because she’s gone through that! And I really respect artists like that. Singing about the partying in the club is fine, everyone loves a club song, but when you’re troubled at home you need something to comfort you – music is what helps me.

Is the artist who you are – honest, outspoken, powerful – in line with the person that you are?

Yep, definitely. That is exactly what I wanted to achieve. You’re not only getting to know the songs, you’re getting to know me and the way that I work, and the way I deal with things as well. I’m not advising nor claiming I know better than anybody else, these are just my experiences. And this is what I’d like to share.

Do you have quite a strong independent Mum?

Yes, completely. She’s definitely a strong-minded woman. I’m an only child, apart from my half-sister, so she was very keen that I was independent and able to do things for myself. For example, I’d ask her ‘How do I spell difficult?’ and she’d answer, ‘How do you think?’ She’d never give me the answer, it was always a case of finding it for myself.

The best advice she every gave me was ‘Nobody likes a teenager.’ And it is the most fucking annoying thing to hear when you’re a teenager! Because you think ‘I am a teenager and I’ll do what I want.’ I think your teenage years are the best years to utilise and explore what you can do with your abilities, discover your potential… There are so many opportunities for young people and not enough people are taking advantage of that. I look back at school activities and wish I had done more, I wish I could speak a foreign language… So my Mum has always been very aware of the fact I needed to get out there and do stuff, so never to regret not doing enough.

Also, as a teenager, you’re never going to feel things as intensely as you do in those years. Has your young age been a positive for you?

Yeah, and a lot of people tell me I come across older than my age. Some people think I’m 28! I think maybe there is the stereotype that teenagers may not have experienced enough to write about these but as you say, as a teenager, everything is far more dramatic and it’s a bit like being in a movie with all its ups and downs, and some people have it harder than others so it’s nice that we have something like music to get us through those tough times!

When I was younger, I use to listen to sad songs to make it worse! Because surprisingly, it makes it better.

So who were you listening to when you were younger?

I like Basement Jaxx, their lyrics are more flippant so that was the more uplifting stuff. I listened to a lot of Gnarles Barkely. Cee Lo Green, his voice is so rich with soul and tone… I did a cover of ‘Going On’ and there is a lyric in the second verse which is probably my favourite lyric ever is ‘Anyone that needs what they want and doesn’t want what they need, I want nothing to do with.’

Who else? Michael Jackson as well! One thing I really liked about him, and inspires me now, is he had so much control over his projects and the way everything was set up, he had very specific requests. Being advised, but not being told what to do and having your say on it is something that people like Bruno Mars, and Beyonce, they’re all doing it like that. And that is exactly how I will be.

I guess you can’t compromise when it is something so personal.

Well exactly, and I think it’s also important that when putting yourself out there as a brand, as a role model, I want to be as honest to everyone who sees me as I can, in terms of what I’m delivering. I’m not going to get into a swimsuit and do a calendar shoot on the beach. Unless I thought it was necessary.

Unless you felt like you wanted to?

Unless I felt like I wanted to, yes. I guess every now and again there is pressure for artists to do stuff for press and all that and I’d never want to be part of that.

Is it pressure for artists, or pressure for female artists?

Particularly women. But I think some men also are driven by fear, I think everyone is driven by fear, especially in an industry with the fear of disappearing.

As a Londoner, outside of music, where do you go to get your inspiration?

I like rooftops. That’s why I don’t think I could ever live in a house again just because I really like views. And silence. And breeze.

You’re just about to go on tour, any preparations?

Yes! 1st of October I head off. It’s my second tour, the venue is bigger, the demand is higher and it’s incredibly flattering that people want to come and see my show.

What’s your set-up going to be?

I don’t want the production to be too big because I want there to be somewhere to go afterwards. I intend to do loads more tours after this! I’m still in the process of introducing people to Ella Eyre and my live shows is very much a collaboration with the audience – I like to get them to sing back. I want people to have fun with it, it’s all about getting involved and enjoying yourself.

Do you have any sort of ritual before you hit the stage?

Yeah, my drummer’s Dad is a pastor so we have an on going joke that Dave is the pastor of the band so we all stand in a circle and Dave leads a little prayer and then we all go ‘Lads lads lads lads!’ The prayer, regardless of whether someone is religious or not, its just because we all need that moment where we don’t talk, not worry and just have that moment to collect yourself. Definitely something we need. And if something goes wrong we always say it isn’t because we haven’t prayed!

Right, the wrap up. Get ready for the quick fire questions.

What’s your poison?

Rum & Coke. Ooooo wait, the Eastern Standard at Shoreditch House. Gin, cucumber and sprite.

That’s my favourite cocktail!

What makes you laugh? 

I like pictures! Funny pictures! My band and I have a group chat and we’re always sending random images of stuff we find. I’m a visual girl.

How do you get Ella Eyre on a date?

I’m always open to free sushi. Realistically the way to my heart is sushi. Anything oriental really. And I really enjoy cooking it too, now that I’m living by myself I’ve taken to the cooking role.

Favourite film?

Lion King, or Catch Me If You Can.

What UK artists are you excited about in the UK?

Becky Hill, she’s a friend of mine and could not deserve it more! She’s so humble, such a talented writer and an amazing singer. I’m really excited about her.

Also, MNEK. His music knowledge is ridiculous. He’s fucking talented.

What is it about the UK that gives us these incredible artists?

That’s a really good question. There is something about Britain that makes music interesting. I think it’s because it’s quite small, so people are forced to combine all the cultures and experiment. I feel Britain is very good at bringing new genres to the table, new artists and different stuff!

Watch out for Ella’s debut album due for release next year.