gigmit: Could you tell us about your upbringing and how this shaped your musical taste?
Kate Ellis: I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, grew up in New York, and now live in London. I have an English mother and a southern American father. Because of these diverse roots, I was brought up with a lot of different musical influences. My parents loved classical music, but I also discovered southern roots music through my father. I would listen to his vinyl collection of Dylan, Paul Simon, Hank Williams, Jonny Cash, Richard Dyer-Bennet, and loved them more than the music my peers were listening to.
I think for me my music can at times be pretty country, at times very folky, and at times more pop, but my songwriting focuses primarily on melody and emotion. Every song has to have a fantastic melody, or I am not happy with it. And every song has to embody some emotional truth in a non-verbal way. To me, that is what makes music worth writing: using it to create a unique emotional world that the listener can enter and find themselves reflected in because to me that is the magic of music.
How did you get into music?
I have always had a deep creative streak in me. I played the piano as a child and also developed a love of art and painting. Love of music was always an undercurrent in my life, but I started out pursuing a career in art law. When I realized that law was not for me and I missed doing something more creative, I took a guitar class to try something new and instantly started writing songs. It just came with learning the instrument and sort of took off from there.
How does your creative process look like?
The best songs happen when something just comes out of you. The crafting comes later but something has to come out of you first, something that you’re not in control of. The more that comes out in that first bit the better. Then you just sit with it and this is where the crafting can come in.
When I write, I feel very connected to who I am. What I am writing about, more than anything, is an emotional place. So, whatever my songs are about in terms of subject matter, they’re always about an inner emotional experience getting expressed in a musical way. The seed of them always comes from a non-verbal, emotional place, whether lyrically or melodically.
What do you feel when you close your eyes on stage?
This is an interesting question. I was told once that you shouldn’t close your eyes on stage because it’s not good for the performance. But I’ve always tended to do that when I am very connected to the emotion of the song. Now I notice that a lot of other performers do that as well, I’ve stopped worrying about it! I think the magic of live performance is that you have person-to-person communication via the song. And the more you are in the emotional truth of the song, the more that this contenection will be established. So, when I close my eyes on stage, I feel I’m fully connecting with the song and hopefully that connection is getting transmitted to the audience.
I hope that whatever people get from the music, they’ll be moved. I hope that they’ll find something that is beautiful and truthful. I don’t think that you can connect with any real emotion without truth.
Could you tell us more about the making of your latest single “Wonderland”?
This song is about viscerally experiencing the wonder and fragility of the natural world. It came from a walk in a city park when I glimpsed flashes of how alive, powerful, and beautiful nature is and how indivisibly connected to it we are. For me, perceiving nature in this way gives us a deeper appreciation of it and a deeper sense of loss for what we’re putting at risk.
The song was released as part of a beautiful collaboration with contemporary visual artist Geraldine Van Heemstra, a member of the Wilderness Art Collective, bringing together music, art and nature to inspire change for the United Nations COP26 climate conference.
We filmed the music video in a day, following Geraldine as she filled a sketchbook with a series of wonderful watercolour paintings, translating the raw energy of the elements into art by immersing herself in nature. I was performing the song in the same environments, which created a lovely visual dance between us: two artists expressing their emotional connection to the earth through different mediums.
The final sketchbook of Geraldine’s fantastic watercolours and charcoal drawings with a letter to world governments and a QR code that linked to the music video was taken to COP26 and shown to delegates in a partnership with the Letters To The Earth campaign.
I’m really proud of this project and what it tried to achieve. You never know what will touch someone and inspire change. You can see the book of artwork and watch the music video at www.ourwonderland.org.
Become part of the gigmit promoter & artist community!
Join HERE for free, discover, and get discovered!