The last few months have been very exciting for the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, Elline. Having released her debut EP, “Stained Glass”, in September 2015, her song “Hologram” took second place in the Electronic Dance Music category of the International Songwriting Competition. Meanwhile, her other song, “Smoke + Mirrors”, has received a wide attention from the Indaba Music community as part of a remix competition.
“It feels fantastic to be recognized and appreciated for my talent”, says Elline, as she discusses her music with City Savvy’s Bartek Brzezinski.
Are there any advantages to being an independent artist with streaming platforms becoming more popular than traditional ways of selling and promoting music?
Being independent certainly has its perks. Having control over your creative process, as well as the business side. Having more ownership over your work and getting a bigger chunk of the earnings. Having a closer and more personal interaction with followers, and not having the pressure to fit a certain mould. When streaming will become a more efficient monetary platform, and not primarily a discovery tool, it will be an even better resource for musicians. Ultimately, I believe that if people really appreciate your music, they will eventually buy it – at least that’s what I always do.
How has your life changed since you released your EP back in September?
When I released “Stained Glass”, it felt like the start of something new. I’ve never been more focused, driven and ready to embark on this journey. I’ve had numerous collaborations, gigs, met incredible people in the industry, had my music played on KCRW radio in Los Angeles and played in front of amazing crowds. At the same time, my life remained very much the same: taking my career one step at a time, keeping the same work ethic, curiosity, and open mind, while always striving to grow as an artist and songwriter.
Looking back to when you were growing up, who had the biggest influence on you, musically?
My dad, who is not a musician but rather a music enthusiast, had the biggest influence on me growing up. He introduced me to a massive collection of Motown, R&B and pop music from the UK and US music, all of which made me who I am today. Also as a student, Berklee College of Music opened my heart towards gospel, blues and jazz.
And as a direct musical influence?
If I really had to narrow it to one artist, I would say that Sade had the biggest impact on my growth. And to this day, I look up to the lead singer’s career and timeless music as a guide.
The sound of the “Stained Glass” EP seems to be very nostalgic. How did you arrive at the point where you were able to say: “Yes, I want to sound exactly like that”?
I’ve always been drawn to smart, meaningful lyrics and richly textured instrumentation laced with edgy, fresh and bold production. And so, marrying the soulful past with the innovative electronic nudge, turned out to be a natural fusion for me.
My vision for the sound of the EP became a reality with the help of three fantastic producers: Felipe Mejia Saldarriaga (“Smoke + Mirrors” and “Hologram”), SUR (“Smoke + Mirrors”), and Mateo Lewis (“No Pressure” and “Home”), all of whom are also my good friends from college and highly sought-after professionals now. It’s in our shared tastes in music and friendship, combined with my vision for “Stained Glass” and our writing styles, that brought us all together under one roof, and made the EP sound polished and distinctive.
The female character in “Smoke + Mirrors” is not very likable. Was there anyone in particular who inspired this song?
My goal certainly wasn’t to portray her as a villain, but rather a victim of social pressures, respectively of the unrealistic beauty standards and the modern culture of superficiality. To me she represents an innocence lost, desperate need to fit in, and that urge to follow a misleading source of love: power, an unnatural beauty, and fame. There are so many people who’ve inspired this song, but ultimately I believe that she is the temptation that lives in all of us, and a reminder of how easily we can lose our individuality amidst the pressure to fit in.
What is the strongest emotion that you would like to share with your audience through your singing?
A sense of wonder and joy. I like to tell reflective stories and challenge the listeners to discover more about themselves.
What recent song did you find yourself feeling jealous about and wish you had written yourself?
Jealousy is an emotion I try my hardest to stay away from because I find it has never brought me anything good. Instead, I often find myself daydreaming, admiring, being inspired, learning, and revering an artist’s song or their lyrics – I find that by this way it brings me more growth, clarity, vision and integrity.
“Bourbon” by Gallant is such a song that has me daydreaming. The passionate, complex lyrics behind the track that intertwine so smoothly with a rich and elegant R&B and electronic sound, and headed by spotless vocals, not only speak to my heart, but also challenge me to be a better songwriter and artist.
I love the soulful mood of “No Pressure”, and the way you have combined its deep, traditional melody with the modern sound. Which soul or R&B artists do you respect the most or would like to collaborate with?
Thank you! I respect and would consider it such an honor to collaborate with the likes of Sade, Submotion Orchestra, Gallant, Beyonce, Disclosure, Bruno Mars, James Blake, The Weeknd, Mayer Hawthorne, Kimbra, Lorde, Sia, Anderson .Paak… And honestly the list goes on and on.
- Listen: Soundcloud: No Pressure
Let’s talk about “Hologram” and its success in the International Songwriting Competition (ISC).
ISC celebrates songwriters from all over the world, performing across multiple genres. High-profile artists like Tom Waits, Lorde, Kesha, Boyz II Men and Moby, and a crowd of leading music biz executives, including presidents and CEOs from Atlantic, Epic, Elektra, Sony Music Latin, Warner Bros., and many more represented the judging panel this year, selecting winners from 18,500 entries from almost 120 countries.
Just by the scale of such a contest, my biggest prize, beyond the tangible one, is having my work listened to and recognized by seasoned music industry members and highly regarded artists.
“Hologram” is about a feeling that is ephemeral and almost unreal. Which feeling represents your own “hologram” and what do you do to deal with it?
“Hologram” was the most spontaneous song on the album, written as a revelation of how easily we can become prisoners of our own mind, if we give into our fears. I noticed that, if I didn’t stand up to my fears, my freedom would ultimately be a hologram, a vision, and an intangible reality. How I deal with these fears? I use them as fuel for my writing.
- Listen: Soundcloud: Hologram
Which musical direction are you planning to take next? Do you feel the need to experiment with other genres?
I’m looking to explore more up-tempo tunes and starry-eyed lyrical themes, while still nodding at the soul records I grew up with. I want it to complement “Stained Glass” but also have a fresh edge to it. At this stage, it is still very playful and experimental but I am very excited where it’s all heading, and hope you’ll enjoy it as well.
What are your plans for the near future?
Besides collaborating, my next project will be to release a second EP sometime in the fall. In the future I’d love to make a full-length album because I’m fascinated to explore a concept more in-depth, like some of my favorite recent albums, such as “Lemonade” by Beyonce, or “The Golden Echo” by Kimbra.
- Elline’s website: www.ellinemusic.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/Ellinemusic
- Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/ellinemusic
- Listen on Spotify: http://play.spotify.com/artist/29lpmKU2p3IBLpfpDm4jR6
- Buy on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stained-glass-ep/id1038441922