We catch up with new girl on the block, Elsie, for a New Noise grilling.
Give us an insight into your journey – was music always the main passion / priority?
Music was always my favourite thing to do as a kid. All my Barbies were turned into pop stars so singing was a very natural progression for me. I was raised on the outskirts of Liverpool, the kind of place no one really knows exists and I didn’t like that. It was either settle down with your high school sweetheart or get out and write songs. I started making music when I was 13 and became my own radio plugger at 14. I had all my early teenage work played over the Scouse airwaves and that’s what gave me the bug to create more.
What kind of sounds were you listening to as you were growing up? Do you have any complete guilty pleasures?
As a kid I loved Mariah & Whitney. I’d spend hours imitating them singing in the bath. I loved that 90’s R&B sound and the way their voices would soar so soulfully. Most weekends I’d make mixtapes. One of my favourites had Freddie Mercury, Ace of Base, Dina Carol, Wendy Moten, En Vogue, Toni Braxton and All4One. My mum used to pinch it to play in her car. I was the family DJ. Music was a way to escape the mundanity of village life and fuelled my dreams of becoming an artist.
Who or what has been the biggest and main inspiration behind you developing your sound and aesthetic. Any other musicians who really made you want to pursue your ambition to be an artist?
I’ve always loved dancing to R&B and beat-heavy music, but I’ve also always been about big vocals. Thing is, my voice doesn’t suit happy songs so, when people like Lana Del Rey, Jessie Ware and Adele started breaking through with darker tunes that had both beats and proper vocal parts and structures, it all started to gel for me. So I embraced my urge to throw harmonies on everything, write the melancholy melodies I’ve always been drawn to and tell producers to go heavy on the bass! Also, singing with artists like Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora as a backing vocalist has been hugely inspirational to me. I looked and listened to them and thought “it’s a good time for women in the industry and I want to be a part of it.” In terms of aesthetics, the truth is I’m a tracksuit and trainers girl! Adidas all the way, but I’m not scared to throw in a pair of 80s heels or wear a really nice piece of deco jewellery at the same time.
What is your favourite social media platform? Still Twitter for me. I love words and following creative types who really make the most of their 140 characters. If you can make me laugh, or think or get angry in one sentence then you’ve got my attention.
How do you think social media has an effect on the music industry and an artists longevity? Social media has allowed artists to become friends with their fans. It’s taken out the middle man and fans can hear your news and music as soon as you want them to. That’s pretty powerful. Forming strong bonds with your fanbase via social media can only lead to a longer, more powerful relationship. I open my laptop and virtually the whole world is potentially available to me. Ten years ago, if you didn’t have a major label and big airplay behind you, it was hard to be heard beyond your local open mic night.
Tell us more about the Balance EP? How did you decide which tracks to include on the release?
Balance was dreamed up on a late night session in Two Inch Punch’s Studio with Brey. We were nodding away to the chorus and smiling at how big it was sounding and we both kind of new it was good enough to build an EP around. I wanted to write songs about our insecurities in relationships and life and Balance is about those feelings of self doubt I’ve had. Take Your Time In Love is a cautionary tale to other people in love and Magic Powers is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. One in four people in the UK suffer from depression at some point and this song spells out exactly how I felt at my lowest. We picked a release date out of thin air and went for it – no planning, it just felt right to get these tracks out there into the cosmos.
How did the collaboration with Brey Baptista happen and are you concerned that people will almost have a pre-conception of your sound because of who you have been writing / working with?
There’s only one Jessie! But I think if you’re a fan of hers, you might enjoy what I have to offer. I’ve been a huge admirer for a while now and I met Brey not knowing that he’d written Running with Jessie. I’d heard a couple of his tunes on Soundcloud when PMR shared his Tuesbrey Afternoons project and we started bouncing ideas about online at first. Brey is so eclectic and listens to a lot of meditation music so most of his tracks have a strong mood, usually with a real dark side to them. My sad melodies seem to fit perfectly over his dark beats. I keep challenging us to write a happy poppy tune but it’d be hard work – so against the grain!
Who would you love to collaborate with? If you could get any other artist on an Elsie track – who would you opt for?
My heart says Mariah because I love her voice and I’d enjoy taking it somewhere completely different – more dark and Portishead-y with spooky minor plaintive backing vocals. But my mind says MNEK cos our musical influences are similar but our own material is very different. We’d create something with a groove – but dark. He’s got such an interesting voice and since I’ve got a pretty low, husky voice for a girl, I think we’d make something unusual.
What do you think that track would sound like?
Off the top off my head I guess it could be like Marvin Gaye and Kimbra approaching an R&B version of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love. Pretty damn fresh if I do say so myself!
What can we expect from your collaboration with Distant Light and Dexcell? Will the tracks distance themselves from your solo work?
I love to work with people from all different musical paths because it pushes me out of my comfort zone. For example with Dexcell, I didn’t know a lot about D&B so when I wrote over an idea they had, It came out very different from what either of us was used to. They loved it and this bassy, liquidy tune called Dark Heart was born. I’ve been working on a Garage tune with Distant Light which will be released later this year. Garage is my guilty pleasure. If I’m in the car on a sunny day and have some oversized shades to hand, I’ll roll down the window and blast it out loud and proud. Takes me right back.
Are you championing any other emerging talent for 2015?
Syler Jones, an artist I played with at SXSW, his bass playing and Retrograde cover had me transfixed. He can play everything and should be a superstar. Twinnie, whose range and tone are scary, I swear she has five different voice boxes! And my young cousin Georgia-Pip Willacy. She’s somewhere between Amy Winehouse and George Ezra, just stunning to see live.
If we catch up with you in Nov 2015 – what would you have liked to achieved?
Well, the album will be finished and the (ahem) MNEK duet will be the tune everyone’s talking about! I’ll also have worked out enough to be able to replicate your Wonderland Mariah front cover for you!