Wonderland.

ELAH HALE

From New York to the world: meet the singer writing music that feels like home.

Elah Hale in green jumper and trousers

Jumper and jeans MOTHER DENIM, talent’s own socks and shoes

Elah Hale in green jumper and trousers
Jumper and jeans MOTHER DENIM, talent’s own socks and shoes

Taken from our Summer 2020 issue. Order your copy now.

Hale didn’t always know she wanted to be a singer. “For a second I wanted to be a neuroscientist and go to Stanford,” she tells me, “which would’ve been fucking sick.” This takes me by surprise — she seems like the kind of person who has known what her calling was since she could walk. Hale, whose parents are artists too, started playing the guitar at the age of five, and has been writing music since she was seven. “Music was always a dream,” she explains, “but I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me, with limited access, to actually be able to pursue it.” By the time she got to deciding on universities, Hale chose to study theatre at Bard College to focus on playwriting and performance art, which didn’t feel dissimilar to songwriting. “I think I have the same sort ‘go for it’ approach when it comes to creating both,” she says.

At university though, Hale couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. “I really felt like moving upstate put my dreams of being a musician on the back burner, but I was okay with doing it for a while,” she admits. At Bard she surrounded herself with creative people and found the space to grow as an artist, but after a while it became clear that, although she loved university and her friends, studying wasn’t really what she wanted and she was ready to pursue music full-time.

Elah Hale talks education and Room 206

Jumper AGOLDE, jeans MOTHER DENIM, talent’s own shoes

Elah Hale talks education and Room 206
Jumper AGOLDE, jeans MOTHER DENIM, talent’s own shoes

Since then she’s channelled her energy into her debut EP, “Room 206”, which dropped in April. Although Hale is only 20 years old, she speaks with the confidence of someone who is wise beyond her years — and it’s this that characterises the nine-track project. “Living in New York made me grow up really quickly,” she agrees, “and some of that is definitely reflected in my music.” In “Holding You Close”, for instance, she reflects on a past relationship with poise and maturity, while in “Posters” she sings with coolness and conviction, telling an ex: “You left a voicemail, but I changed my number.” Although Hale’s sound is polished, her lyrics also feel vulnerable and real, which only works in her favour. At the end of “Posters,” she contradicts herself and asks that same ex: “I checked my voicemail… Do you have my number?”

For Hale, making sure her songs feel relatable is a conscious choice. Speak- ing about the songs she feels a personal connection to, she remembers a string of specific moments: having a dance party to A-ha’s “Take On Me” with her mum when she was in high school, and listening to all of Frank Ocean’s Blonde a few times over while driving across the country with her best friend. “I also ruined Soko’s “First Love Never Die” for myself over the years… But that’s okay!” she adds. “The music I love the most is music that feels familiar; it’s associated with a memory or a person. I want people to listen to my songs and to feel at home, or to take something from it,” she emphasises, citing Norah Jones and Lomelda as influences. “The music I’m making feels very personal to me, but I also want it to feel universal.” Her debut project does exactly this, and her pride in it feels palpable — and fully deserved.

Photography
Danielle Levit
Fashion
Gary Armstrong
Words
Carol Abbot Galvao
ELAH HALE