1883 Magazine
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We met Ella in a café in the heart of London, on one of the last sunny days that London would see this year. Her voice is deep and while you see this girl writing on her laptop, you can only guess what she is up to. A mix between Zurich, London, Boston and L.A, Ella has been described by some publications as the “new queen on the alt-pop block”. Her debut EP was well-received by the critics and now she is coming back with her new new single and video “Walk Away”.

Ella told us about the way she has experienced music, her particular love for the 90’s, all colourful, with a clear influence of euro dance and girl power from artists like TLC or Alanis Morissette. She has a feminine and  intense sound has been described as catchy but never pop cliché – and we agree, it’s something refreshing yet very melodic. 

She has performed sold out shows in the UK and has gotten the attention from some of the most important producers. Ella is on the road and she has just started!

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So the first time I heard about you I thought Ella On the Run was a band. Am I the only one?

You’re not alone! I have lots of emails saying – ‘Hi, guys!’ or just ‘you’- (laughs) which is okay. I have the regular band I play with, but it’s definitely a solo project.  I think it’s because you have artists like Florence and the Machine, who is Florence and the machine, and I’m Ella on the Run, so some people think that it’s a very impersonal band name. But you look at Marina and the Diamonds, I’m not sure but I think it’s just her, I don’t think she plays with regular background musicians either. I definitely get that confusion, but it’s normally solved quite quickly and I say, I’m Ella On The Run, not just Ella.

Where does the “On The Road” came from?

Ella is my middle name so that’s where it comes from and I added the ‘On the run’ when I started this project. I used to preform, doing kind of whatever and really had this idea of a project that would work with the name and the music, that it all kind of fits together. I think branding is super important, but not that I chose something saying it’s good branding, I actually saw ‘On the Run’ somewhere - not at the gas station (laughs) - because there’s a gas station that is called like that…

So nothing to do with the gas station or the book…

No, (laughs) I think it was in a sunglasses shop or something. The lady there had given really cool names to her merchandise and I saw ‘on the run’ in a different context, I read it and it clicked, because that was something that I wanted with my music as well, something that evolves, that doesn’t stay still because I move around so much. I like travelling, discovering new things, pushing some boundaries and discovering new things, so I’m on the run…purely from the business point of view it really works well because I think it ties together the ideas that I have visually with the music that I do, but it also means a lot to me because it kind of describes me quite well…I’m always on the run basically.

Did you always see yourself as a musician or did you have another career in mind?

You know it’s funny, I thought that I did and I always say that in interviews, but recently I found this old drawing book from preschool and I drew myself saying “one day I want to be an actress”, so apparently not. (laughs) I started at a very early age singing at home and with musicals like West Side Story and My Fair Lady…and Disney! All Disney of course. So yes, I always wanted to be a singer…as long as I remember at least. (laughs)

When did you decide to make a living in music?

I started private lessons and as a teenager I starting my first band, then played bands around town and finally I decided to study music. So apart from that little note saying I wanted to be an actress I actually always wanted to be a musician! (laughs)

So you’re Disney girl!

It’s actually very funny because a lot of my influences are very 90’s and I think I kind of went back full circle.

Like my Ace of Base cover. I was young and I remember it quite vividly in my childhood when it came out, but I had a time in between when I went to university. I was very much into R&B, Jazz and Soul because I studied in the States, so I was of course surrounded by all of this kind of really amazing urban music. I have those influences as well in my music, so I take a bit from everywhere.

Now that you mention it, I’ve listened to your All That She Wants cover by Ace of Base, and I really felt nostalgic about the 90s, why did you chose to cover that song?

I loved that song when I was young. Ok, it happened because there was a YouTube channel called the Wurd Sessions and they asked me to do a cover, but it had to be a retro cover, that was their guideline. At the same time, I found this hysterical video of me as a kid preforming with two girlfriends of mine doing like a playback show to All That She Wants and that literally happened in the same week when they asked me. It clicked and I was thinking - Oh my God yes! Because it is one of those songs that every time you listen to it you are like – Oh that was such a good tune!

A very personal cover…

Yeah, definitely! I wanted to make it my own. I have a lot of history with the original as well. I didn’t want to copy the original because I like it too much so I took it and made my own interpretation of it!

It’s a quite bit dark…

Yes! I got together with my band and I said we have to do it darker, so I had a little voice note on my iPhone with the way I wanted to change the chorus, just to have an idea of where I wanted to go: More Ella On The Run and more dark, more minimal electronic. Actually the lyrics are quite dark, it’s not a happy song so I went in there with the idea of the chorus, the only part I really changed and together with the band we came up with what is now the recording and do that for the session. Then I was looking for another song for my EP and I said ‘I have to record this!’ - so I tried to get the rights to do it and we got them, which was great and I immediately went to the studio and within two months we had it done. That was quite super last minute, not at all the way I normally work.

I’m quite proud of it and it’s almost as if I have written it, which I know I didn’t (laughs)

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What about your songs, you write them?

Yes, I mean I co-write most of them and most of the lyrics are mine.

Most of them are personal stories, sometimes it’s a mix between half my story and half friend of mine story and it works, it’s something that can be applied to the experience of many people, but I can say that it was exactly a moment that I’m singing about.

I think 90’s are back! Do you remember how was it back then?

I grew up in Switzerland where in my teen age years most of the music we got was probably from Germany or the USA, it wasn’t that accessible as it is today concerning international music. We would get what was on the Top 40 chart and then I would go to the record store and they would have all those random records. I remember one CD I went to buy, I think it was one of the first CDs that I bought with my saved pocket money or that I earned catering or something like that. It was Aaliyah’s One In a Million. I had not heard it, I had no idea what it was and I never listened to that kind of music, but I have older brothers so they were all cool and I wanted to be cool. So I saw this cover of this cool chick standing there, you know? - So I thought if she looks cool, her music must be cool too. I bought Aaliyah’s album and I took it home and my older brother was so impressed with me (laughs).

You still have that album?

He subsequently stole the album from me for about a year and a half and I completely forgot about it and only discovered it later and then I got into bands like TLC, because of that…but I had to go and look for it, I had to go into the record store and actually be like - what else is similar to this, because it wasn’t on the radio in Switzerland and the internet was very slow (laughs). So yeah, I was influenced by what was on the radio and what was Top 40, but I did go out a bit and looked for stuff.

I remember those were the days, like in the Empire Records movie

It was so fun! I spent hours in the record store putting on the head phones and listening to the charts after school and spent all my pocket money, probably buying a CD once a month because there were so expensive! (laughs)

That’s a big difference from now, because back then you got the chance to listen to the whole album, today it’s mostly about the singles unless you really liked the band or the music beforehand, how do feel about it?

I know, but there are really few albums today where I can say every single song on the album is amazing. A lot of songs are what I call ‘space filler’…God I sound ancient, but you asked me about it earlier (laughs)! Stuff like that I remember vividly from those times standing in the store. Alanis Morissette, that was a bit earlier but still every song was amazing! You could just stand there and listen to the whole thing.

Have you thought about releasing an album?

This is a reason why I haven’t released a full album yet because I want every song to be like a single and I feel that needs a lot of work and that’s not something you just do in a few months, that’s like a life time project. Whereas in an Ep I can have three or four songs and really put everything into those songs, because I want each of them to be a single. I think it’s more worth it and as you said people just buy and stream singles and they don’t listen much further into the catalogue so it’s a waste of words and music kind of, that just gets put out there for nothing.

Tell us something special from one of your singles

I wrote a song; I think it was Rodeo Clowns from my last EP. I wrote that about an older relationship that ended a long long time before I wrote the song. One time I was in the studio and my producer in L.A. was really pushing me to put all the emotions and be really raw with the vocals and he made me sing it over and over again and I remember the twentieth time or so I almost started crying and I was thinking - “What the hell is going on!”. It was almost like a therapy session, he loved the take, but I needed to have like a twenty-minute break and go outside, because it was very emotional. I think it was the first time that happened, I read about it before with other musicians and I was like – ‘C’mon…stop bullshitting us’ - but actually it did happen on that one and I wasn’t even aware…so, free therapy! (lyrics)

Is it the same when you are doing a gig? Do you get emotional? What do you think when you see all those faces?

Hm, no. Let’s put like this, if it’s a new song that I’m performing, and I haven’t performed it a lot…I might catch myself thinking about it, which would definitely make it less good. Mostly I’m like - ‘oh good god, please don’t let me forget the lyrics!’ (laughs) because that is the most embarrassing thing if you forget your own songs (laughs). For me it’s super important to bring over the emotions, so I force myself even if I sang the song a thousand times to still find back to that place, that feeling and that moment that I had in the studio. You could be a Mariah Carey, you could have the most insane voice in the planet, but if you are not believing what you are saying on an emotional level, I’m not going to buy it. I’m not a diva singer, I have a good voice, but I’m not the best singer in the world at all, but what I strive to do is get that connection with the emotion, rather than the voice. For me that’s the most important, to remember why I’m singing this song and why I wrote it, I think that’s what I try to think about.

 

Ella on the Run’s EP ’Undone’ is out now via iTunes and you can check out the video for ’Walk Away’ below. For her latest news head to www.ellaontherun.com

Words by Fernanda Gz
@FernandaGZ

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