Interview : Elsie

A Liverpool-born singer songwriter, Elsie’s music has been featured on major soundtracks such as Californication, and has supported Sir Tom Jones live – but she’s also a force to be reckoned with in her own right. We caught up with her for a chat about the industry, her music and fashion inspiration and Mariah Carey.

What’s your favourite London hangout?
Honestly, right now, I don’t really have one. I don’t go out that much. I wrote London Town a long time ago when I had just moved to the City and was still breathing it all in. Nowadays, I spend most of my time at home in my studio working on tunes. When I first moved to London I was out all the time, different parties, different clubs and aftershows but now I tend to just go to the ones I really want to go to. One of my favourite places to sit and watch the sun go down is on the Hispanola Boat. It’s a pub on the river in between all the main attractions and you can watch the sun setting behind Big Ben, with the London Eye and Houses of Parliament around you, magical. I have an English Bull Terrier called Brando and I walk him twice a day round a really big old graveyard, it’s so peaceful there and on a sunny day with the light shining through the trees it’s really beautiful, and most days I have it all to myself.

What has been your favourite gig to date?
Going back home to the small town I come from – Ellesmere Port – and gigging to all my friends and family. We nailed it and the audience did too. It was my best gig ever. Normally, as a hopeful artist – gigs are rarely full of pressure as you’re hoping people will show up, worrying about the promoter and all that kind of thing. For my little home-coming gig EVERYONE was there and it was a thing of joy. My best gig ever for sure.

There are a lot of different influences in your music – sometimes it’s really bass heavy but at times you also opt for an acoustic cover – does this reflect your own music taste?
My musical taste is like my wardrobe. I have vintage Adidas (Jazz), Topshop dresses (Pop), neon lightening strike heels (Rock), old jumpers that I won’t throw out (Blues) and random Ebay purchases (alternative everything!).  A song for me will always be born out of something simple (melody, lyrics and chords) which can be taken in any direction. My latest recordings have been inspired heavily by Tatron’s tracks. He totally gets me on the darkside, he loves hip hop, trip hop, d’n’b and has a completely different iTunes library to me but when we get together we always make something really fresh sounding, which excites me.

What’s it like working with Tom Jones and how did that come about?
 I did a gig for Teenage Cancer Trust 5 years ago at The Royal Albert Hall with a band I’d never met. The gig went well and a year later the drummer got in touch asking if I’d like to sing for Tom. I didn’t know at the time that he was Tom’s musical director. It was a total right place right time moment! They do happen.

You must have some crazy tour stories! Care to shed any light on anything peculiar?
My favourite memories are touring in Vegas with Tom. Every night I stepped out on stage I felt like we’d gone back to the 60’s; it’s such a legendary place and to be singing with a legend who’d helped make Vegas Vegas made it exhilarating. One night Mike Tyson turned up and was sat on the front row. We hung out with him afterwards and I shook his hand really hard and he commented on my strong handshake. I came away with both ears and was kind of proud of that. Singing for The Queen at The Diamond Jubilee was fun too. The aftershow was at Buckingham Palace and there was a no camera/photo policy but after joining Harry for a cigarette in the royal garden he suggested we scrap the rule. Honestly, the real fun is just hanging with Tom and the band and the jokes and pranks we get up to. And then there’s the dance offs at whatever club we go to after a show. Some of the moves we pull would be illegal in most countries – we clear the dancefloor, but not always for the right reasons.

The music scene is electronically orientated at the moment, which can be great, allowing artists like Groove Armada, Daft Punk and the Klaxons – who’ve got big industry names like James Murphy, The Chemical Brothers and Erol Alkan working on their forthcoming album – resurfacing to chart success. But it also seems to be diluting the market with sub-par records hitting the charts. So, we want to know, because your music crosses so many boundaries, what your thoughts are on the current UK Top 40 and the way the trend is currently disproportionate towards electronic music?
Top 40? Haven’t listened to that since I was a kid. I just listen to Soundcloud and blogs these days for new music as when I try to listen to the radio in my car, all I get is grown adults talking like children about trivia and a lot of really bad, over-compressed trend-following throwaway music with no meaning. Let me go and check what I think of the Top 10! I just listened to the Top 10 and liked 2 songs and didn’t really get the rest. My 2 were Tove Lo and Shift K3y. I don’t think we can blame electronic music for creating sub-par tunes, though. As well as the names you mention, it’s also given us the likes of Flume, Lorde, Jessie Ware,Hippie Sabotage and my current girl-crush Laurel! For me the problem is the big radio stations – they have a huge influence on the charts when they pick who they want on their playlist.

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What impact,  if any, do you think this will have on more traditional indie/rock bands?
If anything it makes the live scene even more important for indie and rock bands because very often it’s a more raw style of music. Sure, you can do a lot of electronic stuff live that works, but there’s a lot of studio trickery too. The raw energy of a live band rocking out cannot be replaced. Equally, with so many of us listening to music via the net now, that’s a really great forum for electronic music as on headphones and in our homes we really get the chance to listen to every little nuance of production. In radio, music fashion comes in waves, one minute it’s electro pop next minute it’s indie guitar music, the beauty is, there is room for both at any stage you just have to know where to find what you’re into. So, if you love making either kind of music you can make it at any time regardless of what the radio’s playing. The danger is, if you’re just making music in the hope of it being played on the radio then you’re setting yourself up for an epic fail as the big national radio stations take their genre fashion very seriously and if you’re not rocking whatever’s “in” and collab-ing with whoever’s “in” then you’re not getting playlisted, and that’s that.

If you weren’t doing music, where would you be?
On holiday probably. I never have holidays because I put music first all the time. I’m a bit of a workaholic/ musaholic. But job wise I’d be working at a dogs home or I’d be a broke artist… I love painting.

How important do you think social media platforms like Soundcloud are for emerging artists?
Let’s just say Soundcloud saved me. After leaving my label I was pretty low and wasn’t sure if I wanted to carry on. Making music is great but it’s emotionally exhausting, especially when you don’t get anything back. I spent two years writing and recording my last album and in the end it didn’t even come out for various boring reasons. It was quite frustrating and depressing. And then I discovered Soundcloud. A non biased platform where people visit because they just love music. If I could marry it, eat it, inhale it, stroke it or live there I would. It’s a beautiful thing that I cherish. For me, it opens the door to fans, bloggers,and anyone else to hear my music as well as providing me with inspiration from others.

What kind of stuff are you listening to at the moment?
My phone contains Paolo, Sam Smith, Passenger, Ink Spots, Adele, Rudimental, Whitney, Kasabian, Bruno Mars, Jessie Ware, Lorde, Winehouse, MNEK, Kimbra, Lana, Sia, Laurel but I always have room for Mariah. She’s my guilty pleasure and yes, “Me, I Am Mariah” ’s already on pre-order. You just have to let me have that one without questioning it. We go waaaaay back.

You’ve got quite a distinctive image; who would you say are your musical style icons? Any fashion must haves for summer?
Thank you! First things first. I don’t and have never followed fashion. Clothes are such a personal thing. Body shapes are different and suit different things. I’ve always been into Sportswear, I’m not sure whether that’s because I’m part Scouse but I love buying a new tracky and feeling crisp in it. When Jeremy Scott started working for Adidas it opened a whole new world for me, dressy sportswear! Get in! I can wear sportswear for posh do’s? Great! My icons would be Gwen Stefani meets the cast of Happy Days. I love colour, sportswear and 1950’s style.

The 405 said your voice was like a ‘sultry purr’ with regards to ‘Wild One’ – can you tell us what or who’s behind the song’s inspiration?
Wild One’s about the girl in your group of friends who’d party so hard and always look amazing. By far the prettiest in the group and wanted by everyone, male and female. Fascinatingly reckless and insanely sexy. She’d be Kate Moss in a group of supermodels!

A lot of singers are finding launch platforms through working with electronic producers and providing vocal samples for dance tracks. Is that something you’d consider? Have you ever been approached?
Funnily enough I started out singing on dance tracks as a session singer in Liverpool and had a couple of cuts. It’s not my kind of music and you’ll never see me in Ibiza but if a song’s got a good melody and I dig the producer I’m happy to provide a vocal. I’ve also been approached by all kinds of producers on Soundcloud asking for my stems. If I like their production I give them out as I think it’s good to hear someone else’s take on a tune. I spend sometimes over a month tweaking the production on a tune with Tatron so it’s quite refreshing and exciting to hear it another way. I’ve tried a few things with a few D&B producers, but nothing’s come of it so far. Basically, if there’s a beat and a bass line I’m so much more interested that just four to the floor with no edge or groove.

What’s been your most exciting ‘famous’ moment so far in your career –along the lines of say, being used on the Californication soundtrack?
Landing the final song on the final episode of Californication is without a doubt my favourite moment to date and it hasn’t even aired yet! Someone’s going to have to peel me off the roof in June.  I love the series and I’m honoured to sing it out. I had a Skype call with the label and they were so thrilled to have me on the soundtrack! A proud moment indeed. But as well as that, I genuinely buzz off every mention my music gets on a blog, every comment I get on a song and in fact, every new play fills me with pride. Just having people show an interest in music that I have spent so much time on is a reward.

What are you most likely to be doing on a Friday night?
A few drinks with the girls or a few drinks whilst watching my fave TV Series. My latest favourite was True Detective. Wow.

Finally, Mariah or Whitney?
I don’t think I need to answer this, do I?!

Check Elsie out on Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

One comment

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