Humble harmonics and soul-stirring lyricism are the orders of the day for Welsh Londoner, Ellie Parris, as her debut EP ‘Out of Sight’ elegantly announces her arrival in the UK R&B community. Ellie’s path to up-and-comer status began with a fledgling fascination with musical theatre, before quickly evolving into a life-long quest to find her place in the constantly shifting landscape of the UK music industry.
In early 2021 our first glimpse of Ellie’s soul-stirring sultry sonics came in the shape of a luxuriously layered and effortlessly executed riddim titled ‘Seasons’. The track is pure nostalgia-inducing percussion strung across retro radio crackle basslines with honey-smooth vocals that ooze a calming quality, like listening to SZA on a lazy Sunday morning. More generally, her sound is a concoction steeped in the tracks of her upbringing, drawing elements from her mum’s Whitney fueled car rides and the R&B/Pop heroines of the late 2000s.
Her debut tape, ‘Out Of Sight’, is a 5-track tour of Ellie’s world produced by UK hip-hop and grime heavyweight, Jords. After forming a fast friendship forged whilst appearing on numerous line-ups at the Hoxton Underbelly, Ellie recognised a shared appreciation for all things funky and groovy, resulting in the talented tandem teaming up to create ‘Out of Sight’. In a recent CULTED interview, Jords described his experience executive producing for Ellie as one of the proudest of his career, stating: “To be honest it’s a project I’m extremely proud of because I had never executive produced anything before apart from my own stuff. We made the track ‘Seasons’ first which was one of my favourite tracks I’ve ever made”.
We sat down with Ellie following the release of “Out of Sight” to reflect on the process of creating a debut EP, breaking down the pitfalls and pressures of pursuing music in today’s industry. We also had to find out a little more about the joys of having Jords as your executive producer!
Growing up, who were your biggest creative influences? What music was playing around the house as a kid?
My mum was a massive Whitney Houston fan so her greatest hits would just be on rotation all day long, especially in the car. My Dad is the oldest so he would always make his own tapes with mixes on them. I was always surrounded by music but not necessarily people singing, so at first, it was difficult to recognise if I just loved listening to music or if I wanted to find a role within it. It was really at school that I took my first step into exploring my music through musical theatre and the choir. That’s where I discovered that singing is really what I wanted to do. I kind of took that mindset throughout school whenever there was an opportunity around music I would always be at the front of the line. Eventually, I studied Music Tech at college and began going to the studio, that’s when I knew that music was definitely for me.
I released a few tracks around that time but it only really went so far, so I felt like I needed to see what was beyond the glass ceiling of opportunity around that area. I thought the only place that makes sense to move to would be London, so I moved from Wales and till this day it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Music has always been a thing for me, it’s just taken a while to figure out where I slotted in.
Around the time I first started making music, Rita Ora was coming up and this new era of Pop-R&B girls were just making their own sound within a genre and that really caught my attention. Even artists like SZA were beginning to surface around that time, I remember she had released a song called ‘Babylon’ that really struck me and made me think “Ok this is the kind of thing I want to make”.
Your debut tape, ‘Out of Sight’, is a truly beautiful project that showcases the multiple layers of your vocal ability. You build a really lovely world throughout it and each track feels like it helps to build that world. Particularly because of the addition of that gorgeous saxophone that keeps on popping up at different interludes, creating this Sunday morning nostalgic quality to the tape. Debuting anything for the first time must be terrifying so when and how did you know ‘Out of Sight’ was ready to go out into the world?
It’s interesting that you touched on that idea of creating a world rather than trying to show the full scope of my music because it resonates with the journey of getting the project made. It’s been about five or so years since I last put out a project, so I’ve been constantly questioning and doubting myself thinking ‘oh this project just isn’t good enough for a debut’. That whole time was spent worrying that it wouldn’t be catchy enough or didn’t have enough radio focused singles, until I realised that I wasn’t releasing anything anyway so there was little point in constantly questioning the quality. So I ultimately decided that I wasn’t going to ask anybody for their thoughts, I was just going to do exactly what I wanted to do, and I’m really glad I did because it all ended up working together so perfectly. There’s no one right way to do anything, so when you come out of that headspace of constantly doubting, you realise it was pointless to question things so much.
Talk to me about writing, what does your writing process look like? Are you a short spurt of creativity kind of person or are you always writing down random lines and saving them for later?
I’m definitely in the latter category haha. I’m just the longest person in the world haha. Everything just has to be the longest way of doing things, I don’t know why, I wish everything could just come out quickly but I just don’t work like that. I mean, ‘Seasons’ was written in a couple of hours but that’s the exception. I write a lot generally. I try to journal daily, sometimes it’s a sentence or sometimes it s a page, so theirs not too much structure to it but as long as I put pen to paper I’m happy. I’ll then always take that book into my studio sessions and try to arrive already knowing roughly what I want to say or I might have a thought or singular line that I want to get out. I’ll tend to sit with those ideas and start to freestyle with the melodies which I know is the opposite to a lot of other artists but I like to already have the lyrics there because to me that’s the most important thing I want to get across. It doesn’t always work because it relies more on what’s flowing through my brain on a particular day but it’s a natural way of working for me.
During our recent interview with Jords, when speaking about his role as the lead Producer on this project, he said that this is one of the biggest highlights of his career as he’s never executive produced another artist’s tape. How cool is it to have such an established solo artist as Jords join you on your debut projects & what was it about Jords music that struck a chord with you?
It is crazy, particularly now that it’s done and I’m looking back on it. I’ve known Jords for a little while now after first meeting through a mutual friend, I went to a couple of his shows and we became friends. Because we were on the same lineups at some early shows, it gave me a lot of confidence to think “oh I can actually do this” and it made me think that I was doing everything the right way. We always connected on the funky/ groovy sounds that run through both of our music but back then I wasn’t even planning on doing music, I was just a sponge soaking up all the information I could from artists like Jords.
He showed me that you could be respected for the music you make, even if it’s not the typical radio or commercial sound. He never put himself in a structure or allowed himself to become limited. It’s very surreal, I’m still taking it all in and learning as I go. J’s experience and natural gift for music is just stupid and when you have a session with him he just has this ability to make you feel comfortable which is crucial because once those guards are down you tend to make the best music.
What part of the process of creating a debut EP have you found the hardest? Was it the production side, the business relationship side, the creative concepts or this media side of the industry?
The business & the media. I can be social when I want to be but I am a bit of a natural loner so having to talk to lots of people in short spaces of time is very new to me, especially when it’s new people. Because it has been so long since I released music, all of my information on how I thought the industry operated was kind of out of date. So so many elements of the promotional side required a lot of revision and work. Adapting, in general, is a good thing for me to have to practice, but as long as I keep pushing and remember why I’m doing it I should be okay haha.
I gotta grab your desert island disks, what three albums and one book are you taking with you to a desert island to last you all of eternity?
Okay, so my albums would be The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill, In My Mind by BJ The Chicago Kid & Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu. For my book ill go with The Tao of Wu by RZA.
Lastly, if you wanted to show someone the real heart of your hometown, where would you take them to get some peng food and to see some dope music?
I am the worst person to answer this question because I literally don’t go out! People don’t believe me when I say it but I don’t go out haha. In Wales, I would take them down to the bay by the water where there is loads of nice bars and restaurants with big balconies. Any fresh seafood from any of those restaurants would be hard to beat. Then for good music, It would have to be in London so I’d say the Hoxton Underbelly. That was the first place I played when I moved to London and they get loads of great up-and-coming artists.
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