“Tried & True” (released 2001)
“Water Into Wine” (current release)
Hi Ellen, how are you?
Fine and really happy to be having some decent weather here in New York City after a brutally hot summer.
Which instruments do you play?
A bit of percussion.
And of course vocals are my main forte.
What made you decide to be a solo artist and not want to be in a band?
Primarily, my sound. I feel that I have a solo sound that’s a bit different and I don’t think I quite sound like anyone else and my voice also has a comforting quality that I feel draws people in. I do also love singing in a group situation.
Do you work with the same musicians when recording as you d o when performing live?
It doesn’t always work out that way. Some studio musicians who have both disciplines can do both but live musicians who don’t play in studios on a regular basis don’t have that experience which is really different from playing live and has nothing to do with how talented you are. The studio is about technique and specialized for that situation. It’s its own animal.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Like a lot of music it’s a hybrid of pop, rock & folk and more Adult Contemporary thematically and in presentation. The music is warm and inviting and my voice has a calming effect-it’s not an “in your face” sound.
What have you been up to recently?
Well this summer I had a number of gigs one of which was the Bethlehem Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. It’s a huge festival so that was a different experience. I’ve also done a few interviews and have been recently thinking about a new CD.
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
Hopefully I will be working towards a new release-writing and of course some live performances. Maybe with some luck you’ll hear me on the air waves!
Did you always want to be in a musician/singer when younger?
After I abandoned the idea of being a private detective at eight I guess somehow music became the main focus. My dad was a professional musician and producer so music and recording equipment was always around my house.
What music did you listen to while growing up?
Early on, my mother played me all the Broadway show recordings and then I studied classical piano all throughout school until college. When I started buying music I listened to a wide variety of things from James Taylor to Sade to classical.
How long have you been involved with writing & performing music?
I sang jingles first for several years before getting into writing and performing original music but it’s definitely been more than ten years for sure.
What was your first music making experience?
Probably attempting to play the flute in grade school but everyone was kicked out of the program if they could not make a sound in the first week. Later on in my twenties, a friend who played the flute lent me one of hers and I taught myself how to play “Annie’s Song” by John Denver so I could put that early incident to bed for good!
What is your current equipment?
Well I have some sound equipment when venues don’t provide it. Peavey PA system, JBL speakers and a Yamaha monitor. I use the classic SM58 gig mic.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
I studied classical piano for ten years and voice for twelve years. I also studied a bit of sight singing.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
A great wireless mic and some other wireless sound equipment to go with it.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
Not at all. I usually use what the producer has but I do get picky about the mic. Not all singers sound good on the same mic. Each mic has its own inherent qualities that bring out different aspects of a person’s voice.
Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
For the CD’s I usually have some of the songs ready to go while others might be undecided. Sometimes you realize as the process continues that you’ve changed your mind about certain songs and wind up writing new ones that originally you hadn’t planned to put on the album.
Which software/recording process do you use?
Producers I have worked with use Protools and Logic.
Would you sign with a major record company?
Sure, if it seemed like a good association.
Do you have any new recordings planned?
I’m starting to think about a new CD. On my Facebook page I might even invite fans to write in some subjects they’d like to hear written about.
How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
I definitely get involved at the beginning stages of the song production to set the mood and instrumentation and then get out of the way so the producer can do his job. Then we keep refining it as we go until we’re satisfied with what we have.
Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
I’m not sure if I’d like to be a record producer but I have worked with singers and experienced the other side of the fence. When I was involved with jingles I taught a class and helped singers put together demo reels. Having been a producer’s daughter I do have the instincts for it.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
It’s wonderful to record and a comfortable process for me because I have been doing it for a while; however, there are always challenges and you can’t expect to get what you want in one or two takes. Sometimes even with all the experience, a vocal can take a while to get what you’re hoping for since you’re contending with not only performance but mic technique as well.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
When recording I do think more about technique as the mic picks up every nuance. But I think I’m pretty true to my live sound in recordings. I don’t think there should be a huge discrepancy between what you sound like live and what your recorded sound is.
Do you have any favourite tracks on your album?
I feel a connection to all the songs but the first track “Making My Way Back (To Free)” resonates deeply with me as it deals with breaking away from what others expect of you and finding personal freedom. Also “Where Does All The Time Go” deals with a subject matter that kind of obsesses me which is the passage of time and how we perceive it-it was actually based on a poem that I wrote about the end of summer which is always a bitter sweet time.
Do you write songs/tracks only about personal experiences?
Not always. Sometimes the songs are a mixture of others’ experiences along with my own feelings thrown in there. As a singer I love to sing other people’s songs as well.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Difficult. Especially until the song starts to take shaped although sometimes finishing it can be just as challenging. I’ve gotten better after collaborating with Jennifer Dent who I co-wrote most songs with on Water Into Wine. I think what makes it difficult is that you’re dealing with music and words and they have to work well together-not to mention rhyming them too.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
Some independent artists here in NY that I know but haven’t written or performed with yet.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
There are many but these come to mind-Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Sting/Police.
Which countries have you gigged in?
Various states in the US.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
The UK, Italy, Germany & France but actually I’d go almost anywhere.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
Some self promotion-mailings, putting up posters, internet tools, performing and offering music to establishments to play in-store but recently I am using some PR services which really helps get the music out there on a bigger level.
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
In some ways I see the benefit and sometimes I think it’s overrated. People are so bombarded with info that I wonder how much it changes the bottom which for me is selling CD’s and having people attend the live shows. I think the internet is a good tool but not the end all be all.
With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
I think the more competition there is the more the site has to try to stand out and offer some unique marketing tools to draw fans to them.
How do you relax?
Hang out with friends, go to the gym, drink wine! Also-I love gardening and plants and that’s very relaxing.
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
Best-There’s not one that stands out but I think the best ones are when you know the audience is with you and you feel that strong connection.
Worst-well there was one when the sound system broke and I had to sing just standing in the room but it presented another gig challenge to overcome.
Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
Always. I pace a lot and try to be by myself until I have to go on.
What else do you do apart from being a singer/songwriter?
I write for a music magazine.
Would you like to be a full time working musician or are you happy with things as they are?
Most all my activities are music related at present. I would just like to do more of everything.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
Not yet but I have recently gotten involved with music licensing and hope that will be in my future.
Is composing for film & tv something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Yes, it’s a huge aspiration. I would love to get a song in a major film.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
No matter where you are on your music journey, as long as you’re growing and working in your chosen field you should consider yourself successful. Everything else that comes your way is icing on the cake!