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INTERVIEW

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and it’s a new event for Songwall with the launch of Songwall Sessions this week!

We caught up with the incredible Ella Joy ahead of her live performance at Cogs Bar this Wednesday 24th August to find out a little more about this Songwall veteran!

What are you most looking forward to about Songwall Sessions at Cogs Bar?

I’m really looking forward to the familiar sense of community during this gig. After my last Songwall performance, I went home glowing from being so filled with joy by the audience. I’m also really excited to be performing in such a great venue – the steampunk vibe looks amazing.

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you find music?

I remember singing to “Mama Do” by Pixie Lott when I was about 12, and really enjoying the different ways that I could sing it. After that I taught myself guitar and covered a couple of songs; “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran, and “Someone Like You” by Adele. I remember loving this process because I completely ripped the songs apart and created a totally different melody for them – opening a door to creative expression, which wasn’t something I’d found in many other things before.

Throughout that time, I’d also started listening to a lot of music by Etta James, Otis Reading and Ray Charles, who’s music I loved because it filled me with happiness every time I listened to it. I still often listen to their music.

I then had another pivotal moment when I was 15 after finding artists such as Alt-J, The XX and Bonobo. I was really excited to have found these artists because they felt like home to me. There was something within the way that the songs were created that felt new and exciting, and I realised that there was a whole world of music that I just hadn’t clocked on to. From there I went into a little rabbit hole of finding as many different sounds as possible, and this is where I feel that my writing came into its own, and I started writing songs that genuinely resonated with me.

Describe what music means to you in 5 words or less

Strength, expression, personality and freedom.

Who or what are your biggest influences/inspirations?

I’ve been inspired by so many artists. At the moment I’m finding a lot of inspiration within the music of artists such as Sevdeliza and FKA Twigs. I really love what these women are releasing to the world. They seem to offer a lot more than music — it’s expression; a sense of self and so much boundary-pushing creativity that I am inspired to embody as well. Their music represents the deep electronic and almost experimental side to production that I am finding is having an impact on the work that I am creating.

Another constant source of inspiration that seems to slip in to every song that I write is essentially my exploration into spirituality and self inquiry. This is a topic that I feel that I could write about forever, as there is so much to discover and comment on.

What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self about creating and sharing music?

I feel that my musical journey has been very fluid and fulfilling to this day. I’ve really enjoyed the experience of creation and learning, but perhaps if I was to do it again I would encourage myself to be bold and to meet every situation just as I am, without the lingering sense of “what if they don’t understand me” having an effect on my expression. This feels like quite an innocent and tender element of self doubt, which I’m sure many people can relate to, but recently I’ve been very inspired and motivated by other artists presenting themselves with real strength and confidence, and this is something that allows others, and myself, to do so too.

What is the song, by any artist, which best describes your journey through life and music so far?

“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. Every time I hear this song I’m filled with joy, and this song embodies strength and passion to me. It’s also one of the first songs that got me listening to this element of soulful music, and marks another mini landmark in my musical journey as I posted an acapella cover of this song on YouTube a few years back.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life who would you choose?

Etta James!

What’s your favourite song in your set?

My favourite song has to be “King”; I really do enjoy singing this song, and it changes every time I sing it which keeps it creatively fulfilling.

What opportunities and/or challenges does today’s climate present to new artists?

I think that social media holds a really strong presence in our society at the moment. There are many positive and negative impacts of social media, and I really feel that it is down to the user to place positive things in front of themselves and not get pulled in to a toxic and illusory sense of online presence that is so easy to be involved in. At the moment I’m constantly inspired by the revolutionary movements that are often communicated through social media, particularly a diverse exploration of spirituality, feminism and the promotion of equality on a humanitarian level. The progressive movements that I’m seeing online are truly encouraging and I genuinely feel that we’re supported and encouraged when moving into another phase of self development and awareness. This provides us with a platform that offers real opportunities for growth and authentic expression, which is really exciting to me. This flows into many creative works; music, pieces of art, dance, and so many more art forms. With this movement impacting so many of these elements, it’s almost impossible not to create work that affects someone on a meaningful level and I just love that.

There is, however, a side to social media that I feel has a negative effect on artists. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are almost seen as the modern version of a business card, and for many creatives this can be both oppressing and overwhelming. I recognise that there is definitely pressure to communicate certain parts of yourself that align with the “brand” of an artist if their online profiles are open to be judged and interpreted in so many ways. When you’re faced with the idea that you’re presenting yourself online for the means of promotion of communicating your “brand”, it’s very easy to project a manufactured version of yourself. This feels toxic to me, though innocent and is perhaps even unconscious. I think it’s really important that we recognise these occurrences and are open with ourselves when it comes to posting things online, questioning the motive and authenticity behind what we’re sharing. It’s easy to create an identity when you use platforms such as Instagram, and these identities can be unhealthy and self restricting, as well as promoting a potential “ideal” sense of “reality” that is ultimately intangible and unrealistic. This is where a healthy relationship between projection and reality comes in, and I think we’re in a space where we can face ourselves and promote really healthy attitudes to life and our identities.

How did you discover Songwall and what are your thoughts about us so far?

I discovered Songwall through a mutual friend, and I’ve loved being involved with it so far. I feel that the ethos behind Songwall is wonderful; it promotes a sense of respect for the artist, as the artist is really honoured — leading the way for a really promising move within the industry to support emerging artists such as myself and many others.

Tell everyone why they should come along and hear you play at Cogs Bar!

This should be a really loving and intimate gig. It’s great to have an event that features new artists, and partnered with a wonderful venue, this makes for an exciting evening of fresh entertainment with a wonderful atmosphere.

Make sure you don’t miss the amazing opportunity to see Ella Joy perform live at Songwall Sessions!

Weds 24th August: £5.00 ENTRY
Doors open: 7.30pm | Music Starts: 8.00pm
Cogs Bar, Newhall Street, Birmingham.

(Artist Photo courtesy of Tudor Rusu)

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Songwall Sessions Cogs Bar

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