Having had a busy (2015) so far- including a successful Kickstarter campaign- Ellene Masri is preparing for busy times: there is a lot of love (and support) for her music. Having followed her career- and being familiar with her work- I was keen to catch up; see how this year has treated her (and what she has in store)
OVER the past months (and years) I have been deeply impressed- by the new music talent coming through. This is especially true of Ellene Masri: one of the most striking and passionate (artists in the music world).
Having completed a successful Kickstarter campaign- the funding for her Lonely Girl: A Live Video Performance (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellenemasri/lonelygirl)- Masri has a busy (rest of 2015) ahead: one filled with excitement, possibility and music. Based in the U.S., the French-born artist is one of the most humble musicians I have known: she loves her fans and this enforces her tremendous music. In addition (to her jaw-dropping beauty) comes an endless work rate- a huge passion for music (and reaching new fans). Not contented to sit still, Masri always bowls me over: the way she talks about music has inspired me; propelled my creative mind (it would be great to collaborate with her soon). Having communicated via Facebook- about mainly personal/Kickstarter-related issues- I was keen to go deeper: find out what drives her music; who has influenced her- and whether the music industry is male-driven (and unequal)
Hi Ellene. How are you today? It is very windy in the U.K.: how is it where you are?
Hi Sam I’m doing great thank you. It’s always a pleasure chatting with you. It is windy too here out West, but sunny!
Congratulations (on the successful funding) of your Kickstarter campaign- www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellenemasri/lonelygirl: have you been surprised (by the amount of people who got involved)?
Thank you! Of course and to tell you the truth, I had no idea of how much help I would receive. I’ve been extremely surprised by their generosity. It was amazing to get such great support from people all over the world. I knew it would come mainly from Europe and the U.S. but I discovered people were also enjoying my music in Latin America, Japan, Australia, Indonesia...
Now that you have (achieved your target on Kickstarter) what will are you doing over the next few weeks/months?
Not only did we reach the initial target but we also met the Stretch Goal which allowed us to book a second day in the studio, add two staff members and to arrange to shoot a Documentary that will be released a little bit later. We will be shooting the video on April 26. So right now I am organizing the video. I am working on putting the rewards together and will be shipping them very soon. I will release a Stevie Wonder cover recorded with Sir. Gant especially for the backers. So it’s going to be a busy month. Once the video is ready, it will be sent to my agents.
With regards (your recent ‘Live Video’/Kickstarter success): how important is social media to you (and other musicians)?
Social media is very important. A lot of professionals use it as a tool to discover new artists. But it is also crucial to build a real relationship with your fans that I consider as friends a lot of times. They support me and I’m really thankful for that. They give a meaning to my music. I see it as a chain. The artist, the journalists, the D.J.s and the fans. We are all essential to each other.
You are currently in the U.S. and originate from France. Will you be coming to London/ Europe (over the next few months)?
Yes. I plan to come to London this summer. I will also go to France to visit my parents that I haven’t seen in almost a year now.
You have been working with Sir Gant (www.sirgant.com) a lot (on some wonderful collaboration pieces). How important (has he been) with regards your development/success?
We've just started, really. We haven’t released any original material yet. We did a few covers for the fun and now we’re working on this important project which is the video, a video that will be shared with the fans and spread all over the internet as an introductory taste of our collaboration. I think this will be more representative of our work than anything you've seen/heard us doing until now.
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Having reviewed your music last year- Music (the album) and Rain (song) was some of finest music I heard last year- are there plans for (some new music) in 2015?
I have to tell you again how deeply touched I felt by your fantastic review. You were first to review it and I remember saying to myself: anytime you doubt, go back to this review, someone out there is moved by your music. I like to think that the people who you’re speaking to through your music will recognize themselves. I believe that you attract a certain category of souls depending on what music you make. And I’m not just talking about a music style here, I’m talking about the kind of emotions that you let flow. It could be love, anger, ego; it could be a lot of things. I want my music to be loving. I’m not bitter so I don’t want it to be. It’s OK for it to be nostalgic but I think there’s no need for it to be sad. We get enough of this every day.
Your music is very unique in a culture with homogenised and predictable music. Who has influenced your music? Has your itinerant background (and traveling to many countries) enforced your rich (and distinct) sound?
Thank you Sam. My influences are so many and diverse that it is hard to tell. But I have my favorites. Bob Marley, Third World and Steel Pulse, The Cure, Stevie Wonder, India Arie, Rachelle Ferrell, Jonathan Butler, Anita Baker, Richard Bona, Ella Fitzgerald... And of course I’m very influenced by my roots. My mother would listen to Nat King Cole and my father loved Classical music (European and Egyptian Classical music)... In fact when I was a kid he would set a timer on the boom box and I would wake up to the music. I also love to travel and then incorporate different sounds in my music: I think Hossam Ramzy’s Tabla (Egyptian Tabla master) on Secret Lover is giving the song its unique groove, halfway between Latin Jazz and Middle Eastern grooves. It’s also a way for me to pay tribute to my Egyptian roots!
On that note: I am very inspired by Jazz-Rock legends Steely Dan; great artists like Jeff Buckley and Radiohead. If you had to select (your most influential/favourite artists) who would you select?
I like Steely Dan too. But I would say Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder.
With London growing (as a music city): can you see yourself moving to/performing more (over here)?
Oh YES! I love London so much! I've always been attracted by and sensitive to the British Culture. It’s something about the energy of London city and its musical scene. I feel a deep connection. But I’ll go wherever the music takes me.
Does the U.S. provide greater opportunities/chances for musicians like you (with a very special style)?
It’s a little early for me to say as I haven’t started touring yet. I know how it is in the U.S., the U.K. and France, but there’s so much to discover. However, I think you create opportunities!
In addition to your original material you have recorded a wide range of covers. If you had to choose your top five songs/albums from music (that have meant the most to you) what would they be?
I am glad you let me choose between songs and albums. A lot of times I only listen to a couple of songs in an album. So, off the top of my head I would say...
> My One & Only Love (George Benson, Tribute to Nat King Cole)
> Heal Our Land (Jonathan Butler)
> Rocket Love (Stevie Wonder)
> Another Day (Buckshot LeFonque feat. Frank McComb)
> Sweet Love (Anita Baker)
A lot of new musicians have to work tirelessly (to get their music heard/reviewed/ funded) and can often face disappointment/ despondency. What would you say to anyone (in that situation): what are the best ways to market/find success?
“Success is when preparation meets opportunity”. I like that saying. Opportunities will come up when you will reach a great level with your music. When you’re ripe and ready! You will find agents; you will find people who will want to get on the boat because they believe in you. You have to do your part first. (Four more questions left sorry to ramble, slightly).
It seems in music- like a lot of sectors- there are more men/male-led bands (taking a lot of media focus). With fantastic acts (such as yourself) coming through: do you think things need to change (in the industry). Is it something that makes you angry/sad?
“This is a man’s world!” There’s no doubt about it. Yes it needs to change and yes it makes me terribly sad. What needs to change in the industry? More women in the key positions, maybe. If women were to make choices, I think it would be different. I’m not just blaming everything on men. A lot of women also have prejudices about women. And the more they work together, the more they will learn to listen to each other and respect each other’s opinion. Now in the media, I think our Western model h as hyper-sexualized women and not necessarily liberated them. I want to see my sisters as entrepreneurs, artists, proud mothers, not just as girls pimped by their producers. The new generation is hearing Rihanna sing “Pour it up; pour it up, that’s how we ball out.” Is this what we want to teach them? That a woman’s success depends on the amount of dollar bills filling her bra?
Having known you quite a few months and followed your progress what have been your highlights (of your music career thus far): any particular highs that stick out?
My album’s release. A new Video coming up. It’s just the start, really. I’m eager to get on tour and create more “highs”
Odd question (had to throw one in). Looking at your ‘fan map’- location of people who have followed your music/donated to Kickstarter- Australia (and N.Z.) seems a little bare: are these areas you wish to conquer and play- it seems your music would go down there very well.
Of course! I want to go everywhere... The world is so full of amazing places! They’re already playing my music down there in Australia. I also have direct uncles, aunts and cousins that were born there and live in Sydney. So yes, I’m really eager to go there!
Thanks for your time, Ellene. You have worked tirelessly and will be doing so a lot and best of luck going forward. It seems like exciting times are ahead...
Thank you Sam. You are also working hard supporting independent artists and other causes and I am really grateful for that. You’re doing a great job reviewing emerging artists using your writing skills, great ear and sensibility. I look forward to meeting you very soon in London...
THAT will be something to look forward to for sure.
Follow Ellene Masri:
Ellene’s album (Music) is available at:
Ellene’s latest track (Lonely Girl) can be heard here: