I have been speaking with teenager Ellie Occleston…
as she discusses her new single, Splinters. I ask what comes next in terms of gigs and material; relocating to Spain from Merseyside; some of her treasured memories from music – and some great new artists we should all be more aware of.
Occleston talks about Michael Kiwanuka and Sir Elton John; how important London is regarding her music and ambition; whether she takes time away from music to relax; advice she would give to new artists emerging; whether Splinters, her debut single, is a nervous move – whether it was hard convincing her parents to come back to the U.K. and let her pursue a career in music.
Hi, Ellie. How are you? How has your week been?
With the release of Splinters alongside my studies (I am still at school doing A-levels); it´s been complete madness but a lot of fun…
To be honest; the feedback and support I have had, and the love that´s been shown for Splinters, has taken my breath away - and it feels a bit like it`s happening to somebody else!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Okey dokey. I would say I am somewhere between Indie-Pop and Indie-Folk with occasional undertones of Jazz and Soul – so not really a specific genre. I have really strong acoustic roots but recently started to experiment and arrange my music in a full-band setting…which has helped me further develop my overall sound in terms of both my songwriting and performance – and it also gives me versatility and scalability when I perform in different venues.
Splinters is your debut single. What is the story behind the song?
When I write songs, I try to use my personal view and experience to create something that people can relate to from different angles: whereas Splinters comes from what was a tough situation for me. I wrote it from a broader view of those situations we have all been in that eat away at you and, if you don't have a sense of perspective and positivity, it will end up being all-consuming.
Is it quite daunting putting out that first song?! How do you feel knowing it is going out to the world?
I am so excited to release this track and hope that Splinters resonates with people and they are able to find a connection with my lyrics and music. I am equally as nervous, however, but, as my grandad always used to tell me: "It´s better to be looked over than overlooked"
So here´s hoping...
How was it working with Jon Moon on the track? What do you think he brought to the song?
In a word: EPIC.
Jon has worked with a huge list of incredible people including Amy Winehouse, Florence + The Machine; Paolo Nutini, Two Door Cinema Club etc. - so I feel really humbled to have worked with him. He is so talented, experienced and such a nice guy - and he really listened to what I wanted in terms of creative ideas for the track and helped me capture them perfectly.
You started like in Merseyside and relocated to Spain. Was it hard acclimatising to a new culture and living there? Did you write a lot of music when you were in Spain?
Yes. At first; it was really hard in terms of culture and language - particularly as I attended a Spanish school. So, during that initial period, songwriting and music were my escape and rapidly became my obsession. Once I became bilingual, things were easier - but my love for songwriting and music, thankfully, persisted. I also think it was a great experience and opened my mind completely; giving me the freedom to feel comfortable with who I am and to put that authenticity into my music.
How did you end back up in the U.K.? Was it hard convincing your parents?
Obviously; the lifestyle and the weather are vastly different in Madrid compared to London, so you would think it was a hard sell. However, my family are really supportive, and so, when I explained what I wanted to do; why and how I could make it happen they relented – plus, about a year of me continuously asking probably helped!
How important is London and the U.K. regarding your growth and music?
Since being back in the U.K., and London specifically, I have realised that it is one huge melting-pot of every kind of music you could imagine. Being exposed to a wide variety of new and different genres really made me think about the type of music I was making; being able to blur the boundaries that lie between ‘genres’ - and to combine their relevant appealing elements to create something unique and authentic to me.
Do you think they’ll be more music soon? What are you working on?
Yes. I recorded Splinters alongside some other new tracks at Sensible Studios in North London and, depending on how things go with Splinters (fingers crossed…); I plan to release a follow-up single soon. Whilst it´s just me and the piano on Splinters, I was lucky enough to have some stellar people on these other tracks - including Dale Davis on Bass (he was Amy Winehouse´s bassist and musical director); Jon Moody on Keys (who is part of the emerging and totally stunning band, FrancMoody), and Andy Mapp (Katrina and the Waves) on Drums. Sensible Studios is such an amazing place with a stunning music history: just so inspiring.
Also, while recording there, I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Powell (The Libertines) and JP Cooper (who ‘popped in’ for a chat) – it was totally surreal but they were such nice people.
Which artists are most important to you? Who do you count as influences?
I think it´s healthy and fun to listen to a whole range of music: I love everything from Classic Folk, to Hip-Hop; to Jazz and anything Indie. The types of artists I really connect to are those who tell their own experiences, from an angle unique to them but in a way that anyone can interpret it as they please. I think I have many influences, but if I had to name the most influential on me they would be: Palace, Joni Mitchell; David Bowie, Paolo Nutini; Tom Odell and Fleetwood Mac.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Currently, no tour planned - but I have some London gigs coming up in the next few weeks including (for the) Coffee Music Project (Soho); The Fix (Fitzrovia), plus a couple of other gigs in the pipeline. I am lining up some potential festival appearances.
IN THIS PHOTO: Rex Orange County
Which new artists do you recommend we check out?
Oh, there are too many to choose from! I’m really loving Rex Orange County at the moment - not sure if he´s emerging or already emerged but I have followed him for over a year or so - and it makes me so excited to see artists I love blow up! Others I´m really into: Crumb, Palace; Yellow Days, Cosmo Pyke…
IN THIS PHOTO: Palace
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
It´s been an interesting and rollercoaster year for me already - and it's only February! A clear focus for me is to complete my schooling/A-levels as well as progressing in my music - and then to then take stock of potential opportunities so I can decide what would be the best way forward for me, in terms of both personal and musical development.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Hands-down, it has to be a songwriting masterclass run by Michael Kiwanuka at the Royal Albert Hall. Not only meeting him: he is a stunning musician and person. I got to share Splinters on piano – which just happened to be Sir Elton John´s Red Piano….
I was far more nervous about not damaging the piano than performing to one of my favourite songwriters!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
This is a tricky one because it´s different for everyone but, if I had to say one thing (it's only one as you can say it all in one breath!); I´d say perform as much as you can, accept the bad with the good; write as much as you can, listen to and watch as much different music as humanly possible… and just have fun!
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
To be honest; the way I chill away from music is by listening to music! Instrumental music really relaxes me: I love Classical music and am currently really into Lofi Hip-Hop. I also love shopping: it´s very therapeutic! I also just love chilling with my mates and my sister.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Oh, exciting! It´s going to have to be… Live Well by Palace
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