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Interview: 2022 Must-Know - Ella Jane

Interview: 2022 Must-Know - Ella Jane

With crystal-clear creative vision and endless melodic arrangements, Ella Jane demands your full attention. Her calling card is gut-punch lyrics like, "Started reading the Times / Just to look for your name / I couldn't find it / They must have made a mistake," and "I ride the subway 'cause I look for you in every face / Don't wanna find you though / 'Cause 8 million strangers lose their distance once you take their place," weaved heartbreakingly through intoxicating production and glossy vocals. 

It becomes increasingly difficult as you devour her 2021 'THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!' record to not feel everything alongside her; to experience both the ups and downs, and the heartbreak, and the sentiment of every word with Jane. She sees a pop song as a Trojan Horse of sorts, observing: "If you play your cards right, you can sneak into the mainstream with a catchy hook and danceable production; however, those who look just a little closer will see that something far more complex, meaningful, and imperfect lives inside."

At just 20 years of age, and Jane's debut 2020 'The City' single opening her latest record, Jane is still experiencing firsts; two years down the track. She played her first ever live show this past December describing it as a full circle moment for her: "The place was just filled with so much love. I genuinely think I left my body at one point. Words can't describe how crazy the whole thing was to experience, and I am truly grateful beyond words."

We got to chat to Jane via email this past month about miserable lyrics hidden in amongst fun, hating horror movies, and getting lost in emotion... 

MUST-LISTEN: 'Nothing Else I Could Do', 'Thief', 'August Is A Fever'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Gracie Abrams, Taylor Swift, Maude Latour, Claire Rosinkranz, Thomas Headon, Maisie Peters... and triple-texting your crush.

COUP DE MAIN: I love the opening song ‘The City’ and think the lyric, "Your shadow stained the carpet so I got hardwood floors," is so heartbreakingly candid. Do you think when you associate a person with a song/place/thing, you can revisit that thing without thinking of them? Or can you form a new connection with it? 
ELLA JANE: Thank you so much - that's a personal favourite lyric of mine, so I'm glad it stuck out to you too!  This is a really great question. 'The City' was a song I wrote at 16 or 17 about a close friendship I had for many years that I felt I had to get out of. Even though the "city" I wrote about in the song was a metaphorical one, it also was very much about that intermingling of our relationships and our surroundings. When we lose someone, it becomes very easy to view their effect on the things we once loved as a sort of contamination - these memories taint and pollute until the songs that used to be our favourite become the reason we leave a party early. But I think there's a way to look back fondly on the positive memories you shared with that person while still acknowledging the pain they caused you. Time really does heal all, and soon you'll share another favourite song with a new love, a new friend, in a new place; and even if one day those change too, it doesn't make the time you spent with them any less valuable.

CDM: Do you have a song from your discography that you think is the most Ella Jane song of the bunch?
ELLA: Haha, yes!! Probably 'bored&blind', weirdly enough - even though I would consider my current writing pretty different and a lot more developed than it was at 16, when I wrote the song. But I don't know, something about it feels very ~quintessential ella~ to me! I think it's the fact that pretty miserable lyrics are hiding in plain sight amidst a fun, uptempo pop song. It feels very teenage, in a great way.

CDM: A theme I found running through the album is a sense of feeling lost, but there’s also an intense sense of quite fiery love and heartbreak weaved throughout the record. Do you still find you resonate with these themes? 
ELLA: It's funny that you say that, because although I was certainly lost and definitely a bit heartbroken, I never actually dated anyone in high school. I went to a really small school in a really small town, and no one dated that much - we all knew each other since kindergarten so it felt kind of strange. But that was the period of time during which I wrote all those songs, and throughout it I experienced so many feelings of longing, rejection, and excitement. Not to be the bitch who quotes a book (lol), but there's this passage in the new Sally Rooney novel where one of the characters talks about those relationships we often develop that don't fit our standard moulds. She writes, "At times I think of human relationships as something soft like sand or water, and by pouring them into particular vessels we give them shape. [...] But what would it be like to form a relationship with no preordained shape of any kind?" At the time I wrote my EP, a lot of the relationships in my life took that shapeless form, and sometimes they still do; I think everyone has those people they just flirt with, or those friendships that feel romantic in an unspoken way. Are those any less important than the ones we define? We can still experience love and loss within them - they're just harder to name. And I think that when you're younger, those kinds of connections feel a lot more significant, which in turn can make it sting even more when that significance is overlooked or invalidated. Now, as I navigate young adulthood, it's nice to explore these themes from a newer perspective than when I wrote about them as a young teenager.

CDM: You also played your first ever show in December of last year! What was it like getting to play your songs live in front of a crowd?
ELLA: AHH it was so surreal, dude. It was such an insane full circle moment to be playing my very first show in New York, and to have it be sold out, no less! After the show I got to talk to a bunch of fans and it warmed my heart to meet all these high school kids who took the train in from the suburbs just to see me, because that's exactly what I did with my friends growing up. The place was just filled with so much love. I genuinely think I left my body at one point. Words can't describe how crazy the whole thing was to experience, and I am truly grateful beyond words. 

CDM: What was running through your mind when you were writing your latest single 'Calling Card'?
ELLA: Okay, lately I have been picky with what I say about 'Calling Card' because it is quickly becoming apparent to me that people think I am fully insane. I hate horror movies. I am genuinely a baby. But I don't know, didn't everyone have a true crime phase? They're addicting, these stories. The song first started as a chorus that I came up with senior year of high school while sitting in my Forensic Science class. We learned the term "calling card", which is basically a serial killer's signature that they leave at every crime scene. Suddenly in my head I heard this bassline, and the phrase "what's your calling card, killer?", and I ran out of the classroom to take a voice memo of it in a bathroom stall. For a while it was just a chorus, but then I realised that it would be a really fun challenge for me to compare someone who serially screws people over with someone who, you know.... serially murders people. The rest came together from there. I promise I am not crazy. Hehe.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
ELLA: Definitely 'AUGUST IS A FEVER'. One of the (many) reasons I look up to Lorde so much is for her unreal ability to capture a feeling in such a visceral way. I love lyrics that make the listener feel so much that they don't really have a choice BUT to get lost in the imagery - in those emotions. And I think 'AUGUST [IS A FEVER]' was the closest I've gotten to that.

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
ELLA: Frankly, if I told you I write with a clear "message" in mind, I'd be lying. I think a major reason that pop music gets kind of a bad rap is because of how concise and predictable the songs usually are. On the radio, we are inundated with these perfect messages about self-love and "living in the moment", all wrapped up in equally perfect packaging. But to me, pop can be so much more than that, and it's SUCH a powerful device when used correctly. I think a great pop song is like a Trojan Horse in that way. Meaning, if you play your cards right, you can sneak into the mainstream with a catchy hook and danceable production; however, those who look just a little closer will see that something far more complex, meaningful, and imperfect lives inside. So in all honesty, THAT'S what I aim for when I write - the rest is just me writing about my life like I have since I was 12. All I can hope for as an artist is that my audience can connect with that, and perhaps see themselves mirrored in my own experiences so that they feel a little less alone.

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
ELLA: I don't even particularly enjoy spicy food so not only is this a pipe dream but it's a stupid one, but I would LOVE to be on Hot Ones some day. I watch every episode. There's something so smart and hysterical about asking people very vulnerable questions while they're wincing through a wing doused in the spiciest sauces on earth. I'm obsessed. I would also die to work with Glossier one day. I've been reading the website Into The Gloss, created by Glossier founder Emily Weiss, since I was in middle school. I'm a Glossier gal 4 life <3 

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
ELLA: Oh man, literally anything from Aritzia. Or maybe a really nice plug-in (like the kind you produce with), because I'm truly a kid in a candy store when it comes to those. I blow all my money on them and it is becoming quite dangerous. So if anyone can teach me how to hack, let me know.... I will make you pretty songs in exchange.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2022… who are yours?
ELLA: Many to name, but here's who comes to mind right away: 1.) The group Boyish and 2.) Laura Elliott. Both artists are good friends of mine, wonderful people, and even better musicians. I also recommend 3.) Dora Jar to anyone who will listen... I truly adore her and I think she is going to be huge by the end of the year. Lastly, 4.) My friend Chappell Roan, who is about to release this song called 'Naked in Manhattan' that will absolutely blow your minds. She is an outstanding person and incredible writer. 

CDM: What's next for you?
ELLA: I'm working on a project now that I am really, really excited about. And then in April and May I'm going on my very first tour!!! I'll be opening up for Peter McPoland, who is just the sweetest, and we're going to major cities all across the US and a bit of Canada. We're gonna be playing some iconic venues, most of which sold out within minutes... I can't wait. Gonna be a big year. :')

Watch Ella Jane's video for 'Calling Card' below...

Check out more 2022 Must-Know artists here.

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