Following on from the release of her debut album ‘Words I Never Said’, singer-songwriter Ella Vos went through a diagnosis and treatment for lymphoma, an experience chronicled in her brand new EP, ‘Watch and Wait’.
The EP dives into Vos’ inner thoughts around the incredibly difficult life experience, which she has now emerged from in partial remission.
We spoke with Vos about the new EP, as well as what else she has planned for 2019…
COUP DE MAIN: I love the lyric you sing in ‘Ocean’ - “Across the highway there's a girl I used to be.” Do you think that we, as humans, are aware of ourselves changing? Or that it’s something we realise in hindsight, when looking back?
ELLA VOS: Ooh such a good question… I feel like we are capable to an extent. Over the past year I’ve been uber-aware of how I’m in the process of change and feeling the struggle of it, like how a butterfly struggles out of its cocoon. Even where you are aware of it though, there’s only so much you can see, because you’re in the midst of it. You can sense it and name it, but you don’t really know the whole story yet. When you look back and see change, it’s a different experience. Also, to be able to be aware of yourself changing, I think you have to be really open and fearless; I think it’s much easier to carry on and not notice than to turn around and face it.
CDM: You wrote ‘Cast Away’ before your diagnosis, and it’s a really powerful song. Do you still feel like a castaway now, or have your feelings about that song changed over time?
ELLA: I hope one day that I don’t feel like a castaway, but that lost and lonely feeling will probably always come and go in my life and I accept that. What I have now, that I didn’t have then, is the knowing that I don’t have to remain in that state, repeating day after day, dragging along; and that since I’ve gotten out of once, I know I can find shore again. When I wrote that song I definitely felt like this was “it”, this is what I was going to feel like forever. I don’t feel like that anymore.
CDM: In ‘Ocean’ you compare yourself to a body of water, and you also refer to water in ‘Temporary’ (“All the water is running,” and in the image on the EP cover too) - what is it about that imagery that you’re so drawn to in songwriting and music?
ELLA: I’m LOL-ing for real right now because it’s so true, I am obsessed with water - even before this EP, water makes its way into every creative thought of mine somehow. Maybe because I am a water sign; I’m a cancer. I love how water can change, how it cleanses, how it moves. I love that it’s fluid, how it can take you new places. I love how it is a force, and can be powerful and terrifying, but then so quickly become peaceful and gentle. My uncle recently pointed my water obsession out to me and said “you’re going to get swept away one day”; to which I thought, maybe that’s what I want - to be swept away.
CDM: You directed the music video for ‘Temporary’ yourself - what was that experience like?
ELLA: There’s a kind of ease I feel when I am directing myself. Being able to take myself where I want in an environment and tell the story I’m imagining in my head is like giving myself another voice. Having a voice, and feeling comfortable enough to use it, is something I’ve struggled with for forever basically, so this feels like a really important step for me and I’ve found so far to be extremely fulfilling.
CDM: Is directing videos something you want to continue to do with your music, in having that level of control?
ELLA: Yes, 100%. Although, I do love collaborating with other creatives, and I like the challenge of taking on a character that someone else has imagined - so I really welcome both in the future!
CDM: The essay you penned about the EP and your diagnosis is really beautiful and honest - how does it feel sharing these really personal experiences with the world, through the music, and through this essay?
ELLA: Being able to share through music and other creative formats is really incredible. I find it extremely hard to share any other way - yet I really crave for people to know and understand me and to connect through our experiences. There’s occasional moments where I want to hide everything I’ve ever written, change my name and start a new life where nobody knows me; but that quickly passes, and I remember how much there is to share that I have yet to.
CDM: What made you want to name the EP ‘Watch & Wait’?
ELLA: I first saw the phrase “watching and waiting” when reading about different treatments for lymphoma and it always stuck with me. I’ve often felt like I’m just watching and waiting in life, waiting for something to happen, watching time pass me by, instead of being proactive and going after what I want. I especially felt that while writing these songs. I think the title also gives this EP closure for myself, as it reminds me that it’s in the past, and that’s the way I used to view life; and now, I know that I don’t need to wait, that the ball has always been in my court. Also, the other name option for the EP was “Sorry, I couldn’t make it, I have cancer” and everybody hated that one.
CDM: Did you find writing the songs for the EP a cathartic experience?
ELLA: To be totally honest... I would say, maybe 10% of the time it was cathartic, the other 90% was frustrating. It was a great tool to distract me and give me something to look forward to when I was writing lyrics in treatment. And when we’d go back and listen and decide on which songs were keepers, it gave me a lot of hope that my life was going to carry on as normal. But then there would be weeks where I’d be too sick to sing, or couldn’t hear properly and the entire project would slow down and all I could do was endlessly text my producer “THIS SUCKS” and wonder if I’d ever get better and if I’d ever release it and if everyone would just forget about me. But it was in moments like those that 'Ocean' was written and I’d have a big realization about what I was going through. It was a tumultuous time to say the least.
CDM: Are you looking forward to bringing the songs to a live setting on tour in a few months time?
ELLA: YES! I’m excited to hear them on a big stage because I really love the textures in these songs. Also I think because they are way more personal and “unmasked” than my first album and I think it’ll add a whole other element to the live show.
CDM: If E.L.L.A. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
ELLA: Eccentric Lovers League Anonymous.
Ella Vos’ new EP ‘Watch and Wait’ is out now - listen to it below…