Kate Ellis is an Americana/Folk singer-songwriter. She was born In Louisiana and raised In New York but is now based In London.
Kate’s southern country-folk roots come from her father who was an important early musical influence – as a young man he once played guitar with Hank Williams on the famous Louisiana Hayride, where Elvis and Johnny Cash started out. Kate’s emotional and seductive vocals take you into a world of private beauty, reflection and feelings. The music is intimate and evocative – you listen and want to be there.
A journalist for the Observer newspaper described hauntingly beautiful songs, while No Depression described her debut album ‘Carve Me Out’ as “an album of great warmth and feeling that just makes you press repeat – definitely worthy of recognition”, and Americana UK gave her new sophomore album ‘Spirals’ 9/10 calling it “An irrefutable, unquestionable joy.”
Please share a story that includes a happy memory as an artist and has hugely impacted your artistry.
I learned so much from working on my latest album Spirals in the studio with John Reynolds, the producer. John is a big believer in allowing space to try things and see what happens. I allowed myself to come up with ideas for some of the other instruments that I don’t play, just following my instincts. It made me realise that music is such an instinctive process and you can trust your instincts even in areas that you don’t have much experience in and add to the process. I found that very exciting and inspiring. How do you choose to lead a Happy Healthy life as an artist?
I do my best to eat healthily. I am very careful to get enough sleep, as I really don’t do well with sleep deprivation! I’m not great at exercise, but since the pandemic I have developed the habit of a daily walk which I love. And I have always been very interested in mental well-being and love exploring understandings that help me stay grounded and out of my head. In many ways this exploration is a theme of the new record Spirals. How we can go around in circles inside our heads or try to get back things we can’t, or solve a pain there’s no solution to – and getting out of these spirals to a more peaceful place on the other side. Who did you learn from to instill those values?
As a food editor, my mother loved good, healthy food and I definitely got that habit from her. But the interest in my own psychological health came from my own journey and has always been something that has both fascinated me and helped me enormously. Was it hard work to make sure that you focused on your well-being and not only your art?
I think I have always had a need to make sure I take care of myself. If I don’t, I am not very good at anything, especially creating art. Far from being a distraction, my songwriting is inextricably linked to my pursuit of well-being as I often write a song as a way of processing, understanding, or even reminding myself of an insight I had about life. It can be very cathartic and has been a way of expressing what I feel from the very beginning. Was there a turning point in how you decided to put yourself first?
I don’t know what to do now! With two kids it is very hard to do that. But as they are getting older and more independent, I am trying to shift away from the parental mentality, and get more centered in my own life and think about what I want for myself now. It is a very strange feeling! How do you like to promote a healthy lifestyle? I’m not really very good at promoting things, including myself! But I do think that songs can help us to get in touch with truths about who we are and how we all get through the obstacle course of life. In that sense I hope that my songs connect with people and might in turn help people connect with their own feelings – and that this connection can be both pleasurable and healing.
In what ways are you connecting with fans to check in on each other?
I’m quite introverted and private as a person so I struggle with social media – which is the default way that artists connect with their fans now, I guess. I sometimes think I could be more honest about how I’m feeling when I’m down and that this might help others – but on the other hand, as an introvert, when I am feeling in the grip of sadness, the last thing I feel like doing is sharing it on social media! If I see anyone in pain, of course, I’ll try and give as much support as I can – but I’m much better at that in person than with social posts. Who checks in on YOU when you need it most?
My husband, Andy, is the most wonderful supportive partner (both in music and in life). He will always listen to me when I’m struggling and offer any help he can. Both my kids are also wonderful, loving people and just having them in my life is a source of strength for me. My sister lives in the US, but we have great chats on the phone about our troubles and usually end up making each other laugh about them, which in the end is probably the best help you can get. Changing habits can be hard. Which was the habit that you had to change and how has it changed your life now?
We create thought habits from early in our lives, and in the last few years I have become aware of how much these thoughts shape and control our lives. I am still in the process of breaking some of these habits, which has really been a process of just seeing thought for what it is, not reality. Songs on my new album like The Story You’ve Been Told and the title track Spirals particularly touch on this journey I have been through and continue on today. Is there a song, book, movie, show, or anything that always gives you the motivation you need?
Learning about the Three Principles understanding has been a bit of a revelation to me, to be honest, so listening to any of the practitioners of this understanding grounds me in such a peaceful, centred space, from which life looks easier and more joyful. What is the mantra of 2022?!
You are not broken and anything is possible. Give all the inside scoop on your latest project! My second album Spirals just came out and it was a way of taking the whirlwind in my head and putting it to song.
Like many people, I have struggled with depression, anxiety and self-doubt at various times in my life. I think we tend to find greater peace with our psychological demons as we grow older. You can deepen your understanding of your own psychology at any age, but going through the death of your parents, watching your children grow up, and experiencing a lifetime of love and pain in relationships perhaps gives you more perspective on these issues.
I like how the Bandcamp editorial team summed up the new record – they said I use melancholy Americana and folk to conduct fearless soul searching. It’s definitely true that the songs on Spirals reflect my attempt to find a new understanding of ways to cope with the demons and dramas that can take over our minds.
The album has been received really positively which I’m thrilled about. We are now touring to promote the record and just having a great time playing to live audiences after such a long hiatus with the pandemic.
I’m also part of something called the ARC Songwriters Tour (which stands for Americana, Roots, Country), performing ‘in the round’ with two other wonderful female artists, My Girl the River and Anna Howie. This has been so much fun and a lovely experience working with other singer-songwriters sharing stories about our songs and singing harmonies with each other on stage and it’s helping me build my confidence to do more solo performing.
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And my site www.kateellis.com has links to my music, videos and tour dates.