5 Questions with Jeff Ellis
WANT TO GO?
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Tamarack, Beckley
COST: Free INFO: 888-262-7225 or www.facebook.com/jeffellismusic
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This week, Chapmanville native, South Charleston resident and prolific alt-country/Americana singer/songwriter Jeff Ellis released his sixth solo CD, "Learning How to Live." He'll perform at Tamarack in Beckley this Sunday as part of its free Sunday@Two concert series.
The gazz spoke with Ellis, now married with a young son, about life these days and how it has changed his songwriting.
Q: How was it playing the West Virginia Independent Music Festival last Saturday?
A: [Founder] Daniel Johnson does a wonderful job with the WVIMF. Anything he puts together you know is going to be professional. Everything from the sound to the vendors is top notch, and he really does a great job keeping it all running smoothly. Last year's lineup was amazing and I didn't know if he could top it, but this year's was just as good without recycling a lot of the same bands.
Speaking of the bands, seeing Jon Lancaster and company perform is always a treat for me. I also really enjoyed Tim Browning and the Widowmakers' set. I'm looking forward to hearing their debut album.
The rain kept a few people away this year, which was unfortunate, but those who braved the weather got a full day of some of West Virginia's finest music, as well as some delicious food from Black Circle Bistro and Rock City Cake Co. Plus, the event was free to the public! You just can't beat that.
Q: Have your relatively new responsibilities as a father and a husband affected how you write?
A: Being a husband and a father is a lot of work, but there is nothing quite as fulfilling or rewarding in my book. It's definitely forced me to grow up a lot in a short amount of time, and I think that growth reflects in the newer material.
As my responsibilities in life have increased, my songwriting output has decreased; however I think the quality of the songs I'm writing these days has never been better. A friend of mine once told me that family is an endless supply of inspiration, and I'm finding that to be the truth.
I have been extremely blessed in my life, and I try hard not to take anything for granted. My wife is one of the strongest people I know and a wonderful mother. She juggles taking care of me and our little boy while continuing to work, cook, clean and maintain about a million other responsibilities. She is the center that holds our family together, and she usually runs the house alone, as I tend to be away more often than not.
Stephen Kellogg, one of my favorite young songwriters, has a song that says, "There's one thing on earth that no one can touch; It's the sleep of a satisfied man." I sleep pretty well these days.
Q: How excited are you about the new record?
A: I'm very excited to get the album out, mainly just to see how people respond to the new songs.
[Producer] Eddie [Ashworth] and I took a different approach this time around and recorded most of the album out at his house in the country, about 15 minutes outside of Athens, Ohio. Where the last few records were recorded mostly live with minimal takes, this record was recorded and re-recorded, and in some cases, recorded for a third time until we got exactly what we wanted.
We also did most of the basic tracks ourselves and then brought in guest players for overdubs. There are more players on this record than anything I've ever done, which makes for an extremely varied soundscape. I think it's the best work we've done together, but it's also the most experimental.
In my opinion, it's a sort of a transitional album. There are a few songs from the final sessions I did with Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls before they split up that sound like they could have been on "The Forgetting Place," and then there are songs like "Lullaby" that don't sound like anything I've ever done before.
Q: What sort of working relationship have you developed with Ashworth after recording with him so much?
A: I trust Eddie one hundred percent as a producer, and we've become great friends over the years. He is the only person I've ever worked with that I can say, "Just do whatever you think sounds best," and truly trust that I'm going to be happy with what comes out of the session.
There have been several overdub sessions that I wasn't even there for, and he came through with the takes every time. I think we've created a unique sound over the past four albums that has defined what "Jeff Ellis" sounds like. I plan to continue making records with him as long as I can.
Q: What's your favorite Jeff Ellis record thus far?
A: That's like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! Obviously, I've been listening to the new album a lot recently, but I love everything we've done differently.
I think the recording sessions for "Covering the Distance" and "The Forgetting Place" were the most fun and you can hear that on the recordings, but I really love the sounds we got on "The Line." Let's say I love them all equally in different ways. Reach Nick Harrah at firstname.lastname@example.org.