Ella Eyre's new song is about eight different kinds of brilliant, but it's a confusing listen. "Ella ain't here, it's a new me," she sings. But if Ella isn't here, who's singing the song? And is a 'new me' really achievable, as the song claims, by simply getting some new keys, a new phone, and a new weave?
Also: what's happened to the old Ella? Does the existence of New Ella mean that Old Ella simply ceased to exist? Or in the moment New Ella came into being was Old Ella hurled into a parallel dimension where she continues to go about her business, unaware that New Ella has ended up chucking out a really actually very good comeback single?
To find out let's call Ella, having first warned her that our chat will require a lot of talking in the third person, and just hope it doesn't go to answerphone (feat Yxng Bane).
Hello, is that Ella Eyre?
Is it though. Because in the new Ella Eyre single she sings that Ella ain’t here, and that there’s a new one, so… Which one am I talking to?
Ella is here and she’s beyond chuffed to be discussing her new single in the third person.
So are there now two Ella Eyres? One old, one new?
I don’t think there are two. There’s one, but there’s a distinct difference between the old Ella and the new Ella, and the new Ella takes influence and inspiration from the old Ella but is in fact a very new and improved Ella Eyre.
What was wrong with the old one?
NOTHING! But the new one feels there’s so much to be gained from discovery and self-development. I wouldn’t say Old Ella and New Ella are that different, really, it’s just about mindset.
You’ve done a whole song about how different they are! They must be quite different.
Yeah, but the whole song is about a new mindset: everything great about the old Ella is being brought into the new Ella, without the old bullshit. If you know what I mean.
So is this a bit like when they bring out a new iPhone and everything’s basically the same, just slightly better?
Yes. The charge lasts longer and the camera’s a little bit better. Everything you love about Old Ella is in New Ella, but there are improvements that will benefit your life.
Although: the headphone jack. Sometimes as we improve, we have to cast certain things aside.
MUCH LIKE with the new Ella Eyre, because there was an old record label, and now there’s a new label. Ella Eyre’s still releasing music, just via new means.
I'd been wondering if claiming to be a different person was just an elaborate way to get out of your old label deal.
That’s a good idea but I don’t think it would work if you were using the same name.
I definitely went about it the legal way.
People do fake their own deaths sometimes, don’t they? There could be a third Ella Eyre at some point.
There definitely could be, but by that point I think I’d have to do it under another alias.
Let's consider the possibility that Old Ella still does exist, in an alternate universe. I wonder what she’s doing right now?
Old Ella would definitely have added to her cat collection by now. She would have more than two cats. She might have opened an animal hospital, and music might have taken a sideline. I think New Ella realised that in order for her music to have longevity, and to keep doing it, she needed to reinvent herself. All our favourite artists do that the whole time: people change their logos, their creative, their musical direction. And there was nothing wrong with Old Ella, but to keep people’s attention and to keep my own attention I needed to make music that felt a little bit more in the direction I wanted to go in, and with a whole new mindset. Old Ella was heartbroken and had a lot of negative things to say about relationships, and she was a lot more angry about things than New Ella. The whole new persona is really just a whole new mental attitude towards everything, whether it be relationships, music, or career. There had to be a shift with the way I thought, with the way I worked and with the people I work with, in order for the new Ella to come to life.
How far along were Old Ella’s plans for a cat sanctuary? It sounds like there were moments when she was like: “Fuck this, I’m going to get a proper job.” Is that what Old Ella, currently living in her alternate universe, is doing right now?
I mean ultimately it was always going to be a pipe dream because whether it’s Old Ella or New Ella, she’s a creative, and she’d get crucially bored doing that. No matter what she was going to do, or what I’ll end up doing in the future, there’ll always be something creative alongside that. Maybe I’ll just make music for cats! Yes, that’s what Old Ella is doing: she’s making therapeutic cat music.
There’s nothing to stop you combining a pop career and a cat sanctuary. Every album pre-order: free cat.
Oh my God, I really don’t think PETA would be very happy about that. The whole thing would have to be policed and I don’t think I’ve got enough budget for that.
You’re being very diplomatic about Old Ella’s endeavours, but can you now look back on what she did and see certain things for what they were: quite tough at times, and perhaps not always what she wanted to be doing?
I might be being diplomatic, but that’s out of respect for the fanbase who are here now because of the old Ella. I can’t stand here and slate Old Ella because she brought me here today and I certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation with you without her. There are things I don’t so much regret as feel I would do differently now. Don’t forget, though, I grew up in this industry — I got signed when I was sixteen, and I was still figuring out who I was at that point. My music taste was eclectic then but I can see now that being so eclectic could also have meant being a little inconsistent. And growing up in the industry I didn’t really have time to hone who or what I was as an artist, because I was already a Brit Award-winning, Number One vocalist…
Nicely dropped in there, Ella.
I mean, not in an arrogant way! It's just that the bar was set so high for me at such a young age because I was on a record with Rudimental, and of course they’d already done their work on their own development and artist career, and then I got thrown into this drum ’n’ bass world, and my record ended up sounding half drum ’n’ bass and half pop. But that’s exactly why I felt I needed to reinvent and bring in a new era of Ella that feels thought about and loved.
Was Old Ella happy?
I think she was happy… In the end. She'd fallen in love and fallen out of love for the first time — first cut is the deepest and all that. And that era reminds me very much of all that. But I’ve moved so far away that now that it only feels right to act like a new Ella… Because I am one.
Was Old Ella really as bad with money as she seemed in the lyrics for Just Got Paid? To be frank she seemed irresponsible and as if she might have been heading for a big shock.
She wasn’t as bad as the song made out, but a lot of the lyrics I end up writing these days are inspired by my friends, foes, trials and tribulations. I’m in a really boringly happy relationship and nobody wants to hear about that the whole time.
Here’s a question for you. Do you think Old Ella’s old record label were right to let her go?
Yeah. I think so. I don’t actually have any negative energy towards my old label because obviously I’m really thankful for the opportunity and space to reinvent myself, and I'm still in touch with a lot of people from the old label… But I think it was about mindset and passion and a lot of people who were on my team when I signed had left, and normally at a label people love to discover you and be responsible for you, and of course as people left the label it became the case that not everyone I worked with had been part of that process, so it didn’t feel as if I was anyone's passion project any more.
I suppose everyone who joined the label will have brought in their own passion projects, and that’s just the constant churn of the music industry, but that’s not much consolation for existing artists who end up feeling stranded.
Exactly. It’ll always happen. And you could say, well, you’ve just signed to another major so it could happen again, but what’s different this time round is that I’m older now and in a much stronger position.
In terms of trying to put a cost on finding the new you: in your song you put it down to new keys, a new weave, and a new phone. When I go to the Timpson’s Portakabin in my local Sainsbury’s car park I can get new keys cut for a surprisingly low price, so let’s say you’ve got a deadlock and a normal Chubb lock — that’ll be four quid. Then there’s the phone — you can get a pretty new, refurbished one for let’s say £600.
I mean, the new phone doesn’t even need to be a new handset. It could be a new number. You might just be getting a new SIM card. So let’s say I’m getting a new contract and you only have to put £50 down for the handset and unlimited data and minutes.
That ends up being a very expensive way to get a new phone, Ella, but fine. Then there’s the weave, and obviously the price there can vary wildly…
Let’s call it a grand for the weave. That’s £1054 for a brand new you, and considering how much people spend on meditation getaways, therapy and everything else, that’s pretty good value.
I can assure you my new single did not cost £1054, but yes. The thing is, having a ‘new you’ doesn’t need to cost you anything at all. That’s what the single’s about, really, it’s about reinventing yourself in whatever way you need, in order to move on from a toxic situation. If that means getting a new key cut in Sainsbury’s car park then by all means be my guest.
Separately there’s the emotional cost of leaving things behind and changing where you are in life, and that’s harder to put a price on.
Exactly. It takes time. It’s not an overnight thing. It’s not like you go to bed on December 31st, then wake up on January 1st as a new person, but it’s all about taking small steps.
Would would Old Ella make of your new single?
She’d say: Holy shit, is that me? It’s a weird one because when we wrote the song we didn’t labour the point: we didn’t spend days and days on the lyrics or music. I wrote the song in four hours because I had to go to Brighton that evening, and there was a time cap on it. I’d got to the studio late because I’d had quite a traumatic morning in my own head, and I remember not wanting to go to the studio. I’d texted my manager trying to push the session back. I decided to get the tube that day, to try and calm down. I told myself: we’re not cancelling the session, you’re getting on the tube, you’ll get out of this funk and you’ll have a great time. I texted Lostboy, the producer, and told him I’d be an hour late. And that was the perfect testament to not letting the mood I was in at the start of the day define the rest of the day. This song came, I had the best day, I laughed the whole time, then I went to Brighton in a really good mood.
How much better do you think the song would be if you’d spend eight hours on it?
I think it would have been over-thought.
How about an extra twenty minutes?
Well, I mean we did spend more time on it a few months later when we finished it, but that demo we did in four hours was something we were in love with. It spoke for itself! It didn’t need reproducing. We did play around with the production and that ended up not being used because, actually, the way it started off was already great. The version you’re hearing is pretty much the version we made that day. A day like that says a lot: it says the song really wanted to be written that day. For a song to come along that quickly, and for you to love it as much as I love this, is incredibly rare. As a pop artist I’m so aware of how quickly you can come up and be forgotten about in this industry, and one thing I didn’t want to do, if I was going to go out at any point, was go out on mediocre music. So this whole last two years of redeveloping myself, being in the studio and taking time out, it’s not some cringey, cheesy way of me trying to rejuvenate my pop career. I wanted to genuinely make music that excited me and sounded different. Some it will be a miss, some of it will be a hit, but I’d much rather make music that interests me and pricks people’s ears up than try to get on playlists with a mediocre stance.
You can understand what appeals to labels about going for certain playlists, and you can see how that has an impact on A&R decisions, but it doesn’t seem like a very rewarding way to be going about making music.
Well no, because ultimately we’ve got into music because we’re music lovers just like you… And I actually went through a phase where I wasn’t even listening to music any more because I was finding it quite depressing. I forgot that’s how we learn: that’s how we develop and get inspiration. If I’m not listening to music any more because it depresses me, I’ve lost the whole reason I’m doing it in the first place. Yes we all want playlist and radio support, but at the end of the day I want people to hear my music and say how exciting and refreshing it is.
Was that Old Ella or New Ella who fell out of love with music?
That was definitely Old Ella.
And did she find other people's music depressing because she’d been having trouble making sense of her own? Was she thinking: “I don’t know where things are going with my career, I don’t want to hear other people being amazing because that’s just going to make it worse?”
Yeah, it wasn’t really a question of hearing other people being amazing, but just the whole idea in general filled me with dread. There was more to it than just being envious of other artists. I realised that the only way to get over that was to face it head on: to listen to artists and music I wouldn’t normally listen to or take inspiration from. I had to force the habit. Even if it made me feel rubbish, I could still find something inspirational. I was making myself do it. It was tough love. Like, nobody wants to do homework at school, but you have to do it because we need to learn. When you leave school you forget to do homework, or research, or work on your craft. I forgot. Things had been going so well for me that it wasn't until I got back in the studio that I had to confront all this. Ultimately I realised that I was never going to be able to make music I love and am inspired by if I don’t go and listen to music. If I don’t go and do the one thing that made me want to get into music in the first place.
I don't think it's unusual for artists to find that things in their own careers can be responsible for them temporarily falling out of love with music.
Yeah. Also, though, maybe the music that was out at the time just wasn’t exciting me. And so there was an element of thinking: rather than just ignore it, I need to listen to it and figure out what I want to change about it. And then there was rediscovering the old music that I grew up loving, that used to get me up and dancing every morning, and inspired me in the first place.
Were there particular artists who you found rekindled that relationship with music?
Weirdly it’s the old stuff, like Basement Jaxx. I used to be OBSESSED with Basement Jaxx. And I hadn’t listened to them for years. Lauryn Hill, too. Anything I had on physical. They weren’t fighting for streams at that time, and I think you can really hear that in the music.
When you talk about the music you had on physical formats, is that you trying to kick off the CD revival?
I don’t know about that, I’m quite enjoying having the extra space.
Without spending £1054 on new keys, a new phone and a new weave, and without murdering an alter-ego, what could anyone reading this do to turn their life around?
Write a list of things that make you unhappy, and a list of things you’d like to change, and then figure out which of the changes are possible and what must be done to make the changes. I hate writing things down because my handwriting’s fucking shit and I hate it but it really helps to actually physically write things down. Also, it really helps if you’re listening to New Me at the same time.
JESUS CHRIST, back in there with a plug, right in the dying moments of the interview. STRAIGHT back in there.
I’m sorry. 1
What’s the best pen to use?
A roller. NOT a Biro. You want nice clean black ink that would smudge if it rains — but we’re doing it indoors.
Are you familiar with the Uni-ball Eye?
I feel like I can envisage the logo.
Great pen. Finally, precisely how shit is your handwriting? I feel like you should send photographic evidence so people reading this interview can judge for themselves whether or not it’s ‘fucking shit’.
I’m down with that. I’ll send something over.
She's not sorry.↩