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“I’ve always wanted to hit people in the face with my music, rather than tickle them,” Ella Eyre says. Fierce and fearless at just 19, with a number 1 feature on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ to her name, her new breed of soul is here. With an ear for the past and a foot in the future, led by a voice exploding with power and passion, brawling and bawling, Ella’s songs speak to us while we dance. Already tipped as the artist to watch by media across the board including the BBC Sound of 2014, MTV, Vevo, 1Xtra as well as the being in the top 3 of the BRITS Critics Choice, the voice of 2014 is sure to have a spectacular year.
‘Waiting All Night’ was the smash that heralded the new golden era of dance music and introduced the voice to be aware of, an all-conquering diva vocal with a tone rich, yearning and sexy, confiding and confident - the voice that was here to hit you in the face. Appearing on Naughty Boy singles, laying down tracks with Tinie Tempah, Wiz Khalifa and Bastille, it’s obvious Ella Eyre waits for nothing.
Born an April Fools baby to a Rastafari father and a knitwear designer mother, music was always the driving force in this Londoner’s life. You might even say she was a born performer – or, at least, “I was always a show-off,” she laughs. Named after the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, she’s drawn to powerful women and soulful men with something to say, like the music she grew up around, Lauryn Hill and Gil Scott Heron. “I’ve always been into punchy, loud songs – passionate, with a message. And I’ve always been really lyrical – I love the idea that someone has felt the same as me. I love honesty, brutality and rawness.”
A dancer from the age of two and a drummer at school, she’s always had a physical and lyrical need to express herself through music. Singing backing vocals in a band when she was 14 uncovered a voice of such raw power and potential her path was laid before her. She started writing songs and quickly found what she was looking for.
Her music teacher tipped off a few music execs on the ‘best voice in her school’ and soon they were clamouring for her; she was signed to Virgin on the back of two incredible songs she’d written and she was still only 17. Brought into the studio with a then-unknown Rudimental, she laid down the vocals on the track that would really introduce her to the world and following its success toured the world with the quartet, playing prolific festival slots as well as support shows for both Bastille and Naughty Boy.
Song-writing was something that came naturally to her. “I wanted to share my experiences in a way that when someone hears it in a car they go, ‘That’s exactly how I’m feeling!’ So they feel they’re not alone.” She knows what she wants: “To empower people. As an artist it’s my job to hit people emotionally.” When asked when she feels most like she’s achieved that feeling, she points to a song she wrote called ‘Come Back’: “The chorus is, ‘We’ve all been played, we’ve all got hurt, just take that pain and let the motherfucker burn. They’ll end up in a ditch, like a bitch, and they’ll always come back.’ I loved it, like, that’s the ultimate break up song when you’re trying to make someone feel better. ‘Fuck ‘em. They’ll come back.’ It’s just brutal.”
Her debut EP is led by title track ‘Deeper’, a collaboration with ubercool producer Two Inch Punch, an incredible marriage of northern soul and dance. It’s got stomp and it’s got swing, her performance hinting at all she’s capable of. “If I was to describe my music as a colour, it would be red – it’s loud, energetic, brutal, brutally honest at some points, and vulnerable, too.”
Not to exaggerate, but all of Ella’s tracks are properly massive. In many ways, they all showcase her fierce independence: see ‘Deeper’, about how a casual relationship can be spoilt “when someone drops that three word bombshell”; or ‘If I Go’, a big sexy rousing stormer about indecisiveness asking a lover, “If I go, will you love me when I come back?” Ella laughs at the link in the songs, “I don’t have commitment issues, I swear!” ‘Everyone Goes Your Way’, one of those two songs that saw her signed, showcases just how much sass she can pack in that voice as she calls out the transparent friend who everyone else idolises.
She’s searched the experiences she’s had because “I want to affect people. Make them happy, sad, ultimately empower them by the end of listening to the album and making them strong. Almost as if someone has been listening to you, but really you’ve been listening.” Ella sings anti-fairy tales, songs that are real and true that seek to speak to what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. She knows she’s still young, but she’s an old enough soul to speak to us. “For me this is the first chapter. This is how I’ve felt. I think everything I’ve wanted to say over the last few years is in one little book, and I’m ready to let people read that.”
Ella’s learnt from the dance tracks she’s featured on, infusing bold brass and modern soul with hooks and truth, with an album coming that’s going to hit us all in the face. “I want it to be BIG, I wanted it very raw, big, beefy, hard-hitting and up-lifting. It started off being just cool sounding, laid back, but in the back of my mind I knew I wanted the songs to hit you – hook, brass section and vocal. Cool but with ambition!” She’s a one woman Fascinations kicking it out on 21st Century dancefloors. Looking like a mini Beyoncé, with the power of Aretha and the sophistication of Jessie Ware, she proves the new cool is the new truth: big songs by a big singer saying big things.