“I would describe my approach as more philosophical; I see myself as the storyteller of my research”
After the stunning premiere of Ella Alex’s single Loops Never End, we knew we had to know more. The artist — who sprung on the scene this summer before our very eyes — is someone who has approached music with the same dedication a field researcher would; extrapolating data in order to showcase her findings of the self. A creator by nature, Ella Alex pulls from experience, creating work which is inherently relatable and undeniably vulnerable. We spoke with the artist about her beginnings, and how it feels to be finally launching her music career.
Hey Ella! So nice to see you again after the single premier, and be able to dig a little deeper into your artistry! How do you perceive your craft?
My craft, at its foundation, is singing. But this comes from different places; not just focussing on music. It’s about a feeling or energy, I am translating.
Where did it all start?
I started singing very young in church — that was how I was brought up. Growing up in a Black family, singing is how we would celebrate, or say, when the electricity turns off this is how we would entertain each other. From there, it became a process of finding myself in making music and using it as a medium to flow through.
And how would you describe your approach?
I would describe my approach as more philosophical; I see myself as the storyteller of my research. This is how the music for me gets triggered. It is after finding the philosophical belief (or meaning) that the music is then created. I consider myself a researcher, who translates meaning into a song.
You mentioned you grew up singing in church, is this where your love began?
Yeah, so I think it did really start attending choir with my mum. I would often go with her, and I used to love the warm-ups they would do! Once they saw how much I loved it, they let me sing. After that, it was piano lessons, singing classes and so forth… But I always knew back then that the songs I created weren’t quite right. It didn’t feel correct yet.
I get that, just because you have all the ingredients (singing lessons, piano lessons, lyrics etc.) doesn’t mean you have yet found your sound! That’s a whole other journey…
Exactly! I moved to Amsterdam when I was 17, and from there I decided what I needed was to experience things. Find my story to tell. This had ups and downs (of course), particularly when dating people. But this too helped me on my journey, dating can really act as a mirror for yourself – your actions have consequences. It was actually a really intense heartbreak that inspired Loops Never End. It made me ask the question: what am I doing with my life?
Wow. And you can hear that in the song! The lyric, “no matter what I do, forever stuck on you” I think everyone can resonate with and feel the heaviness of.
Yes, it really speaks to that moment when your head and your heart are not connecting. But it was important for me to sing authentically, and about where my head was at that time. A lot of it was actually about having the courage to share these experiences because I am quite shy.
How have you found the creative community in Amsterdam?
I have found it very inspiring, and not just in the creative community. When I first came here I was working at the juice bar and even there, in the morning at 7 am watching these people with high energy with money to pay inspired me! Those people who were taking care of themselves and knowing who they were, I was looking up to those people. At the juice bar, people would really tell me stories, and they amazed me — the self-care, the work ethic, the organised bubble around them. They just looked like they had everything in order. It was after the juice bar I went to Soho House, which was closer to the creative community. Here, I saw more people like me; I saw Black women with money who worked in the creative industry and I knew it was possible.
So true! Creativity is everywhere, and inspiration is everywhere. We should never limit it to designated places.
Truly. One of these people who I met at Soho for me was Ami Keita who founded Gem Faces, she really changed the fashion game here in Amsterdam and built it up. There was nothing like Gem before she did it.
It’s about believing in yourself, and believing it’s possible. Ami helped me realise I could feel comfortable in the space, and comfortable with coming up with something that doesn’t exist yet. I am now starting to feel like people understand me more.
…And what a beautiful notion. That also exemplifies that you never have to do it alone.
Never. Loops Never End also really showed me this. Many people helped me in the process, and I am so proud of what we created. I also learnt a lot through doing this first video, particularly that your first conception or visualisation of something is never going to end up like you first thought. The video came out totally different to what I expected — but not in a bad way.
Finally, do you have any goals for the rest of 2022?
I would LOVE to have a live performance, and a solo live performance. I’m not sure how it will end up happening, but I can see the colours, the spotlight, the vision. I want to be able to create an experience for people to enter into. I would also really like to release two more singles before my EP comes out!
Ooop! Watch this space …..
Photography by Louis
Art direction by Ella Alex and Doron Beuns
Creative direction by Doron Beuns
Styling by Isabelle Emmy
Hair and Make-up by Minou Meijers
Photography assistance by Bram Galvin and Max Idema