Melbourne artist Ella Sweeney has released herself-titled debut EP, which was recorded and mixed by Jono Steer at The Perch Recording Studio (Gretta Ray, Angie McMahon, Ali Barter).
he EP draws on influences from Feist, Sharon Van Etten, Cate Le Bon & Julia Jacklin, to name a few, and shares coming-of-age tales with songs that are warm, a tiny bit sad, sarcastic and at times excitable; all the things that shouldn't fit together, but sometimes do.
Ella says of lead single 'Five Year Plans (Ten Step Dances)', "This song is about crushes. Written the month before the pandemic hit, it is a youthful take on feeling as if anything-love included-can be planned. 2020 certainly had other plans."
Describing the EP, "These four tracks are musings on coming of age (Growing Pains), staying afloat (Ode To Getting By), big ol' romantic crushes (Five Year Plans, Ten Step Dances) and the men who come into the book store with beanies rolled above their ears, asking me to point them in the direction of a Jordan Peterson book (Modern Man).
Evidently youthful, they mark a period of fumbling into my twenties with a lack of grace. Alternatively: coming of age in the Anthropocene."
Having previously warmed the stage for artists such as Didirri, Gretta Ray and Alice Ivy, she's ready to take to the stage once again and to celebrate the release of the debut EP, Ella has a run of headline shows lined up.
Question: How would you describe your music?
Ella Sweeney: I would say it's a mellow and warm sound.
Question: Can you tell us about self-titled debut EP?
Ella Sweeney: I wrote this EP during 2020 and was lucky to record them with Jono Steer at the beginning of 2021.
Ultimately, I think the EP is a youthful reflection of fumbling into my 20s. It's a funny thing to mark this time and share it through music, but I'm very grateful to do this and enjoy the humour that comes with the process.
Question: Is there a particular message you hope listeners take from your music?
Ella Sweeney: Not really. I think people can take what they want from it and enjoy the songs how they wish.
I think Modern Man is the song on the EP with the clearest message. It's supposed to be sarcastic. It's about the men that visit the bookstore with beanies rolled above their ears, asking for Jordan Peterson books. Oops.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Ella Sweeney: Probably performing live, although I really enjoyed the recording process for this EP. Some wonderful people worked on the songs with me. Namely, Jono Steer (recording, mixing and playing bass), Holly Thomas (drums) and Macka Heard (guitar). They are all brilliant and kind and fun.
Question: Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?
Ella Sweeney: Five Year Plans (Ten Step Dances) is probably the nicest to play live. It makes me feel calm. I'm excited to play it more with a band.
Question: What should we expect from your upcoming shows?
Ella Sweeney: A slightly tipsy woman on stage (me) and awkward banter about guinea pigs and associated cultural phenomenons. Oh, and music.
Question: If you could have anyone, in the world, attend a show, who would it be?
Ella Sweeney: My Grandma Kate! I wish she was around to hear these songs. She did, however, get many a rendition of Kasey Chambers' Am I Not Pretty Enough from my 10-year-old self. Poor Grandma Kate.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Ella Sweeney: When I've been to some else's live show I get a lot of inspiration to go home and write. I also keep a very chaotic range of ideas in the Notes app on my phone.
Question: Which music/artists are you currently listening to?
Ella Sweeney: Big Scary (always), Sylvan Esso, Broken Social Scene, Andy Shauf, Sweet Whirl, Sharon Van Etten, Feist (QUEEN of it all), Cat Power, Clairo, Wolf Alice, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan.
Question: Did you always want to pursue a career in the music industry?
Ella Sweeney: I'm not so sure. I love music and my Undergraduate studies were in a relevant field. However, I never had one particular role in mind. I still don't. But I like listening and I like learning, that's enough for now.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Ella Sweeney: There are so many that I would love to collaborate with. Maybe I'll say Grimes. She might let me sit there and press a button, or provide snacks.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Ella Sweeney: Meeting funny people. Having weird and wonderful conversations pre and post gigs.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Ella Sweeney: I eat bulk toast. I drink bulk coffee. I'm in my last semester of a Masters degree, so I study (sometimes). I work at a bookstore and as an artist's assistant. I listen to music. I read. I (sometimes) exercise. I chat with friends. I put off replying to emails. I pick up my guitar. I start writing a song and realise it's already been written. I put the guitar down. I sleep. I dream of guinea pigs and Chicken Twisties.
Question: What's next, for you?
Ella Sweeney: I guess the next couple of months will involve playing the EP live with a band. I'm really looking forward to the next few shows:
July 9th: Live @ Small Time, Brunswick.
July 17th: Supporting Bones and Jones @ Cactus Room, Thornbury
July 28th: EP Launch @ The Retreat Hotel, Brunswick. July 29th: Supporting Millar Jukes @ The Curtin, Carlton.
I've also got two new songs I'm planning to record in August. Sorry world, there's more!
Question: Can you share your socials? (links please)
Ella Sweeney: ella_sweeney is my Instagram. Please endure my weird humour and snippets of my music.
Interview by Gwen van Montfort