Word of mouth can work in mysterious ways, making or breaking a person’s career or reputation. Luckily for Ella Eyre it’s the former that has helped kickstart her career. Signing in July 2012, she has already attracted the enthusiastic attention of Professor Green, Disclosure and Rudimental. With an extraordinary voice that belies her young years and a skill for songwriting that manages to be mature but not precocious, the 18 year-old is an intriguing and enigmatic new talent. It’s perhaps also helpful that she possesses a captivating personality; self-deprecating, sharp and bright, Ella is really good company.
Despite venturing into songwriting just two years ago, Ella has already accumulated an impressive list of musicians keen to collaborate. Initially working with inspiring unknown writers in order to sharpen her skills, Ella quickly found herself in Copenhagen with Cutfather (Kylie, Brandy) and Sweden with Ishi and Eric Turner (Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Cheryl Cole). Bold, edgy and occasionally a bit swear-y, with an incredible vocal to boot, Ella’s buzz grew exponentially. She now counts Fraser T. Smith (Adele, Taio Cruz), Claude Kelly (Bruno Mars, Jessie J), Raphael Saadiq (Joss Stone, John Legend) and Chris Loco (Rita Ora, Emeli Sandé) among her producers and co-writers.
Until recently unsigned, when Ella’s name repeatedly cropped up at an unofficial writers and publishers powwow at an Ivor Novellos afterparty, she was offered a number of publishing deals quite literally overnight. She signed to Warner/ Chappell in July 2012 and then Virgin/ EMI shortly after. Since then her career has taken quite an incredible trajectory. Ella featured on indie buzz band Bastille’s cover of TLC’s No Scrubs classic, No Angels, which shot straight to the top of the Hypemachine chart. Shortly after, a casual songwriting session with Rudimental evolved into Ella contributing to the band’s debut album, and she can be heard on a track with Emeli Sandé. Ella also features on the foursome’s stadium ready new single, Waiting All Night. After doing spot dates as their lead vocalist in 2012, she recently joined them as support for Plan B’s sold out 2013 UK Arena tour, playing Manchester’s MEN and London’s 02. “It’s a whole new level playing to a home-crowd. It’s the kinda gig you never forget.” she says. “I hope to play my own headline set there one day.”
As well as bunking down with the boys for two weeks on the tour bus (“It would have to be fumigated on the last day” she laughs, “they were so messy and they farted basically non-stop, which was lovely”), she also proved herself to a master of FIFA; she is currently edging her way up the league table.
Not only gaining renown for her Playstation skills, Naughty Boy, Disclosure and Pro Green are all clamoring to work with the singer and writer who possesses the vocal of a woman twice her age. It’s apparent within seconds of meeting Ella where her singing voice comes from. Despite sounding like someone that smokes 30 Marlborough Red a day (she doesn’t), her natural husk transforms itself on record. “I sounded like I smoked even as a four year-old. People used to stop my mum all the time and ask her what I smoked,” laughs Ella. “I’ve had a very husky tone since a baby.”
Not only the owner of a singularly, enigmatic, unique incredible voice that conjures up the greats of yesterday, Ella also has great skill as a writer. Perhaps it’s part innate talent, but it’s also possibly thanks to a fairly unusual childhood. There are few Scottish, English, Maltese, Jamaican singer/ songwriters who started out life as a competitive swimmer. But then Ella Eyre is quite an unusual proposition.
Bought up in the main by her fashion designer turned professional cake making mother, Ella’s father returned to Jamaica when Ella was 6 years-old. Ella’s mother worked for a short time as Alexander McQueen’s PA, Ella remembers. “I met him once. He was tall.” Her own style? An eclectic mash-up of on trend designers, vintage and high street. Growing up in Ealing, Ella’s mum was keen to keep her from hanging around the streets; she went to dance school and then started swimming competitively.
Ella has worked hard to craft her artistic vision. “I want my music to be ballsy; I can’t think of anything worse than being wishy-washy, insipid. I want everything I do to be powerful and full of energy.” Inspired by Lauryn Hill (standard) and Nneka (not quite so), Ella will release an EP in June. Lead single Young Forever is the perfect indication of what to expect; bold, soulful, vintage, effortless, uncontrived. “I remember when I was younger, everything felt so much easier,” she says before acknowledging she’s far from middle aged. “It’s just that as a kid, you didn’t know there were bad things in the world, you believed that everything was how it seemed to be. I spent my whole childhood wanting to be older; wanting to drive and buy alcohol and hang out with the older kids. But when that happens, you also have to let go of all those ideals you had as a child.”
As with all of her songs, the lyrics are intensely personal; based on her own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Typical Me, produced by Johnny Latimer (Ellie Goulding) is about her inability to quit a bad boyfriend, while Gravity (Chris Loco) is about “having a shit day, basically.”
Ella’s music represents the here and now; it’s music by a young person for young people. “I think musically I have a lot of attitude and a lot of heart and truth and I think I bring a maturity to my songwriting and vocal,” says the 18 year-old. “There’s lots of talented new artists coming out but we’re all so different. Granted, not everyone will make it. It’s all about timing and getting it right first time round. So there’s competition and pressure to be better, but I can’t worry about that. I’m just concentrating on doing what I’m doing and doing it well.