Ella Hooper has come a long way since bursting onto the Australian music scene as a fresh-faced 16 year old as part of rock outfit Killing Heidi. She was lavished with industry praise, APRA and ARIA awards and chart success. But her career since has taken Ella in many different directions.
There’s been a collaboration with older brother Jesse as part of The Verses and a little taste of solo material, but most recently she’s been the presenter of Austereo’s ‘Australian Top 20’ and has been appointed team captain on the rebooted ‘Spicks And Specks’ on ABC.
Now Ella is headed back to the solo realm, planning for the long-awaited release of her debut solo album ‘In Tongues’ and has just kicked off a national tour. So we put some questions to the singer to better gauge where she’s been, where she is now and what’s coming next.
Q: Those early Killing Heidi days seem a million miles away. How much has the industry changed since you first rose to national stardom?
A : It’s changed a helluva lot. Some bits for the better, some bits for the worse. Social media and crowd funding are hugely empowering to bands and artists. I wish they were around in KH’s day! But also there seems to be a decline in real development and A&Ring by labels. I think there may be less faith and time invested in bands who are developing their skills, album by album. It’s as though you have to hit the scene fully formed and with an already massive fan-base behind you; a rare feat.
Q : What are some of the lessons the Ella of today would teach the Ella of 1999 about the business?
A : Trust your taste. That’s it. You don’t have to please everyone, make every compromise. Work on your vision and speak up (and down tools) when things veer away from it. They work for you. Not the other way around. (BTW, it’s amazing watching Lorde ascend and kick arse as a young woman in the industry. It’s like she REALLY had the ‘future her’ fly back and tell her a few things… amazing)
Q : Fast forward 15 years and you have many fingers in many pies. How have you adapted to being on the other side of the radio desk?
A : I love it. It took me a while to learn the craft of it, how to get the best out of the interviewee etc. and how to still conduct a good interview even if you think very little of the music, but I think now I’ve got the hang. I swore I’d never ask those annoying stock questions (how did you get the name etc) but sometimes a host’s gotta do what a host’s gotta do…
Q : Taking your 2Day hat off for a moment, how do you see the commercial radio industry’s support of local talent as a whole?
A : As not nearly enough. Of course. I’m an Australian muso first, a radio employee second.
Q : Is there anything it could be doing better (besides playing your music, obviously…)?
A : Hahaha. Well, they have started to play me. Just at nights, but still I’m very grateful for that. I think playing more Australian content would be an excellent move. I’d love to see a healthy industry that promotes and values uniquely Australian artists, not just the ones that do the best ‘made in the US or UK’ sound-a-like. There’s nothing wrong with that approach of course. If a highly-polished American pop sound is your thing, power to you, but it seems to hog a fair share of the airwaves here. I’m sure the research says that’s what listeners want. Still, I hear there was a time when programming directors (who were educated, passionate music lovers, lovers of song craft not celebrity) played what they wanted to play! They took risks and probably broadened peoples’ minds with songs that may not have fitted ‘the format’ or what was currently trending.
Q : You’ve slide rather comfortably into the chair vacated by Ms Warhurst on the new edition of ‘Spicks And Specks’. How have you been received thus far as Nu-Myf? And how much have you been enjoying it?
A : Haha… No one will ever be nu-Myf! She’s a one-off. Such a genuine infectious spirit, Australia will always adore Myf as the first lady of cute. As do I! But following in her footsteps is a real joy and an honour. The game is so fantastic, we basically just have to wave that flag proudly and hopefully keep the old fans happy whilst trying to draw some new ones out of the woodwork too.. (no pressure!)
Q : So let’s talk about music for you, please… What with your new-found multi-media dominance, you’re gifting ‘Low High’ another chance in the spotlight.
A : Yes! It’s my flagship song, one that sums up the midline of the album. It gets darker and tougher than this in places, but also lighter and funner. ‘Low High’ is sort of the middle ground and also one of my favourites conceptually. I didn’t tour it or launch it last time I released it, and now I have more time and money and a new backing band to lavish on it… Basically I think it deserves more of a push than it got. So here I am!
Q : Your upcoming debut solo album has been a long time coming. What can we expect from it?
A : Personal, expressive, emotional music. In the dark pop vein. It has touches of ’90s electronica through to Harry Belafonte rhythms, crazy electric guitar and synthesisers. And me, doing my thing. Stories of coming of age and becoming a woman and getting through some tricky, sticky stuff. It’s ‘Saturn returning’ in an album.
Q : Who have you been working with on the LP?
A : Jan Skubizewski and his merry men.
Q : And when do you expect we might see it at our favourite retailer?
A : Mid year!
Q : What are your audiences going to love most about your live shows?
A : It’s a very different live set up this time; quite stripped back. It’s not a rock band, so they might get a shock! Just me and three guys, trying to make a lazer-like, as opposed to sledge hammer-like, kind of show. They’ll love Tim – my amazing guitarist’s – cowboy hat and Robin – my keyboardist’s – dancing, but hopefully most of all they’ll love how much I get off on singing these new songs!
Catch Ella playing at the following shows;
April 04 : Melbourne (Northcote Social Club)
May 08 : Perth (Artbar)
May 09 : Adelaide (Jive Bar)
May 15 : Brisbane (Black Bear Lodge)
May 16 : Gold Coast (Soundlounge)
May 17 : Lismore (Star Court Theatre)
Ella’s single ‘Low High’ is available digitally now.