Dirty Dozen: Nick Ellis

Nick Ellis is a Liverpool based singer/songwriter and guitarist performing a style of streetscape narrative-noir blended with a modern British acoustic approach. No nonsense, song and melody are the order of the day. Some people call it ‘folk’, some just call it good old fashioned song craft. Using a blend of rhythmic attack and finger-quick lucidity, his sound has been described as ‘a conversation between Elvis Costello and John Martyn’.

Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from and what you’ve been up to over the past few years?  Born and based in Liverpool. Played guitar for 27 years. Been involved in bands, production and Independent record releasing for over 10 years. Worked for Universal Publishing as a staff writer. Write novels, short stories and plays. Spent a couple of years busking in and around Europe.  I’ve spent the last 6 years studying song craft and literature along with both British and North American fingerpicking styles. I’ve also delved deeper into experimenting with tonal and harmonic relationships using specifically acoustic guitar.

How would you describe your music? I’d describe my music as ‘Modern Folk’ or as ‘Streetscape Narrative Noir’. Or, in its most banal sense, Singer/Songwriter.

Can you tell us a little bit about your influences? My main influence is Davey Graham. Davey is the reason I followed this journey into the art of song and melody to find its true essence and meaning. And, I found it, but that’s another story. I’m interested in British Folklore and its many interpretations throughout other cultures, especially old Pagan rituals, stories and myths. I’m also interested in the customs, festivals and celebrations of this strange, old Island. Other musical influences include Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, John Martyn, Anne Briggs, Nick Drake, Early Fairport, Michael Chapman, Roy Harper, Bill Fay, Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, Pat Kilroy, Dylan, Jackson C. Frank, John Fahey, Steve Young and a million others. Writers – I dig Kerouac, Ginsberg, Bukowski,

What are you currently promoting? I’m currently promoting an album I’ve released back in November (2016) called ‘Daylight Ghosts’.

Have you got a particular song you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of, one that might define you? Yes. There’s a song called ‘St. David’s Day’ from the ‘Daylight Ghosts’ album which, for me, captured the balance between simplicity, melody, percussion and the power of observation.

What are you currently listening to? I am currently listening to a San Franciscan based songwriter called Jessica Pratt. Her songs are very ethereal and timeless. I find something new in them with each new spin. Her playing style is very original but has a strong British influence in it, especially on the melodic side.

And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn’t do without?
Love ‘Forever Changes’ – This album has the perfect blend of energy, orchestration, melody, youth, wisdom, hard-psych drive and soft West Coast folk. The songs are its key. They have such timeless melodies that combine prophetic poetry with beautiful mundane observations. I first heard this album when I was 17, and I’m still waiting to hear something as monumental and inspiring. This is the sound of collective creativity left to bear the fruit of magic.

What are your hopes for your future career? Songs. To write more songs. To continue to write and observe. To create a body of work that transcends time, age, gender and language that any living soul could empathize with. Also, I’d like to continue to explore and develop the relationship between rhythm and melody. I’d also like to take a year out to study the music of Miles Davis and Eastern tonalities.

If money were no object what would be your dream project? To build and develop a universal music communicator that could be collaborated on with other intelligent life throughout the cosmos. Now, that would be something.

What’s the best thing about being a musician? To hear other people’s emotional response to your thoughts (music). That’s the whole point – to make a connection.

And the worst? The devaluation of its worth due to file sharing and other on-line music services like Spotify etc. Basically, people don’t pay for it no more; how on earth are you meant to afford to make more of it if it’s not paid for? This is the challenge of the modern musician.

Finally, have you anything you’d like to say to the readers of Americana UK   Yes. Go back and trace the history of the song. Follow the thread and there you will find the gold.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show – The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session – playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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