Nick Cody: Hi, this is Nick from Music for the Head and Heart, and I am very pleased to be here with Ella Playford. Welcome to Music for the Head and Heart.
Ella: Thank you for having me.
Nick Cody: Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure. So I wanted to talk a little bit about your music and your interests. When did you first start getting involved in writing and playing?
Ella: So I’ve been interested in music ever since I was really young, but I started having guitar lessons and picking up various other instruments when I was about 10. And then I went to my first open mic when I was 13 and it kind of just started from there. I started off doing covers, just me singing and playing guitar. And then as I got older and had more experiences and saw more things, saw my live performances, I started to write my own songs. Yeah, and just kept doing that, and that’s sort of where I’m at now.
Nick Cody: So do you remember the first song he ever wrote?
Ella: Yeah, I do remember the first song. I can’t remember what it was called, but I remember what it goes like. I can’t say I’ve played it in a while. But it wasn’t the best, I think a lot of people kind of resent the first song and see it as something bad. But I think it was the start of me kind of being confident enough to personify my own thoughts into music, into what I want to say into the world.
Nick Cody: Excellent. So what kind of things inspire you to write? What triggers the writing? And when you write, is it lyrics first or music or does it vary?
Ella: I think anything really inspires me to write. I don’t ever really sit down and think, “Okay, next half an hour I’m going to write a song.” It kind of just comes, like I have an endless amount of notes in my phone with lyrics and just little bits, and bits of melody that I just put together, so it can be anything from an experience that I’ve had, or a conversation I’ve overheard, or just any little bits. I always start with lyrics and then the melody kind of comes quite naturally. And then I’ll put chords to it and I’ll adjust little bits if I feel like I need to, like, “Ooh, that’d sound better if it was a fifth or a third.” But I try to keep it quite natural and sort of play it how it comes.
Nick Cody: So for anybody who’s watching this, because there’ll be lots of different people watching this, some will be singer-songwriters, some be aspiring to be singer-songwriters, from your own experience, what would your top tips be for somebody who wants to write their own material?
Ella: What I usually say to people is, don’t try and be something you’re not, don’t listen to an artist and think, “Okay, I want to be like them.” You can take influence, but at the end of the day people don’t want to hear the next Ed Sheeran or the next whatever, they want to hear you. So you need to put every bit of you into the song that you’re writing, and as I said before, just kind of play it as it comes, and think about the technicalities later. But if you can just get the piece of you out there onto the page or out there into a recording, that’s the first step you can take. And that is something that people want to hear.
Nick Cody: Yeah, I totally applaud that as an idea. And from your own experience, who are the artists that you’ve been most interested in or have influenced you, or stood out on your radar the most?
Ella: There’s a lot of different artists that I like to listen to and draw influence from. I’ve never really been one to idolise people or really take massive bits of influence. But I love to listen to the old greats of jazz scene like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and and people like that, because I think their phrasing and the way that they was so free to kind of express the lyrics and what they were saying is quite commendable, and something that a lot of artists these days can’t really do. So I like to take influence from them along with newer artists, which a bit more unique, such as people like Jacob Collier, Tom Misch, Loyle Carner, who are all people who are combining jazz elements with more newer styles of music like R&B and pop, and having the freedom to explore different genres without being confined to one, which is something I’m very strong about.
Nick Cody: And I also note that you released an EP.
Ella: Yes, I released my debut EP in February of this year, 2019. It’s called Feel, it’s a collection of original songs. I wrote them quite a long time before it got released because the recording process took a very long time. So they’re all very folky, and I don’t think they really represent me as an artist now, but I still do look back on that EP and remember the good time I had writing it and making it, and I am very proud of it, but it’s definitely a milestone which I’m happy and looking forward to growing from.
Nick Cody: And what’s in the pipeline, what would you like to do next?
Ella: I’m just writing really at the moment, as many songs as I can, and with as many different people, because I play in a few bands. And my main band is like a combination of me and a couple of other people’s writing. We have guitar, vocals, bass, drums and keys and some electronic elements as well. So that’s a really great basis for me to be able to explore every kind of bit of my writing and every bit of music I’m interested in. So I’m just writing, and maybe recording some stuff in the near future, and gigging all the time. So just kind of seeing what happens really.
Nick Cody: And from the gigs you’ve done, what’s been one where you go, “Actually, that was just great.” And then another one where you’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, what am I doing here?” Because all the artists have huge different experiences.
Ella: Yeah, I’ve done tonnes of gigs, I’ve been gigging for about four or five years now. I started off doing very, very low scale, just very bottom ends gigs, so there was hardly anyone there. I can’t really pick out one in particular. But I definitely have been in situations where at the time I kind of thought, “What am I doing here?” But looking back I thought, “Well, that was that and now I’m doing this, everything is relevant.” So now when I do a gig I try and think, “Right, what am I taking from this? Is it a good performance? Is it gaining some new listeners?”
Ella: But I think one gig that I really enjoyed was my EP launch, which was in April, which was at the Hyde Park Book Club. It was just a really nice atmosphere, and the sound was great, and I got some really nice photos from that, and it was just a really great environment and a great experience.
Nick Cody: Great. And if people want to find out about you, what’s the best place for them to find you?
Ella: Yeah, so if you just type my name to into any platform, any streaming service, Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, it’s just Ella Playford or Ella Playford Music.
Ella: Hello, I’m Ella Playford, and this first song is an original, and it’s called Excuses. (Singing).
Ella: The next song I’m going to do is another original, and this one’s called Contagious. (Singing). Thank you.
Ella: So this is an original song, it’s a bit of a newer one, and it’s called Understand. (Singing). Thank you.