Artist: Ellie Turner
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Latest Album: When the Trouble’s All Done
Personal Nicknames: El
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
I don’t think any other artist has influenced so many different aspects of my musical career as Bob Dylan. From lyrical content and song structure, to sonic preferences and even performance mindsets, I can trace and feel the imprint of his influence in almost everything I do. In the weeks just prior to starting to write for this album, I listened to Dylan’s entire catalog from start to finish per the recommendation of my friend Jack Schneider who produced the album. I think the thing that captivates me most about Dylan’s artistry is his ability and willingness to change. There’s a freedom in the way he approaches art and music that I certainly seek to emulate. I think Bob is really good at listening, and more than anything, that is the skill I seek to hone along my creative journey.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
Over the last couple of years, I have really enjoyed exploring the art of block-printing. It’s such an honest medium. Nothing is hidden. The very nature of it requires the artist to pull out and focus on the most essential pieces of an image — the pieces that make the image that image. For that reason, every block, every layer, every color serves a very specific purpose in bringing that image to life. If you think about it, it’s not too dissimilar to writing a folk song — every line is essential, the words are simple and clear, the message is honest and true.
When writing a song, I always like to challenge myself to say the thing in the simplest way possible, cutting away all the fluff and finery I might be tempted to hide behind. I approach block-printing in the same way. And further, when it comes to actually printing an edition of a print or tracking a song live, these two mediums are even more kindred in spirit and nature. Every edition is different just like every take of a song is different. They cannot be replicated. They stand alone as something totally unique. Like little moments in time and space. That’s exactly what we wanted to tap into in recording this record and it’s why we tracked every song live.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
As an artist, I always want to be honest. I want to keep my eyes open and listen. I want to make the thing that’s asking to be made, even if it requires me to find new tools or step into a different medium. I want to be willing and brave.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I was maybe 18 years old, my family and I came to Nashville to visit some family for Thanksgiving. I remember stopping into an old antique shop that had a bunch of guitars on the wall. I couldn’t help but grab one to play. My dad grabbed one, too. We casually started playing “Landslide” together just to have some fun, but after a few moments, I looked up to find that everyone in the store had stopped what they were doing to listen. I was shocked and overwhelmed in the best possible way. That was the first time I really understood the power music had to move people. From that point on, I knew all I wanted to do was sing songs for people. I had discovered a new medium, a new tool, and I was desperate to use it.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
Oh man, so many great memories… I think one show that really stands out though is the first show I played after the pandemic. The show was on July 1, 2021, at The Basement in Nashville. I remember the room felt so alive. It was packed, and you could just feel people’s gladness for being together again, sharing a unified experience. This was also the first time that we got to play the songs from this record live since they had been written and recorded in isolation. The album was done and mastered at this point, and Jack (Schneider) and I were just so thrilled to finally share these songs with people. To let them live and breathe. We stepped off the mic to play the last song, just to be with the people in the room, and to this day, it is one of my favorite musical memories. It felt as though we were all of one spirit, sharing the same set of lungs, breathing in and out together. One of those moments that makes you realize how lucky you are to get to do the thing you’re doing. I’ll treasure it forever.
Photo Credit: Jim Herrington