Elli Ingram: Down-To-Earth and Back Again
We interview the upcoming British artist.
The first thing people can't wait to tell you about Elli Ingram, is how utterly unreserved she is. After confirming our interview, at least five separate people went out of their way to describe to me just how down-to-earth and grounded she is to talk to, accompanied by an exhaustive effort to try and articulate her particular kind of cool.
Rich and illustrious attempts at describing her demeanor, retiring into, "you'll see what I mean when you meet her."
As our call connects, I immediately understand the atmosphere they were trying to capture. On this lazy sunny Sunday morning, Elli shares that she popped out for a pint at the pub before crawling back into the comfort of her bed to greet us, and before you know it, she is playing Amy Winehouse from her phone and is singing along trying to find her favorite lyrics.
"You're just a little boy underneath that hat," she sings smoothly as her warm signature warble softly drips down the back of her throat. "It reminds me of my boyfriend," she explains, "he always wears a hat, and when I heard the lyrics, I was like, I know one of them."
So quickly, Elli is earnestly charming and immediately relatable without trying too hard. Instead, she is refreshing and peaceful, presenting herself as her artist's persona is a radical act in an industry of digi-pop stardom and record labels.
"I write such honest music, and I'm so myself that I'm very vulnerable." But, she says, "that's why it's important for me to have the right team, I am such an emotional mess all of the time, and it's important to have people around me that can stand with me and support me, but also allow me to be who I am."
A lot can be said about the music industry when an open and honest approach to branding comes as a complete shock, something exclusive and valuable tagged to your core image as an artist. However, a more interesting question is whether the value attached to presenting your honest self in the industry stems from the audience's desire to connect with the artist or whether it stems from the industry wanting to take advantage of your vulnerability.
"I don't want to have to pretend to be a different type of person, but it's so difficult." Elli explains, "I think it's like that for most artists; unless you create a persona for yourself, you're putting yourself in quite a vulnerable position. Within a label, it's so old fashioned they think they have the formula of what makes a hit record, and they try to apply the same formula to every artist."
Island Records signed Elli at a young age and, before long, found herself headlining Glastonbury with Chase and Status, an experience she says are "some of the best memories of my life," not only for her blossoming career but for her budding relationship.
"That's where I met my boyfriend; he was on tour with them as well as a guest singer, he's from Brighton, where I'm from, but we didn't know each other." But, she says, "we were traveling around, doing incredible shows, sleeping in the tour bus, both of us the same age, and we just got on really well, were still together nine years later." She chuckles, sharing her memories of Chase and Status, "giggling at Louis and me because they can see we've got something going on, like dads but more fun."
After her first major tour ended, Elli returned to England to work on her first album, Love You Really. The album was an outlet of raw emotion for Elli, who used the album to write songs addressed to her partner, her family, and her dad. "It turned out to be quite negative toward the men in my life." But, she says, "I still love all these people that I'm talking about; the songs are just about the emotional journey of being an artist and writing songs and it being difficult and challenging.
It was like, 'I'm going to write all these songs that are open and honest, so maybe it's going to be harsh, but Love You, Really.' It was a knock-on effect of these songs, which are about this same space of feeling. She expands, "we went on a journey, and sound just organically grew without thinking about it too much."
After a period of being unhappy with her record label, she chose to move on and carve her own pathway as an independent artist. "I was with Island for five years," she says, "I was so young when I signed it. So many people come and go within the label, your team changes, the energy drops, things started to feel quite stale." She tried a new manager before deciding to throw in the towel and go her own way, creating her own music label.
"I wanted to give it a go," she says of starting her own label, "ever since I started music, I knew something wasn't feeling right, so I was desperate. It's fucking hard work, but you have so much freedom; you are working with your managers and your producers, and you can do whatever the fuck you want. I've made the decision; it's so much nicer."
Five years after the release of her album centering on raw emotion, Elli has a release imminent, but this time, she explores the behaviors of other people. "It's top secret," she divulges, "but I'll tell you, [the album] is focussed on negative behavior traits, some within myself but a lot with other people. I realized a lot of people around me have negative behavior traits, so I started to analyze them. So the entire album is about why people treat people the way they do and the ripple effect of negative behaviors."
In the five years since her last album, it's clear that her interest in human emotion has remained, but now she approaches it from a more studious and matured lens. "I think I've grown so much," she says, "my first album is very young and tit for tat, and I'm pissed off with boys and the world, and this is like iv stepped back, and I'm soaking in everything, dealing with things in a much more mature way and that comes across in the songwriting."
With new music comes new shows and tours, which can be expected next year; in the meantime, there will be "one or two secret shows to invite some people to come and listen to the album before it's out."
The music industry is about to be vastly different than any iteration of it we have ever known. Where issues in the past have been laid in management, funding, and talent handling, the future of the music industry sees a great deal of developmental technology entering the field, whether current musicians like it or not. For example, AI are now developed enough to song-write; if this proves to be broadly successful, it could end many jobs for musicians.
I wonder if Elli feels threatened by an ever-industrializing industry. "No." She states plainly, "What has a robot been through? Have they had a break-up?" Sticking by the all-natural route, she assures us that with new shows and music emerging, there are "lots of exciting things coming out of the ground."