Angela: So Ellis, thanks for talking with us on WJFF for a while
Ellis: Thanks Angela
Angela: We have your CD, I've aired it a lot and I think it is fabulous!
Ellis: Thank you.
Angela: We missed talking last week, so I want to talk now. I thought a lot about the lyrics and I had a lot of questions...
Ellis: Oh great
Angela: ... and you graciously said you'd answer them. Your CD ...you ended today with a beautiful poem with "love" being too familiar a word. You are so good at not using familiar words, yet painting very familiar situations for all us, wooing us into your lyrics. We are forced to think deeply and feel deeply. You said you worked so carefully on your CD to make all the songs fit, you said so that you "could come to same place from different angles"
Angela: What place is that?
Ellis:. Well I guess it is evaluating, for the most part, the record is about love and all the struggle trying to keep it in your life. That is the main thing, how you fit in this sort of emotional place you go when you love somebody. Its not just couples it's about friends and family, it's about that.
Angela: I got several themes, which I had written down before I heard you make the statement before I walked in. The cost of love is definitely one of your themes, it is in a ton of tunes here
Angela: ....it's in "She loves a Girl" which I started the show off with last week.
Ellis: And Seven has it.
Angela: (agreeing) And Seven. Well in Seven I keep thinking it could be the love of a job or a life or a melody and how it costs you the love of someone and how you balance loves in your life, just a loaded song. Its great. And the "She Loves a Girl" --the cost of one love for another... yeah that's about a friend of min
Ellis: Yeah, that's about a friend of mine who is struggling with the fact that she wants to have this relationship, this long term relationship with another woman and her family has kind of disowned her for that reason. I think a lot of gay people go through that and I ...I write songs about ...you know it can be heavy at times I suppose, but that is just because they impact me and I feel like that is an important song. I hope people play it regardless...
Angela: Oh it really moves, emotionally it moves... I love that tune. I think it's a great cut.
Ellis: Thank you
Angela: I think the whole album holds up well, you mentioned something about Philo not thinking it a radio ....
Ellis: Yeah they think...
Angela: Well they're wrong
Ellis: We had to make a choice of using a publicist or a radio person this time around and I think we should have used both. So I'm getting on them, I'm saying lets do it, because it is selling great and people are raving about it...
Angela: That's what counts.
Ellis: ...and it is surprising us all
Angela: Don't underestimate the DJs
Ellis: I think that's what it is. Don't underestimate the listener.
Angela: Don't overproduce..
Ellis: Yeah, that can really get in the way too.
Angela: I'm really getting away from the extremely overproduced because you've then lost the emotion, lost the meaning and the lyrics... which is why I so wanted to talk to you. One of the other themes ...you have quite a few themes. I was surprised when you said you didn't put in "seize the day" (I'd forgotten about that song, from seeing you at the Lycian) because one of your themes is living now, cut 7 cut 8- the world ain't slowing down, Live in the Now....
Ellis: Yeah the carpe diem has always been in there. Its just been a tough year. I broke up with my wife, and I'm....
Angela: That's always tough
Ellis: well, you know it's brought this strange kind of 20/20 vision, hindsight and also looking into the future I see things a lot differently now and I think that anybody who has been through that knows that it knocks you into sort of this reality that, I don't know, has a clear eye view of the world...
Angela: Yeah what is that line you have about the past and the future ..I'm looking for it here....
Ellis: In what song?
Angela: When your past changes ...you are forced...?
Ellis: That's in "She Loves A Girl" oh yeah the line is ..um ...I've forgotten it ...right ..."you think more about the future when change brings your past to an end. Use love like a suture, that's a good place to begin" That's where the line comes from. I think that's really a good way to sum up the record too. It's not a... I don't think it's a depressing record.
Angela: I don't think so! I hope it doesn't get labeled that, I heard you making some sounds earlier....
Ellis: Well you know it's... the source of it was a dark place, but I think there is so much hope and I think there's a lot of comedy in the record as well...
Angela: And there's a lot of people in that place, that you are talking about- a relationship that didn't work, even a marriage, and coming out of it ...so many people and they are looking like a CD like that to say ohhh that's me, I feel that too.
Ellis: Yeah, and that's good. I think the main thing I discovered is you cant really deny going to that place because that just postpones you getting through it- you kind of have to embrace it- like it's, and again it's you know- I was given all these... I have this self help library from all these friends that gave me books and stuff..
Angela: (laughing) Who doesn't?
Ellis: you know, they were just coming out of the woodwork! I want to set fire to them all but ...
Angela: Well meaning friends..
Ellis: Right, exactly and you know they helped at the time and now I pick them up occasionally and just read through them and say "What am I doing?"
Angela: So is that where all the letting go lines come from, you have a lot...
Angela: and there are some good images
Ellis: Yeah and it's all true - you just got to walk across the coals because what's on the other side is.... well a beautiful thing on the other side --so you just got to go through it and this is what I'm talking about in the CD and hopefully people will get that.
Angela: You talk about spending a day, are you spending a day for yourself or someone else. Being a performer I wonder -are you, where you ...you just had these 50 people really emotionally involved and they all went home. Do you feel like you made their day and you were robbed or did it make your ...how does that balance for you?
Ellis: Well that song is about the fact that, what I was recognizing was that I was sacrificing a lot of my home life really to be on the road to do this- I feel like there is this give and take being a musician and performer and I obviously get a lot out of it..
Angela: Hmmm or you wouldn't do it. And maybe that answers...
Ellis: It's sort of this 20/20 ...thing ...I don't know ...a Catch 22 is what I'm trying to say...
Angela: Well maybe songs drive your life ...you have that line..
Ellis: They do right now. What I'm discovering is that now I don't really have a home life, I'm able to enjoy my ...job.
Angela: There isn't this tension that you should be somewhere else.
Ellis: Yeah, the heartache was coming from the fact that I was missing home and now home is where I am playing next, and the friends that I'm going to see there. It is an amazing kind of turn that has happened and I never knew it was coming.
Angela: You have little mentions of religion here and there. I'm just wondering if you are at all religious or if you just use religion like so many good writers do
Ellis: I think what it more of less is, that I've had a year that has kind of tested my faith. It's not .. I'm not a born again Christian , but I've sort of come to terms with what I believe, and I believe. It's not, I'm not trying to convert anybody but I'm just trying to sort of document my struggle with it ...because I think faith is a struggle. Faith isn't supposed to be spoon fed to you. God doesn't work in locust storms or partings of the Red Sea anymore, he works in coincidence and fate and things that happen everyday.
Angela: Which happens to all of us
Ellis: Right, he wants you to make the leap yourself
Angela: and then the net will appear
Ellis: Well, yeah ...hopefully, hopefully. It's just part of my life so I'm writing about it, I hope people... I assume a lot of people go through a lot of the same things I go through and think about a lot of the same things I go through.
Angela: Real early when I was following your career, I think it was you, when someone was asking about press and succeeding and you said something like "I'm just going to stay here being good and get better and people will come ..it will come...
Angela: Can you refresh my memory- was it an article somewhere, Sing Out!?
Angela: I'll just keep doing what I do and they will come..
Ellis: Yeah, and that's what's happened. What happens when you go into a small town like Middletown or one of these smaller gigs and you are only playing to 40 or 50 people you have people driving for hours to come see you
Angela: That's true!
Ellis: In the city you can play to a few hundred -in Boston I can play to a lot of people. Something is lost in that process too ...I just want to do what I do ...I tell stories. It is the same show whether there are a thousand people or 50.
Angela: That's what I love about the folk music scene
Ellis: It seems real. As an artist you want to present an accurate picture of the world you live in.
Angela: Where do you live now?
Ellis: I live in Medford Mass. I live near Tufts University.
Angela: But you did go to Tennessee?
Ellis: I did. Yeah. My wife and I split up after the move and I decided to go back to Boston where I had my closest friends. And I'm thinking of moving again. I don't really know where I'm gonna go now.
Angela: Dar was saying that. "What's your town like"
Ellis: Really? I should call her cue she was talking me into moving to Northhampton and now she's moving -that's hilarious.
Angela: She is into Pete Seeger's ...taking up his mantle and doing something with Clearwater and wants to buy a lot of land...
Ellis: That is great
Angela: It makes me think of your cricket line and living in the city and how a cricket at night in the country would put you to sleep and in the city it is an extra annoying noise trying to be heard - are you a country ...are you comfortable..
Ellis: I love the country. I was talking today to someone ..you know I, I grew up in a small town Prescal, Maine. Growing up there was this Bell curve thing that happens, like you just want to get out... you wanna get out ...you wanna get out... and then you hit like 30-
Angela: And you wanna go back, wanna go back... (laughing)
Ellis: Exactly like you are looking for
Angela: Cedar Lane ...Mindy Jostyn
Ellis:. ...the perfect small town...
Angela: Her Cedar Lane tune.
Ellis: Yeah exactly. Its this weird thing that happens. I guess that's just part of growing older and exploring and figuring things out...
Angela: But then if you stay in the town the whole time and do that
Angela: You'd still want to see..
Ellis: You'd be itching your entire life...
Angela: Thinking "There has got to be something out there" and then you find that there isn't and it's the same ...so how do you know Vance? College?
Ellis: Oh, Vance and I met, there was this little coffee house called the "Naked City Coffee House" that was in the hallway of this old building that met at night and we would just meet there and put up candles -five or six poets- and fifteen musicians and we'd just show up there every Wednesday Vance showed up one night and we are best friends now. I mean we really love each other. Its a beautiful thing.
Angela: It is great. I'm sure every dj in the world in fact when I posted this yesterday I said, "Everybody is going to play Vance's song for
Ellis: followed by Ellis' song for ..and I had timed that last week to have you call right after...
Ellis: Oh, did you?
Angela: Didn't work out but that's ok
Ellis: Don't ask a musician about timing (laughs)
Angela: But I'm sure everybody's doing that and it is kinda neat. That sort of friendship, that care, is something that we all crave. That really ...someone who knows you, you feel good about them. And when it is the same sex and you are heterosexual, it makes it more special because the love thing doesn't muck it up. You have this...
Ellis:. That is what it is.
Angela: You are going to have it forever because you are not going to be "an item" then lose it.
Ellis: You know, I've been able to manage my friendships so much more better than I took care of my marriage. That's because the dynamic is different. It is a different thing. I think that Vance and I ...it is interesting because we are both males. I think there are a lot of friendships and bonds like that in the world where two guys really love each, but being able to have two guys who can express it, is a different thing. The fact that we wrote songs about each other is an accidental thing. It is just strange because all these things have generated from that. People want us to tour together and they are playing our songs side by side on the radio like this.
Angela: Well I had this thought that it may generate this new thing where you know, someone will sing some song about... then there will be an answer on their next Cd
Ellis: Yeah, I know, it's like caller response!
Angela: A new phenomenon!
Ellis: But we had no idea that it would somehow help our careers and that is what's happening.
Angela: Well I've never seen him without his mentioning you and I've seen him a lot.
Ellis: And I mention him, I play the song every time I play. It has been great. It has brought us even closer together.
Angela: So you never actually went to any school together you just did this Wednesday night thing.
Ellis:. Yeah, we went to these open mikes together and started running...
Angela: That's a core connection, writing, that's a deep connection...
Ellis: Yeah, we call each other on the phone in the middle of Indiana. He will call and say "I just wrote this song you gotta hear it" and he will play it over the phone for me and say "What do you think?"
Angela: I think the line is pretty bad...
Ellis: You gotta change the bridge man! (laughing)
Angela: I mean the electrical line! Well great. Anything you wish people would ask you and they never do?
Ellis: uhh ..... long pause...
Angela: Call me next week with that answer...
Ellis: Yeah! You know that there is probably an answer to that. I talk you know, people ask me a question and I usually end up answering another one. I'm like Clinton in that way...
Angela: Well the questions are just catalysts for a discussion and almost irrelevant...
Ellis: Yeah and this seemed like more of a discussion than an interview which is great!
Angela: Well thanks for...
Ellis: They are not normally this... discussion - like. It's good. We should have more interviews like this ...'cuz this is more Dick Cavett than Oprah Winfrey, you know?
Angela: Well, thanks.
Ellis: Thank you.
|Angela Page - Host of "Folk
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