"I Want To Incorporate All Of My Favourite Sounds!" Ellington Interviewed

"I Want To Incorporate All Of My Favourite Sounds!" Ellington Interviewed

A glimpse into his solo realm...

American musician Ellington Ratliff has only ever known a life within the music industry. He became the drummer of the now defunct, but hugely popular band ‘R5’ when he was 16 years old and hasn’t looked back since. It was a journey that took up close to 10 years of his life, while after the band split Ellington spent time with ex bandmates Ross and Rocky Lynch in their next endeavour, The Driver Era, as a contributor to both studio and live projects.

Now the multi-talented artist is undertaking his journey as a solo artist, creating his own blend of alt-rock. He’s just released his self-titled debut EP, with five tracks that perfectly illustrate his potential as a solo artist.

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Despite the many years Ellington was at the back of the stage, playing the drums, he always knew there was potential there for a solo career. A capable vocalist who had been gained numerous song writing credits throughout his career, he just needed that push to actually do it. That moment was the source of inspiration for this EP, as he states: “I started writing the EP at a time where my life took a 180 and everything I had worked towards in my eight-year career at that point seemed to dissipate overnight. In less dramatic terms, it was a crossroads — leaving me in a new spot, spending a lot of time alone to reflect on my past and from that, this EP was born.”

For almost three years, Ellington worked behind the scenes, refining a sound, and learning who he was as a solo artist. His first single ‘EMT’ was released late last year, it was an emotive and personal release that showed the world his personality from the offset. It was followed by ‘Sun To Rise!’ earlier this year, with both singles taking on a rather youthful, alt-rock aesthetic. The EP features both along with two other singles and an extended version of ‘Sun To Rise’.

On the EP’s various singles, Ellington states: “I wanted to start with ‘EMT’ and ‘Sun To Rise!’ because they seemed to be the truest to the different spectrums of my sound. ‘Beauty Is Terrifying’ and ‘Band Of Gold’ are continuations of that. They are both songs in which I feel I stepped out of my comfort zone. In particular with ‘Beauty Is Terrifying’, in the verses I sing in almost a spoken-word cadence and for a second I wasn’t sure if that made sense for me, but then I watched Marina Abramovic and Ulay walk across the Great Wall of China just to say goodbye to each other and I thought… ‘oh, I can do whatever I want.’”

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However, the project didn’t come without its challenges. Coming from a collaborative background, working in bands, going into a concept build on his own was a totally unnatural experience, that thankfully came together through perseverance in the end. “I was so used to collaborating with other people that working by myself behind a closed door was tough at first.” The artist explains, “But, it also came with positives; I could finally do anything I wanted without having to ask others. But then when things weren’t sounding good or I didn’t know where to go no one was there to carry the weight.”

It’s within those challenges that Ellington learnt the most, but it’s also what took the most time creatively. Learning to adapt to a totally different environment was key, as the artist explains: “The whole process started about three years ago, which is crazy to think how time flies. There was a lot to figure out, including my sound and how to fully produce because in my past projects I was never the sole producer. Then, this year, I focused on mixing and mastering and putting my team together to get my project off of the ground. Now I have an EP being released and it's pretty wild to see this dream come to fruition.”

Ellington is now able to make music that he truly loves and this EP is a perfect illustration of exactly that. Settling on a fresh sounding, alt-rock style, the artist cites his youth for its origins. “I was introduced to my parent's vinyl collection at an early age which was full of 70’s rock gods and some underground cuts as well, so that fully started me on that path.” He states, “I've always enjoyed alternative music and the sub-genres that go with it. I'll be listening to, let's say, industrial rap at one moment and then Greenwich Village folk the next and I want to incorporate all of my favourite sounds and ideas from all of my favourite genres and put them into one sound.”

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With previous experience touring the world with R5 and Driver Era, Ellington certainly hopes to rekindle such memories of sharing the same stage as Radiohead in the future. It’s an experience he lives for and hopefully a post covid world offers that opportunity. “I look forward to performing these songs live! I'd love to tour again and would love to do festivals because honestly, that's a big part of why I do this.”

The artist states: “I also think it will be interesting performing centre stage and not behind a drum set, which is what I’ve been doing for the past several years, but I definitely think the drums will be incorporated into my live set in some regard. I might even do the whole Anderson .Paak / Phil Collins singing behind the drums thing, who knows!”

Ellington’s self-titled debut EP shows him to be an artist with enormous potential. With a life dedicated to playing the drums, he’s undertaking an unorthodox route into a solo career, but not one that’s totally unheard of. But the future looks encouraging, all of the challenges he faced during the creative process revolved around this being a totally new experience, but with a bit more time being comfortable in this new environment, who knows what we might get next.

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Ellington's debut solo EP is out now.

Words: Jake Wright

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