NEW CHAPTER: Rory Ellis has just released his eight album, One Skin, and is taking it on the road. The humble harmonica and a new love pushed blues storyteller Rory Ellis out of his songwritingcomfort zone on new album One Skin.
This man is in love and he’s not afraid to sing it from the rooftops.
Nor was he afraid to branch into Americana territory with the help of Christian Marsh and hischromatic harmonica, even though Ellis is not one to talk genres. In fact, he tries to steer clear of pigeon-holing his sound.
A typically understated Ellis describes One Skin, released earlier this week, as a “nice, bare bones type of album”.
“At the end of theday it’s an album written about the first year of living with my beautiful partner on our farm, north of Kempsey,” he tells Weekender.
“I’ve met the woman of my dreams who is now my fiance and we live together on a little15-acre property. Your life focuses change.
“I grew up in suburban Melbourne and have toured a lot here and overseas in the past 10 years so coming to live on a farmis quite a change. Allthe work that needs to be done certainly toughens the old hands up.
“We recently planted about 80 trees and I’ve been up with chainsaws cutting down limbs. We do our own meat, too, it’sslaughtered on the property. Yep, paddock to plate, all that stuff.”
As a songwriter, the words are the most importantaspect of a song to Ellis. The music, he says, “sets the mood”.
“When it came to the musicality of this album I wanted to keep it nice and simple and do something a little left of centre, you know, with respectto having the chromatic harmonica on nine tracks of a 10-track album,” he says with a laugh.
“Usuallyharmonicas get buried in the mix but to do anAmericana-style alt-country albumwith the harmonica was kind of interesting. That one instrument can sound like a flute,a clarinet, a saxophone or an accordion depending on what context it’s playedin.
“Alot of the old-time bluegrass and Americana stuff got attention with that film O Brother Where Art Thou? but look, I’ve always just done my own thing and let the genre specialists deal with that.
“Styles and genres all came about because we had to sell the music. I like to call it all folk, because that’s what it is, really, just the music of the people.”
Ellis’ take on Americana on One Skin is to use it as common thread (thanks once again to the chromatic harmonica) while dipping into the country, blues and folk sounds he loves so much. Against this background the listener is free to focus on what Ellis has to say.
And it’s not all lovey dovey, either. He tackles some hard-hitting issues too –domestic violence, corporate greed and estranged fathers.
Rory EllisRide, was about stillborn babies.
“Because I had one,” he replies.
“It was something I thought should be brought to attention because a lot of people have gone through it. The same goes with domestic violence. I know some people who have been through that and it inspired me to write Another Woman Down.
“Another song I’ve written is abouthow people can work untilthey drop for a company and the company doesn’t really give a rat’s about them in the end. I find it sad that people are just a number.
“I deal with estranged fathers on Who’s Your Daddy, which is close to home. I have three kids and two of them live with their mum. I’ve always rung and contacted them but you see other families where it’s the complete opposite and what they don’t see is the damage they are doing to the kid.
“It’s put very simply and politely, I suppose, and addresses the issue of the husband who is out drinking and the child who has an absent father and wonders why his kids don’t want to talkto him.”
Catch Rory Ellis at Rock ‘n’ Blues Revival in the Grove at Stonehurst Wines on May 6, andat The Stag & Hunter in Newcastle at 6pm on May 7.