The name Ella Morgan should be familiar to anyone involved in the Kent music scene. The singer/songwriter originally from New Zealand but now living in Canterbury has a vocal range that could stop traffic, a natural affinity for the guitar and an incredible flair for poetic vocals. As well as playing a slew of regular gigs in venues in and around Kent and the South East, you can usually find her busking to lucky audiences in her adopted town of Canterbury. We managed to catch up with Ella to find out what makes this future Grunge starlet tick….
The Black Flag: Tell us about your early life. What was the earliest music you remember listening to?
Ella Morgan: I was born in Auckland, New Zealand to an artist and a filmmaker. My mum raised me mainly on her own. I was a bit of an awkward kid who liked my friends’ parents better than most of my friends, and found myself most happy drawing pictures of ninja cat girls and other alter egos.
My home would often be filled with Soul music or Reggae, some of the artists being Ella Fitzgerald (who I was probably named after), Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Louie Armstrong and Bob Marley. And David Bowie! I still love all of this music now.
TBF: You moved to Canterbury from New Zealand when you were quite young, why was this and has it affected your music career?
Ella: I moved with my mum when I was 16. I’ve always had more family in London than New Zealand, like my half-siblings and cousins, but also my dad, who was very poorly. When my mum was offered a Job teaching film at Kent University, we packed up and left as soon as I’d finished my year 11 exams and moved to Canterbury. I’m grateful that we moved when we did.
I’m not sure how this has affected my music career yet, as it’s very early days! I think I’m just a passionate fish in a REALLY REALLY big pond now, rather than the tiny pond that is New Zealand. There are millions more people to play to, but so many thousands more people trying to make it as musicians!
I think moving 18,695 kilometres away from home affected my musical content quite a lot though.
TBF: You are an awesome guitarist and vocalist. Have you had any professional training, or are you self-taught?
Ella: Thank you. Well, when I was 12/13, I had some guitar lessons off a girl called Kimbra who lived in my street. She’s actually made it pretty big now as a singer.
After that, I join the Junior Performing Arts Class in school and had some strange choir classes, alongside some after school lessons where I learnt how to play Pantera and Nirvana songs.
When I got laryngitis a couple of years ago, I had some lessons to improve my technique to sound better and avoid strain. They were really helpful.
As for things like using a pick and learning scales, I only started teaching myself that stuff two years ago.
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TBF: Who would you say are your main influences? Musical or otherwise and why?
Ella: I always find this question hard to answer, as my music is so different to most of what I listen to. I think the Soul music I listened to as a child has really influenced the ways I sing, and the grunge and rock music I’ve been into since has influenced the way I play guitar. As for particular artists, I’d say Alice in Chains, Amy Winehouse, Kill it kid and Janis Joplin are the biggest influences for my style right now. One thing I can’t place is where I got the idea to write almost every song like a poem, using metaphors, plays on words, assonance and alliteration and rhyming. I think most of it goes unnoticed but I have a passion for words and want to communicate with intricacy.
Loss, love, lust, longing and life’s little pleasures are my biggest influences for lyrical content.
TBF: What’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Ella: It depends on the vibe of the venue. I like to throw out a big belter like Man’s World by James Brown or I Just Want to Make Love to You by Etta James, to really bring up the energy of the audience and to show off a little bit. Truly though, I like to sing gentler songs that really hit a nerve with people, like Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra, or one of my songs, like River of Air, Poison or Pieces.
TBF: You’re quite well known on the Canterbury busking scene. Is that something you enjoy or just a way to make a few quid?
Ella: Busking has been a huge part of my life since I was 14, starting out in ripped jeans and bare feet, doing Nirvana covers and spontaneous improvised original songs about unsuccessful busking. Now I dress up nice, use an amplifier and sell C.D’s.
I really love busking, but it has been a really useful way to make a few quid over the last 7 years. I’ve had a few jobs, and, per hour, busking is way better!
TBF: What are your interests other than music?
Ella: I am interested in loads of other things. I love Art, and going on bike rides. Most of my time is actually spent cracking jokes, drinking with my friends, playing online Scrabble and observing life and the people around me, trying to understand them thoroughly.
TBF: Got any gigs coming up that we should know about?
Ella: My upcoming dates that I know about are Friday 24th of April at Lock17 in Camden Town and 17th of May at The Smack in Whitstable. They usually spring up randomly a couple of weeks beforehand so the best place to stay updated is my Facebook page.
TBF: Are you going to make any festival appearances this year?
Ella: So far all I have booked is a slot at FestivIsle in Thanet on the 19th of June.
TBF: If you could perform with one person living dead, who would it be and why? Ok you can name a full band if you want as that’s a tough one….
Ella: Well I’d have to say either Layne Staley (he’s dead, but fronted Alice in Chains) or Chris Cornell (Alive, Soundgarden’s front man). They’re my favourite singers ever and I’d just want to sit down with guitars and bust out some beautiful melancholic tunes with loads of vocal harmonies and metaphorical lyrics in a darkly lit, intimate venue… But I can only dream about that.
TBF: Our famous last question. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Ella: Five years?! I don’t even know what I’m doing in five days!
I could be ambitious and say I’d be in a band playing really awesome music all over the world, but it’s pretty tricky to even get more than one musician in a room at a time, unless that room is a pub and instead of instruments we’re holding beer and cigarettes, so it might take a little longer to sort out that goal!
In five years, I just want to be playing slightly better music and connecting to more people. Whether it’s taking me around the world or if it’s just something I do alongside a crappy minimum wage job or two, either way, I’ll be staying true to myself and doing what I love.
Go give Ella a like at facebook.com/ellamorganmusic