• Take it away presents… Ego Ella May

    This month, we were super excited to interview Ego Ella May a.k.a our London Soul Queen!
    Singer, guitarist and song-writer, Ego, had a rich picking of music inspiration growing up, which has translated into her effortlessly rich, neo-soul/jazz compositions and voice. 
    We sat down in the sun to chat music inspiration, manoeuvring the music industry as a woman and the importance of investing in a decent instrument. 
    Her long awaited album ‘So Far’ dropped on Wednesday and it’s lived up to all our expectations!

    Interviewed by Renée Jackson & Sophie Ogunyemi

    So, can you recall the moment you decided to pick up an instrument? 

    YES! I was 18, which was pretty late, but I started doing more gigs and I had to rely on other musicians to be available. If they weren’t available, I’d have to turn down the gig because I wasn’t going to sing acapella or do a PA set. So, I think I did it out of sheer frustration as I didn’t want to be so dependent on other people or be missing out on opportunities and money. 

    I then started to think about what would be the most accessible instrument to carry around. I first thought of learning the ukulele because it was smaller and easier to carry around, but then decided on guitar as it’s more adaptable.

    What drew you to learning the guitar particularly?

    Lauryn Hill’s ‘Unplugged’ album was probably the thing that sold it to me, because I realised I could just sit here and play songs and they don’t have to be perfect. I started to listen to other singer-songwriters who also played guitar like Lianne La Havas and Corinne Bailey Rae, and really thought, maybe I can do this.

    My biggest thing is honesty in my music. I’d like people to be inspired by that.

    Were there any other artists that inspired you to start making music? 

    Stevie Wonder. I grew up on a lot of jazz music – Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina SimoneIn school it was Destiny’s Child, Brandy, Mary J Blige and 90s RnB. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases, I had an Indie phase where I was into The Kooks but to start it was definitely Stevie Wonder and a lot of old school Jazz that inspired me the most.

    Such a great selection! When did you write your first song?

    My earliest memory was when I was in year 5/6 and I wrote a love song to this guy I had a crush on. I could have written it as a little note, but instead I wrote a song and gave him the lyrics, haha! So then I figured, maybe I have a thing here. It was kind of in the style of Madonna’s ‘Crazy for you’. I might still have the lyrics somewhere…

    What affect do you want your music to have on your listeners?

    I’d say my biggest thing is honesty in my music. I’d like people to be inspired by that.

    A part of me wants to let people know that you can be a musician without actually being a ‘yes girl’, and liking all the other stuff that comes with it. You can be introverted and you can still be just about making music. All the other stuff should be secondary – ignore people saying that the visuals are important too. You shouldn’t have to been seen to ‘look like this’ and ‘wearing that’, or go to every single networking opportunity. I like to talk about this in the music and lyrics I write.

    What’s been the hardest thing to overcome in your experience in the music industry? 

    Everything that isn’t singing, to be honest. I only like singing and a lot of the time it makes me question whether I should be a musician because so much of it is not to do with the actual music. There are so many other things that I am not as experienced in that I have to prioritise over my actual music.

    What some people don’t realise is that a lot of people don’t take you seriously if you try to book yourself, especially as a woman.

    How have you worked around that? 

    I’ve kept singing and been able to vent. I keep people around me that are really encouraging in the sense that they tell me that I can do it, so why not. It is a gift to be able to sing and make music and share yourself in a vulnerable way with everybody. So I think if I think about it in that way and don’t focus so much on all the other stuff, then I’m okay. There are other people who can take care of that stuff like a manager, booking agent and promoter, who I’m lucky to have help with these things.

    When did it get to the point that you got help from a manager, booking agent or someone else?

    I recently got a manager this year but I’ve had a booking agent for quite a while. They’ve helped me book my gigs etc. What some people don’t realise is that a lot of people don’t take you seriously if you try to book yourself, especially as a woman. Having that representation makes you look more serious and legit. It’s something I’ve had to factor in even though it’s annoying and shouldn’t necessarily be that way.

    Music is really healing. Music is a form of expression and it doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s the beauty of it.

    Do you think a scheme like the Take it away is beneficial to young people interested in learning an instrument? Would you use it?

    I 100% would have used Take it away if I knew about it then. I think I would have started playing before I was 18 had I known there was a cost effective way of getting a new and decent instrument. Music equipment is expensive, but once you have it, you save a lot of time. It’s an investment.

    The reality is that not everyone can go to a music shop on Denmark Street and buy a good guitar, and will instead take the other option of buying a cheap beginners guitar of, say, Argos, but that’s not going to help you. The thing about those cheap guitars is that you’ll then be playing and think you’re bad and maybe give up as you’ll think you’re not getting it or that the strings are hurting your fingers, but really it’s the instrument. You could be improving but it won’t reflect in the music you’re making because of the instrument itself. 

    That actually happened with my first guitar and I was getting really frustrated. I then invested in a good guitar and the difference in the tone was amazing. I felt more inspired to play, as I realised I was improving and wasn’t actually that bad!! So yes, I would have loved to have used this scheme to buy a good quality, decent instrument when I was younger. 

    In your opinion, what are the benefits of having music in your life?

    Music can be like a meditation. I find it really calming and there’s so many different types of music that can either make you happy, make you sad or inspire you. I have a playlist called ‘Songs to cry to’ which gives me the release of not being in my own head which I think is such a good thing. 

    Music is really healing. Music is a form of expression and it doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s the beauty of it. 

    Do you think you have to study music to get into it?

    I actually did study music; I went to music college then I did a music degree. BUT, I don’t think you need to study to get into it. I’ve learnt so much from other people, asking friends, and YouTube tutorials! 

    What’s your favourite track at the moment? 

    Jacob Collier – Lua feat. MARO

    It’s the most beautiful song, it’s so soothing. Check out his Tiny Desk Concert too, it’s incredible! 

    And finally, what piece of advice would you offer to aspiring musicians? 

    Keep releasing music. Don’t wait till it’s perfect because people love to see you grow.

    Also, just see it as an outlet. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ‘make it’. The focus should be on your music rather than making that perfect song for the radio. It can lose its essence if that’s your sole aim.

    I got approached by my booking agent because I was putting myself, and my music, out there. Release and share your music online otherwise no one will know what you do or how they can help you!

     

    📢 Ego Ella May’s new album ‘So far’ is out now.

    “‘So Far’ as in what I’ve released into the world so far; who I have shown myself to be; whom I have encountered telling me how much these songs mean to them (though I could never understand). I’m really excited to re-release these songs tomorrow, and I’m sorry they were gone for so long! From here on out, it’s onwards and upwards with NEW music- and so think of this album as my final shedding of my old self, and a thank you to everyone who has stood patiently by my side (and online) whilst I navigate this music thing. ‘So Far’ is out on ALL streaming platforms tomorrow, with lots and lots of love and gratitude ❤️

    Listen now on Spotify or Bandcamp:

    Keep an eye out for her upcoming gigs
    by following her on:
    You’re in for a treat!
    Tell us what you think: @Takeitaway