Using the musical styles he developed while growing up in Texas, Robert Ellis has gained international recognition for his old-time country sound.
Ellis earned airtime from radio stations across the United States, including KUT in Austin, Texas, WNCW in Charlottesville, N.C., and praise from Spin Magazine and the Associated Press. He and his band are presently on tour to promote its latest country-folk tunes off its album “Photographs,” which was released in July 2011. The tour includes an upcoming stop in Ithaca on March 29 at Lot 10 Kitchen & Lounge. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 9 p.m. show, and tickets will be available at the door for $10.
Staff Writer Marissa Framarini spoke with Ellis about his latest album, writing style and where he sees his sound fitting into the music industry.
Marissa Framarini: Where do you find the inspiration for your music?
Robert Ellis: In a lot of places, especially from the music I listen to and the stuff I like, such as Paul Simon and Randy Newman. I also think constant traveling and meeting new people and just getting to be around a car a lot influences me.
MF: Why did you decide to get involved with music?
RE: I fell in love with doing it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love writing songs, and I love letting people hear them. It wasn’t an easy thing to decide because it’s not the most financially stable career path. I remember being in high school and hearing from everyone that I needed to have a backup plan, and I needed to go to college and this and that. But if I did that, it would be preliminary defeat in a way. I was always passionate about making art.
MF: What is the concept behind “Photographs?”
RE: It’s split up in two halves. The “A” side is more folk, and the “B” side is more country. The songs are all laid out in a way that you’re listening to a complete album, but when you get to song five, it’s when the whole band comes in and introduces you to the new sound.
MF: Has there been a defining moment of success for your band?
RE: Every day I feel like things are getting better and better. I feel like things are progressing — we’re focusing on making art and doing our part to expose it to more people. I get very excited when I think about all the cool things we did last year and all the cool things we will be doing. This is all stuff I wouldn’t have imagined possible a few years ago.
MF: What’s your song “What’s In It For Me?” about?
RE: That song I wrote in the style of George Jones songs, so it was very different from the writing style for the “A” side of the album. It didn’t come as naturally, and I see it was more of a scholastic endeavor. I wanted to write a song that would pay a tribute to the stuff that I loved. But there’s honesty and some humor in the song. When I write songs in a style like that it’s almost impossible for me to not put a piece of myself in it. I wanted to pay tribute, but it’s very much my own sentiment.
MF: What is your writing style like?
RE: I try to make my songs really honest. There’s an element of what I do that is familiar, especially for people who like old country and folk music. But I also try new stuff harmonically to do something fresh.
MF: What can we expect from the band at a show?
RE: Right now, we’re not a full band, but when we are it’s more of a rowdy fun fest, but when I’m playing solo, I focus more on the songs and acoustic song playing.