Rory Ellis: Folk That.

5 August 2002 | 12:00 am | Eden Howard
Originally Appeared In

Wanna Go For A Ride.

Rory Ellis plays The Alley on Thursday, The Winery, Souths Leagues Club on Friday, The Villa Noosa Hotel on Saturday, the Brunswick Street Mall at 11am Sunday, Lismore University on August 6 and the Railway Hotel in Byron Bay on August 7.

Melbourne based Rory Ellis has a history of making fine music that spans back at least 15 years. He’s gone from performing in a trad blues act to playing rock in the states to playing with Rob Tognoni in Melbourne based hard rockers The Outlaws.

“I’m not sure, but I think at the time Poor Boys go signed instead of us,” he laughs. “That was a long long time ago.”

It was from these session that Ellis found himself armed with an acoustic guitar, and proverbially hasn’t looked back since. His last recording, Ride, is an album packed not only with honesty but with some great storytelling. Ellis is currently hitting the traps with his outfit the Rory Ellis Band.

“We’re road testing a whole lot of new stuff before we go back into the studio. It’s always a good idea to road test stuff to make sure what we’ve got going on is the right thing. We’ll just end up putting it down anyway and saying stuff ya,” he laughs. “I just want to get a vibe on things, you know. When you come back from a tour is a really good time to record, everyone’s really tight and you can just put down a live recording.”

None of the musos in the current line up of the band played on Ride. Have the guys been involved from the beginning this time around?

“These guys are all new this time around. Stuey Box I’d worked with in another band in the past, and the other guys we’re in a band with him. We just all got together to do a heap of material from the album me and Stuey did, but I’d been doing a lot of solo shows, and it was better to nut together for this. A band seemed like a good idea at the time, you know, safety in numbers.”

“I write all the songs and just hit them with it. We come up with some ideas for arrangements and just sit down and start playing, it’s as easy as that. You get their influences rubbing off on you. The guys are phenomenal musicians in their own right. It makes my job bloody easy. I don’t have to beat them with a stick…”

Was that was it was like recording Ride?

“Not at all,” he chuckles.

Do you still play a lot of solo shows?

“Yeah, it’s something that I’ve always done and will continue to do because there’s something really special about a solo show. A lot of my songs are stories and the whole story telling thing is really important to the show, so doing things solo give it a nice intimate vibe as well.”

Do you miss some of that personal interaction with the crowd when you’re playing with a band?

“It’s still a big part of the show, but there’s something about doing it solo, coming from a kind of folk genre really suits it.”

Do you consider yourself to be a folk musician?

“Not really, I mean, look at me,” he laughs. “I’m more a singer songwriter I suppose, but if you play acoustically you can tend to find yourself in the folk festival kind of scene, because that’s where the gigs are. I think it’s been good, because there’s a bit of shock value. People take to it because it’s so different. They’re used to twee diddly Irish fiddle stuff, and here’s me singing about St Kilda. It’s more urban folk.”

What do you think compels you to write songs?

“I just want to write things that are real to people. A good story. Bloody oath. I’m too old to be a popstar, but there is a mirror ball in the car. You need to create your own niche. No matter what happens in your musical career, nothing can destroy the fact you have your own musical identity. That’s really important, especially for young musicians. To find your identity first.”

“It’s bloody hard. Never before has it been better for people as an independent musician. You don’t really need the big record companies. I can go and record my own CD, and get it played on Triple J, if you know what I mean. Record companies put on all this pressure to use this studio, or that producer, but it’s all decorative at the end of the day. What counts is what goes down on the tape.”