John Ellis talks about the making of the video for "Rights All Wrong", a song from his 2012 album "Rural", here, in an exclusive featurette filmed by video director Lee Jackson. Watch the full video for "Rights All Wrong" here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlUQR1...
Pleased to finally be able to offer John's solo debut album "Come Out Fighting" in download store! Thanks to Jake Odendaal at Broken Records, "Come Out Fighting" is now available from the Store, and to celebrate it's new availability, you can download it here for the low price of just $5 (R45)! Those of you who downloaded "Rural" might want to go and check it out!
My newest single, "Get You", continues to get airplay on South African radio stations. Thanks to all of you messaging me via Twitter (johnelliscoza) and Facebook etc telling me they're listening to the song on their car radios, very kind. Surprisingly, "Get You" has also charted on AlgoaFM's Top 30, so thank you all.
You can also download "Get You" from the SA iTunes store.
South Africans 'celebrated'Human Rights Daylast Thursday (March 21). A UN-mandated holiday, South Africans celebrate the worldwide recognition of human rights on the anniversary of theSharpville Massacreof 21 March 1960, and quite rightly so.
Unfortunately, Human Rights Day in SA in 2013 is a day for drinking, missing work and avoiding SA president Jacob Zuma's stilted, halting, poorly-delivered and utterly unconvincingspeechon 'socio-economic freedom for all'. In South Africa, 'human rights' have come to mean "the rights of the entitled and empowered to loot and pillage a powerless nation in the name of 'victory over apartheid' ".
We have managed to get our human rights all wrong. I wrote a song to that effect a few years ago, and it came out on last year's "Rural" album.
History sadly shows us that protest music cannot change the world, but that shouldn't stop songwriters from at least saying something, should it?
Watch and listen to "Rights All Wrong"here. And download the song for free, for the week of Human Rights Day in SA, here.
In light of the news over the weekend that rebels have seized Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) from President François Bozizé (an action that, by the way, led to the deaths of nine South African soldiers), have a listen to "Rebels" from John's 2010 debut release, "Come Out Fighting". Foresight is 20/20, it seems...
A surprise, belated but much appreciated review from GQ's SA edition this month:
"If Sheryl Crow were a South African man, she would probably want to sound like John Ellis. Surprising and beautifully sentimental, 'Rural' addresses real issues without preaching or losing sight of the music. Music these days is often too concerned with image; so much so that even heartfelt songs get lost under a deluge of substandard lyrics. 'Rural' is honest, earthy and full of texture. Ellis's vocals perfectly top off excellent compositions. [IPOD READY:] 'Rights All Wrong' sets the record straight, while 'Come Home' takes us back to the heart of what it means to be human. " [5 stars]
Through The Cracks: Here's a Music Online interview with John just before the release of his 2010 solo debut, "Come Out Fighting". http://www.mio.co.za/article/john-ellis-finding-his-own-way-home-2010-06-30
"GET YOU" seems to be doing well on the Eastern Cape's Algoa FM Top 30. This week it's reached no. 19. Thank you Eastern Cape listeners for the support! You can vote for "GET YOU" and request it here: www.algoafm.com
I've gotten so much flak over the years as a songwriter, for singing songs about God, then not singing songs about God, and recently for being 'political'. Sure, the protest song is all but a quaint pastime these days; we all just prefer to be distracted by music, not challenged or annoyed or even, God forbid, stirred up. A recent criticism suggested that my songs about South Africa on the "Rural" album were a 'mis-step' as they didn't have the same emotional heft as the 'normal' songs. That suggests that my political songs are not 'personal' to me. After all, who really cares about politics these days, right? Well, I love my country, I love what it could be, and I hate what it's become, and I loathe the fact that politics is only for career-minded autocrats. Politics is about us, 'the people', the rank and file. We should all be outraged by what's happening to our country. Because it really, really matters. After last night's abysmal State Of The Nation address, here's some entertainment:
Cut free from his Tree63 worship roots and the brash constraints of rock, John Ellis has turned in a record of such simplicity and elegance it feels like he’s finally come home. Recorded acoustically in Knysna with only drummer Barry van Zyl as accompaniment, Ellis moves softly into Ron Sexsmith terrain on “Any Minute Now” while on “To Aliena” it’s as if he has stepped onto the stage at a gathering of the Durban Folk Club, circa 1970, just his acoustic guitar in hand. A diehard Dylan fan, there’s also no hiding Ellis’ musical hero’s influence on the foot-stomping “Jack Kerouac’s Blues” but the elegiac, atmospheric “Back of Beyond” signals Ellis’ ability to express a musical voice that’s all his own. The only misstep on the 14-track record is the political material. “We Are Not A Nation Yet” and “Rights All Wrongs” are heartfelt but don’t come close to the emotional heft of the personal material.
John has been added to this year's Drake Music Festival in Rosetta, KZN, which will take place on December 16. This year's line-up includes Naming James and the acclaimed Hinds Brothers, as well as festival founder Josie Field. Check out the Drake's details here.
I'm very pleased to have been asked to play guitar with my old friend Daniel Bedingfield on his upcoming SA tour. Daniel and I performed his new song "Secret Fear" on this morning's Exspresso tv show on SABC3, and you can watch it here. Tour dates to follow.
John's new single, "Get You", out on Sony Records, is now being added to radio stations' playlists across South Africa. So far, you can hear "Get You" on East Coast Radio (KZN), Algoa FM (EC), KFM (WC), Tuks FM (Pretoria) and Kovsie FM (Bloemfontein).
HOME IS AFRICA: John Ellis has travelled globally but is passionate about SA and books, beers and life.
So tell us who is John Ellis?
John Ellis is a restless native, a Durban-born whitey who has travelled the world playing guitar and who can’t resist calling Africa home. He is a passionate citizen of South Africa who insists that the miracle of 1994 should benefit everyone and that the colour of his skin does not preclude him from singing protest songs about the state of modern South African society.He is a part-time lecturer in English literature, communication, politics and academic literacy, an avid but miserable student of tsotsi-taal, and is absolutely obsessed with books. He also likes beer.
Do you get annoyed being called ‘the guy from Tree63’?
That’s fine, that’s who I was for a time and for better or for worse, that’s how people remember me. It’s always the same when a front-person leaves a band; for a while, the band identity is stronger than the individual one. Tree63 achieved so much, both locally and internationally, I have a lot to be proud of. As time goes by, people are getting to know me as “that guy who looks like Matthew Booth”.
What sets you apart
Tree63 had a very rigid agenda. As a solo artist, a singer-songwriter, I get to try on a lot of clothes that never fitted me before. I’ve done a big rock record, and now I have an acoustic record out. I’ve just released a very pop-orientated song called “Get You” through Sony, and I have an ambient soundscape album in the pipeline. There are no rules and it’s very liberating. The only trick is convincing people who buy music to come on the journey with me.
Who is your biggest influence in music and who inspires you?
There can never really be one single influence in creativity. As a nine year old, my life was changed by Elvis. Then I discovered The Beatles, then The Rolling Stones. Later it was U2 and a whole host of great ’80s pop. I also loved ’80s hair metal. I also have an ongoing love affair with maskandi and mbaqanga. I’m mostly drawn to singer-songwriters, like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, Neil Finn, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young and Ron Sexsmith. But then again, you can’t leave out Tears For Fears. Or The Who. Or The Kinks.
Do you ever miss being part of a group? Why?
Sometimes. It’s a real privilege to be in a group, sharing experiences with like-minded individuals, sharing the rigours of the road and navigating all the bullshit of the music industry with people who know you and keep you focused. Then again, when you’re on your own, there’s no one to argue with and you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission. Swings and roundabouts.
When can we expect your album?
I have two solo albums out at the moment. The most recent one is my acoustic one called Rural, which came out earlier this year. I recorded it in Knysna with Johnny Clegg’s drummer, Barry van Zyl. The music industry has changed fundamentally from what it was even 10 years ago, and even things like albums are a bit old-fashioned now, but I’ll still make them! Why not?
What are you busy with other than music?
Music’s my thing. Apart from writing, recording and performing my own material as a solo artist, I also do a lot of session-work as a guitar player and I produce other people’s records as well. I love lecturing, but music takes up a lot of time, and it’s hard to commit to a formal academic programme when you’re on a plane all the time. I spend whatever spare time I have raising three small kids, scouring bookshops for good deals, staring vacantly at the Indian Ocean and trying to remember the Zulu word for bald.