Manchester-based musician Ellis Johnson is the latest to fill in the blanks on our “Introducing” feature, check out Ellis below…
How long have you been performing?
I’m a solo artist, and I’ve been active around the circuit for about 10 years, but I’ve also been playing in bands and all sorts of stuff along the way, for a lot longer than that!
How did you feel performing your first gig? And how was it?!
I can’t even remember my first performance! I was playing drums in a punk/rock/metal-ish band, kind of Foo Fighters, Incubus inspired. I was about 15 or 16 at the time. My first gig as a solo artist, probably came when I started running an open mike night in the city centre of Manchester, I was thrown in at the deep end, and had to open the night, and play in between some of the acts. It was there that, Guy Garvey from Elbow, heard me playing, and was very complimentary.
What should people expect when they check you out? How would you describe yourself?
Just try and imagine Miles Davis playing Coldplay covers in a metal style. To be honest I’m open to suggestions! I’m a singer-songwriter, and I write music based around the acoustic guitar and piano. Then I develop ideas from there, I guess you could say it fits within the indie/pop-rock bracket.
The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?
I think it’s important to just try and be yourself, and express your music in that way. There isn’t really much out there anymore that’s unique, and some of the acts that are aiming to be unique just end up sounding a bit weird to me. The precedents have already been set, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, just use your own Influences from things that inspire you, and try and illustrate that through your songwriting. If it’s true enough, people will like it. In terms of vocals, it’s important to develop a style that suits you and you’re comfortable with, play to your strengths stay away from Céline Dion.
What are you working on at the minute that people can check out?
I never stop writing, to be honest, I’m writing every single day, some of the ideas end up being in a load of shit, some end up being the foundations of an idea I can decorate and present something I’m proud of. It’s important to keep them ideas going when they are present. You can check out my music on Spotify, and all the usual music platforms. And I would be very happy if you did!
What band out there at the minute do you feel that you would be best suited to open for?
Tough one. In the current climate, I’ll be playing in an empty room. But it becomes down to a setlist issue because I could list several bands that I could play before, and play all my relaxed stuff, and leave out some of the really upbeat stuff, and vice versa. I recently opened up for Max George from the Wanted, who is currently in Strictly Come Dancing. But I’ve also opened for acts that are quite rocky and indie. I’d love to open for a Gang of Youths, Phoebe Bridgers, and definitely, Elbow.
Who do you feel is the next band to break out?
I’m not aware of any that are locked up. And I’m not sure, to be honest, it’s quite unpredictable, I’ve seen acts on the scene that I never would have imagined becoming popular, and I’ve seen some ridiculously talented artists that are still scraping at the periphery of success.
What are your first musical memories? And what was the light bulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
I don’t want to sound all cliche and cheesy, But I guess I’ve always known that wanted to be a musician. My mum said she would come in the living room and see me watching music videos, and I would be singing backing harmonies along to the tracks, without knowing what I was really doing, it just sort of felt right. My dad always wanted to be a drummer, and from that, he got me into bands like Led Zeppelin, I was a massive Bonham fan, still am! I started playing drums around the age of 10 or 11, and moved on to bass guitar and piano since, and obviously singing.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
I can’t remember! It’s been so long! I saw Bon Iver and Phoebe Bridgers, I also saw my favourite punk band The Flatliners! I can’t remember when and which was first!
The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
Luckily I’ve got quite an open eye and open ear for music, and a lot of people know that. I’ve got everything from ice cube to Ariana Grande to Foo Fighters and Pantera! One album that always sticks with me from being a kid, was the live album by Nirvana, From The Muddy Banks… That album blew me away as a kid and still does for its raw intensity, and Grohl’s playing.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2020?
I might have beans on toast and think about all the gigs I could’ve done. And I’ll continue writing as much as possible along the way!
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
I’m pretty active on it! You have to be in this day and age! I sound like an old bloke! You can get me on Instagram @ellisjohnsonmusic and the same on Facebook.