Bristol-based Elles Bailey had a tremendous 2020 in spite of the pandemic. Earning awards for UK album of the year (UK Blues Awards) and Song of the Year (Americana Awards UK), as well as being named the UK Blues Awards’ artist of the year, Bailey received rave reviews and achieved millions of streams on Spotify. 2021 is set to be even bigger for the new mum as she has a release schedule and plenty of performances lined up.
We spoke to Elles at the start of the year to find out about her roots, her dreams and what she has planned for the year.
My dad brought me up from a young age on a diet of country, blues and rock and roll. He had a wonderful vinyl collection and that’s when I first heard country music. I don’t like to be confined by genres and I’m sure on a first listen of an Elles Bailey track you probably wouldn’t necessarily call me ‘country’ but it’s clear I have been heavily influenced by country songwriting. What an incredible art, entwining honest storytelling and beautiful melodies, and thus creating a sense of authenticity and of truth. That’s what I love about country music.
My gosh I have so many (influences) – John Prine is a huge influence on my writing and to just come close to crafting a song like John would…. that would be a dream. Elton John’s use of chords and melodies has always inspired me from a young age and you can hear that on my more piano lead ballads. Bonnie Raitt’s voice and effortless style blows my mind. Mavis Staples and Joe Cocker are my everything!
I was super proud to have been asked to play Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea Cruise for 2020 that sadly, was obviously postponed. I’m really looking forward to that when it happens. I’ve always been inspired by the careers of Beth Hart and Imelda May…. I aspire to have a long term career like they do.
I am not going to lie, like for so many, 2020 for me was brutal. But I think it also gave me a chance to reflect, to stop, take stock and reevaluate and although it’s been an incredibly tough time I have been grateful to be able to have some time and space. I was going from tour to tour, and country to country and it was hard to see the wood from the trees, to see the bigger picture.
Although it was a year the music ‘stopped’ somehow for me it turned into my most fruitful year in terms of making music. I recorded an EP (not yet released), a full album (coming soon …watch this space), a live acoustic covers album called ‘Ain’t Nothing But’ (from a series of live streams that took place in July) and was part of many collaborative projects. When doors close, windows open you know.
I have also really enjoyed nurturing my fan base, reaching out in times of mutual isolation and still being able to connect by live streams. I have actually seen my fan base grow and am looking forward to getting back out on the road when it’s safe to do so and catching up with old fans and meeting new ones!
My advice for young, up-and-coming musicians would be to use this time in lockdown to connect with your fan base and try and grow it. Tall trees start as tiny seeds and now is a great time to grow… and don’t be afraid to work hard, it ain’t easy but it sure is worth it!
(In 2021) I have this new studio record dropping, (it’s) my first studio album recorded here in the UK and not Nashville. My touring band and I isolated for two week then recorded it over two weeks in December 2020. The playing is beautiful and I am so proud of this new music. I have spent 3 years writing it so I’m ready to finally share this next chapter in songwriting with the world.