Fern Sessions: Interview with Ella Michel

By Matthew Woolley

This week’s interview is with Ella Michel from Madrid, Spain. She sings and plays the Piano, “Basically I’ve sung all my life, because everyone sings. I started Piano when I was 7 and I went to a conservatoire for five or six years, and that’s where I learned Piano. I learned Guitar on my own watching YouTube videos.

I was interested to know why Ella thought singing was an instrument, as I did not really classify my voice as that until recently. “It doesn’t really feel like an instrument. I just really liked singing, everyone I knew was like “you’re a really good singer” and then, in my last year at school, I joined an a capella group at my school and even my music teacher was like “you are really good”. Then I deferred a year and got my grade 8 vocals – I hadn’t done my other grades. After getting my grade 8, that’s when I started thinking I might actually be good.

Ella identifies herself as Jazz/Soul. I was curious to know how she ties her instruments into those styles. “Basically when I write songs I accompany myself with chords but I’m not a professional on Piano, I just use them to give life to the songs because they can’t be a capella… At first I had to learn from a lot of Jazz songs and what chords they used, but you get an ear for it and what it should sound like.

It is not just Jazz and Soul that Ella listens to though. “I definitely like listening to all types of music, in the sense that I like listening to Dub-Step, but I don’t know that much about it. I listen to a broad spectrum of music, I know strange songs that other people don’t know but I don’t fully know the whole of that genre, just a couple of songs. I was brought up in a country with Spanish music and what the charts are but at the same time my parents are English and they showed me a lot of 60s, 70s, 80s music… I like a lot of different people. I was into a lot of Adele, Amy Winehouse and similar stuff. But I also like Eminem, Fleetwood Mac and Stormzy. I listen to Stormzy because my friends have listened to Stormzy, that’s how I got into it. It’s the same with Fleetwood Mac, my parents used to listen to it. I’m a kind of Ed Sheeran-y, Amy Winehouse-y sort of person. I like soul but I like pop as well. My brother used to listen to a lot of Eminem, so that’s how I got into that.

She also writes her own songs. “I initially sang covers, but then I wrote my own stuff. I was 15 or 16 when I started to write a lot of songs and they’re not that great, but I do it anyway because I like it. Before that I used to play covers and stuff. Basically I write lyrics or hum the melody. Then if I write lyrics I’ll create a melody for those lyrics and put chords to that. Or, if I have a melody, I’ll write lyrics that sound nice in that structure.”

I asked her what she thinks about collaborating with musicians. “I prefer working with other people because if you’re working on your own you are in your own bubble, but sometimes it can go really wrong. With other people they can say “no, change this, change that” and it’s normally for the better. Collaboration can change the music radically. I wrote a song that was heartbroken-y, really sad kind of thing and I went into a studio with this guy and he made it into a really uplifting, nice, life-is-worth-living thing. There were literally the same lyrics and the same melody, it was just the background music that had changed it into a positive outcome, it was pretty incredible.

As for her hopes for the future, “I don’t feel like I’m going to be a famous singer, but I’m not chasing fame. If I can live off music that would be great.

You can read the full interview here

If you want to find out more about Ella visit her Facebook and Instagram pages

Brought to you by Fern Sessions