Form 6 pupil, Ella-Marie, a member of The High School Choir, has released some of her own music on Spotify. Fellow pupil Daisy Kirk Gillham caught up with her earlier this week to find out more about her latest release.
What inspired you to start writing and recording songs in the first place?
If I'm honest, it was always an outlet for me, like when I was young, I would write silly little songs if I were in trouble to taunt my parents, and there's video evidence! But it was never anything serious. I started to get into it in about 2019 without even realizing and then when the pandemic hit in 2020 I found myself with all this new time and I thought: What do I like to do? And then I realized that writing was always where my mind went, and so I used every bit of time I had to write, or research what goals I could achieve, and that milestone system kept me going. It's a mindset I have kept: if I'm in a moment where I've got time to myself it's not my phone I pick up anymore, like it always used to be.
How do you usually begin writing a new song?
Honestly, I play piano and when I break down things like classical songs and really get into a composer's head its always crazy to me, because it’s as if they meticulously plan out everything that’s going to happen before writing. My process, most of the time, is a little messier. Sometimes I'm doing a classical piece and I hear an interesting chord and it instantly inspires something completely different in my head, or I make crazy chords I didn’t know existed but definitely had unbeknownst to me, and build from there. I have an idea page with unused lyrics in my songbook with a cross off system and so sometimes I use those lyrics. Other times the lyrics and melody come first, and I build the instrumental around that.
What are your hopes/goals in the future?
In the near future I have a few songs that I'm juggling with that I'd like to release. Looking forward I want to learn as much as I can about music, songwriting, and production as I can. I think it's so important to have knowledge of what you're doing whether you're behind the song, the production, the instrument, the microphone, or the staging. It's very easy to give up when you feel you can give no more, but the more you know the more you can give. The ultimate goal is that I can end up writing for other people while also putting in time to my own music, a good balance.
What's a piece of advice you'd give to other pupils in the school hoping to write and record their own music?
Something that I always thank myself for is never discarding an idea even if I hate it. Whether it’s a 10 second voice memo of figuring out a melody, a lyric you thought of on the bus to school, or something you saw that day, write it down! Keep it because it's so likely that you will use it, and if it genuinely is not to your standard in the future and you can't work it into anything, at least you have a progress marker. Another piece of advice I have is, if you are sitting down to write a song, finish it! Set yourself a date you want the bones of it to be done by, a time frame you can achieve, you might even surprise yourself and finish it sooner. With school for me it can take a week, but on a weekend, a half-term or break it could take a day. After you have the bones of a song its always so fun changing the lyrics that are just placeholders and expanding on the general arrangement. Always expanding your knowledge of your instruments is also crucial because it subconsciously translates into your writing.