After a string of hits, an acclaimed tour and the release of a successful second album, the Bristol-based blues singer discusses her influences, explains where her inspiration comes from and talks about what the future holds. Elles Bailey tells us a bit more about her collaborations on ‘Road I Call Home’ and reveals she was destined to sing the blues from a tender age.
It isn’t meant to be this straightforward in the music business.
The ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’ has afflicted the likes of Blur, Radiohead and Alanis Morissette over the years. But Elles Bailey is yet to put a foot wrong as she continues to build on her growing reputation with the release of her ‘Road I Call Home’ album, which has attracted critical acclaim.
The new album is a mature and endearingly personal take on a time when her life changed beyond all recognition. The release of her debut album ‘Wildfire’ in 2017 catapulted Elles into the spotlight, winning critical acclaim and public recognition – racking up more than two million streams online.
Her latest album is the story of touring, as she lays bare her life on the road and explores an altogether more emotional and impassioned theme. “Wildfire was written over five years,” Elles explains. “Road I call Home was written over one. I feel it delves deeper, and deals with loss, love, anger, determination and life on the road, with more than 200 gigs under my belt and many miles travelled.”
Having recorded the majority of the album at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, the music retains the spark and punch of the first album but adds a layer of deeper soul. It is a remarkable follow-up for Elles and, once again, features that unmistakably husky, bluesy voice that makes her instantly recognisable. Growing up in Bristol may not be an obvious precursor for a singer of this ilk, but Elles explains why she was always destined to sing the blues.
“When I was 3 years old, I got really sick,” she confides. “So sick in fact I was in a coma and the doctors had to put a tube down my throat. When I came out of hospital I couldn’t walk or talk, and the docs said I may be brain damaged but surprisingly I made a very fast recovery. We saw a specialist and he told my parents, ‘It’s not too bad & if she ends up becoming a singer, she’ll be great singing the blues!’”
She is, however, more than just a blues singer. Elles combines elements of soul, country and rock and the result is truly unique. But where did those influences come from? “That’s down to my dad really; he brought me up spinning his chess records blues and rock and roll,” she says. “He also loved records from acts like The Band, The Eagles, Johnny Cash, The Highwaymen. It seems mad to think that I have been able to work with Bobby Wood over the last few years as he recorded and toured the world with The Highwaymen, but I was brought up by my dad on a diet of chess records blues and rock & roll.
“I love the soul of the music, I’m enthralled by the stories behind these great musicians – Etta James, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield and Fleetwood Mac, they’ve all played a part in my musical upbringing. I’ve always listened to different styles and take inspiration from everything I see and hear.”
The new album is a study in collaboration. As well as Wood, Elles wrote alongside the likes of Ivor Novello award-winner Roger Cook. “I’m incredibly lucky to have worked with some amazing musicians both in the UK and Nashville on this record,” she says. “As well as writing with some of the world’s best songwriters including Roger Cook, Memphis royalty, Bobby Wood, and Grammy award-winning Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), I also had the best time working with co-producers Brad Nowell and Steve Blackmon – we spent loads of time crafting this record, shaking the tree in terms of song choice.”
But Elle’s life is about more than just music. She is not your typical music star and remains determined to give back and support the community which helped shape her as a person and an artist. “I have done quite a lot of charity work over the years, but most recently it has been working with my church helping the homeless in Bristol, and doing a Saturday lunch run,” she explains. “When ‘The Beast from the East’ struck last year, I had quite a few shows cancelled, and I initially was so angry at the loss of work. But I soon realised just how lucky I was to be at home in my warm house when so many others were on the streets. So I found a local venue (The Bristol Fringe), invited a load of local musicians who had had shows cancelled to come out for a jam night, did a live video on Facebook two hours before, inviting people to brave the weather, come on out and party with us, in aid of our local homeless shelter, Julian Trust. It was an amazing night with some of Bristol’s most talented musicians, and we raised a few hundred pounds for the charity.
“It was nice to turn a bad thing around for good.”
From speaking to those around Elles, it is clear this is an unusual star in the making – someone who is unafraid to bare her soul, someone who wants to remain grounded, someone who is committed to working with the very best talent and keen to be influenced by a wide range of musical heroes. And someone who has it all worked out. She explains how she juggles her career. “By being as organised and having spreadsheets for everything. Wow, I am so rock and roll! But you need to be prepared to work hard and work smart. There are no cheap tricks or ways to cut corners. But the hard work is worth it.”
The future is unquestionably bright for Elles as she prepares for another tour. So, what does the future hold? “Touring, new album, touring, touring, Ramblin Man / Fangirling over Beth Hart, festival season, more touring, writing a new album, touring, more touring! There is a reason why this record is called ‘Road I Call Home’.” Indeed, there is and that can only be a good thing for her army of fans.
It means she will be on a road near you very soon. Don’t miss your chance to see this rising star while you can.