Polish musician and multi-instrumentalist, Ela Orleans is the first signing to the legendary Howie B's Label, HB Recordings, and her single 'The Sky and The Ghost' is out on 27th April. We chat with Ela about her musical journey and feverish devotion to music.
When I was 8, my parents decided for me…
I had a good ear, so my dad took me for an audition to the local music school. I went to two primary schools at the same time: one regular, which I hated and the music school, which I loved. I loved it for being MUSIC school, but also for being a shelter for a little weirdo like me, who hated sports and school trips, I loved it because teachers there were way more stylish,
because it was "school bell free" and because I could be myself - quiet, serious and sensitive. The first thought of my regular school was stinky toilets; my first association with music school, big wooden, sound proof orchestra room. The choice was very easy.
The earliest memory is my mom playing Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald,
by Johann Strauss on piano. She had to play it a lot, poor thing. I also loved listening to the radio and audio books on tape. I knew one story so well, I memorised it backwards.
The first tune I learned.
Mozart’s “Ah! vous dirai-je, maman” known also as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. My performance didn’t sound very good.
There is nothing more unique in the sound of the song than the sound of human voice,
and my favourite singers are : Billie Holiday, Mohammed Rafi, Roy Orbison, Neneh Cherry, Curtis Mayfield, Francoise Hardy, (there are more, I am sure)… their voices have everything I love: tenderness, easiness, clarity and strength.
My first instrument.
It was violin. Stradivarius actually. Size 1/8. It read inside “Anno Domini 1890”. It smelled of resin and for a while I believed there is a little family living inside it. My mum made me a shoulder rest from an old towel – not very stylish.
I am sure the violin had a great potential to sound wonderful, however, the only magical power it had, was making my family vanish from the house during my practicing hours. My second choice instrument was piano and later I picked the guitar. Now I am pretty much only using my midi keyboards and synths. But it is my vocal which is the most important instrument and probably the only one I know how to use. I was trained by a few opera singers in Poland. One of them, Olga Szwajgier, discovered I have quite unusual range while she was working on my speech difficulties. She was the one who encouraged me to sing.
When I lived in New York I would go to MET or Film Forum and be instantly blown away.
Whenever I am in London I always go to TATE Modern or Whitechapel Gallery… Nothing compares to those two cities. In Glasgow, where I live, I go to my favourite record store, Monorail and always come back home with something amazing. At the moment I am listening to Flying Lotus, Andy Stott and Polish artist Zamilska – I love everything that Awesome Tapes from Africa puts out. I have a few "cultural Willy Wonka” types of friends, who keep sending me music, inviting me to see great movies or texting art recommendations. So I am bombarded with ideas without even trying to find them. Internet can be great for that. When it comes to my music writing, Howie B opened up a whole new perspective into my creative process. Last but not least, without the support of my friends and family I would have given up long time ago; they gave me a proper, wholehearted kick.
I work from home, so being disciplined is quite a challenge.
I usually make a plan and try to stick to designated hours. I try to work Nick Cave style. No pyjamas in the office. I start with one or two (or three) espressos. I used to chain smoke but I quit five months ago, so my studio doesn’t smell decadent anymore, just Fabreeze or Dettol now. I spend about ten, twelve hours every day working in the front of the computer and my synth. Sometimes longer… Sometimes way longer. I often get my groceries online, so I don’t waste time on going out. I see people maybe twice a week these days. I have a lot of projects but also I have to prepare my live show which makes me sleepless. Next week I am moving to a rehearsal studio, so that will be me, being forced to fit all in eight hours.
I make a ton of notes, which I can’t understand the next day. I get carried away by listening to one little detail over and over again. Sometimes I will leave one beat on the loop until it brings in the tune or until it makes me sick. I truly hope my neighbours can’t hear it. I often hoover during the breaks, which is a great way to clear my head from sound clutter. My space is pretty organised, and I like to keep things very simple. I am not a gadget hoarder. I rely on a good software, which gives me endless opportunities. Having Howie B as a producer makes my life easier, but also there is a higher quality demand. There is no half-baked project bullshit with this guy. We are already discussing the next project. Considering my TV and film work, my workload is kinda bonkers.
Feeling safe while feeling feverish. I am quite awkward and uptight at times, but music lets all my guards go to hell. Some people take drugs to make music, but to me music is like all the drugs people are talking about, it makes me fly and trip and have nightmares and hear voices. It makes me mad and it makes me serene. It gives me the reason to wake up in the morning and stay up until the next day.