New Sound 004 \\ Jordan Rakei collaborator, vocalist Ella Haber

11th March 2019

Sydney-based Ella Haber has a well known fan – Jordan Rakei. He’s so much a fan, that he lent his production skills to her debut EP, ‘Clay’, sharing that “Ella’s timeless vocals and mature songwriting sensibility was the reason I wanted to work with her on this project”.  Whilst Jordan arranged and recorded the live instrumentation at Old Paradise Audio in London, Ella worked on the vocal recordings in Sydney.

At twenty years old, Ella Haber has written an EP that celebrates love and identity with a soul and Jazz orientated lens. She recently gave a platform to fellow Sydney musicians, visual artists, poets, and DJs at a local showcase, too. 

Ahead of the release of ‘Clay’, landing on 26 April via Soul Has No Tempo, we chat with Ella Haber about new single ‘Old Friends’ and what it’s like working with Jordan Rakei. 

\\ Tell us about Old Friends, what inspired the track?

‘Old Friends’ was actually the first track I wrote from the E.P, and, the first song I ever really felt proud of. I came home from watching the Amy [Winehouse] documentary with Dani (photographer of the cover), threw my things down on the kitchen table, and literally skipped to the piano to write. I remember thinking… maybe I could write like her – considering I was experiencing a fuckload of pain at the time – and by midnight, ‘Old Friends’ just poured out of me. I had been writing music since I was a kid, but listening to ‘Frank’ just gave me permission to write about love – and all its pains and confusions – in this way of transparency and brutal honesty I never had before.

‘Old Friends’ is a bitter collision of the past, present and future; the gamble on friendships from the past to evolve into lovers in the future, all the while ignoring the painful impossibility of the sobering present.

\\ The EP is produced by Jordan Rakei – what was it like working together?

As a long-time adoring fan of his music – ‘Cloak’ was profoundly impactful for me as a writer – the collaboration was a fantasy in the flesh. The connection came about through my magical managers Ali and Gavin at Soul Has No Tempo (who released his first records); one night in 2017, when Jordan was back visiting Brisbane, Ali and Gav showed Jordan the demos of the five tracks that I had already written and arranged… he saw something special in my songwriting and composition, and the plan was hatched for Jordan to come onboard with production and give it a second life, so to speak. 

Back in London, he rearranged the parts and had them recorded by some incredible session musicians, all while him and I sent demos and notes back and forth, I recorded a fresh vocal at Church St Studios in Sydney, which he pressed into the final demos and mixed at Old Paradise Audio with Jim Macrae and finally mastering by Stuart Hawkes at Metropolis Mastering.

It was a unique collaboration that made up in dedication, faith and commitment where it lacked actual face-to-face contact, but each time the newly revised demos landed in my mailbox I almost felt my heart pop into confetti that my musical vision was coming closer and closer to fruition, all at the hands of a big musical inspiration of mine. Jordan has put so much of his time, artistry and colour into this project, despite his own massive professional commitments, and has brought the vision of a total stranger, on the other side of the world, to life.

\\ You come from a jazz and soul background. Tell us a bit about your journey up until now.

I was raised on the cosmically beautiful lyricism of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison and many more of the poets of the 1960’s, and it was probably these sounds that watered my creative flowers as a young child. As a teenager, I was exposed to the genius of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, the list, goes, ON, from my incredibly gifting music education at my high school, where I fell in love with the swirling romance of Jazz, buying old Ella vinyl and waltzing around the dining room of our old home to her intoxicating charm, and taking my first try at songwriting, mostly lyricless scats over a walking bass-line and 2-5-1 progression.

Entering into later adolescence, though, I stumbled across Amy Winehouse’s ‘Frank’, and was just completely taken by every aspect of the record, spellbound by her harmony, vocal and lazily powerful energy… but mostly, her lyrical craft. I had never before in my teen years considered music as reliant on lyrics; in fact I saw the latter as subsumed into the former. Amy pushed me to be dead-honest, and find creative, ‘no-fucks-given’ ways to play with language for humour, catharsis and self-celebration. Most significantly – finding Amy in the midst of the most terrible heartbreak – I found this way to reclaim my power and start to speak about men the way Amy did. So I began to perform stability through songwriting, affording myself the same tough power Amy exuded, and creating a space where I could stand up on stage and laugh at the embarrassing details of my ex’s sex life, his pathetic booty-calling me over every other night, his evil manipulation of my heart… and then, in the privacy of my own bed, cry myself to sleep. I followed her trajectory very closely – sometimes writing comedic songs about the vacancy of love, other times deeply tragic songs of pain, other times something completely different about my weed dealer. Amy became a blueprint for love and pain and power all at once, and so she was my lifeline, until I could stand on my own. ‘Old Friends’, and what’s to come from the rest of the E.P., is the fruition of this incredibly formative relationship, as I attempted to articulate the perils of adolescent heartbreak, and feigning that I came out even stronger, until at last, I finally did.

 

\\ What are you looking forward to focusing on after Clay drops?

What an exciting question! I have a stack of songbooks above my piano that I have been adding to for four years. I am in the final stages of a second project that moves away from my adolescent sentiments and begins to step into adulthood and negotiating a healthy relationship with love, and beginning to conceptualise a third project now, too. My team and I have been working our asses off in the shadows for a long time now, and we are starting to sense the first finish line – that is, the first direct energetic line between my music, and a listener’s ear. That moment of connection is what we do the work for. And I cannot wait for what’s to come 🙂

Download the single ‘Old Friends’ on Bandcamp

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