Mention the city of Bristol to music heads and it inevitably conjures up memories of the underground scene that thrived there in early 90s. A dark, earthy funkiness in the sounds of trip hop combined with the subversive macabre graffiti of Banksy to capture the imagination of a generation. Singer-songwriter Ella Rothwell emerges from the grip of Bristol and the sights and sounds associated with it like a butterfly from the cocoon.
TGA caught up with Rothwell just before the release of her second EP – the aptly titled Two. When asked about her earliest musical memories, Rothwell said, “My mum took me to see S Club 7 live, which blew my tiny little seven-year-old mind.” But when it comes to her development as a singer-songwriter she said that; “Life has been a big influence…I’d like to think that I’m just pretty raw, what you see is what you get, a bumbling disorganized human being that likes to write honest songs and sing.”
Rothwell has a voice that bears comparison to Adele, who has become the standard bearer of English singer-songwriters over the last five years. This comparison is closest on her track Alive, which has a funereal piano chord progression but rises to the occasion with a hauntingly angelic chorus of: I’m alive (but I’m losing somebody, I’m losing somebody). The song seems fragile, but the lyrics and voice are a declaration of strength, perseverance, and faith.
Other tracks, like the joyful We Run combine a steady drum pulse, instrumentation that sparkles, and a fist-pumping chorus that is more energizing than the first morning cup of coffee. It’s pure pop reduced to its essence: capable production combined with a versatile voice. Being in the studio, Rothwell said, “was a massive learning curve. I got to see everything be put together piece by piece and learnt that producers are probably the most patient people in the world. It was hella fun too.”
The tracks on the EP were all co-written with some of her buddies: Ed Tullet, Ross O’Reilly, Stealth, and Gordon Mills Jr. “It’s a process I love,” she says, “spending days in the studio bouncing ideas off people you enjoy working with and coming out with something new and different almost every time.”
For a taste of Rothwell’s variety, she has an active YouTube account with a mix of originals and covers by other artists. “I always try to put my own stamp on covers, so it’s often ones I feel I can do that with, and ones I can actually play the guitar chords for…that always helps.”
It’s exciting to discover a young and talented artist before their sound is defined and the YouTube views aren’t yet in the millions. The future is still an unknown road. For her part, Rothwell has already begun working on new material, trying out new ideas and sounds while still developing the music she’s working on at the moment. She has some London shows in the pipeline, and looks forward to the day when she can get out on the road to embark on a “mad world tour.” For now, we can safely announce that Rothwell has gracefully escaped from the Bristol sound and the world is ready for more. Her EP – Two – is available now.
Stephen M. Tomic