For a man who’s supposedly dropped off the radar, Robert Ellis has been awfully occupied of late. Born and raised south of Houston in Lake Jackson, Texas, Ellis is now based mostly in Fort Price, the place he’s a husband, a father of two children and a companion in Niles Metropolis Sound with producers Jimi Bowman and Josh Block. Over the previous few years, Ellis has recorded albums for Jamestown Revival and the Lone Bellow’s Zach Williams, additionally composing the rating for true-crime podcast Satan City.
The most recent venture Ellis can cross off his to-do listing: Yesterday’s Information (Niles Metropolis), his sixth solo album and first since an amicable parting with the New West label. Although Ellis is a singer/songwriter identified for latest larger-than-life forays into artwork rock and piano balladry, Yesterday’s Information is about as spare and untainted by creative pretense because it will get, owing a debt to Texas luminaries like Townes Van Zandt. Recording stay to tape, Ellis was accompanied solely by nylon-string guitar, upright bass and a smattering of percussion on a set of songs that took all of two days to report.
After a sit-down interview at this 12 months’s South By Southwest music convention was thwarted when Ellis was known as away for a pre-gig piano-tuning task, we checked in with him again in Fort Price, the place he was ironing out the main points for yet one more inventive enterprise.
Life sounds busy lately.
There’s a lot occurring proper now. It’s such a fucking insane time. My buddy Josh Block moved to Fort Price seven or eight years in the past and constructed this studio. Shortly thereafter, he produced the primary Leon Bridges report. I began driving up (from San Marcos) to work with him fairly usually. About three years in the past, he known as me and stated, “Man, do you simply need to transfer up right here and work with me and produce information?” My spouse and I checked out some homes, and we moved type of on a whim.
How previous are your children?
I’ve two boys, 4 and one. To offer you an concept of my day … My spouse is a filmmaker—she’s in Nashville taking pictures a industrial. I’ve a band within the studio that I’m producing known as the Lil Smokies, a extremely superior bluegrass band—we’re 4 days into their report. I’ve bought each children, so I often get up round 5 or 6 a.m., begin sending emails and take the boys to highschool. In the identical constructing the place the studio is, there’s this bar. Me and a companion have lastly been in a position to safe the house, so I’m slowly making an attempt to get it in working order. In three to 6 months, we’re going to be shutting it down, reopening it and rebranding it as a vinyl/hi-fi bar with occasional live shows. I’m actually pumped, however I’m additionally the busiest I’ve ever been. I really feel like I might actually use so straight-up trip with my household. I feel I’d be actually happy to simply sit round and drink beer.
The place does the brand new album determine into all of this?
We did it at Niles. I used to be listening to a whole lot of very quiet music—a ton of Invoice Evans, Jim Corridor, particularly solo or duo jazz information. Three years in the past, I performed a Chet Baker tribute present in Austin, and I went by an insane Chet section. I go to sleep to music. There’s a sure sort of music that’s fascinating sufficient that I’m not tormented by anxiousness, and the general tone soothes me. I needed to make a report that had that factor, by no means getting over a sure depth or quantity. I’d I already written just a few tunes, and as soon as the thought took form I wrote the remaining—figuring out that I wasn’t going to decorate them up or make them rock. I used to be simply leaning into the concept that, as an alternative of getting loud, I’m going to get intense.
I not too long ago learn a quote from you about spending a lot of your profession making an attempt to make music that was thrilling to individuals. Elaborate on that.
There’s this unhealthy suggestions loop we get into—and never simply in music. In the event you submit an image on social media that will get a whole lot of likes, whether or not your acutely aware of it or not, you’re fascinated about that image once you submit the following one. I feel that’s fucked up for artwork and music. I needed to interrupt the cycle and make an album that prevented all of the issues I already knew would work.
Yesterday’s Information is just about the polar reverse of your final album, 2019’s Texas Piano Man.
The Texas Piano Man experiment was so enjoyable and so pre-COVID get together world. It was very a lot of its time. It felt just like the world was charging ahead at this unbelievable tempo. No person might cease us, and we have been simply going to burn all of it to the bottom. Immediately, the pandemic put a tough cease on all of that. This report is extra about the place we at the moment are, after having some actually laborious conversations with ourselves.
You parted methods with New West Information after 5 albums. Why?
I’ve nothing however good issues to say in regards to the New West people as individuals. However I actually needed to take possession of my very own information. I began fascinated about the labels I like, like Drag Metropolis and Luaka Bop. They’re so well-curated, and so they create a spot the place oddball artists can have a house. I need to put out fascinating music—bizarre music that doesn’t match anyplace.