Words/Interview by Emily Hollitt
The Letter Elle has been an enigmatic force in the Brisbane scene for quite some time now. Only a short period after the release of her music video for Time for The Qube Effect, she’s back and stronger than ever with her laid back love song Sunrise. With sparkly guitars, a laid back RnB beat, soulful melodies and gorgeous layered harmonies, she gives a taste of a new direction for her music. I was lucky enough to pick her thoughts on everything from the track to the state of the world.
What is Sunrise about?
Sunrise is, at first glance, a love song about enjoying being in the moment and not putting pressure on what it ‘should be’ or where the future is going. However, I think that subconsciously I wrote this song to myself about where I am currently at in my life. At the end of last year, I graduated uni and had an injury that prevented me from singing at all for months. I kind of lost my purpose as I had to stop teaching, performing, recording and put all my releases on hold. It was a time where I wasn’t sure what I was meant to do for the rest of my life because up until now, I have a future ‘plan’. Suddenly my life was very slow and calm and that was something I had to adjust to. I spent a lot of time with my partner in our hometown by the beach. It reminded me of my love for just doing things purely for the enjoyment and I think this is where the song has come from. I hope that in this scary and uncertain time, this song can help people to remember they just need to take a step back and enjoy life for what it is. The lyrics “as the night fades the sun’s gonna rise” and “we don’t need to validate or complicate it, it’s just me and you and I” solidify the theme of just taking life one day at a time and enjoying it for what it is.
I hear a lot of RnB and soul inspired sounds in this new track with the guitar tones, beats, vocal layering and vocal melody. What were your main production references to get this kind of sound?
I didn’t try to ‘reference’ people too closely I guess. I did really just want to explore a new way of writing and this is what happened to come out! I did listen to Benee‘s new track, Supalonely quite a lot when making this record which I think has a similar sound guitar-wise. I have loved artists like Jordan Rakei, DVNA, Sycco and a few other local R&B artists.
I see this track was also self-produced. Do you consider yourself primarily a songwriter or producer- or do you think both are extensions of each other?
I think they’re very different processes, but they also intertwine quite a lot. Personally, I consider songwriting to include adding in a lot of the instrumentation and ‘beat’ parts. I think I am still ‘writing’ for a while after creating the chords and melody. Putting it all together is a part of the process in my opinion, and producing just flows in from there.
What’s your usual process when it comes to songwriting? Ie chords, lyrics, concept first etc
Traditionally, I would always come up with the lyrics and melody, and then play around with some chords to match. Since studying production, I began to look at songs in a different way. I actually wrote this by coming up with a loop using the guitar and basic beat pattern. The song then all fleshed out from there! It was really interesting to write using my tools in production, rather than my usual singer-songwriter method.
The music video was shot in the beautiful Coolum beaches where you grew up. What do you think are important parts of shooting such a personal, reflective song in such a sentimental location?
This song was written when I was staying back in Coolum for a few weeks. I had finished uni, was unemployed for the first time since I was 13, and was in a really weird place mentally. Being back in my home town by the ocean reminded me that it’s okay to just enjoy life and not be doing ‘something’ all the time. When I’m back on the coast, I am reminded of how much I love listening to the ocean and watching the waves. It takes me back to the simpler things in life.
The song follows the themes of living in and appreciating the moment. Do you think this is an even more vital reminder right now when everything is so uncertain and, if so, why?
I actually had a different single lined up to release but just before COVID hit really bad, something made me want to release this single instead. Most people I told thought that was ridiculous since the other song was so close to finished, but I knew that I wanted this to be my next single. As the situation in the world became worse, I realised this could be a really great song for other people as well as myself. I kind of realised more of what the lyrics meant to me and what they could hopefully inspire in other people. I really hope that this inspires people to just take each day at a time and not stress too much about the future.
Speaking of uncertain times, the music industry has been hit particularly hard with the current state of the world due to the COVID-19 crisis. What ways has this affected you in terms of positives and negatives and how are you coping with everything going on at the moment with yourself and your music?
Negatively, this has affected all musicians hard. I have had a lot of live shows cancelled and am losing a lot of opportunities that I had been given which is unfortunate. However, I have also really enjoyed more time to focus on practising my individual instruments and writing purely for fun. I often don’t have much time to explore styles that wouldn’t really work under my brand so it’s been nice going back to my classical roots, as well having some fun as a producer!
I see your last single Time was featured as part of the QUBE Effect! Congratulations! What was that process like?
Thank you so much! The QUBE effect has been incredible and the team are just awesome! We are still having regular mentoring sessions via zoom and I’m learning so much from it all. We made a music video for the song which you can vote for on the Brisbane City Council website. It was an awesome experience and such a privilege to work with such talented content creators! The team from BEMAC were so great at bringing our ideas to life and I know a lot of the other finalists were super happy with their work!
Do you have any advice for any newer artists who might be looking at releasing for the first time? Any advice you could give them or lessens you’ve learnt over the last few years in doing what you’re doing?
Just look into everything you can about releasing. Research on the DIY musician, ask network contacts, and get advice from other musicians. It’s really hard to do it all yourself, so if you have some friends that can jump on board to help you, let them! It’s a long process but the only way you get better is by doing it!
What can we expect next from The Letter Elle?
I’ve got some singles lined up ready to go! Also have been collaborating a lot so I’d love to get some of those out!
Sunrise is available from streaming now on all platforms.
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