Lee Eller is a singer and songwriter who was born and raised in New York. As an only child, Eller threw herself into music discovery and began writing her own songs which she performed at local venues, even though she often wasn’t old enough to legally enter them. Then, much to the shock of her family and friends, she uprooted to Tel Aviv after a chance visit to the Middle East and enrolled in a music school to immerse herself in the thriving and developing scene. It was this adopted home that proved the inspiration for much of her debut seven-track EP, “Wrote To You” (expected May 25). She’s now moved back to New York and is scheduling performances in the United States and across France, Germany and the United Kingdom, too. We interviewed Lee Eller about her current releases as well as her upcoming debut EP right here on ET!
Entertwine: Could you give us some insight into your musical background? Who or what led you to pursue a career in music? My musical background consisted of my small, four-year old self, blasting Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston songs in the car, belting at the top of my lungs. The first time I can even recall feeling an emotion, was when I cried to a song called “Broken Wings,” by that 80s band Mr. Mister. My father is also extremely musical. He has rhythm like no other. I was always surrounded by the beats of a Darbuka, being played to perfection; so when I think of my “musical background,” it isn’t necessarily tied to a specific genre. I would fall in love with songs; with lyrics. With beautiful melodies, or specific beats. I don’t think too much about music. I just either feel it or I don’t, and it’s always been that way. Music was made out to be a “hobby,” in my family. I simply acknowledged that I would never be allowed to study and pursue music instead of attend University for a specific profession; but about two and a half years into school, I was beginning to feel the depression that often accommodates the neglect of a passion. My need to change my destiny began to manifest itself in very painful ways. It became apparent that I had grown unhappy in a life without musical outlets. I began to recover when I took control, and decided that not only would I reincorporate writing and singing into my life; I would sacrifice anything I could in order to make music my career.
What was it like growing up in New York City? How has city life shaped you, both musically and personally? NYC is, without a doubt, the best city in the world. I didn’t realize exactly what it means to be a “city girl,” until I left for a long period of time. We are a special breed, us New York City kids. Not in an elitist way. Not at all, actually. It’s just that we are direct, and witty; and completely fearless. It comes with the territory, I guess. I mean, I grew up fast. City life hasn’t necessarily shaped my taste in music, but rather, my work ethic and my drive. Being in NYC, you are constantly surrounded by the best artists, the most beautiful models, the most talented musicians, the smartest businessmen, the wealthiest moguls. You either learn to cope and thrive, or you fall apart. And when you do fall apart, the concrete paved streets and avenues don’t let you succumb too far under, so you have no choice but to grow stronger, and grow fearless. The resilience within me probably stems from growing up where I did, and resilience is definitely an asset you need to pursue a career in music.
What can you tell us about the time you’ve spent in Tel Aviv, Israel? You wrote and recorded an EP (“Wrote To You”) there, correct? Yes, I did. Tel Aviv is my safe haven. After dropping out of school, there was this innate compass that just led me to Israel. I had been in Israel once or twice before. They were great times. The Tel Aviv mentality is very similar to that of NYC; its streets are bombarded with artists and singers. But in Tel Aviv, I’ve found that people are just so accepting and supportive, without comparing your talents and abilities to those of others. …I felt freedom to express; and naturally, it became the platform and playground for my creativity. After 5 years my upcoming EP is kind of a postcard from my time there.
What can you tell us about each of these compositions? What was it like working with producers Eliran Kalisky and Daniel Rosenbaum on this project? Each of my songs and their compositions are released quite organically. A lot of singer/songwriters begin with an idea for what their lyrics are going to be about. For me it’s a bit different. The lyrics stream out, and only after they are on paper, do I discover what the songs are really about. It’s almost as if they write themselves, and my body is merely the vessel that releases them…Eliran and Daniel were my first producers. It was their first EP, as well as mine. It was very much a co-production. They each took on specific roles, and worked phenomenally well together. For me, it was a bit difficult at times. It’s hard to let someone else help mold your artwork. But we need each other in this industry, and I learned valuable lessons. Overall, it was fun and eye-opening. And I love this EP.
What experiences and events influenced the writing and recording of your upcoming debut EP “Blood Bath”? What can you tell us about each of the featured tracks, especially the singles you’ve already released? Each track is very different from the next. I had a good time with the last single, “Blood Bath.” It’s very much based on two characters, and infuriating jealousy. I got into character for this song. The upcoming single ‘Angel’ is very much an anti-love song with a twist; I don’t like to go into too much detail about the specifics of my song lyrics, because I don’t like to assign emotions to them. The listener is invited to feel whatever feeling is naturally evoked. I guess it doesn’t matter what is felt, as long as something is felt.
What inspired the album’s artwork? The singles I’ve released each have separate art. The photo for “What Would I Do” was very quirky, and messy. It looks like confusion. And that’s pretty much the basis of the song. “Blood Bath” is a bit darker, and more calculated. ‘Angel’ is clean and slightly dream like. I kind of just choose the images that seem right to me.
How does “Blood Bath” differ from or expand on “Wrote To You”? Each track on the EP comes from a very different place. Blood Bath is centered around feelings of jealousy that are so strong, they’re just about crazy. In each of these tracks, I truly let myself own emotions and feelings that I used to be afraid to feel. “Blood Bath,” is essentially an open letter written to myself, and to anyone who has ever let jealousy consume them. It’s not about judging the feeling in any way; it’s rather about embracing the fact that it is felt, and identifying this feeling in all of its’ shameless glory.
Aside from the release of “Blood Bath”, what else does 2016 hold in store for Lee Eller, musically-speaking? I’m excited about releasing the tracks I’ve been working on. The full EP will be ready to go really soon and we are releasing ‘Angel’ as a single in February. I am actually moving back to New York to start working on my next release so there should be tour dates pretty soon, as well. I don’t want to give away too much, but definitely stay tuned.