Strength to Strength
Welcome to our Elles Bailey exclusive. She wowed crowds at last year’s British Country Music Festival in Blackpool. Her stage presence was second to none as she held the crowd in the palm of her hand during the emotive songs . She strutted across the stage and brought the party in her upbeat numbers.
Bailey is a fiercely independent artist who has managed to go from strength to strength, winning award after award through her drive and pure talent.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a pop star,” she tells me. “As I was growing up, the Spice Girls had hit it big. I just imagined being Baby Spice being driven around in limousines and having a whale of a time. That was my idea of being a pop star and that’s what I wanted to do.”
“It just feels honest and real”
Although her life looks very different from what she imagined, she’s glad the way things have turned out. “I’m very glad that my eight year old dream has not come true, it looks very different. I love the way it looks.
I love the journey I’ve taken and the fact that I’ve just gone out there, got on the road and created a fan base from singing my songs in front of people. It just feels very honest and real.”
Bailey is about to go out on tour opening for Don McLean after releasing her highly anticipated third album ‘Shining in the Half Light’ which was well received by fans and critics alike.
The main thing that strikes me about Bailey’s music is her storytelling lyricism, something which is no doubt inspired by her early influences and the unusual entertainment that her family enjoyed on long car journey’s. “We actually listened to audio books. It was stuff like the Hound of the Baskervilles and stuff like that, I love stories.”
As she reflects upon the driving force behind her songwriting, she takes us through the evolution of her storytelling. “My first album I was inspired a lot by the people who had gone before me that had really interesting musical stories, like the story of Muscle Shoals. I wrote a song called ‘Girl Who Owned The Blues’ that was really inspired by Janis Joplin and her story, ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ was about Chess Records, and the blues and rock n roll stars of Chicago.”
All images by Dave Nelson at TBCMF 2021
Cheats and Liars
However, her latest offering brings about much more personal stories and topics closer to her heart.
“My writing is becoming a lot more personal to me. ‘Cheats and Liars’ was written as I watched the arts be totally forgotten by this government, during the pandemic. I saw so many people just having to retrain and I just felt really heartbroken for the industry.”
It was the pandemic that really inspired some of the themes running through the lyrics but it also influenced the logistics of the recording process too. “I’d done some work on it in Nashville at the end of 2019. I was going to go back out there, May of 2020 to finish the album, and obviously that couldn’t happen.”
Instead, Elles Bailey got her touring band together along with producer Dan Weller and created the album in Devon whilst six and a half months pregnant.
“We all decided to isolate for two weeks beforehand, so that we could make this record in a room together. That, for me, felt really important. I’ve always made albums, where you’re in a room with people, where you can see each other and bounce off each other.
We basically turned off the news, which was incredibly helpful, because I think it was just about the time a new variant was cropping up, and we made this record.
It was a really beautiful experience. For me being pregnant, it was an incredible experience to make an album whilst growing a human and bring all of the emotions that you have from that, to my voice as well.”
Bailey is one of the gems in the country, Americana and blues scene here in the UK, “It’s such a special community,” she says. “They’ve done so much not just previous to the pandemic but keeping the genre going throughout as well.”
And it’s her acceptance amongst the Americana community that has brought about the most special of moments in her career. “My proudest moment was winning Song of the Year at the Americana Awards in 2020, because I felt like a newbie to the scene as well. Before any of the glitz and the glamour and the limos… well before the tour buses, the late nights and being knackered all the time, I’m a songwriter.”