In conversation with Ella Thompson

In the lead up to Ella Thompson's gig on Friday 26 July, Suzie Wyllie from Lighthouse Arts Collective caught up with the artist to find out more about her creative process and the forming of POOL, her independent record label and arts publication.

Suzie: Your work evokes a deep sensory response in the listener. There is artistry to your creating which seems to draw from all mediums, a pooling of form, colour, poetry and place. Does the creative process always begin with sound for you? Or are there various entry points to the way you create?

Ella: Sound is usually my first entry point to creating new work. A lot of my songwriting starts with improvisation and then I build a form around that. Words come from sounds and I shape a picture or story from there. Particularly in my solo work, I want the music to evoke a sensory response, textures in the sound and visual that you can feel on your skin. I am interested in how music and art make someone feel in their day or in an ephemeral moment, I am not a purist in any particular medium. I make beats on my phone and sometimes spend weeks on 15 seconds of music. Most importantly creating is my way of synthesising my internal and external experiences and thoughts into something positive for myself and hopefully whoever is listening. This is my way of growing and transforming.

S: Your career has seen you collaborate with exceptional artists from across the Australian music scene as well as celebrated international artists! Can you share a standout experience that you feel directly informed the direction of your solo releases?

E: Collaboration is so much fun, it energises me and fills me up with ideas and support. Solo work feeds the quieter need for a reflective time and empowers me to figure things out on my own. I think both are vital to my process, we all need each other at some point in the line. My favourite collaborations are always with friends, creative relationships take a long time to cultivate when we learn new skills together along the way it makes the creative unit all the more unique. I have had some incredible moments with people that I never imagined standing next to, performing with Mark Ronson, Kevin Parker, Andrew Wyatt et al. one of the coolest weeks of my life. Creating ‘Like Running Water’ with Sui Zhen, Prue Stent, Honey Long and Clio Renner was a dream. Learning how to sing from Renee Geyer and Vika Bull was epic. I am very lucky to have had these experiences and just shows you never know what the future holds.

S: POOL is a record label and arts publication you started with the aim of creating a unique platform for artists to share, unite and intersect. From reading the manifesto, I am struck by your passion to foster creative innovation, as well as your commitment to nurture and celebrate difference. I sense a desire to be apart of reshaping the conversation, broadening and diversifying the artistic landscape, helping to give voice to all creative expression? Was the creation of POOL in response to aspects of the music industry that you had grown tired of?

E: Starting POOL was an idea that came up after wanting to create a bit more infrastructure around releasing my own work and thinking about how creative work is never really limited to one medium, how we respond is usually physical and/or emotional and not limited to one section of the industry. I want the publication to have a focus on collaboration, we are constantly pooling together our skills and experiences, how we can build an artist-run collective to learn and understand how best to grow sustainable creative careers. I think sometimes we are a bit scared to make and accept new creative voices without a clear sense of where they fit or belong. We are obsessed with categorisation and organising moods to be easily absorbed. It is important to be curious and open to new ideas that may not have a clear place in a broader context just yet. Maybe we can make space for those things, celebrate our differences.

S: Back in 2017 you developed a collaborative performance work ‘Like Running Water’, which was performed at Melbourne Recital Centre as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival. Water and its natural embodiment of both, strength and softness, stillness and fluidity seem to be a reoccurring theme in your work. Tell us a little about your interest in water as a symbol of metamorphosis?

E: At the time of making ‘Like Running Water’ I had a real urge to try new things in my practice. The opportunity came to create something for Recital Centre Hall and I wanted it to celebrate some of the unique artists living and working in Melbourne/Naarm. The performance was centred around ideas of fluidity and strength. How we can adapt to changes around us and within ourselves. Working with an all female-identifying team was a real treat, it was one of the first experience like this I have had and was interesting to see the different dynamics of collaboration. This performance was a new beginning for me, a chance to write, perform and then record a series of songs and visual accompaniments.