Two year-old Ella was sitting on the grass in her backyard, swaying back and forth. When her mom asked her what she was doing, Ella responded by saying “I’m dancing to the music of the birds.”
THE ART IN ELLA
“Ella has always seen and heard things that others haven’t. What most people think is unimportant, she finds interesting.” shares Cristin, Ella’s mom. “When she draws, paints, or creates pottery, she listens to music. It sets the theme of her creations.” To know Ella, and to see the way music flows through her, is to know this is absolutely true. Not only is she a musician, she’s a painter, actor, photographer and sculptor. She generously and honestly shares her work. Life is more beautiful thanks to Ella Raven-Jackson.
A LITTLE PINK STAGE
Ella’s voice. It’s special. If you’ve heard Ella sing, you know what we’re talking about. Ella couldn’t tell us when she first started to sing because it feels like something she’s been doing forever. But what she can tell you is that for one of her earlier birthdays, her dad built her a pink stage in their basement and gifted it to her, along with a PA system, which she used to entertain countless friends and family in the years to come. “My personal experience with singing is that I started singing so young that my ego was through the roof!” laughs Ella, “You know when you’re young and you’re like ‘Wow, I’m the best at this!’” But Ella didn’t let her ego get in the way of progress and growth. Despite feeling pretty darn good about herself, she kept practicing and growing. “Even as I got older, I had all that practice [to build on]” and this foundation helped form what Ella’s voice is today with its unmistaken beauty and captivating richness.
MUSICAL THEATRE AND PAINTING TO ELLIOTT SMITH
When it comes to what keeps Ella up at night, it’s not her singing that’s the culprit. The guilty party is Ella’s ongoing involvement in her school theatre productions. Ella is going into grade 12 at Ross Shepherd High School. Every year, her high school puts on two big productions through its drama department: one play and one musical. And Ella typically has a role in both. The norm is that she would be at school most weekdays until 5:30pm, but the closer it gets to a show, the rehearsals go later into the night and become even more frequent. But for Ella, the time commitment is 100% worth it. Sleep deprivation and all. “[Theatre] really helps to ground me. I have a hard time living in the moment and being aware of my surroundings. But a lot of my hobbies are things that I need to be focused on [in the moment] in order to be able to do them.” Ella also draws on the narrative that accompanies theatre as she gets ready to release her first EP. More on this later.
Visual art is another form of expression that Ella turns to regularly. “When I feel inspired, I have a bunch of different mediums that I can turn to to express ideas or thoughts.” shares Ella, “[I can ask] which medium would best fit the idea or the concept [I’m trying to express].” Drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and ceramics are among the mediums that she has most recently explored. “I’ve never really connected with painting the way I have this last year.” says Ella “I’ve really gotten into it more and developed more of a practice that works for me.” This practice includes listening to Elliott Smith’s self-titled album every time she paints. “It’s funny because I started [listening to this album] just because I like the album so one day I was just listening to it while I was painting” and the rest is history. If you come across Ella painting these days, chances are good she’ll also be listening to Elliott Smith.
"The most important part is that you're feeling what you're singing."
ART AS A LANGUAGE
“Art gives Ella a language where she can communicate effectively and clearly” says Ella’s mom, Cristin, “She is highly visual and able to communicate in pictures and images. She writes lyrics in the same way.” Ella’s dad, Mark, also recognizes the importance of art in Ella’s life when he shares that “music is [Ella’s] place of comfort, aspiration and confidence. Every musical performance and every song she learns or creates on her own, empowers her. That confidence and empowerment transcends music and benefits her in all areas of her life.”
LIVING WITH ADHD & DYSLEXIA
Ella has both dyslexia as well as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). When she was younger, her doctor recommended that she learn drums as a way to help with her fine motor skill development which was being impacted by both her dyslexia and ADHD. She didn’t end up sticking with drums for long, instead she switched to ukulele and then ultimately guitar. “I think [guitar] is one of those things that most songwriters use as a way to translate their thoughts and speak the language of music.” Ella can’t remember when she wrote her first song as, again, it feels like one of those things she’s been doing since before time. “I always liked writing poems and little stories and eventually songs when I was in elementary.”
Fast forward to present time where Ella is now writing and performing songs with her band, Endless Alley. Endless Alley is a Backbeat band that has had some of the same members for over five years. Ella first joined the band about two and a half years ago. The years of playing together comes through in Endless Alley’s music. “There’s something that you feel from being able to jam out a song [as a band]. Like especially if you come with just lyrics and a couple chords. You don’t get [the same type of experience] from playing alone.” Endless Alley has progressed to a point where they can communicate without words. They’ve gotten good at “talking without talking” and used certain looks to communicate with each other. “It’s one of my favourite things” says Ella.
While Ella is no stranger to the stage, she still gets nervous before performing. Especially when she’s singing. “When I’m acting, I’m assuming a character so it feels less vulnerable. But when I’m singing I get extra nervous because it’s my voice. I want to be likeable.” Nerves and all, Ella presses on and continues to perform. A lot of the singers and musicians Ella looks up to weren’t necessarily singers first and she takes inspiration from this. “The most important part is that you’re feeling what you’re singing.” says Ella, “People who want to listen to singers who are passionate. If you believe it’s meaningful, people will listen to you.”
GOOD THINGS ARE COMING
As for Ella’s EP, it’s coming. Sometime. Hopefully soon. Ella laughs when we ask for a specific release date because she said it would be like picking any random date out of the sky and hoping it’s right. As you read this, Ella is continuing to write, record and work out the technical details of her EP. In the meantime, the rest of us will simply have to be patient and wait. We can take comfort in the fact that good things are coming. As in, really good things.