My first interview was with Ella Michel from Madrid in Spain. I was joined by fellow Fern Sessions member Lewis Arscott.
Matt – What instruments do you play?
Ella – I mostly sing but I play piano and guitar
Matt – And did you start learning one and then learning another?
Ella – Basically I’ve sung all my life, because everyone sings. I started Piano when I was 7 and I went to a conservatoire for five or six years and that’s where I learned Piano and I learned Guitar on my own in my house, watching YouTube videos.
Matt – When did you start looking at singing as an instrument? Because I know the feeling, it doesn’t really twig to start with.
Ella – Yeah, it doesn’t really feel like an instrument. I just really liked singing, everyone I knew was like “you’re a really good singer” and then in my last year at school I joined an acapella group at my school and even my music teacher was like “you are really good” and then I deferred a year and got my grade 8 vocals – I hadn’t done my other grades. After getting my grade 8, that’s when I started thinking I might actually be good.
Matt – That’s really interesting. What style would you class yourself as? Bear in mind that I don’t really know what style I am.
Ella – I’m Jazz-y/Soul-y kind of, that’s what I love to sing.
Matt – And how do you tie your instruments into that style, do you try and mix them?
Ella – Basically when I write songs I accompany myself with chords but I’m not a professional on Piano, I just use them to give life to the songs because they can’t be acapella. My voice is my main instrument, I’m not a Pianist. There are a lot of chords where you know if they are Jazz-y so I try to use those – if you sing to Jazz-y chords it sounds right
Matt – How do you pick your chords?
Ella – At first I had to learn from a lot of Jazz songs and what chords they used but you get an ear for it and what it should sound like.
Lewis – Do you like listening to lots of different music or is it mainly that style you play in?
Ella – No, I definitely like listening to all types of music, in the sense that I like listening to Dub-Step but I don’t know that much about it. I listen to a broad spectrum of music, I know strange songs that other people don’t know but I don’t fully know the whole of that genre, just a couple of songs. I was bought up in a country with Spanish music and what the charts are but at the same time my parents are English and they showed me a lot of 60s, 70s, 80s music.
Matt – What was it that started your interest in music?
Ella – I just loved singing, I literally always sing. When I was little I would play a lot of music. Both my parents really like music so we would listen to it all the time and then people said “you’re actually quite good”.
Matt – Did that lead to Piano and Guitar?
Ella – Basically my parents said “you should learn this because it’s going to be good – you’ve got a good ear and you’re probably going to be ok”. I was 6 or 7 and they weren’t forcing me into it but saying “you should try Piano”. Guitar, it’s just a very cool instrument, a lot of people play it, why not?
Lewis – Do you write your own songs?
Ella – Yes, that’s mainly what I do. I initially sang covers but then I wrote my own stuff. I was 15 or 16 when I started to write a lot of songs and they’re not that great but I do it anyway because I like it. Before that I used to play covers and stuff.
Lewis – Where does the process of you writing music start then, is it the same each time?
Ella – Basically I write lyrics or hum the melody. Then if I write lyrics I’ll create a melody for those lyrics and put chords to that. Or if I have a melody I’ll write lyrics that sound nice in that structure.
Lewis – So it usually starts off with the vocals?
Ella – Yeah, definitely. I play around with my voice.
Matt – That’s really interesting because I think I do the opposite.
Lewis – That’s the way Sia works, do you like Sia? I like Sia.
Ella – Yes I like Sia.
Matt – Our housemate wanted us to ask a question – Ed Sheeran or Kate Bush?
Ella – Ed. I got into him when he was young and wasn’t famous.
Matt – What artists do you like?
Ella – I like a lot of different people. I was into a lot of Adele, Amy Winehouse and similar stuff but I also like Eminem, Fleetwood Mac and Stormzy.
Lewis – Does that influence your work or is what you listen to separate to what you do? Are there certain artists that influence you more?
Ella – I listen to Stormzy because my friends have listened to Stormzy, that’s how I got into it. It’s the same with Fleetwood Mac, my parents used to listen to it. I’m a kind of Ed Sheeran-y, Amy Winehouse-y sort of person. I like soul but I like pop as well. My brother used to listen to a lot of Eminem so that’s how I got into that.
Matt – What are you hoping to gain from studying music?
Ella – Knowledge. I feel like knowledge is power. I want to know a lot about it, I really like clever people and I want to be one. I don’t feel like I’m going to be a famous singer but I’m not chasing fame. If I can live off music that would be great.
Matt – How would you see that, do you like the idea of touring?
Ella – Yeah, I’d love that. I don’t really see it happening but I would love that, that would be great. I’m still young so yes but maybe when I’m 35 I wouldn’t fancy that.
Lewis – Do you like performing then?
Ella – Yeah. I did gymnastics for about 10 years and we competed in world competitions so we were quite good. We would have to perform in front of thousands of people so I’m not at all scared of being on stage. I love performing.
Lewis – Do you still get nervous then?
Ella – It’s like more excitement to go on and smash it but I do get nervous if I know I’m not ready or I think I might mess it up.
Matt – Why did you pick Falmouth to study music?
Ella – You can’t really study music in Spain if you don’t want to be in a classical orchestra. The probability of you becoming a Jazz singer or Pop singer is very low because you can’t even study it. I was going to study engineering because I like maths but then I thought I don’t really like engineering, so I thought about going to the UK. I applied for about 5 universities but I applied for musical theatre because I did gymnastics and I could dance and sing. I got in but it was too Jazzy for me, too showy. So out of the 5 universities I’d applied for, only 2 were just music – Falmouth and Chichester, both of which I got into. My parents said go to Falmouth, it will be nicer weather and sunnier. My grandad was from Cornwall so my Mom said I should definitely go there.
Lewis – What is your favourite number?
Ella – 8. I like 9 though as well.
Lewis – Which do you prefer, collaborating with other musicians or solo?
Ella – I prefer working with other people because if you’re working on your own you are in your own bubble but sometime it can go really wrong. With other people they can say “no, change this, change that” and it’s normally for the better. Also I’ve been in a team for about 10 years and I feel teamwork is important. But leadership is also important, you have to know what to say yes to. Collaboration can change the music radically. I wrote a song that was heartbroken-y, really sad kind of thing and I went into a studio with this guy and he made it into a really uplifting, nice, life-is-worth-living thing. There were literally the same lyrics and the same melody, it was just the background music that had changed it into a positive outcome, it was pretty incredible.
Matt – What subjects do you like writing about in your songs?
Ella – I’m a pessimist when I write my songs, it’s not “I love my life”, it’s more “why am I so low” and “what am I doing in this life?”. I am happy, I feel like that is where my negative thoughts go, when I’m in a bad situation I write music to get it out of my system.
You can find out more about Ella by visiting her Facebook and Instagram pages: