“I knew what kind of album I didn’t want to make, but it took me a while to find out what I did want to make…” – hmv.com talks to Ella Henderson
As she prepares to release her long-awaited debut album Chapter One, we sat down to chat to Ella Henderson about growing up on jazz and motown, working with some of the biggest writers in pop and her plans to take it out live…
It’s taken you two years to put Chapter One together, you must be relieved the album is finally coming out?
“Two years is a long time in this industry, but I feel like I’ve totally done the right thing. I’ve been able to travel, to spend time here, in the States, meet and work with different writers and producers, I just can’t wait to share it with people now.”
Has the album taken the full two years then?
“On and off. I’ve never felt rushed and under any pressure, my attitude was very much ‘It’ll be ready when it’s ready’.”
What was the first song you did for the album?
“’Missed’, my audition song from X-Factor, we recorded that first and it’s the last track on the album. It’s a nice thing to have on there because it shows I’ve come full circle.”
You worked with lots of big-name writers and producers on the album, like Ryan Tedder and Salaam Remi, were most of them suggested to you? Or did you ask for introductions?
“I wrote a big list of people I wanted to work with. I tried to go big and go for the dream list, I looked back at it the other day and I’ve actually met them all. I asked for Babyface, Al Shucks, Salaam Remi, it was a real thrill being sat in the same room as them, let alone to have them writing for my record.”
They must have very different styles, how did they compare?
“They were. Some people like to work in this very 9-5 style, some like to work through the night, some are very on it, some are really laid back. Ryan Tedder, for example, is just pure energy, writing with him is like bouncing off the walls, I’m quite chilled, so that was a bit of a contrast, but a good one. Salaam Remi was a big teddy bear, he just sat back and let me do my thing and then guide me through it.”
Do you write on your own much? Or did you want to start from scratch with these writers?
“I wanted to start from scratch, but I know that with my lyrics I’m very open and very honest. It was weird opening up to people, I’m used to it just being me and a piano, but once I got over that, things really flowed.”
Were there any records you really looked to for inspiration during the making of the album?
“I grew up listening to a lot of older stuff. I listened to a lot of jazz when I was younger, my granddad really brought me up on that, then my mum introduced me to motown and soul. I listened to a lot of Whitney Houston and Diana Ross growing up, but the biggest influence on this album is Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, I think that album is just stunning and perfectly made.”
When it comes to lyrics, you’ve said you wanted to keep things as open and as honest as possible, your life has changed a lot in the last two years so have you made sure the lyrics reflect that?
“My lyrics talk about everything. There’s stuff about me growing up, a lot date back to when I was a kid. It’s mostly drawn from my emotions, I write everything from an emotion, I find an emotion and that takes me into story.”
Do you feel like these are snapshots of how you felt at the time?
“Exactly. On a track called ‘Mirror Man’, I was so angry at the person in that track and out came this track that’s really full of attitude. ‘Five Tattoos’ is this beautiful ballad that’s just me on the piano, there are so many moods on this album.”
What were your goals at the start of the album?
“I didn’t have goals so much as I knew what album I didn’t want to make and I worked from there. If ever something felt like it was drifting away from the sound I wanted, I pulled the reins and brought it back. I wanted to be varied, and to have lots of moods, but with my voice tying it together.”
What kind of album did you not want to make?
“I knew I didn’t want to make a metal album! Nothing too heavy, nothing too dark.”
When did you pick the title?
“I thought of everything as a diary and this is the first chapter. It feels like the beginning of a journey.”
What have you got planned when it comes to playing live?
“I can’t wait to play live. I really want to get out there with a band, I can’t wait to go out gigging. There’s nothing set in stone at the moment, I feel like I’ll tour when I’m ready, next year I think.”
Ella Henderson’s debut album Chapter One is released on Monday (October 13th). You can pre-order it now in hmv stores across the UK.