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ELLA HOOPER – MELBOURNE MUSIC BANK

Ella Hooper Melbourne Music Bank low resSinger songwriter, Ella Hooper is the new ambassador for Melbourne Music Bank, a community-driven music initiative offering aspiring artists a chance to break into the music industry. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips sat down with Ella for some fine Spanikopita and a chat about Melbourne Music Bank

“When you look a little deeper, it’s an ode to Melbourne … your personal stories or interaction with Melbourne,” explains Ella Hooper about the core theme of the Melbourne Music Bank competition.  Back for its second year, Melbourne Music Bank is a songwriting competition in which Victorian artists are required to submit a song about or influenced by Melbourne. Up for grabs in this Bank of Melbourne initiative is a career-changing package including two days of recording at Sing Sing Studios, a video clip by film maker Wilk, live gigs, album artwork and 500 CDs, PR and marketing advice and the chance to have their song used in a Bank of Melbourne advertising campaign. “I think the hot tip is to be unique with it, not just name checking things everyone else might notice about Melbourne,” Melbourne Music Bank ambassador Ella Hooper adds as  further advice to those thinking about entering. “What does a local notice? It is only open to Victorian songwriters, so what is it that you know more about the city that speaks to you from a personal level? That can be interpreted in any way you like because we’re not just after lyrical entries, it can be instrumental.”

Ella can relate to the value of the prize being offered as it was the studio time she and her brother Jesse won at a Violet Town March Arts Festival, which kick started the career for them as Killing Heidi.
“The studio time was gifted to us by an artist Jamie Durant who had a studio in Benalla,” Ella recalls. “Jesse and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. He gave us a couple of days in the studio and would put us on a compilation he was making. We used that recording to send to Unearthed at Triple J and ended up winning. Just those stepping stones that you don’t realise at the time … we were off to America within a year getting management and record deals. It was because someone said, I’ll come and record you properly. I think if you looked at a lot of artist’s back stories, there are these great little competitions and opportunities that gave them a boost.”

It’s the two days of recording time at Melbourne’s SIng Sing studios in particular which Ella finds the most attractive prize for the winning entrant. “I love Sing Sing,” she says. “Some of my happiest recordings have been done there so I feel really excited that somebody is going to get the chance to experience that, when maybe they haven’t before. This is an opportunity that most bands would have to save up for ages.” As Ella and any experienced recording artist will tell you, studio time is sacrosanct. You invest your hard earned money in it and need to achieve outcomes with the short opportunity that you have. It’s not just the actual recorded product that you’ll come away with either, each studio experience is such a huge, condensed learning curve.  “I think one of the most amazing thing about this prize for people who may not have experienced this before, is the education that you can get from going to a world class studio, the education you get from making a video,” says Ella. “Every time I do those things, as an artist who has been doing it for 17 years, I learn so much. You take what you learn from one studio experience and you take it into the next one and you build on that. At a studio like Sing Sing you reach to match the opportunity and you stretch and that education never goes away, it stays.”

Also on the list of Melbourne Music Bank prizes is a video clip produced by Glen Wilkie (more commonly known as Wilk), who has created videos for Sarah Blasko, Dan Sultan, and Flume among many others. Wilk produced a couple of clips for Ella Hooper too, from which she learned the valuable lesson of letting go of some of that stubborn creative control. “Video clips for me are probably one of the hardest parts about being a musician, to get videos right,” Ella states.  “We’ve had a lot of hits and misses with videos. I am happy to say that the ones I am most proud of visually are those I’ve done with Wilk. I am very enthusiastic about his artistry. I think that you have to trust your team and trust their creative vision and talent. The thing I have learned when collaborating with other people is to let them reinterpret your ideas. I know some people say you should be in control at all levels but when I have sat back and trusted the visual artists, knowing that they were appropriate of course, that’s when I got the best results. I would say with Wilk, if you win … sit back, trust him and he will come up with something amazing.”

Other prizes on offer include artwork for a recording and 500 pressings, tasks which musicians know, can take up a lot of your valuable time and money. There’s the promotional opportunities for finalists, your song featured in a bank ad and the PR and marketing advice, which Ella Hooper thinks is a particularly important one. “I think this is something a lot of artists in the modern era are getting their heads around …. you know, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If people see your name in the street press in a story or ad for example, how important is that they see it at the right time, in the right font, next to the right other band. All of these things about positioning and marketing really do matter. You might have a super talent but if the right people aren’t getting connected to your super talent, that’s a damn shame. That’s going to be a wasted talent. The art side of it is your personal thing that you do alone and your artistic time. If you want to share that artistic time or moment, that’s when you go and get your kick-arse marketing team.”

Since moving to Melbourne from Violet Town in rural Victoria, Ella has got to know the southern city pretty well. If she was to enter the Melbourne Music Bank, what aspects of the city would inspire her? “I know I said don’t choose something so obvious and typical,” she says thinking about the question and laughing,  “but obviously I am a coffee tragic, so maybe something to do with coffee beans!”

MMB-logo-ORIGThe busy Melbourne Music Bank ambassador is also excited about her own upcoming debut solo album ‘In Tongues’, to be released in October.  “I am thrilled that I am about to share this first effort at a solo body of work'” she says. “I am really proud of it. It’s probably not what people are expecting, if they were expecting anything. I just feel really good. I feel like it is going to open a lot of doors for me creatively when I share it and I can move into a whole new arena again. I did most of it here on here on Smith Street and the bigger things, drums, strings etc at Sing Sing. It’s produced by Jan Skubizewski, Way of the Eagle is his other moniker. I used him for more of his urban electronica. There is quite a bit of that Bristol, UK , Portishead, Massive Attack influence in there. It’s all finished and ready to roll.”

Ella also plays the benefit concert for imprisoned Australian journalist Peter Greste on Thursday 21st August at the Hi Fi Bar, along with Mark Seymour, Rockwiz Orkestra, Ross Wilson, The Bull Sisters and many others. Ticket info at http://bottledsnail.com/

Melbourne Music Bank info at www.bankofmelbourne.com.au/melbmusicbank
Ella Hooper info: http://ellahooper.net.au/

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