Ellen Winter

How Ellen Winter recorded the album everyone needs to hear

Ellen Winter
Ellen Winter in the Mantras music video. (Photo Credit: Alison Grasso & Colin Miller/Courtesy of Ellen Winter.)

Every Feeling I’ve Ever Felt is introducing Ellen Winter to the pop audience. Or more accurately, re-introducing, because she’s been in the neighborhood for a while. Ellen has previously recorded both as a solo artist and with Chamber Band, and she and her frequent collaborator Chris Littler (who served as a producer on Every Feeling) are the duo behind the charmingly heartbreaking podcast musical 36 Questions. She knows how to get people’s attention in a number of mediums.

Yet there’s a separate challenge in releasing a debut record that’s essentially a mission statement: telling listeners who you are, what you’re going to do differently from thousands of other artists, and what your message is. Ellen is successful at making that introduction with Every Feeling because of her complete honesty. The album is messy and daring and quirky, and that’s what makes it beautiful. Rather than being overly polished and present the Ellen Winter that people might want, she’s giving us who Ellen Winter actually is.

There was a process of letting people in to her own story—in some ways similar and in some ways very different to telling someone else’s.

“In a lot of ways this album was a musical of my own life,” she told me. “It was my companion for many years, because these were the songs that I was writing when I was alone in my room and I had something that I needed to figure out or work through or express that was incredibly personal. This album became this collection of those moments.

“If I ever was lost in the lyrics I would be like ‘What is it that I’m trying to say? What is the clearest way to say that?’ The difference between that and a musical narrative is that point of truth shifts to the character,” she explained. “It’s kind of a Venn diagram because I’m still writing from truth, there’s still shades of myself even when I’m writing from a character’s perspective. But the core of the truth has to be through their eyes as opposed to through my own lived experience. In writing a musical narrative or writing in fiction, there are so many other parameters to the circumstance and the context of what words that character might use and how they might express them.

“So much of this album as my debut album I had to figure out for myself. I’m like ‘How do I want to express this? How do I want this to sound?’ So many of these songs started as just vocals and piano, so [we were] really building them out, and playing with all of the different synthesizers and arrangements, landing on what we wanted the album to sound like. [That] was also a big part of the story because the arrangement on Every Feeling is very different than say, the arrangement in 36 Questions.”

That makes it slightly amusing that not too long after the release of Every Feeling I’ve Ever Felt, Ellen re-released 36 Questions in an expanded version including her recordings of select songs. Was it a conscious choice to step back into fictional storytelling after pouring so much of herself into her debut album? Did the journey she’d just taken influence the way she looked at that material a second time?

“It was kind of fated timing. We were given that project right before quarantine, and it was nice because we were finishing Every Feeling and we were generating these covers for the 36 Questions album in conjunction with each other,” she said. “It feels good to be wrapping something up while you’re opening something new, and I feel like we learned a lot about working remotely in Every Feeling that we were able to apply to the 36 Questions album.

“It didn’t really feel like a break from my own brain because I was by myself in my studio and talking to my collaborators through a screen,” she added. “But it was a break from my own brain in the sense where I was like okay, we get to live in a different world. This isn’t about the world of my emotional processing. This is now the world of Judith and Jase, and Henry the Duck, of course. So that was a real treat to do.”

Every Feeling I’ve Ever Felt is its own story. By the time you listen through all ten songs, it feels like a full sense of Ellen—like she’s gotten everything off her chest and this picture of this segment of her life has been painted. It seems complete, in contrast to most first albums that try to leave audiences hanging. There’s a serenity in that because the album is a journey. It’s not just listening to a bunch of cool tracks, playing a couple of your favorites over again, and putting it to the side. It’s a trip, from the opening self-deprecating chaos of “My Mind Won’t Let My Heart Be” to the beautiful stillness of “Knots” at the end. We get to walk with her and experience these emotions and release these things alongside her, and those records are the ones that hold on.

Yet with every successful album comes the question: What about the next one? Considering how much time and effort and energy Ellen put into Every Feeling, and how many other creative irons she has in the fire, it would be perfectly understandable if she’d planned to take a break before tackling a second album. But in true Ellen spirit, the follow-up is already percolating.

“I actually am working on another record right now!” she revealed. “It’s very much a ‘crying on the dance floor album.’ I’m writing a lot of songs and I’m imagining disco beats behind them, so we’ll see how they turn out. Soul Science Lab, who are this rad music and multimedia duo, and I were both awarded the Bryan Gallace Posthumous Fellowship grant for musicians through SPACE on Ryder Farm in 2021. I wouldn’t be able to be working on another thing if it wasn’t for the generosity of the Gallace family and SPACE. Because of them, I have the funds and the time to make another record.

“That is taking up a good chunk of my heart space at the moment and my creative energy. Chris [Littler] and I have also been developing a spooky musical podcast for a few years, so we’re in the early stages of that. Those are the two big projects that are in my view at the moment!”

Wherever she goes next, whatever the next great adventure is, Ellen Winter is someone worth adventuring with. She’s not only talented, she’s genuinely unique, and she’s not only unique but also inspirational. Her debut album took an incredible leap in putting her so completely at the forefront and in turn motivating listeners to completely embrace themselves. And she did that while making the most fun record of the year. That’s an accomplishment we can all agree is awesome.

Every Feeling I’ve Ever Felt is now available on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify and wherever else you get your music. The album is produced by produced by Ellen Winter, Chris Littler and Charles Wanless. For more with Ellen Winter, be sure to visit her website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.

Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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