Interview: ‘Ghost’ songstress Ella Henderson

If you haven’t heard of the talented Ella Henderson yet, she is an 18 year-old singer-songwriter, and was a 9th season X Factor UK finalist – where she came in 6th back in 2012.

Since, Ella Henderson has taken some time out but now, she is back and breaking away from that X Factor image with her latest single ‘Ghost‘ which is storming up the charts both here in Australia and Ella’s native UK with a celebrity following with the likes of Tinie Tempah and Sam Smith. There is no stopping this soulful songstress. Ella Henderson took the time to chat to Spotlight Report about the new single, the direction of the album, and working with producing and songwriting legend Ryan Tedder.

 SR. Your new single Ghost is out now- What inspired this song?

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 This song is a song I wrote with Mr Ryan Tedder. It was the last song I wrote from my record and it kind of came about very quickly and he heard that Drake cover of ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ that I uploaded online and he got in contact with my label and he was really excited and intrigued to meet me. So he came over to the UK and we met up and we really hit it off straight away and bounced off each other’s energy. In the first hour of being together we wrote the chorus for Ghost and it all happened very fast and intimately. I immediately knew it was going to be my first single, maybe because it’s the last song I wrote for the record. It really summed up my whole album and that’s something. I think every song on the album is very raw, real and honest. After I wrote this song, I felt it was such a believable song where you can feel a real soul and soulful vibe. And the title for Ghost came and is used like a bit of metaphor really, of something or someone that has a hold of you and is torturing you and you literally can’t get away from them as much as you want too. I mean you can’t eat, you can’t sleep and you can’t give it up or runaway from it. I think everyone has experienced that in someway or another – whether its an ex-lover or your boss at work, everyone has experienced that. So I guess that is how it came about.

SR. So than, what was it like working with Ryan Tedder on cowritting and producing?

 It was so amazing, it was incredible to sit down with somebody, that only I am a huge fan of and respect him so much. I am a huge fan of One Republic but going into the studio with someone who has worked with the likes of Adele, Beyonce and such huge names, it was incredible to be sat in a room with him, knowing he is writing a song for my record. I feel like every time I go in the studio my plan and aim is to always learn new things and I learnt so much from him.

There is such a great ora around him, and I think he really just understood me – not only as an artist, but as a young girl coming into this music industry for the first time.

He worked so hard to get where he is with One Republic and to know that you do build your way up, so it was great to just have these conversations with him and to call him a close friend – it is just amazing.

SR. Were you a bit nervous considering he has worked with such big names such as Beyonce, and other people who you cite as being your idols?

Yes, off course it did! I was definitely, at times, a bit overwhelmed by the fact that you are going into write with someone like this but once I met him and once I met anybody that I have written with, and I have worked with some incredible people during this process, and I think you get to a point when you are in the studio, where you are in the same environment, where it doesn’t matter who you are – you are all on the same level and all you are bothered about is making sure you are getting the best out of that session and just concentrate on writing the greatest song ever and that is what you aim to do and I guess you both become on the same level.

SR. So what was the biggest thing you learnt working with him?

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Probably that it is ok just to take your time and just to keep going. The biggest thing that I learnt from him was he told me about One Republic and how it did it in stages and once the band were together, and they wrote a song, he would do a performance in his hometown in Denver and than he would travel and he would tour for a bit and than he’d come and watch his crowd in Denver grow by just a couple of hundred and than he would go out again, and come back to see a couple of thousand and than it was hundreds of thousands. He was telling me about the years it would take to grow that and you’ve got to do it organically and in natural and most comfortable way. You can never kind of skip a step or rush into anything and that is exactly how I want to do it. I wanted to really take my time with this and go into it when I felt ready and to grow into it and to keep going, keep writing and take on these amazing opportunities to be able to travel with my music, which is want I am just being able to do right now and it is definitely an incredible place where I am at right now.

SR. You used to write your own music alone but you have started collaborating with other songwriters– do you prefer the collaborative songwriting process better or do you prefer to write on your own?

 It’s hard to say. Some days you just want to be on your own and want to be in your own bubble and I just want it to be me sat at a piano but than other times it is really good to have someone there with you and someone who can draw something else out of you that you never saw that day. Or just having another energy there to bounce off can be such an incredible thing when you are in the studio. Its funny really, I always thought I’d be the person who I would end up writing with 3 or 4 different people and they are the people who I would stick with to write the album with but it happened very differently for me.

I wrote in the UK from March last year and in summer I went over to the States and wrote with Babyface who has written for Mariah Carey, and Salaam Remi who has written on the Back to Black album with Amy Winehouse. These people, I am in absolute awe of and to be sat with them, let alone write for my own record is just incredible and amazing.

I think it was amazing to know that I figured out something about myself which is that I think that writing with so many different people works for me and it kind of made me open up a bit more as a person and help me grow in confidence.

I think when I do write, I write very openly and honestly, so writing has always kind of been my therapy in a way and writing as an open diary and to share that with people was hard at first but than once I got used to it, it was the best thing ever because people would come into t

he studio and have different ideas and I just want to go with it and let people in. I think I have learnt how to let people in now.

 SR. Do you think that Ghost sets the tone for the rest of your album, Chapter One, which comes out later in the year?

I think Ghost definitely sums up the whole album as a whole and it definitely captures that soulful feel. You know, every single one of my songs, I just want them to feel honest and believable and I can’t wait for people to hear more. There is more to come and I can’t wait for people to hear the rest of the album.

SR. So when you released ghost, you had it follow a campaign called Ghost Trail? Can you tell me a bit about that?

1907723_691202950923449_1386599359_oYeah so the Ghost trail kind of came about in the UK, where I chose different cities all over the UK. I wanted to kind of introduce Ghost in a not so obvious way. I wanted to do it where people would start to talk about something but they didn’t know what it was about, they could have thought it was an artist, they could have thought it was anything or anyone. I think because have taken such a while and taken some time out of everything and manage to come back into something and me and my team thought we should do something that is really exciting and that hasn’t really been done before so we tried to create all this artwork and it was kind of like 3D artwork and we had it spread all over brick walls randomly in different cities and it said Ghost on it, and we had it up lamp posts and post boxes.

The idea was that things would keep appearing and than come and go really quickly and you had to be there to capture it, sometimes I’d be there, sometimes I wasn’t, sometimes I would do a pop-up performance.

It kind of represent the title of the single Ghost – it comes and disappears like a ghost does.

It was so cool because I had the remixes of Ghost and it was kind a thing where you could use the app Shazam and could pick a note off the wall, we kind of had them all pinned to the wall and you could take it off and I hand wrote all my lyrics on this piece of paper and you could use the App to zap it and my remix would download to your phone instantly. But nobody would know who it was, it was just kind of this song and a remix of my songs but obviously when Ghost came out, people would identify it and put two and two together. It was kind of to get people on board to the campaign really and to create excitement from fans because I have had such amazing support since the X Factor so it was really fun to get people involved and to involve people who never knew me before and are just getting on board with the whole campaign.

 SR. Such a cool idea – would have been awesome if the ghost trail found itself in Australia. I have been looking at the hashtag and so many cool artworks came up – how important do you think the visual arts is to music?

I think it plays such an important part. I think when it comes to me doing any music videos it is so important for me to something visually to happen to relate to what you are hearing. I think it plays a massive part because I think as well I enjoyed art at college and I loved being creative whether it was music or art and I loved it. I think because I do have such a big interest in it, it means a lot to me. I think with any video that I create as well I always have to imagine it in a certain way and to create it in a way that I always wanted it to be and there is something that people feel like they can engage with and it represent a song, whether it has to be dark or has to be several different emotions.

So tell me about that music video for Ghost which was shot in New Orleans?

1974375_727848513925559_6439650453114449006_oYes, it was shot out in New Orleans and it was such an incredible place to go. It had such scary and spooky places there like spooky motels but at the same time it was nice to go somewhere with such soul heritage there. When we went over I got the chance to explore and I got to become a bit of a tourist, there was literally a musician or performer on each corner and it was amazing to experience that when you are going out there to shoot your very first music video and it was very inspiring. It just felt like this place where it had such an organic and soulful heritage to it and I think that is why it really fitted this song.

SR. Are you surprised at the success that the single has had – it being your first single and all? It’s done so well on the charts and artist such as Tinie Tempah and Sam Smith are tweeting your lyrics.

Yes, to see all that positive support when I have taken so much time out, is amazing to me. It kind of put the confidence back into me, to know that I have made the right decision to take my time and not rush anything. So the support at the moment has just been incredible and to know that places on the different side of the world like Australia are listening, is just incredible. It is really amazing.

And when can we expect you to visit Australia – do you have any plans to come soon?

I do, I will be heading over to you guys in not very long at all. I can’t wait to come over, it will be my first time there.

 Lastly, if you could collaborate with any artist dead or alive who would it be and why?

I would have loved to have met Amy Winehouse. I absolutely adored her voice, her music and her style. I think she had such an interesting style of music and it would have been lovely to have met her.

Ella Henderson’s debut single ‘Ghost’ is out now!

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