Just when you thought folksinger/songwriter Ellis couldn’t do anything more to delight her listeners, she releases “Right On Time” (Rubberneck). The title cut contains the perfect message for welcoming her newborn daughter into the world, and it shows that Ellis has a depth beyond her years. This is a CD that celebrates love of all kinds.
Gregg Shapiro: How have you evolved as a songwriter and performer in the 15 years since the release of “Soft Day”?
Ellis: Gosh, it’s a great question. I think I’ve just grown up in many respects. I don’t know if I’m quite grown-up yet (laughs). When you first start writing songs, it sort of seems more personal in some ways – or maybe less clear. … Some of the things I’m singing and writing about are broader and less about my personal life, although as I’m saying that my songs are personal too.
“Right On Time” is also the title of the opening track. What made you want to give it such prominence?
This idea of being “on time” is a concept that I’ve been really wanting to remind myself about and embrace. For all of us, I think there’s this strong push towards the future. We’re really encouraged to see our lives now as being preparation for the future. … It’s really important to plan and prepare and all that, but at the same time as much as we plan, we really have no idea what the future holds. …
This moment is exactly where we’re supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be anywhere else. And everything prepares you for that next thing. I just think there’s so much value and happiness … in being right here, in this moment, being here for what life has right now, and I think that’s the best preparation for the future. It’s like the more I can be in my life now, the better off I’m going to be in the future.
I really like the song “Comes Back To Me.” I like the way it plays on the concept of having a short memory. Is that true of you?
Maybe because I jump from thing to thing a little bit in my mind, I tend to forget things a lot. Like the details of regular life tend to escape me. Sometimes I’ll have to leave my house like two or three times in order to get everything I need. And I always make the joke that I should probably just leave the door unlocked (laughs) because I’m going to come back for something. And throughout life it feels like the same thing happens to me in different situations, whether I’m having a conversation with someone and I’m trying to remember the title of a book that I’m talking about or referencing, or the name of a band that I’m trying to think of.
How does that come into play when you’re performing?
Oh my gosh, it’s amazing that I can remember my songs. And sometimes I don’t (laughs). But often I do. But those moments when I don’t, I have a lot of practice so it’s not an emergency – it all works out (laughs). I’ve had to come to some sort of peace with that personality trait of mine – or I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or just an ability thing. But whatever it is, I used to be kind of frustrated with myself about that, really feeling like I should be able to remember certain details when I need them.
As we speak, you are sitting in a coffee house and I would think that a person who writes and performs a tune such as “Coffee Song” must be fairly serious about her beans.
I love coffee so much. I grew up with it as a beverage that we always took time out for. It sort of was the beverage to gather around – any serious conversation, any break, if it wasn’t iced tea it was coffee.
Is that a caffeinated laugh in the song?
(Laughs) Probably so, because we actually did do a few coffee runs a day during the making of the record. It provides some of the energy anyway.
Have you already begun work on your next CD?
I’m always working on new songs and thinking about what to write about. I think the next project will probably be a live CD that incorporates some of the stories that I tell as well as some live performances. But definitely I have a handful of new songs that I feel like I can’t wait to record in the studio.
Ellis' new album is Right On Time (2011)