We jumped on Zoom with Linnea Siggelkow, better known as singer-songwriter Ellis, and discussed how emotions relate to the songwriting process, astrology, and fond memories!
Your bio on your label touches on some of your experiences with anxiety, if you are comfortable sharing, how do you approach your songs in the vulnerable way that you do?
I think it’s a way of processing things, and it’s cathartic and it feels good to make something out of a negative feeling. I guess a thing about me is I’ve never had a lot of trouble being vulnerable. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I can’t help it, I’m a Pisces. I’m drawn most to music that is emotional or feelings based. It’s what attracts me to certain songs, that vulnerability and human experience, I think. My instinct is of course I want to write songs about my music. It’s the kind of music I choose to listen to, and what I also make.
April marks one year since “Born Again” was released, how do you see these songs a year out? Has your perspective on them changed?
The weirdest part is, I’ve never performed them. I was planning to tour and perform them, but obviously that wasn’t able to happen. So, I’ve never played them. I feel very disconnected to them now, because I haven’t had that experience of being able to share them or give them new life. They exist in this really insular way. Especially coming on a year of the pandemic or whatever, there’s a lot of old feelings coming up of where we all were this time last year. It reminds me of that time last year, and I feel very far away from them now, and I’m just trying to move forward out of this stage of my music process, I guess, and imagine what my future looks like, because I hope it looks better than it’s been looking.
You released a small compilation of covers last summer, including “Lover” by Taylor Swift. Was there a specific reason or connection behind these songs that made you gravitate towards covering them?
In a funny way, I did a Taylor Swift song, a Dinosaur Jr. song, and a Used song. Those three artists encapsulate the sound of my music. There’s something about each of those artists than inspires me or has influenced me at some point in my life. It felt so random, but also so perfect to do those three songs. I guess I wasn’t feeling super creative or super inspired. I wasn’t looking forward to writing or releasing music again, and it was this way of connecting to music again that felt less personal but still represented me in some way.
What is a memory that you fondly look back on?
In this past year, because of the way things are, I’m looking back on playing live shows and remembering how good that felt. I’ve been clinging to those memories, 2019 was a bigger touring year, and just thinking about traveling and playing those shows. This one show in Denver, I had never been to Denver before. I was opening for Mannequin Pussy and there was a bunch of kids in the front row singing along to all of my songs. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life, it was the first time something like that had happened to me.
You recently dropped a few remixes of your song “Saturn Return,” and some of your merch designs reflect astrology themes. 1) What is your sign and 2) Do you feel personally inspired/connected to astrology?
I sort of have one foot in, one foot out, because there’s something that’s very generic about it, but the more I learn about it, the more I’m like, “This has to be science!” I love psychology, personality-type kind of stuff. Mine always relate to my astrology chart stuff, like my Myers-Briggs or whatever. It all really resonates with me. I love astrology. Anything that nudges you toward being introspective and thinking, “Why am I this way?” is good. If it’s real, not real, it doesn’t matter. If you learn about yourself, it’s great, why not?
What are some of your non-musical influences, like books or movies that really inspire you?
I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’m not really good at reading. Not that I am not able to read, but my attention span is so, so short. I romanticize the idea of being a reader. In my head, I’m like, “I love reading!” but when it comes down to actually reading a book, I just watch TV. I ended up reading a book that I really, really loved. It was called A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, it resonated with me so much. I grew up in the prairies, you’re in the Midwest, you know the deal. It’s about a girl in a more Mennonite community in the prairies, but she’s very like, quirky. It’s a coming-of-age story, and she’s figuring out what she believes. It resonates with me because I grew up religious in the prairies.
I was reading the book when I wrote some of the songs that were on the record, so that’s one that comes to mind. For TV, I love reality TV. I don’t think it inspires me, it allows me to turn my brain off so I can survive. I love Love Island, I love all the dating ones like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Love is Blind, whatever can help me just think nothing.
What are your upcoming plans?
I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be talking about this, but I’m recording songs right now. I’m just very excited to have something new to focus energy on, that feels kind of like a fresh page in this new year.
I think it was really hard for me to get in a writing mood. Some artists are like, in quarantine like “Ugh, I have all this time to be creative?” and I didn’t feel like that. I felt existential and not inspired at all. But weirdly, I started collaborating a bit more, with songwriting and with music, with a couple people I’ve known but we never worked together. That really got the ball rolling.
In this year, it’s been very isolating. I switched my songwriting process from something that was very isolated to something that’s a bit more open. I’m a bit more protective of my songs, and they are so personal that I’m like, I don’t want to show anybody until they’re totally done. But I’m opening myself up to other ways of writing. I collaborated on some of these songs, and it opened up a new world for me. I’m more proud of this little collection right now than I am of anything I’ve ever made.