The biggest compliment any musician can give me, is to come back for another session. Truly. So, when Robert Ellis reached out to record a third session, it was a good day at The Influences’ home office. His latest record Yesterday’s News had been on repeat since its release (I actually think Willie Nelson should record a version of the title track, do it Willie!), much like his earlier records. On October 10th 2023, we reconvened at EKKO in Utrecht and filmed four songs: traditional folk song Arthur McBride, Bob Thiele and George David Weiss’ What A Wonderful World and his own On The Run and Better Tomorrow.
You never know what to expect.
Whenever there’s a new Robert Ellis album on its way, you never can be quite sure what to expect. There are many sides to his art, and whatever he’s feeling at that moment, is bound to steer the sound of the next album. For a lot of people, Ellis’ latest album Yesterday’s News – a relatively minimalistic guitar and lyrics-driven folk album – will have been quite a surprise after his piano-based extroverted Texas Piano Man.
Robert Ellis: “I just didn’t want to pick this album apart.”
“Every record is a bit of a change,” Ellis agrees. “But Yesterday’s News is definitely, instrumentation-wise and production-wise, very stripped down. I think the lyrical part is slightly different in some ways that are maybe only really apparent to me but are meaningful to me. I mean, I think the lyrics are a little less focused than they have to be. They’re more stream of consciousness. It’s hard to articulate, but I just didn’t want to pick this album apart. It’s just all very natural feeling, you know?”
There are at least four songs that are over five minutes on the record. “They’re all quite long and have a lot of lyrics. A lot of them don’t have a real chorus. You know, they’re just not really made for the purpose of commercial enjoyment.”
One of those songs is On The Run, which Robert Ellis performed in this session, seated on the waterfront outside of EKKO. A lot happens in those four and a half minutes: bicycles rattling around, a coot comes by to check Ellis out, sirens ring out and some idiot starts cutting tiles – and throwing pieces in the water. And of course, the best part: Ellis plays his beautiful song.
“There’s not a lot going on.”
It took Ellis two days to record Yesterday’s News. “I’d say two days in total. We did it all live. Aden Bubeck came in, who’s a killer upright player. I showed him the tunes, and we charted everything out. And then we just did it all live and tracked it straight to tape. Not a lot of tricks.”
Afterwards, he only added some minor percussion. “There’s just a handful of little moments throughout the record where something happens. Yeah. But, other than that, no overdubs. There’s, like, bells and shit. You know what I mean? There’s some dings that happen throughout the record. But there’s not a lot going on. So, when I hear something like that, the ding of a bell – because there’s so little happening, there’s so little information – it increases the importance of any given thing.”
Robert Ellis is not on the run, but he is touring
Robert Ellis is out on tour, right now and through February. Catch him live if you’re in the USA and anywhere nearby. Find all the dates on his website.
Arthur McBride (traditional song)
Arthur McBride is a traditional folk song. The best known versions are by Paul Brady and Bob Dylan. Recently Rufus Wainwright also released a version.
There is no better way to discover music than watching great musicians cover the songs they love. The Influences has been producing these videos ever since 2008.Read more.
Thank you for watching and enjoying this session. You’ll probably like some other sessions from The Influences’ archive too, like these earlier ones by Robert Ellis.
In June of this year, Robert Ellis released his latest, self-titled record on New West Records and I found myself listening to it over and over. The singer from Texas has been rather prolific, releasing four solo records in seven years.
I have so many fond memories of the first session Robert Ellis recorded for The Influences years ago, I jumped at the change to do it again. In the fall of 2019, Ellis and guitarist Kelly Doyle joined me in Job Roggeveen’s living room in Utrecht and recorded impromptu covers of Joni Mitchell and Gene…