Ellie Gowers is currently touring her debut album, Dwelling by the Weir, a stunning collection of songs rooted in her native Warwickshire. Ellie will be sharing these songs with us live online on 30th November, and we caught up with her ahead of the gig to find out more!
Hi, Ellie! We’re so excited to have you back with us again. It looks like you’ve had a busy year – what have you been up to?
Thank you for having me back! I really enjoyed the LTYLR show last year. It’s always a bonus when you don’t have to drive anywhere and you can sit in your own home in your comfies!
Things have been fairly busy, yes. The year got off to a fun start when I composed music for a BBC Radio 3 version of George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’, and then a tour with Blair Dunlop shortly followed this in March. It was then a very busy summer full of lots of gorgeous festivals, which was bookended by an album preview tour in May and, just recently, my debut album launch tour over November.
I can’t quite believe where the year has gone, since the album was only recorded back in January and here we are, nearly a year later, with it released into the world. Very surreal. Behind the scenes, I’ve also been working with Warwick Arts Centre as their Artist in Residence, which has already been a really exciting adventure. We’ve been running songwriting workshops with the Warwick Uni students and we’ll be continuing our work into next year with lots of projects in the pipeline.
We absolutely love Dwelling By The Weir. It’s an album that’s really rooted in where you’re from, isn’t it? Tell us more about that.
Yes! It’s an album of stories about Warwickshire people. Warwick is my home town, and I was there over the course of lockdown; spending my daily outings exploring the towns and villages. I ventured down footpaths that I had forgotten about, as well as discovering new ones, and learned so much about the place that I had grown up in.
My original concept for the album was Warwickshire folklore and mythology, but that had all been written about already. I wanted to source my own stories and find new material to write about, so this record doesn’t include stories of great heroes, mythological creatures, or fierce warriors. Instead, there are stories about the overlooked common folk – the important, but ordinary, people who really made the county and my home the place that it is today.
The nice thing about taking these songs around the country is that, regardless of the fact each song is rooted in Warwickshire soil, audience members have told me stories of their home towns that have parallels to mine. There’s also always one who has either grown up in Warwickshire, lived there, worked there and so on, and it’s been amazing to connect with people that way.
There’s quite a broad range of songs on the album – how did you go about choosing them?
With great difficulty! The first step I took with this project was ordering lots of books on Warwickshire history, which very quickly became overwhelming as there was so much to choose from. It was at that point that I realised I wanted to collect my own material. Something I didn’t realise at the time of writing was that I would end up with lots of songs about women on the record. I, very naturally of course, gravitated towards their stories and always felt the utmost importance in protecting and sharing their stories. Although I say I chose them with great difficulty, in the end it was actually quite easy, as I chose the songs I loved the most and felt most connected to. It’s also worth noting that I’m still finding new stories to write about, so I feel like this project could expand over time.
As well as being busy working on the album, you’ve also been performing with Filkin’s Ensemble this year, which looks incredible! How did that come about, and what’s the plan for the band going forward?
Filkin’s Ensemble is this mental 14-piece folk ensemble that I’m part of, and it’s so much fun. I feel as though I can let loose a little bit more on stage, as I’m surrounded by so many incredible and sparkly humans. It came about over lockdown, when I did an online collaboration with Seth and Chris from Filkin’s Drift (the duo!) and we sung a version of ‘The Two Sisters’. I later got a message from Seth, asking if I wanted to be part of a live recording for Arthur McBride. This was in September 2020 when you were allowed up to 15 people in your garden, so we had 13 musicians, a videographer, and a sound engineer.
There was such an amazing response to that video, that we decided to do another video (John Barleycorn) and then followed that with our first gig at Gate to Southwell Festival this year. We all had the most elating time and felt so proud and excited with what we had achieved. Just getting 14 people in a rehearsal room is an achievement enough. I can’t say much now, but there are certainly plans going forward…very, very exciting plans…
You’ve also been getting into morris dancing! Tell us more about that.
Haha. Now I’ve really been found out. I dance with a North-West side called Chinewrde, who I love dearly. I joined back in 2019 but, due to Covid, have only just had my first real summer out with them and it’s been a blast. We danced at Whitby, Warwick, and even became the first women’s side to push and dance out at Saddleworth Morris’ Rushcart event. That was something for the history books. I find that being a musician can often be a really isolating job, as you spent a lot of time by yourself writing or touring, so to be a part of a women’s morris side where you can share that experience with a large group of incredible women is a great escape from that solitude. With it comes a social side full of good beer, dancing, music and lots of good people. I never thought of myself a dancer, hated it, but here we are!
It’s been fantastic to see all the great stuff you’ve achieved this year. So, what’s in store for you in 2023?
There have already been some lovely gigs and festivals booked in, and knowing that this tour is coming to a close is making me restless already! But in all honesty, I’m really looking forward to having some down-time in January and February to hide away, write, and start work on the next thing…
To find out more about Ellie’s work, check out Dwelling by the Weir on Bandcamp and all the lovely videos over on YouTube. Ellie will playing for us on Wednesday 30th November, and tickets are available here.