Australian singer and songwriter Esmé recently released her single ‘Ella’ which I fell for on first listen. The track was named after one of her biggest inspirations and has Esmé’s golden vocals laid over the top of samples of Ella Fitzgerald, broken hip hop beats and textured electronic synths. Esmé is looking to release her debut EP which is expected at the end of 2019 – looking forward to that a lot!
In the wake of the release of ‘Ella’, we asked Esmé to share her ‘Five Favourites’ – five artists or albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you give ‘Ella’ a listen at the end of this post!
Amy Winehouse – FRANK
I love this album so much and can listen to it over and over again. This album taught me how to use the simple jazz harmonies I knew and write my own lyrics and melodies to them. Amy uses the most beautiful chord progressions like you hear in ‘I Heard Love Is Blind’ and her rendition of ‘No Greater Love’ is just incredible too. I feel like Amy made vocal jazz new again. She is completely honest and raw in her lyrics and storytelling. This album is also characterised by beautiful strings, beat-less guitar dominant in between songs and one thing that I always love in an album is its connectedness. It’s not a series of singles – it’s a body of work, you go on a journey when you listen from start to finish.
Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough
I discovered this artist and album at the most perfect time. I was writing only with a guitarist (Sean Harlor) and we were both influenced by her honest singing/songwriting, yet drenched in soul style. I love this album for the finger picking guitar elements, interesting phrasing and rhythmically entrancing melodies. There is a song on it called ‘Forget’: it really stretches the overall sound of the album to a darker, more aggressive side and it really inspired me to venture outside of my quietness as a musician too. The most amazing thing though is her voice and lyrics. Listening to Lianne makes you feel like you’re in the same room as her, her voice speaks to your soul. I think it means she is so in tune with her voice and the story she is telling.
Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
This album for me is a lesson in groove, performance, using jazz in your own way, feeling your lyrics and owning your sound (voice). I’ve been inspired by Erykah for a very long time, I love her last song on this ‘Green eyes’ – it just grows and grows sonically. Her voice is mesmerising. It sounds like she is giving it her all. I think what you hear, is what you would get live. I always think that about Erykah, it’s like she knows how to transmit her energy from live performance into her recorded work. I think that is a really hard thing to do!
I can’t ever really get over Radiohead – their melodies are actually so beautiful, I love all of their songs and I listened to them a lot when I wrote my second release ‘I wonder’. I think there aren’t many artists that have the same harmonic structure an entire song through but make you feel the shift from verse to chorus so much and so emotionally. I think another artist that does that well is Pharrell Williams… You know, 2 chords or at the most 4, and you’re completely transported when you hit the bridge or chorus. That’s always been amazing to me and Radiohead is a master at it! Their song ‘Creep’ is a stunning example. But I’m not going to list my favourites from them because there’s multiple from each album.
Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass
Ella actually had a really girly sounding voice for a long time, it was still beautiful and entrancing, but it was sort of thinner in resonance and tone. Each album of Ella’s witness her growth as a singer, tonally. Her music with just Joe Pass shows her voice to me in its most beautiful state, full and warm, velvety and husky at the same time. Nowadays we don’t get to witness the journey of an artist as much – we are presented with polished things in every medium. Listening to Ella with Joe Pass, or Gershwin, reminds me of the journey you take to really be good, to develop and grow and eventually sit down with just a guitar and not need anything else. Ella has helped me embrace the journey of my voice as a woman and appreciate each stage.