It’s the eve before the release of Ego Ella May’s debut LP “Honey For Wounds”; when the soft-spoken Neo-soul wonderkid picks up the call, I’m immediately confronted with the nervous anticipation in her voice – she’s in Berlin, working on something special. “It’s a bit of a secret,” she chuckles knowingly, “but all will be revealed in due time.”
It seems timing is a concept the South-London native approaches with much scrutiny, as she goes on to explain how her plans for the release of her debut had to be cautiously re-visited, due to the current global and socio-political landscape we’ve all been reckoning with for the most- part of 2020. “I think it’s been a difficult time for everyone”, May says of the collective anxiety the COVID-19 pandemic has left us all grappling with in its wake. “In terms of the plans for the album, we’ve had to change the release date a few times, there’s just been so much uncertainty within the music industry that I felt conflicted about whether I was even in the right space to release new music”.
We conclude this line of thought with May detailing how she’s found resolve in understanding that music has always been a space for refuge, stating “In the midst of all this, I realised how much music has actually been needed in order to calm people and make them feel good”.
Thus, the tone is set for the conversation that ensues, as May invites us all to unpack the recording process with her, detailing how the making of this body of work ultimately healed her, and further expressing her hopes that it may do the same for others. As it turns out, the rising songstress’ timing couldn’t have been more brilliantly designed, as she poeticises her inner-most thoughts to the tune of calming Neo-soul, and innovative jazz over the ten tracks that complete this triumphant body of work. Join us below as we break down “Honey For Wounds” together, delving deeper into May’s many experimentations with channeling emotion, harnessing relatability and arriving at an end product that can only be described as blissful music therapy.
TAHIRAH THOMAS: We’re less than six hours away from the release of your debut! How are you feeling right now?
EGO ELLA: I feel a little scared, but also excited. I think I’m feeling the pressure simply because I’ve been holding on to it for so long and I’m ready for it to come out now. If anything, it’s the anticipation that’s playing on my mind and wracking my nerves a little.
TT: The last few months have been pretty disconcerting for us all. How has the lead up to the release been for you? I’m wondering if you feel like what’s been going on has had an impact on your work in anyway?
EE: Oh absolutely! It goes back to what I was saying before about it being a difficult time for us all, I feel like the internal-conflict has affected me more than anything. I work in an industry that’s been suffering greatly from what’s going on as everything’s been cancelled for the rest of the year. Regardless of this, I know how important musical catharsis is to me and must be to others! After all, throughout this time I’ve been super eager to hear what my peers have been working on. I know there are people out there who are still looking forward to me releasing despite us all being in a perpetual state of confusion, so I wanted to give it to those people now, rather than later.
TT: Can you tell us how you came up with the record’s name? I guess it hints at the music having been conceptualized around healing?
EE: Well, the whole creative process behind writing the album was very healing for me. When I decided upon the title, I was hoping to convey that the intention behind the release was to soothe people in the same way making it did for me. I think the use of the word honey was particularly important, being that it’s a sweet and soothing substance with multifaceted medicinal properties. During the recording process, I had this vivid recurring image of applying natural manuka honey to my wounds always in mind, so I became intent on translating this feeling for the listener. I think the record has always been named “Honey For Wounds” in my mind, it just made the most sense!
TT: You’ve always been an artist that is quite vocal when it comes to issues surrounding mental health and well-being – I’d imagine the album goes into some depth about these respective topics. Did you learn anything new about yourself during the recording process?
EE: It’s all quite personal – it really felt like a diary to me throughout the writing process. It also became increasingly apparent to me, once I started sharing the music, that relatability is an important part of its delivery. I’ll give the example of my most recent single “Give A Little”, it was coincidentally released around the time of George Floyd’s death, and in the track, I’m singing about how “something’s got to give”, I’m addressing how I’m so fed up of the sh*t we have to face as black creatives in today’s society; the images we see and the horror stories we’re constantly privy to. Although I’d written those lyrics a while back, I felt like the release was perfectly timed. I want people to wake up to the fact that we’re all so similar in our feelings – whether that’s frustration, happiness or loneliness. It’s become apparent to me that there’s so much humanity in all of us and if we share that universal knowledge, we can help each other to become better.
TT: You also have a knack for highlighting, – as well as brilliantly poeticizing – modern contemporary issues within your lyricism. Is there any one message you feel is paramount that people take away from this body of work?
EE: I think back to when I wrote the lead single “Girls Don’t Always Sing About Boys”. I remember I’d been reading a lot about current affairs and what was going on in the world and I feel like my thought patterns became – resolvedly – quite sporadic. I was thinking about homelessness, whilst simultaneously thinking about mental health, same-sex relationships, the injustices surrounding the Grenfell tragedy – the list goes on. It became apparent to me that I needed to find a way to bank those sub-conscious, fleeting thoughts that we don’t ever find the time to re-visit and unpack. So, naturally I started incorporating them into my lyrics. They always do tend to reflect the times by default, but at the same time they’re all intrinsically personal.
Around that time, I also started thinking about how when I listened to the radio, I didn’t hear these topics ever being discussed through music, and I found myself often questioning why that was? Ultimately, I want people to take away from my music that we all go through the same things, that often we’re not alone in our thoughts or in the questions we have. I want people to know that being brave enough to speak your truth is the catalyst for us all healing and growing together. We’re all human and naturally some will care more about social issues than others, but I want people to feel inspired to learn more about these issues. I want people to be soothed and to know that they’re not alone – like, here’s a manual for feeling, if you are ever in need of one!
TT: Is there an ideal setting for listening to “Honey For Wounds”?
EE: Wow, that’s a good question! If you’re indoors, I’d say the perfect setting would be the couch cuddled up in a comfy blanket, sipping a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset through the window. If you’re out in nature, I’d say the perfect place to listen would be on the beach, watching the sun set beyond the horizon.
TT: Lastly, what do you think the rest of 2020 has in store for you, post-release?
EE: I had quite an intimate show scheduled back in May – unfortunately that’s been postponed and may even have to be cancelled; at present I don’t really know if we’ll be able to do it. I’m hoping for the opportunity to get back on stage sometime in October! If we’re not able to do that show, I’m sure I’ll get crafty and see if I can put together some virtual home gigs in the meantime. I’m just planning to go with the flow and see what the rest of the year brings – that way anything’s possible!
Heal yourself with Ego Ella May’s triumphant debut “Honey For Wounds” below: