Savoy speaks with Elizabeth Fraser about his influences, a few of his songs, and what he has in store for 2016
Our Introducing… series digs out new, undiscovered musical talents that deserve to be heard, delivering them directly into your ears. This round, we speak with singer/songwriter Savoy Ellis about his new debut project Love Hard, soul music, family, inspirations, and the resurgence of soul.
Name: Savoy Ellis
Hailing From: Los Angeles, CA
You have referred to yourself as an ‘old soul music junkie’ which reflects in your voice and style, but who are your musical obsessions, inspirations and idols?
There’s so many… I’m pretty much obsessed with anything from the 1920’s through the mid 80’s. The whole Motown sound and that soul era. Stevie, Marvin, Donny Hathaway, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Isaac Hayes. I can go on and on. Gospel music. 60s/70s rock. Quincy Jones…Quincy Jones is a huge influence in my life, to me he is music. Jazz music, abstract music and sounds. Fusion music. Just that real music that was played. The innovations, taking the music to the next level. Random artist that never made it large, but their music was transcendent. There are so many people who have inspired me.
What was the first record you ever listened to?
I don’t even remember…probably something gospel. My dad sang and my house was full of music since as far back as I could remember. The first song I remember that I really was obsessed with the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. I don’t know why I loved it so much (laughs), but I remember I came home one day and told my mom I wanted to sing her a song and that was what I sang. I was about 5 years old. That’s a vivid memory.
You say you come from a musical family, being brought up around musicians from a young age. How do you feel this affected your musical tastes?
I feel like growing up around so much music just programmed music to always be on my mind. My dad loved funk, soul, and gospel. Lots of James Brown, lots of the Winans, lots of Isaac Hayes and the Spinners. I feel like that pulse, that rhythm in the music affected my musical taste because I believe the music gotta be a lil ugly. I gotta turn my nose up to it.
What made you take the leap from writing for other artists to writing for yourself and going solo?
It was always the plan to go solo at some point. I like writing for other people because there are certain ideas I have that I know I couldn’t do justice to. I wouldn’t make it sound right. So working with other artist gave me an opportunity to get some of those ideas out there. At a certain point though, it was time to share the ideas I had that I felt only I could really push out there.
You have collaborated with artists such as rapper K12 on your new single Everything and also Arkaydion on What She Wants, do you have any other artists you wish to work with or that are currently in the pipeline?
Right now I don’t have any future collaborations lined up, I really want to focus on getting myself out there. In the future I definitely will continue to work with K12 and Arkaydion. As far as artist I would like to work with, I’d love to work with Janelle Monae, Kendrick Lamar, Raphael Saadiq, Cory Henry, and of course…Quincy Jones (laughs).
Are you trying to start a revival and bring back the soul in music?
I definitely want to be part of a movement that pushes soul music and that feeling back into the mainstream. There is a lot of good music bubbling under the surface. The artists making it unfortunately just haven’t got the chance to get it in front of a large mainstream audience.
Currently you’re working on new material for your debut album, what can we expect to hear you sing about or is that top secret?
Love…I’m all about love. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And I have a lot of stories I want to tell pertaining to love. So that’s what you can expect from me content wise. Musically, I’m playing with some different ideas, some different sounds and cadences. Just trying to push the genre.
Your music seems to fuse old skool 90’s RnB with the vocals of old soul singers from the 60’s and 70’s. Do you feel this?
Well I’m definitely the sum of my musical parts. The 60’s, 70’s all through the 90’s, you are definitely going to get a little bit of it all because I always want to take a lit bit of everything I’ve heard and enjoyed and try to give it back in a different want. That to me is what it means to be an artist.
Your cover for Calvin Harris’ How Deep Is Your Love is transformed into a more minimal, slowed down version with raw, stripped back vocals, carried by a thoughtful, soulful voice. Do you feel personally that singing soul music is therapeutic?
Absolutely. For me, music is cathartic. I feel like God gave us music so that we could express ourselves and tell stories in an amazing way. I can take whatever I experienced that day, the month, that year that I’m holding on to and put it in a note, in a word. For that song in particular, I felt like the lyrics were so moving and relatable. As soon as I heard it, I went home and grabbed my mic because I had to put my spin on it.
What She Wants with Arkaydion is an intricate weave of your own soulful harmonies fused with Arkaydion’s flawless rap backed up by a feel good beat with an Outkast feel behind it. How fun was it working with Arkaydion on this track and did you learn anything from the experience?
Arkaydion is my guy. He’s just brilliant. I see music, like I can feel it in my blood and see it in color. But he can do that and that move and add pieces that you weren’t expecting. He’s got like an unlimited supply of melodies in his head (laughs). Working with him is always fun because we are gonna laugh, we are gonna joke, and at the same time, he is going to pull the best out of you. He knows what he wants when he puts a song together and he is able to get it across in a way that always resonates.
Where can we find you and any new music releases?
Savoyellis.com is my central hub for all things Savoy. I also have partnered with Mobile First Entertainment to release a “Savoy Ellis” app on the itunes and google stores very soon.
What are your plans for the coming year? Any new shows or tours on the agenda?
My plans for this year are to release a series of songs and then hit the summer circuit and perform heavily. I don’t know if I will be on a tour yet, but we will see what the future holds. Either way, people are going to get real familiar with me this year.