Artist Spotlight by: Alex Addiego
Bursting with a dynamic, uninhibited set of pipes mature beyond their years and an incredible gift for songwriting to match, Elli Ingram is a natural artist. From a viral YouTube cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” to her Sober EP (all worth the full listen), Elli has consistently stood out against an overcrowded backdrop of young musicians, thus far culminating in her overwhelmingly convincing second EP, The Doghouse, which dropped this past March. Her latest release – a fresh, soulful mix of old-school hip-hop and R&B vibes with an Amy Winehouse flair – is the perfect setting to get to know her. Five tracks are all she needs to breathe her life into you with an easy temperament, standing tall with her impressive musical record as a triumph of self-expression and a proper introduction to her music.
The Doghouse opens wide with Elli’s strongest offering, “When It Was Dark.” A confident, easygoing reflection on loneliness and uncertainty reminiscent of her resilient disposition, “When It Was Dark” reveals a lost young girl troubled by conflicts and inconsistencies in her self-perception. Elli knows that she moves through the dark between her best moments, and seeks the elusive feeling of certainty in difficult times. At the age of just 20, she is only beginning to realize the extent of this ambiguity, yet she copes with it gracefully through the vulnerability of her songwriting. As she is honest with us, we know she is honest with herself, which allows us a peek at how fast she has grown both personally and musically. Her musical maturity reflects her transparent self-exploration and is evident in this timeless track. “When It Was Dark” is an effortless exhibition of fluid songwriting and vocal talent immediately striking the listener as new and unique, yet refreshingly familiar.
As if her inward inquisivity allowed her to move forward and seek out an identity, Elli naturally transitions from questioning herself to becoming overwhelmed with attachment in her second piece, “All Caught Up.” In her own words, songwriting is the only way in which she feels comfortable fully expressing her emotions, and her genuine lyricism is clear in this concise reflection on lust. “All Caught Up” offers a spirited description of being overtaken by the love and appreciation craved in times where our apparent self-assuredness may only be a thin disguise. As Elli explores how easy it is to get too caught up with someone that makes you feel valued, we see her growing strong and independent through hindsight, which lays the foundation for the attractive attitude that defines this EP.
Relaxing her inward gaze, Elli’s third and fourth tracks are more of a free exploration of her own style and an experiment in attitude than anything else. The self-assuredness she’s been seeking is found in “C’Dawha” and “Gangsta Blues,” and you can tell she is at her best by the way she pours herself unapologetically into these laid-back rhythms, which look at how she views herself in the context of others and how she aims to be perceived. Her style and instrumentals thread together like her own DNA, and it’s clear that she and her tight-knit group of Brighton, U.K. producers were all on the same page regarding the vibe they intended to express throughout the creation of this EP.
With her fifth and final track, we see a more mature version of Elli in the jazzy, warm confession that is “The River.” Here we witness a girl whose gentle narration hints at a heightened understanding and acceptance of herself that could have only come through experience. A steadier, more composed take on the sentiments expressed in “All Caught Up,” “The River” lets us down softly to finish the EP with a tender, simple piece accompanied by another warmly toned instrumental arrangement which exhibits the intriguing breadth of her songwriting.
The Doghouse, named after the studio in which she spent most of her time recording and the family she built while she was there, is a highly personal account and an impressive step forward personally and artistically for the young and talented Elli Ingram. Her honest music is so powerful because it makes so much sense, and the feelings she inspires allow the listener to melt into her intimate experiences as if they were their own. Since her earliest days spent uploading acoustic covers to YouTube, Elli has put her heart into everything she’s created, and has continued to make incredible progress as a songwriter and individual. It is my sincere pleasure to make her recommendation, and it will be yours to take it.