Ella Hooper has dropped new single and video WORDS LIKE THESE, a further taste of her forthcoming new album, SMALL TOWN TEMPLE, released on January 20.
WORDS LIKE THESE takes it musical cues from Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt. Rhythmic and playful, Ella turns the wattage up and revels more colours and textures in her music and songwriting, a further taste of what is to come from the album.
The colourful, upbeat video was directed by Mickey Manson, a photographer, visual artist and director from Victor Harbor in South Australia. SA. His unique handmade style makes the most of Ella’s down to earth performance, showing her sillier side and documenting a rambunctious spring day spent in both Castlemaine and Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens.
“Talk is pretty, but it don’t give me all I hunger for”
Ella explains, “Words Like These celebrates but also pokes fun at my lifelong obsession with language, poetry and communication, the world of words. A high-level communicator by day, sometimes in love and woo-ing is where the writer gets stuck, mixed messages, misunderstandings, promises are made and broken!”
This is also the first reveal of the stunning backing vocals that feature throughout the record, performed by celebrated stalwart of the Australian blues scenes – JoJo Smith and Ella’s own mother, Helen Keighery, who both possess rich honeyed vocal tones that warmly underpin Hooper’s delivery.
Ella was still a teenager when she burst onto the Australian music scene fronting Killing Heidi. It’s worth recapping Killing Heidi’s remarkable success. They scored their first number one single, Mascara, on Ella’s 17th birthday and at 18, she became the first woman to be awarded APRA’s Songwriter of the Year. Their debut album, Reflector, was one of the fastest-selling Australian albums of all time, spending six weeks at number one, going five times platinum, and winning four ARIA Awards, including Album of the Year.
“For a long time, I felt awkward about my success, that I had to apologise for it,” Ella reveals. “Becoming a bit of an overnight success with Killing Heidi really presented its challenges. I’ve had a complicated relationship with my career, but I don’t feel hamstrung by that anymore.”
After releasing three hit albums with Killing Heidi, Ella embarked on a solo career. Her forthcoming album, Small Town Temple – written in her hometown of Violet Town – has been hailed as a new beginning, showcasing Ella’s deeply personal songwriting.
“Violet Town has always been my inspiration,” she says, and sings: “It’s there I feel the magic.”
And so Small Town Temple, is a love letter to her hometown – “just a humble little mystery that keeps me going and coming on back” – as well as her family and friends.
Ella wrote the songs at her mum’s home, “a little church on the outskirts of town” – the Small Town Temple, “a place where all feel welcome”.
Ella’s mum, Helen, sings the album’s Intro, while her dad, Jeremy, closes the record, playing the alto recorder outro on Long Gully Road.
It was the first time that Ella had featured her mum and dad on one of her records, and she dedicates the album to Violet Town and her parents, “for all they taught me with their lives and their love of music”.
“They are the reason I make music and why I am who I am,” Ella explains.
But, as the classic song noted, true love travels on a gravel road. The Small Town Temple story took a tragic turn (when?), with the passing of Ella’s parents. Jeremy died suddenly after an unexpected cancer diagnosis, and Helen died of cancer two weeks later.
“I had no idea when I started making this album how things would turn out,” Ella says. “It’s been a very strange time, to say the least. But I’m so grateful that something told me to include mum and dad. It seems so appropriate that they open and close the album.”
These are not songs of mourning, but Small Town Temple is a deeply personal exploration of family, friendship, community and childhood memories. “Didn’t come from nothing,” Ella sings, accompanied by brother Jesse on acoustic guitar, “but I didn’t come from much. We had what we needed – the basics and stuff.”
After a multitude of gold and platinum records and four ARIA Awards, Ella remains committed to her craft. As she sings on Small Town Temple: “Still strong, still on a mission.”