How group of strangers, from students to mums, professional singers to buskers, banded together to make a record
Thanks to the backing of HotBox Entertainment, input from female singers across Northern Ireland, and many hours spent in the recording studio, Katie has produced a new mix-tape called Ellas.
“I moved to Belfast in 2016 and I went straight into Ulster University to study law, but I very soon realised that that’s not what I wanted to do as a career,” she explains.
“And even while I was in university, I was always very into art and visual things, so I started doing visual projects for musicians like photos, music videos and stuff like that.
“In 2019, I started DJing and making my own original music. Throughout all that time, I was working with HotBox, at first it was as a videographer, and I was doing admin and contracts, and now I’m a director of their community interest company, which is called Yes U Can (YUC).”
Cover of Ellas
YUC aims to show young people in Northern Ireland that they can achieve their creative aspirations without having to move to another country in search of better opportunities.
A chance conversation between Katie and HotBox’s managing director, James Ayo, sparked the idea for Ellas.
“Music has always been a very big part of my life, but it was also something that I always saw as quite male-dominated,” Katie explains. “I always had the idea to create a space for women to make music together, but I didn’t really have the means to do it for a very long time.
“And like I said, I was working very closely with HotBox for quite a while, and I had a conversation with James who runs HotBox, and he was saying that the studio could and should support more female initiatives.
“It was a random conversation and there was very little planning and I just kind of ran with it. I started looking for local musicians, on social media mostly.”
Musicians who worked on Ellas
Initially hoping for 10 participants, Katie was delighted at the level of interest expressed. She expanded the initiative to include 16 women who then came together to write and record songs in the Ravenhill Road studio, incorporating a range of musical styles.
“It’s a lovely, lovely group of girls, everyone is completely different,” she says.
“We have everything from professional musicians… some people are buskers who’ve never been in a studio before; some people just do it as a hobby. We have students, mums, and it’s actually really impressive that we’ve all gelled so well. As far as ages go, we have everything from 19 to in their 40s, and the genres as well are a mixed bag.
“We do have girls that have never done any originals before: they just had an amazing voice, so they were able to find their sound. And we have others who had a very set, pre-existing sound like hyperpop, R&B, rock, and we just kind of all came together.”
Despite the hard work involved in creating Ellas, the end result has paid off Katie assures. “It’s all been worth it to see how happy everyone is to be involved and just watching the girls light up with ideas and putting it all into a song,” she says. “It was just a really beautiful process and I think it affected a lot of the girls in very positive ways that are very personal to them — like confidence, and having other women that they can relate to and speak to.”
Some of the local musicians involved in making Ellas
Some of the local mothers involved told Katie that it was the one time in the week when they had me-time.
“I just think it’s been a very positive experience and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I’m very proud of it,” she says. “I think it was amazing to just be a part of that.
“But obviously, my hope is that it is heard by people, that people can discover these wonderful, wonderful singers, and that we can do many more in the future and involve preferably all female musicians in Ireland and Northern Ireland if we can.”
Ellas features 11 songs and at the time of going to print, three tracks had been released: Lemonade & Whiskey, Be Honest, and Wanna Dance. “We’re slowly releasing the mix-tape but there will come a time where the rest of them will just come out in bulk and it’ll all be available together,” Katie adds.
Ellas tracks are free to listen to on streaming platforms such as Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. For more information, see @ellasthelabel on Instagram
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