Gear Talk: Ellie Herring

Kentucky-based electronic artist Ellie Herring has been praised by the likes of Paper Magazine, Pigeons and Planes, and Gorilla vs. Bear for her hard-hitting beats and airy vocals. With a highly-anticipated EP due out this fall we caught up with Ellie to learn about her versatile style, go-to gear, music production advice, and more.

Hey Ellie! Introduce yourself.
Hey guys!  I’m Ellie Herring, & currently I’m sitting in my backyard in Kentucky on my second cup of coffee… & also have a browser tab open to a page with directions on “how to make the best iced coffee at home.”  I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, not because I’m an insomniac, but because I’ve recently discovered The Rockford Files & can’t stop watching.  Have you ever read James Garner’s life story? It’s amazing.

How did you get started in music and where do you draw your inspiration from?
I started piano lessons as a kid shortly after my family moved to Georgia, so however old you are in the second grade.  Mostly learning hymns and holiday songs, because my teacher was a 65 year old woman who played the organ at her church.  I still loved it though.  And even with some sort of traditional training, music still doesn’t feel like it was taught.  Theory, yeah.  Otherwise I can’t remember being introduced to music, it’s just there.  And weird to say this, but I don’t know where I draw my inspiration from (at first).  Most of the time I experience one overwhelming pop of “where did that come from?”  Because I’m psyched about what I’m making & hype, or the opposite of that which is still psyched but sad as hell.  It starts somewhere.  I guess mostly it’s situational.  And don’t get me wrong, there are true bursts of inspiration that come from friends or other producers putting out records that blow my mind… that’s when the obvious light goes off above my head.  

Your sound is very versatile. Tell us about the evolution of your style.
Oh man.  Years ago, I started making music around the idea that I would sing.  There was a written narrative or songwriting component in there.  My style has evolved so far from that.  Earlier this year I found myself really struggling to find a place where I was comfortable.  Is it made for the club, does it feel sad, can I play it live, would I play it if I were DJing?  Then after several “I’m totally done” moments, I sat down and started a routine of writing songs early in the morning… moving quickly through sketches & then returning to work on the bases that were created.  What came out of that is my next EP release.  And these sounds are different for me, but I feel like I’m writing songs and I feel very comfortable in these sounds.  I feel like I’m home with this project.

How has technology/tech innovation influenced the way you produce music?
Most of my life is based around tech.  If I’m not producing songs, I’m on a computer as a web developer, as a job.  I’m always in front of a computer.  That probably sounds miserable to some people, but I love it.  Aside from the very existence of a DAW, I don’t think tech innovation has really influenced the way I produce music.  I didn’t start out in a room full of 30 synths, so I don’t know the difference.  I never made that jump from room full of analog to (mostly) DAW.  

We LOVED your recent collaboration with L.A-based producer DUCKY for “Be Honest.” Can you fill us in on what the process of working with other producers/vocalists is like?
Super casual.  These are usually online or in real life friends passing stems or a project file back and forth until we both feel good about the track.  It really has been that simple.  There’s a vocalist on my next release that was arranged as I walked out the door after a really delicious plate of curry.  “Oh by the way I have a track your voice would shred on. I’ll email it.”

Name one piece of equipment you can’t live without.
Currently it’s an Ableton Push, it’s really helped get me into a workflow of getting ideas down quickly.   

What do you take on the road with you?
Depends on the set, but usually some combination of my laptop and a midi controller or CDJs.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into music production?
Don’t open a DAW for the first time, get overwhelmed, and never open it again… because at some point the producers you love opened a DAW for the first time.  If you can just start learning a couple of basic things, the feeling from a little understanding is so sick you’ll keep going.  Read about what you want to learn.  Watch videos.  Ask to collaborate.  Whatever works for you.

Listen to Ellie Herring and stay tuned for her EP due out this fall.

MikeGear Talk: Ellie Herring

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