Interview - Elle Winston | The Wonderful World of Carminelitta

Interview: Elle Winston

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Picture of Elle Winston

Photo by Jai Hall

After presenting her incredible EP Uncertainty last week, I thought it would be a good idea to do an interview with Elle Winston, so that she can express her thoughts on her music, the album, the topics she chooses to touch upon and more. She kindly agreed to answer my questions and I am really happy to share them with you now. As I told you last time, she is one of the artists I really appreciate and her music never fails to move me. It’s therefore a great pleasure to have a chance to exchange with her and get to know her a little better. In case you haven’t listened to the album and purchased it, I highly recommend you do so now. It is definitely worth your time and money! Now, without further delay, let me introduce you to Elle Winston…

First of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

I am Elle Winston. I’m a singer-songwriter living in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Indiana, but spent most of my life growing up in Arizona (I miss the sunshine! Haha!). Above all things, I am a sister, a daughter, a friend and a partner.

Something that I find very interesting with you is how versatile you are and how eclectic your music is, drawing influences from a wide variety of genres but never sounding forced or unnatural. Does the music reflect different sides of you and different messages you want to spread? 

I find the idea of “genres” really interesting – primarily because I feel like I find such tangible similarities in all of the music that influences me across genre boundaries. I think there is a soulfulness that I really respond to in certain vocalists or certain songwriters that can’t really be put into a ridge genre category. My parents gave me such a rich musical foundation. I grew up listening to Muddy Waters, Aretha Franklin, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sting, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, etc. I studied classical music in college and I also spent time singing Afro-Cuban/Afro-Brazilian music for a few years, so I have been so privileged to be exposed to things that I continually draw from in my own music making.

In addition to being a very talented artist, you are also quite vocal about social issues, more specifically those pertaining to women and the way they are treated all around the world. Do you consider it your mission to raise awareness about those issues as a human being and as an artist?

I’m SO glad you asked this question! I’ve always been very passionate about issues that women and girls face both here in the US and globally. I see so much beauty and power in the women and girls in my life and I’ve seen so many of them struggle with the violence and injustice that they have experienced. Because of this, I take violence and injustice against women/girls everywhere very personally. I have always felt that being a musician gives you a unique platform to really talk about things in a medium that human beings really respond to, which is SONG! I know that I will continue to speak about these issues whether that’s in song or in interviews like this, because I feel so strongly about it, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so! 🙂

Since the release of Who Said It Was Simple? you seem to have evolved a lot, both as an individual and as an artist. Do you feel this project was a sort of landmark in your career, a moment when it took a new turn?

Thank you! I did an interview last year and I was asked what I wanted my new project to be and all I could say is that I wanted it to reflect growth. I think I can say, with confidence, that it does that. I know I still have a lot to learn and I’ll be spending my life learning how to be a better musician, but this project means a lot to me. I took my writing very seriously. Two songs from this new project were produced by Kevan Aaron, who I’ve worked with for a long time and 2 songs were produced by d.C. Soulplusmind, who I worked with for the first time last year. They both brought out some really good things in me and inspired me a lot. Ultimately, I wanted to be sincere and truthful in telling my own stories and that has been a scary process, however, seeing people’s responses to the music has calmed those fears a lot.

Your new EP entitled Uncertainty was released on January 22nd and it is a wonderful musical project where you don’t hesitate to share your innermost thoughts and feelings. There is a level of vulnerability that is very touching and makes the music all the more powerful. Is it important for you to express yourself without holding back, at the risk of exposing yourself through the music?

I definitely felt that this time around I wanted to say all the things I was afraid to say. I wanted to admit that I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. I wanted to admit that I struggle with my identity and I wanted to talk about my frustration with the injustice in my country, etc. I felt like this project needed to be enjoyable music, but it also needed to be serious, because that’s where I am in my life. I was also really hopeful that people would find something familiar in the words and music and maybe not feel so alone. But no lie, the day before I released, I was freaking out! Lol I was asking my girlfriend, “Should I do this? Will people understand me?” 🙂

Speaking of Uncertainty still, it may seem that the project allowed you to move on from certain situations and either get rid of your doubts or accept them for what they are. Do you feel the project was a sort of therapy for you, a way to heal certain wounds? 

It’s so funny you ask that because at the time I wrote these songs, I remember feeling fear, sadness, power – all of these really heavy emotions. I remember even being afraid to record My Black at the studio because I was recording with a new engineer and I wondered if he would judge me. (So silly!) But now that I’ve put it out and let people hear it, so much of that has subsided. I feel so much freer. I feel like I accept me and my journey in a way that I haven’t before. So, it’s really only been in hindsight, that I’ve felt that bit of healing, but it’s definitely there.

In the past months, you have played on quite a few stages in New York and around the States, and your performances seem to be very intimate and emotional. You are clearly passionate about what you sing, which makes the renditions all the more compelling. Do you feel sharing your music on stage is the best way to reach your audience and exchange with them?

Absolutely! Nothing can replace live music. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I just go to a show here in NY for some energy and inspiration – it lifts me. I think live music does that for a lot of people. There is also something so magical about performance. It is a one-time experience that you share with every person in that room. It can never be re-created or re-experienced in the exact same way. The magic is in what you feel in the moment of a live performance. Even on stage, things happen that are electric – from how you bond with your players or finding a new way to sing something and thinking “Where did that run come from?” Ya know?! All of those really intimate things can only happen live and I get such a high from singing for people and meeting people at shows. I love it! People are so generous. They give so much love and support. It always humbles me.

Anything else you would like to add?

To all of your readers – if anyone happens to be in New York next month, I am opening up for Bridget Kelly and RaVaughn at SOB’s in Manhattan on February 21st as a part of Hot 97’s Who’s Next Showcase. If you’re in the Big Apple, come say hello! 🙂

Now that you know more about Elle Winston and her new project, discover a beautiful and powerful rendition of Waitin On, during a performance for the Acoustic Soul Lounge at Billie Black’s Restaurant last December. 

And just in case you missed it, check out the amazing Uncertainty, which is available on Uncertainty - EP - Elle Winston and Bandcamp, among others. Press play and enjoy!

Find out more about Elle Winston on her website.

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