Nottingham’s answer to Vashti Bunyan and Linda Peracs, Ellen Mary Mcgee is the fair maiden behind the hauntingly seductive debut album The Crescent Sun. Drawing on influences from traditional folk music and the kitchen sink realism of Alan Silitoe, Ellen Mary would often escape as a child from the council state she grew up on, into fantasy worlds created within books and music. Elise Laker chatted to Ellen Mary about her music and life in Nottingham.
When did you become interested in folklore and fantasy? How has this affected your music?
I have always created alternative worlds, writing short stories and narrative poetry, which developed into songwriting in my mid-teens. I have also been interested in folklore, and tend to incorporate mythology into my songs – and I do play a few traditional folk ballads as well as my own songs. In terms of music and writing I guess I’m influenced by the likes of Sandy Denny, and Jackson C Frank, and anyone who takes folk music but adds something of themselves.
Some readers may not have left the university bubble since coming to Nottingham. Could you describe your experiences as a child growing up in the Midlands?
I lived on the Edwards Lane council estate in Bestwood until I was 10. I would hope that none of the university students have the misfortune of living there! It’s a hotbed of gun crime and drug problems. I lived in Mansfield and Worksop before settling in West Bridgford just before starting secondary school. I never really enjoyed school. I was a quiet, studious child who didn’t really make any good friends until meeting like-minded people in my late teens. I lived in West Bridgford until university when I moved to Sneinton. Sneinton has a bad reputation but my friends and I had a nice musical community and I used to put gigs on at my house.
What are your experiences of the music scene in and around Nottingham?
I started playing around Nottingham as a teenager and toured around the UK and the States in my old band Saint Joan. Seachange were a great Nottingham band signed to Matador, who split up and several former members have regrouped as Dearest. One of my all-time favourite bands, Tindersticks, were from Nottingham.
What’s it like to be part of a record label like Midwich Records?
I’m very pleased to be sharing a label with The Owl Service. I was a fan before Steven from the band asked if his label Midwich could release my album. It’s such a lovely label to be part of. It’s great to be part of the wider Southern Records family too. I have always been a big fan of Fugazi and the whole DIY ethos of Dischord and love many of the Southern Lord bands such as SunnO))), Wolves in the Throne Room and Earth, as well as Kranky bands Charalambides and Stars of the Lid.
Has anything changed in the way you produce your music?
In terms of music production, I still record at my friend Pete’s studio in Nottingham (First Love Studios in Forest Fields) and I like to work with people I feel comfortable with.
Her debut album, The Crescent Sun, is out now on Midwich Records.