Interview: Ela Nedra

Ela Nedra

Del Osei-Owusu interviews Ela Nedra…

Hello Emma how are you?
Hi Del, I’m great thank you! Excited to be interviewed by you.

Congratulations on the release of Crystallise 2021, how does it feel?
It feels good to have a new version of the track out finally, as it seemed to take ages to get it all together. You know how it can be sometimes, timing is everything, and it just didn’t want to be rushed. It’s also my first release for 2021, which is great.

What’s the story behind the song?
I wrote this song years ago and recorded it with another project. The messages in the lyrics are still so apt especially after 2020 – I wanted to bring it back to life. 

It’s about moving yourself out of your own way so you can manifest the dreams you deserve! The chorus lyric “Move out my head” is like a mantra to tell your brain to be quiet and stop listening to all the negative voices in your head that stop you from going big, sabotaging yourself, or being the best version of you possible. 

I’ve personally had to do a lot of ‘inner healing work’ to help retrain my brain to be more helpful, kind and loving. But most importantly, not let myself get in the way of my own success. 

It has such an 80s pop vibe, what made you choose this style for it?
I love the 80’s! Not just the music in all of its glorious genres, but also the neon fashion too, hence the nod to neon in the artwork for the single. 

I was a teenager in the 80s, and grew up listening to synth wave bands like Duran Duran. Because of the strong message in this track, the 80s seemed perfect; it’s like I’m talking to my younger self to go big and not be afraid to try new things and go outside of my comfort zone, and definitely not to listen people who tell you can’t do this! 

You recorded it with Nicky Symoens, what was the easiest and challenging part of those sessions?
Because this effectively was a remix, the easiest part for me was asking Nick to produce it as I loved what he did with my last track That Girl Was Me.

The hardest part was to create an uplifting vibe that Ela Nedra is now known for, as the lyrics are quite direct. I knew Nick was the man for the job to make Crystallise 2021 current, but with the 80s synth pop spin I also wanted. We did have a few back and forths with chord progressions at the beginning, as initially they were a bit too dark. I sent him Ellie Goulding’s Starry Eyed for inspiration to bring some lightness into the track. I still love that song. He did that brilliantly with those lovely synth keyboard frills throughout the track.

You are a singer songwriter from London, how did it begin for you?
Well, not many people know this, but I actually started singing as a classical operatic top soprano, I had a 4-octave range. I was lucky enough to perform with my choir at The Royal Albert Hall and The Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank to name a few.

I lived in New York and the USA in my 20s and didn’t sing for quite a few years. Singing was always a positive energy release for me, so on my return to the UK I rejoined classical choirs, as it’s what I knew.

I needed a new challenge and to push myself out of my comfort zone.  So I took some singing lessons with a specialist voice coach to help lose the vibrato and operatic tone out of my voice and help find my pop voice. It was a tough transition, as I didn’t recognise my own singing voice for the longest time! 

I was talent spotted and became the lead singer for a Ska-Reggae band in South London. I was then quickly poached to be the lead singer for another South London Funk band.  We were performing a live gig at The Hootananny in Brixton, someone in the crowd afterwards said to me, “why aren’t you doing this for yourself?”

So – I found myself some musicians and started writing and recording music. I’d never actually written music before, other than at A-Level music, but it seemed to flow!

I met Kwame Kwaten music manager from Ferocious Talent through a friend and we started working together on a music consultancy basis. Eventually Ela Nedra was born. Fun Fact: Ela Nedra is actually my name mashed up, my initials and then surname backwards, so it’s like a musical rebirth, Emma two point zero!

What were your influences growing up?
Eclectic. My young teens were very much synth wave based like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Human League, with a smidgen of The Cure, Stiff Little Fingers and Susie & The Banshees. Then add in Kate Bush, the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack and Portishead. Trip Hop was definitely the influence behind my first project.

I got into Hip Hop in a big way in my late teens and spent my youth clubbing in London, dancing to Hip Hop, Rare Groove, Disco and Funk. My favourite artists like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu are my goto’s now when I’m chilling at home. 

When I started writing and singing pop music, I didn’t sound like my favourite Neo Soul divas though, (you can’t take the soprano outta the voice completely) so I had to find my own little niche and my own lane. 

You have your own label, I Like Flamingos, that you set up. What inspired you to do this? 
I knew it was the best way to be in charge of my masters and all my music. I also want to help create opportunities, inspire and empower women of all ages, especially older women in the music industry. As we are often overlooked, especially if you’re over 30 years old, which I am 😉

I knew that once I set up my label, later down the line, I could continue its full vision. For now, it holds all my tunes.

You are an ambassador for The F List, tell us about it. 
I stumbled across Vicky Bain on Twitter during lockdown last year. As soon as I realised what she was planning, I was all over it! I’m passionate about equal opportunities for women in the music industry, and especially older women. Not many women over 30 years start a career in music, let alone over 40! 

The F List is a directory for UK female musicians in all genres from all parts of the industry designed to empower and sustain careers for women. The statistics for women being represented across the board in the music industry is pretty shocking! For anyone booking any kind of music event, check The F List first to book amazing females in this industry, it’s time the stage was equalised.

Covid has impacted the creative industry in a big way what motivated you? 
Honestly, I had to dig deep and use all my own therapy skills to get me through. Lots of Reiki and EFT tapping! I’ve been a multi-skilled Natural Medicine Therapist for 20 years. Singing & Healing have been right at the centre of my life since I can remember. 

I had to focus on not comparing myself to others, especially on social media. I don’t have a home studio, so I wasn’t able to record and play like many artists were in their bedrooms on social media during the lockdowns. Luckily, I had a couple of tunes I’d previously recorded before all the bonkers. 

So I was able to finish off the artwork and focus on getting them out. My Spanish version of Live it Up Slow and That Girl Was Me were both released during lockdowns, which was quite odd. But I remember being at home when Tom Robinson played my Spanish version on BBC 6 Music, my boyfriend and I had a proper home disco, and I was drunk on that joy for a good few weeks. Like the lyrics from That Girl Was Me say “Focus on the Magic, Forget about the Tragic” – that was my 2020 mantra and beyond.

2020 was a time to reflect what did you learn about yourself? 
That I’m more resilient than I ever thought possible! I lost my main business, which I had in a health centre as a self-employed therapist in 2020.  I had to re-build and start earning a living fast to pay my bills.  I had to diversify quickly and find new ways of being a therapist, alongside news ways of being a musician. I learned that with more self-love and self worth, I am capable of anything. I also learned that I actually quite like peace and quiet after all. And after many years, I could be ready soon to move out of London, something I would never had contemplated before. 

Did you learn any new skills? 
Yes. Tech… I slowly crawled out of the dark ages. Those who know me know that I’m very technically challenged… hahaha. It was quite scary being thrown into an online tech world in 2020. I was going to either sink or swim. So, I learned how to build and manage my new website for my new health business Ela Nedra Health with the help of a very talented designer friend. I also learned how to see my clients online and still be a loving valuable therapist through a computer screen.

I also networked more than ever through social media, and alongside The F List, I joined a non-profit organisation, BE Extra, a wellbeing hub for all creatives as their resident online wellbeing therapist. We put together from scratch, (using more apps than I ever knew existed) regular online Wellness Workshop evenings during the lockdowns to help university students in the all Creative Arts who were struggling with anxiety. We did this for free. I believe in energy and karma.

You are a big fan of The Chronicles of Narnia (so am I!), what’s your favourite book from the series?
Oh, The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe for sure. It was truly magical experiencing that incredible world for the very first time!

What are you listening to at the moment? 
Well, honestly, I usually listen to my Rare Grooves, Neo Soul and old skool Hip Hop at home or I my car. I know I know, I do listen to new music too, promise!

What’s next for you?
It’s time to get back into the studio and start writing and making more music again as I’ve had a bit of a break. I’m also excited about finally merging all my therapies and music for the first time. I couldn’t be the singer and artist I am now today unless I’d done my own inner work. 

Mental health in the music industry is so important and has been left out far too often. I’m looking at working with some music charities to support musicians using my skills as a talk therapist, EFT tapping practitioner, healer and teacher. 

Years ago, my band members and I did this three point music wish list. My first music goal was to be played on BBC radio. I achieved that thanks to Tom Robinson and the BBC Introducing team. My next music goal is to have one of my tracks synced with TV or Film, so I want to focus my energy on that now. Plus continuing to break down the barriers of the archetypical pop star.

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Del Osei-Owusu

Del is a songwriter, producer, keyboard player arranger and musical nerd from South London, Del comes from a gospel music background but listens to anything, everything and nothing. Read More

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