About the Artist
A New York Session
The beautifully serendipitous story behind Ellen Edwards’ dynamic breakthrough EP A New York Session begins with her songwriting teacher, legendary country artist Suzy Bogguss, loving the Atlanta based singer-songwriter’s jazz-based material and hooking up her student with her former producer, veteran keyboardist Jason Miles.
Hearing immediate potential in Ellen’s powerfully emotive storytelling and distinctive phrasing, Miles quickly assembled a Big Apple based ensemble of session greats – including trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Robbie Kondor, guitarist Jeff Mironov and percussionist Richie Morales – to bring spontaneity, soul and grit to Ellen’s natural expressive gifts and create a live in the studio experience that inspired many mind-blowing “Can this really be happening?” moments.
Ellen had been writing songs since she was a kid growing up in Upstate New York, and had spent years performing weddings, parties, corporate and hotel gigs with a trio (featuring her bassist husband Bob) before taking time away to raise a family. She also released several independent albums, including Through the Fields of Home (2001) and You’re the Reason (2017), the latter celebrating her 25th anniversary. Yet working with Miles and his crew, she was suddenly on a whole new level, laying the groundwork for a promising new career as an artist and performer.
Not long before she and Bob headed up to NYC to record, Ellen read an article where Eagles guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joe Walsh was lamenting the current state of recording. With so much tracking and file sharing being done online, he said, albums have lost the in the moment magic they used to have. “I’ve created 3 CD’s passing tracks back and forth and sure it’s convenient, but after the New York sessions I could not agree more with what Joe’s saying,” she says.
“Recording in a great studio with fine musicians has been a dream of mine for many years, but the reality was much more than I anticipated, from Suzy hooking me up with Jason, and Jason sharing his wisdom, hiring some of the best players NYC has to offer and then recording at Shelter Island Studios. I thought recording day would consist of me laying down some rough vocal tracks for the band and then kicking back and listening to them jam. I was fortunate enough to sing with them the entire time. They had great charts and it took them all of about 15 minutes to run down each of my songs and find their groove. I was part of a dance, with each player listening intently and gracefully moving in and out of the songs at just the right moments.”
Making the experience all the more surreal was the fact that less than a year earlier, Ellen was a fresh empty nester looking at an uncertain future. After going back into real estate for a time, a friend suggested that she perform a house concert for an intimate gathering. She immediately warmed to the idea, but having not played in public for 15 years, she spent six months practicing 3-5 hours a day. Putting the show together and writing fresh material gave her a renewed sense of confidence, and she followed that house concert in January 2019 with several local Atlanta arts festival and coffeehouse dates.
Eager to rediscover and hone her long set aside craft, Ellen began enrolling in songwriting workshops in Nashville in 2014, two years before her kids left home. While her connection with Bogguss led her to the chance to record A New York Session and she also studied under famed pop/country songwriter Beth Nielsen-Chapman, the best piece of advice she heard during those years came from Grammy nominated folk singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.
“I kept looking outside myself to find inspiration for songs,” Ellen says. “Mary changed my mindset completely when she said that songwriting is all about finding your truth. Writing from a more personal perspective made me realize how much I had grown as a person over the previous 30 years and opened me up to valuing who I am and what I have to say. It opened me up to a lot of new subjects to talk about and also a willingness to be vulnerable.”
From the passionately rendered, metaphor filled reflections of the piano and vocal driven focal track “Blue and Green” to the moody, soulful and easy swinging “Let the Fire Grow” (featuring a lush trumpet solo and harmony lines by Randy Brecker), the songs on A New York Session perfectly reflect these more intimate, heart on the sleeve sensibilities. “Blue and Green” touched on her grief of letting go of her kids and her long-held identity as a mom, with acceptance of her new life at the end.
“Let the Fire Grow” taps into her desire to unleash her full creativity as an artist and speak her mind boldly. The funk-pop-jazz influenced “Queens Bridge” chronicles a clever conversation with herself, trying to push away her years of the lies of self-criticism and take new chances. Rounding out the set are the gospel/blues tinged ballad “Love’s On My Side” and the hypnotic and infectious soul-jazz gem “Over There,” a song about having the vision and courage to move forward.
The initial spark of the musical fire she references started in early childhood, growing up near Lake George hearing her dad, music teacher and professional trumpeter, play Dixieland. Both she and her brother took an early liking to piano and fought over who would play along when they watched commercials on TV. While she studied composition, piano and vocals while attending community college in Syracuse, she says, “I honestly learned how to play jazz on gigs” in various bands during school and then over the many years she played events and hotel gigs.
“The most inspiring part of recording A New York Session and looking forward to this new phase of my career has been disciplining myself as a songwriter, singer and pianist more than ever before,” Ellen says. “A few years ago, I wondered what would become of my life when the kids left, and now I have meaningful work to do. I’m always in my home studio practicing and woodshedding songs and vocals. It’s exciting to realize after so many years that I’m still getting better. Whatever happens out there, I know I can keep improving and evolving.”