Elsa Hewitt is a home schooled electronic/dream-pop singer songwriter from Lewes in East Sussex, who’s been recording her own DIY sounds since primary school.
Graduating from the nineties pop and pre-teen grunge of those first musical forays, Elsa has arrived at a fresh new sound that glistens through layers of warming reverb and twinkling electronics.
In September she came to the attention of the judges of the 2016 Lynsey de Paul Prize, winning a £2,000 talent bursary and mentorship.
With this help in place, Elsa is preparing for the release of no less than three albums in 2017 and will begin recording a series of acoustic albums too.
We grab a few minutes with Elsa to learn more about her sonic homebrew…
How did you first get into making music?
I wrote my first songs initially for the girl group I was in with my friends at primary school. So cute and nineties. Then I went all grunge when I started playing guitar in Year Seven and drumkit a couple of years later. I was churning out about four or five songs a week at that point, and I never looked back!
Also, my mother is a singer and performer, so I have many early memories of her bursting into song; French or German cabaret and jazz and blues stuff. My father was always writing things, he perhaps is where I get my arty poet side from.
Who or what have been your biggest inspirations along the way?
There has definitely been an evolution in the way I write, and the aspects of experiences that I fixate on have changed a lot. As a teenager my songs were a way to channel all the turmoil and sadness I felt at the time.
These days, I find myself trying to capture the abstract, fleeting and poignant moments and feelings that we’re subject to in our everyday lives. I like taking seemingly simple concepts out of context and seeing how the meaning of them changes. Empathy, mystery, underlying truth – the more dark and overwhelming the better – things that you can feel intensely but not necessarily put into words. I’m inspired by any music that evokes that thing. And people I love and conversations. My cat used to inspire a lot of songs.
How has your sound evolved since you started out?
It’s all based on my style of songwriting, so it started out as a guitar and vocal sound. I sang because I wrote lyrics, rather than the other way round. I started recording my albums with a four-track when i was about 14, layering it all up, so I guess that was my first step towards producing. I formed numerous bands, but Prince Harry and Tender were the pinnacles of those and also where I had my first tastes of electronics and hip-hop. I didn’t even have a computer until I was 21 so I mainly stuck to my hardware (synths, sampler, loop pedal) until a few years ago when I started chopping myself up and messing with field recordings etc. I’ve been refining my production over the last year and it’s amazing to look back on the progression.
You record most of your music at home – describe your home studio…
Ah, soundcard, speakers, Mac, four-track, SP 404, an Alesis Micron, an old Yamaha thing, ditto looper, an electric guitar, acoustic guitars, drums, MPD, microphones, percussion, field recorder (in combination with the outside world), notebook… other random things.
You recently won the Lynsey de Paul prize – what was that like?
A very proud moment! I really didn’t see it coming, I felt honoured, grateful and excited.
How has the support helped you?
I received really nice responses from it, it seems like a lot of people know about it. It’s also given me an opportunity to make something happen. I have more freedom than I had before. There is a great deal of work that I’m itching to release as well as make, so I have a lot of things to do – and they’re helping me do it as effectively as possible.
What’s in store for you in 2017?
I’m going to release at least three of my album/EPs. Look out for some announcements in the next couple of weeks… I’ll also start recording my acoustic albums, they’ve been waiting their turn for too long.
The Lynsey de Paul Prize for emerging female singer songwriters was set up by the PRS for Music Foundation and PRS for Music Members Benevolent Fund to honour the career of the songwriter and artist Lynsey de Paul who died in 2014.