Up-and-Coming Pop Star Ella Jane Comes to Mahall's in February

The indie singer-songwriter counts Elton John as a fan

click to enlarge Ella Jane. - Maddy Rotman
Maddy Rotman
Ella Jane.
While on the road last year promoting her sophomore EP, Ella Jane made a stop at West Hollywood’s iconic venue, the Troubadour, where Elton John famously made his breakthrough U.S. debut.

Ella Jane is no stranger to John, who played her lyrically dark and sonically upbeat track “Calling Card” on his Apple Music radio show, Rocket Hour.

“I just didn’t expect him to say anything besides introducing me and then he said something like, ‘There’s no justice in the world if this is not a hit,’” Ella Jane gushes about the career highlight in a recent Zoom interview. The second leg of Ella Jane's Marginalia tour brings her to Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood on Feb. 21. “I had to go back the next day and listen, and I was like, ‘Wait, I can’t believe that actually happened.’”

She cites selling out Bowery Ballroom in New York City as another peak.

“It was one of those perfect shows,” says Ella Jane when asked about the gig. “Growing up in suburban New York, you go to concerts in the city a lot with your friends. It was like a big deal to leave class early in middle school or high school and take the train into the city. I saw a lot of really, really good shows there that have meant a lot to me.”

With COVID restrictions barring her from performing at the start of her career, Ella Jane found it hard to process her success just based on numbers; touring has helped it to register.

“I feel very lucky to have the sort of fanbase I do,” she says. “I mean, I was a teenage girl, obsessed with certain artists. And being from the suburbs, all there is to do is drive around and listen to music with your friends. It’s very easy for me to put myself in their shoes — the kids who come to my shows. They are just so sweet and just really care about the music the way that my friends and I did when we were younger. It feels very cool to know that you’re a part of someone’s life in that way.”

The Westchester, NY native comes from a musical family. She began taking piano lessons at age 4 and songwriting at age 11. Ella Jane released her first few songs independently in 2020 during and in the months following her senior year of high school, just as COVID was beginning to derail everything. From that frustration, chaos and uncertainty, Ella Jane’s most successful song, “nothing else I could do,” was born.

The song, which has amassed almost 29 million streams on Spotify, was written as an AP Literature assignment on The Great Gatsby.

Ella Jane tells the Gatsby-Daisy narrative from a fresh perspective with her signature clever phrasing.

“It was a good exercise for me,” she says. “I think it sparked a lot of creativity that I had lost in the beginning of COVID.”

After graduation, Ella Jane went to Tufts University for a year, but she didn’t get much of a college experience while taking virtual classes and barely leaving her dorm room.

“While I was juggling college, I was also getting approached by a lot of labels, and I think TikTok had a lot to do with that,” she says. “I honestly spent more time making videos for TikTok than I did doing my homework, and I put more effort into it. And I was recording in my room and making a lot of demos.”

And so, Ella Jane decided to leave school and pursue music full-time. She signed with FADER Label, home to Clairo, one of the most well-known artists in the indie-pop space, and fellow newcomers like Chloe George.

The 21-year-old has since released two EPs: 2021’s THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE! and 2022’s Marginalia.

Marginalia features nine songs, each with their own carefully crafted, fully-fledged narrative.

“Crash Cart” is another delve into a fictional landscape. The track was inspired by HBO’s wildly popular show, Euphoria. Ella Jane writes from the perspective of Sydney Sweeney’s character, Cassie, who was receiving a lot of hate online for her toxic love triangle with her best friend and her best friend’s abusive ex.

“I found a lot of empathy for her because I just really resonated with that feeling of putting yourself through a situation that maybe isn’t ideal or being with someone who isn’t good for you or doesn’t treat you well, just because it is still nice to have that attention and affection,” says Ella Jane. “I think what’s really nice about writing about fictional things is that I never will really just be writing about someone else. There’s no way to make anything fully fictional because when you’re doing that, you automatically have to put yourself in someone’s shoes, and the only way you can really connect to those feelings is to draw from your own experience."

On “You Shouldn’t Have Said That,” however, Ella Jane does draw the storyline directly from her own life.

“I wrote it in like an hour mostly, and then the rest came down to obsessively tweaking little lyrics and things. I had a friend who I had a little crush on. When someone who is not necessarily available flirts with you it sort of is harmless but also is irritating, and that’s where that came from,” says Ella Jane. “I got very obsessive about syllables and phrasing. I was on vacation with my family, and I remember going on a bike ride with my mom, and I kept getting lost behind her cause I was in my head mumbling over and over, trying to figure out the second verse. But I finally figured it out, and I’m definitely very happy with the end result.”

Ella Jane joked on her Instagram story that she manifested her first relationship by writing one of the more popular songs on Marginalia, “I Wanna,” about the desire to be in love.

Not being single for the first time has led to a new kind of songwriting.

“It’s a first for me in terms of my music,” says Ella Jane. “I think I have a history of writing very depressing songs. Even if they’re happy pop songs, if you listen to any of the lyrics, they’re not happy. So, this is, lyrically, a change.”

The singer-songwriter is taking this new inspiration in stride and hoping for the best.

“It’s hard for me to tell if anything I’m writing is good or just like cheesy cause I’m enjoying my life,” she laughs. “We will find out, but I’ve definitely been writing.”

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