You’d be hard pressed to find a music artist as chameleon-like as Lexington, Kentucky-based, Ellee Ven. From her R&B beginnings to her self described “groovetonics”, a fusion of pop, rock and electronic elements, Ellee Ven marches to the beat of her own drum. This is no more evident than with the creation of her own record label Hot Sauce Records, which allowed her to take the reins of control over her own destiny and music output.
Importantly, with a faithful collaborative team behind her, mainly in the form of a trio of amazing musicians, drummer Jody Giachello, guitarist Antony Lee and L.A. rapper Prodéje, Ellee Ven has captured the hearts and minds of music and dance lovers far and wide with a steady diet of innovative rhythms, melody and deep bass beats over a decade. More recently, she has teamed up again with veteran rapper and producer Prodéje, in which they recorded two new singles, The L Word and 180 Degrees, a bass and piano inspired R&B track.
It’s difficult not to be impressed by this former Los Angeles Music Award winner, a woman who had reinvented herself (a former school teacher), and especially in the light of some hard choices she had to make on a personal level in her early years. That said Ellee Ven had discovered a way to positively move forward as an artist and as a creative and warm human being, and interestingly all the while by giving back to her adopted home of Lexington, Kentucky, through her charity ‘Give into the Groove’ , which has assisted numerous charities since 2001.
Without further ado, I recently caught up with Ellen Ven to talk about some of the things that interest me about her life as a musician. Here is some of what we talked about.
You seem to be an artists who isn’t frightened to explore different musical genres. Your early days of R&B eventually lead you to experiment with electronica. Are you happy with musical road you have travelled thus far? What musical horizon have you not explored yet?
Many! I would love to sing a few more songs in Spanish. And maybe implement some balinese instrumentation. I love the feeling it creates.
I am happy with the road traveled thus far. It’s been insane fun. I think my choices may have diluted some of my opportunities in the short term but not in the long term. I am very proud to own a body of work that’s of my creation. To be known FOR having a varied catalog, for not being big on compromise and mainly for trying to remain true to self.
180 Degrees is your new single. What can you tell us about how it came about?
I had a really great flirt on a mountaintop in Greece. The scene was insanely picturesque. Like a postcard. And the guy wasn’t bad either. The music was airy with straight ahead grooves. Tony Lee, my guitar player (who’s also produced a lot of our music) sent me the nuts n bolts of 180 right when I landed back in the States, so I was inspired. Then Prodeje and I wrote our melodies and lyric on it. I shared it with our producer Terry Santiel who gave us the green light to track, and then he and Reggie Dozier worked their magic.
Besides the obvious, your natural talent for singing and performance, you write and produce your own music too? Can you tell us a little about how that came about?
The will to write and produce is really the reason I sing and perform. I see myself as very moderately talented in the way of vocals. I just know what I hear, love being “in” music and I love putting the production together. My main interest has always been in becoming a good writer and now as a producer. I take ownership, not only because I like the challenge of putting emotions into words and music, but mainly because I want to be as accurately represented as I can be.
Your collaboration with Prodeje is incredible, especially on The L Word. You seem like two old hands at it. Can you tell us something surprising about your professional relationship with each other?
I guess that we didn’t meet in person for a while. We just sent music back and forth. Tony brought us together but we were sending the music via email. We didn’t perform for an even longer time. Later, we agreed we would perform together just once a year at our annual Give Into The Groove event, but those performances were so well received, and our collaborations have evolved so beautifully, that now, I wouldn’t like to perform a show without him. He is very much a part of my sound.
In an interview you once said, and I am paraphrasing here, that independence and expression are key motivational factors that helps define who you are as an artists and performer. Do you still stand by that guiding principle?
Absolutely. I think its fair to say, most of us aim to be heard and hope to be respected for our authenticity. Expression is “it” and may we all live lives that honor free expression.
My ideas of what it means to be independent has probably changed a bit in the last few years.
Of course, I’m very independent. I make my own choices and I pay my own consequences. Happily. But I’ve opened to the idea of interdependence. Especially in music. I’ve been so lucky to work with these amazing talents, who have amazing ideas and experience. These days, I’m much more able to let those influences in while still standing strong as an individual and I think the attitude has strengthened me even more. I may have taken myself too seriously along the way.
What do you love most about performing live? How do your shows differ from you recorded work?
I love how performance forces me to tell the story right then and there. Sometimes the audience is big, sometimes small and I’m always challenged and motivated by hoping they will hear it the perfect way. I only get one chance and I love the super cosmic bond that naturally occurs. Doesn’t even seem real.
In recording, I experiment with all kinds of nuance over and over and have all these other subtle instruments to make the listener feel one way or the other.
My biggest influences in dance pop and R&B were first and foremost Madonna and later Janet Jackson (especially her album Rhythm Nation) and bands like M People. I understand Madonna was a big influence on you too? Can you tell us something about Madonna and some of the other artists that inspired you to become the musician you are today?
I love Janet too! Madonna inspires me because she just threw herself out there. I loved so many of her songs, so simple and so fun. I mean “Dance and sing, get up and do your thing”?? So fun. I cried to “crazy for you” at one of her concerts. LOL
Anyhow, she sticks out because she put it out there, for good or for bad, and she did make everyone dance and sing and do their thing:)
I loved Rhythm Nation for the same reasons. I also love Sade a lot for those reasons and because she has a band. I also love Shirley Manson and Deborah Harry and Lisa Stansfield.
What was the first influential song and or album that inspired you growing up? Can you share a wonderful memory about its effect on you?
I will go with Diana Ross’ Upside Down. I loved roller skating a lot and the routines were extreme:) Her delivery is just amazing. She’s telling the guy off but you know she’s gonna stay.
What new music today excites you and why?
I’m liking Alina Baraz and Bazzi is pretty fun…I love dance and funky effects…it’s super feel good.
Finally, what else is coming this year?
Well I’m recording many new jams, a new video, travel for fun, yoga every day and beyond that, you can be sure I’m sure I’m not sure!
HAVE A HAPPY DAY.
Ellee Ven’s latest single 180 degrees and her entire back catalogue is available via ReverbNation, cdbaby and iTunes. You can connect with Ellee Ven via her Facebook page or twitter feed @elleeven. You can also visit or contact Ellee Ven via her website. Follow her on Instagram. Watch her on You Tube.
Photo credits: The header image is copyright and courtesy of Ellee Ven Music. It cannot be used without her expressed permission. I am not the uplodaer of You Tube clips embedded here.