Interview: Ella Hooper
Ella Hooper first became famous at the age of 16 as the lead singer of Australian indie band Killing Heidi in the late 1990s. After a run of three top 10 hits including the number 1 single 'Mascara' in 2000, the band broke up in 2006 and Hooper has since had a varied career as a radio and TV presenter and a solo artist. In July, she released the spiky, funky, pop track 'To The Bone', her first release for over two years. Hooper will be performing at the BIGSOUND music festival in Brisbane from 4th-7th September and Women In Pop recently had a chat with her about her music, gender equality and what's up next for her.
Hey Ella! How's life?
Lots of finishing of new tracks, long nights in the studio, rehearsals for BIGSOUND, a tiny bit of touring to pay the rent and a whole lot of fun!
You’ve just completed touring the Both Sides Now – Celebrating the Songs of Joni Mitchell show. with Rachel Gaudry, Wendy Matthews, Kate Miller-Heidke and Kristin Berardi. What was that experience like?
Really fantastic, it was great to push myself vocally and artistically out of my comfort zone, as even though I am a fan I had never covered any Joni. It was also great to meet and connect with an incredible bunch of women whose talents and ways of being I so admire.
You're performing at BIGSOUND next week. What can we expect from your performance?
A fun, fast paced, edgy, spiky, silly, sexy, rockin’ and sweaty live set full of lovingly made bangers. And cowbell.
What are your thoughts on the gender equality situation in today’s music industry, and how female artists are portrayed in the media?
This is such a hot topic! It’s strange because we’ve always been there, women in rock and women in pop, you would think things would have become completely natural and neutral equality wise for women in music, but it just isn’t the case as the recent BluesFest line up highlighted. We still get overlooked, not all the time of course, but at critical times none the less, and for critical opportunities. It’s annoying and disappointing to STILL have to be talking about it, demanding our rightful place at the table of creative recognition and financial recompense!
In your career have you experienced episodes of sexism, or where you felt you were disrespected because of your gender?
I’ve been quite lucky I think compared to some. But there have been times for sure, where the double whammy of being super young and female felt like a burden, like I was being manipulated and just not taken seriously. Then flash forward, I get outright told I’m too old for certain things, which is a hard pill to swallow when it’s coming from the same man who insinuated you were too young, too this, too that, too thin, too fat, too shy, too confident. When will we just be taken on our merits?! May the day come soon!
You are a board member of the Victorian Women’s Trust, can you tell us about that role and what work the VWT do?
It’s an amazing organisation that creates grants, builds educational material and runs programs that all aim to better the lot of women and girls in our community. They do everything from creating and finding documentaries that tell and celebrate incredible women’s stories (there are so many unsung heroes that have done things so impressive and pivotal you wouldn’t believe, but they go uncelebrated, unrecognised simply because it’s a women’s story and society and women themselves sometimes are not trained to shout their praises!) to gifting grants to women starting in business, to appearing in court, taking on bullies, harm prevention, mountains of groundbreaking research and so much more. I’m very proud to sit on that board.
You started your music career when you were very young. What advice would you give other teenager girls who want to pursue a career in music?
Back yourself. Your opinion matters. Your taste is important. Protect your uniqueness. And stick up for yourself. Learn all you can and be respectful, but remember to respect yourself and how you want to feel first and foremost.
What music/artists are you listening to at the moment?
Gena Rose Bruce, she’s killing it with her two recent singles and the albums she’s soon to drop is INCREDIBLE. I’m such a fan of her songwriting and voice. Also Warplane, a moody synth drums and guitar trio from Melbourne have just dropped their first single ‘Drift’ that I love. It’s hypnotic and dreamy and amazing.
You have been recording new music this year, when can we expect your new album and what can you tell us about the content?
I’m not yet sure if it’s an EP or an album, but I’m VERY excited by this snappier new direction I’m heading in. It will definitely have a retro vibe and be full of sass. File under ‘for fans of Divinyls, Pretenders and Blondie’
What’s up next for Ella Hooper?
World domination. (Kidding, not kidding) I’m going to focus on overseas touring in 2019, I’m basically packing my bags for that right now! Boy how this year is flying. And that’s okay with me, as next year I have plans and things to share that will make my heart sing and challenge me in equal measure, and THAT is what I’m all about!
'To The Bone' is out now, download it on iTunes or stream on Spotify.
Ella Hooper is performing at BIGSOUND on Wednesday 5th September and Thursday 6th September. Tickets are on sale now.