May 1st, 2019, 03:40 PM

Elle B's Journey to Her Own Sound

By Jada Steuart
Photo of Elle B from her Cover of "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom". Image Credit: Elle B
The sky is the limit for this rising "World Pop" star.

Pop has always been one of the most recognizable kinds of music, and it often dominates the charts. More recently, the genre has been dabbling in other types of music, specifically Afrobeats and Caribbean music. Elle B, an up and coming artist's music sits on the line between the two sounds. Her career has aided in perfecting her pop sound, but as she continues to pursue her own music, she is experimenting with more traditional and contemporary African music. She describes her sound as World Pop, a contemporary and fresh sound that takes various influences and blends it with traditional pop. One listen to any of her songs, and you'll understand what she means.  

Elle B is what one may call a global artist, from singing in choirs in California to being a backup singer for Katy Perry to now pursuing her own sound in South Africa, she has explored music and sound in all its various forms. Similar to many musicians, Elle’s career started very early on in her life. Growing up with a classically trained musician as a mother and father who she describes as the “DJ of the house,” created an environment that curated her love for different sounds. 

She began singing in a local choir when she was thirteen, but she decided to take her talents further and pursued music political science in university.  She realized in her senior year that her study of choice wasn’t the right direction, and decided to pursue a career in music full time.  From there Elle began working odd jobs in the industry, singing in cover bands and working with various songwriters and producers. In 2010, she began writing her own music, but her career took a turn when she got hired to perform a gig in Ethiopia at a club for two months. “This really wet my appetite for singing and traveling,” she says reflecting on the experience. 

After Ethiopia, she wasn’t sure what her next move would be, but when an audition to be Katy Perry’s backup singer came up in her city, she decided to go for it.  This would take Elle on a whole new adventure. She got it, and for eight years Elle became Katy’s backup singer for albums like “Prism,” “Teenage Dream” and “Witness.”  Elle describes this period as “getting her Master’s degree in being a performer.” 

  Photo taken from Elle's shoot for the cover of her Noire EP.  Image Credit: Elle B

“I learned so many different things – at that level, you have crazy production value and so many moving parts that I would have never seen had I never had that experience.” 

It was in the job that Elle really began to understand the music industry and herself as an artist, “My biggest take away was seeing how hard she works and how much it takes to be a pop star. Everyone wants the lifestyle, the spotlight, and the glamour, but its grueling work. At one point when I was on tour with her, I had to ask myself, 'Do I want that?  Because if I don’t want that, I need to figure out what I want and at what level I want it.' Ultimately, I realized that I don’t know if I want exactly what she has."

Soon, she decided to look at her career as a backup singer and decide what moves would be necessary to work towards the career she wanted. Last February, Elle left to explore her own sound after working for someone in music for years. Now in Johannesburg, Elle is creating and finding her sound as both a singer and a music producer. 

She will be in South Africa exactly a year in June and loves it there, “South Africa has some of the best musicians I have seen outside of the US, they are just amazing.”  She specifically admires South African House, and one of her primary career goals is to collaborate with people in the industry.

Elle has quite a rare stance in the music industry because of her unique combination of experience in both the Western music scene and the contemporary African music scene. She says many of her opportunities came from Los Angeles where she was able to make connections and meet different people within the industry, “America is the land of opportunity even despite its flaws. If you know what you want to be you can find your where to get there." 

She admits that one of the main differences between the industries on the two continents is infrastructure. The music industry isn’t well supported by the government in the countries that she has worked in across Africa. However, her love of the music industry in Africa lies in the exponential creativity she’s found, “the expression and creativity is through the roof here." She keeps contacts in both countries in order to make the right career moves, “To be realistic about what I am trying to do, my plan can’t be focused on the continent alone. I have to have one foot back home." 

She describes her sound as “World Pop”, influenced by various sounds and musicians. “It's world music, but more contemporary. It uses the contemporary sound that represents a certain ethnic group, like my African American roots. Its both rooted but global," she says.

Her sound has evolved while in South Africa mainly through her time working on making original content and putting out covers, “Covers have just been a vehicle of growth for me as a way for me to challenge myself and to just dig in and define what my sound and image is going to be." During this time she has also learned about where her skills lie, specifically, “Just recently something kind of clicked. What I found is that I am really great at making grooves. I can create a great beat and I think that will be a staple of my sound.  Miles Davis said sometimes it takes a long time to sound like yourself – and he’s Miles Davis so he knows."

Going solo for any artist is not an easy process the struggle to find their niche and the right connections can be a daunting task. However, Elle believes she made the right decision at the end of the day and she has learned to trust the process, explaining, “We are powerful creatures, but we have to get out of our own way sometimes. Not everything has to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect and pass every test with flying colors. I have learned how to deal with and accept doubt and ride that wave."  

More importantly, she has learned how to trust herself, “The things that have happened as a result of believing in myself and putting my best foot forward have been fruitful. You can’t convince me that I don’t have the power to do what I want." 

She has come to terms with not making too many plans because of how her career has unfolded. However, she does have short term goals within the next year. She says she will continue to create her own music and putting out visual content. She has plans to start making vlogs called, “Do the Work” on her Youtube account. “There is a lot of misconceptions about what I am doing and how I am doing it. People think I have some cheat code or life hack, and I don’t. I want to give others tools for goal setting in their life." The series will follow her life as an artist while also discussing how people can find joy in their life. 

Elle’s journey to her sound has been one to the kind of music she wants to create and a journey to figuring out who she was as both a person and an artist.  Unlike many viral artists today, Elle’s approach to her craft is refreshing because she combines both hustling and trusting the process to reach her goals. 

You can follow Elle’s life and music on her YouTube and Facebook Page.