Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Los Angeles’s Ella Luna. Together we discussed the Denver music scene, the world’s juxtaposition, their album “Anything to Make it Loud”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
I’m doing well, thank you! Have the day off so I’ve been able to listen to Snail Mail and knit all day. Doesn’t get better than that.
2. You’ve been active in the Denver music scene since you were 14. How has that scene helped shape you as a musician? How has it grown since? Had you been active in music before this?
I grew up performing in Denver. When I was 14, I started to perform my original works at coffee shops and bars and galleries, but I’d been at arts school since I was 11 where I had to do mandatory performances for my peers weekly. Being so young and exposed to that vulnerability and getting used to criticism totally shaped and prepared me as a performer. I feel very comfortable in front of an audience now because of that.
3. You are now based in Los Angeles. What was the transition like from Denver to California? What similarities or differences have you found?
I love LA so much. I’ve been here for almost 2 years now. I definitely miss Denver, but I really don’t think they’re that different. LA still has lots of quiet areas and greenery, which is what I love about Colorado. I lucked out in meeting great people who showed me around early on. I live on the East side and there’s so many great little places to hang out here that remind me a lot of Denver.
4. What was some music you remember from your childhood? Do you have a favorite song or album from that time?
My parents are very much not musicians, so I was left with the radio and their collection of CD’s. My mom played me a lot of No Doubt. I listened to The Little Mermaid and Mamma Mia! soundtracks on repeat. But of course Taylor Swift was the big one for me. I think I drove my family insane with how much I listened to “Love Story.”
5. Jazz is an influence of yours. Which Jazz artists have influenced you the most? What jazz album do you recommend all humans listen to?
I love jazz, particularly vocal jazz. I think a lot of jazz instrumentalists have a distaste for standards but I fucking love them. I love Ella and Billie and Etta and Nina. Those voices are timeless and infinite and ethereal. I love the simplicity in the lyricism of standards, it’s all about how the singer chooses to express it. That’s what really matters. Solitude by Billie Holiday is my go to for vocal jazz. I look to my best friend Grace who plays jazz trumpet for instrumental jazz recommendations, and my favorite she’s shown to me is Ready for Freddie by Freddie Hubbard.
6. What is your songwriting process?
Fiona Apple is the only artist I’ve ever heard that has the same process as me. I love that she calls herself an extraordinary machine. That’s how I feel when I write songs. She says that being a songwriter is 99% just having your antenna in the world, soaking up a bunch of feelings and thoughts. Writing the song is the other 1%, and a good song just comes out of me. Like musical vomit. I can’t help it. And once the song is written, I rarely change it. If that’s how I felt and that’s what I needed to say when I was feeling it, then that’s that. I shall honor her.
7. The world is both magical and mundane. How do you explore this juxtaposition through your songwriting?
That’s easy to do. That’s just the way it is. To me, walking through my neighborhood and seeing a bird on a flower is the most beautiful thing in the world because it’s the most simple. My favorite lyric I’ve ever written to capture that is in “Vintage Lingerie,” where I say “Walking fast and eating slow, maybe all good things juxtapose, how nature is kind and it is cruel.”
8. When did you first meet Gregory Allison? When did you begin working together on your album “Anything to Make It Loud?”
Greg and I met because he was playing violin for me at my first show in LA at a dive bar in Pasadena. He was a friend of a friend. At the rehearsal, he asked if I was making anything at the moment and I said no since I’d just moved. He said he had a label and a studio and the rest is history!
9. If you could make something louder than it already is, what would it be and why?
The flapping of butterfly wings. I bet that’s a beautiful sound. Plus I’d like to know when one is nearby.
10. Before “Anything to Make It Loud” you released “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride.” What was it like to put this album together?
Entirely different. I was 16 and made it with my friend Zak in his basement. My friends played cello, violin, and drums. It was very lowkey and teenage, exactly what it should have been.
11. Since the release of that album do you now feel like or have become the bride?
Absolutely. I am a married man now. I love my wife.
12. Jumping back to “Anything to Make It Loud” you described this album as your entire brain and heart. How did it feel to be so honest and free on this album?
It was very intuitive. That’s how I’ve always wanted to write but I think now that I’m a little older I’m able to tap into what I have to say more. I feel lucky to work with people who want me to be so myself and let me say things like “Could you treat me like a little whore” and “Put it on me, put it in me” in the songs we make.
13. The themes on this album such as intimacy, queerness, and growing up all came together unintentionally. Would you consider this a “coming of age” album? How has this helped you in terms of self-discovery?
I guess I would. I made it while I was 19, freshly independent in LA, so it was hard to avoid the “coming of age” thing. Writing is how I analyze my emotions, so writing these songs first and foremost helped me dissect what I was feeling.
14. “All Silk & Satin” explores your desire for wanting something really bad. Such as love and your music. Since its release would you say you have been able to obtain both?
To some extent yes. I get to make the music I want to make and I am in love. But there’s always room to want more!
15. You feel an obligation to be a caretaker as a woman. Would you say this is because of human society is structured? How do societies standards play a role in your music?
Absolutely. Growing up as an eldest daughter and older sister, I felt this obligation constantly from my family and beyond. I think a lot about societal standards in my relationships too. Even in queer couples, people are always asking questions to figure out who “the man” is. Even within the couple, we feel obligated to fit into these roles somehow. This record and the new music I’m writing really talks about that. “Vintage Lingerie” and “Clothesline” talk about my desire and lack thereof to be a mother because of these standards.
16. With your music you want to make ugly beautiful and the ugly to sparkle. Moving forward to how do you plan to continue to do that?
The act of making the music is making it sparkle. To take a thought like “You love me, but did you love her more” and sing it with a string quartet and twinkling guitar and three part harmony is the most beautiful thing ever.
17. What was it like to work other female musicians such as Elizabeth Goodfellow and Kaylee Stenberg? Do you plan to collaborate more with these artists?
Working with so many amazing women and non men is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I think my music is so queer and feminine that only certain people can really understand it. Beth and Kaylee were a huge part of making the record exactly how I’d dreamt it to be because they’re both insanely talented female musicians. I hope to work with them again and again!
18. You have to describe your live performance in three words. What three words best describe your live show?
Nightgowns, orchestra, cursing.
19. Do you have any upcoming shows?
I’m playing in New York on May 12th and I have an upcoming show announcement in LA for June.
20. What is next for Ella Luna?
World domination probably. Welcome to the EllaLuniverse.
21. Where can readers listen to your music?
Anywhere you buy or stream music!