Risk It All is out now!
British songstress Ella Henderson has made her return with her joyous new single, Risk It All, which sees the singer team up with House Gospel Choir and Just Kiddin. We caught up Henderson to chat about the release, her long-awaited sophomore album, future touring plans and so much more!
Could you tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey, and your background in music?
Growing up I was always surrounded such a collective array of music. My mum got me into a lot of soul/Motown music from a young age whilst my dad was hugely into 80’s classics! Even though I am the only one with a career in music in my family, I would say I was always brought up surrounded by amazing music genres. But I would say my real journey with music started from being around my Grandad as I used to stay at my grandparents almost every week as a kid, and he used to play old jazz records of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday etc on his record player whilst singing to me!
How do you think your experience on The X Factor shaped your view and approach to navigating the music industry?
I think coming from such a huge platform at such a young age it was a whirlwind! But overall, I would have to say that it was an incredible experience. I was only 16yrs old back then in 2012, and I don’t think I ever realised at the time when it was all happening, just how impactful the whole process was for me and my career moving forward. For me now looking back on it, I see it almost like a bootcamp of the music industry that helped open a lot of doors and gave me some idea of what the music industry tasted like.
Congratulations on your new single Risk It All! The release marks the first taste of new music since 2019. How did that time between releases allow you the space to evolve as an artist?
I think if I am really honest with you, it was lockdown that really helped me move and transition into this phase with my music. Even though I have been working away on my album over the last 5 years… something really different happened when the world hit pause.
I was able to just stop and take a minute for myself and take a step back. I spent a lot of time back at home with my family and being back home with them was incredible for me as I’m normally so busy working. But also being sat back at the piano that I first taught myself to play on, felt nostalgic and helped me come back to my roots and navigate the finishing of my album.
Tell us a bit about the conceptual nature of the track and the inspiration behind it…
This song is all about how in life you can meet the right person but at the wrong time, and maybe the second time around is different because you have grown and learnt to love yourself enough to be ready to give love a go again and are willing to risk your heart being broken.
The track navigates taking risks and facing your fears. What are some of your own biggest fears that you’ve overcome?
I would probably say taking chances and risks within my career is a huge one! But also, learning to sometimes let go and trust people that are the closest to you - as I sometimes really struggle to give 100% of my trust to people.
You’ve teamed up with House Gospel Choir and Just Kiddin on Risk It All. How did that collaboration come about and what do you think each artist brought to the track to make it what it is today?
So my label bosses RUDIMENTAL actually introduced me to the House Gospel Choir and I knew from that moment that I wanted to collaborate with them, it was just a case of the right time and the right song.
When I finished working on Risk It All with Just Kiddin – we felt as though we loved this record, but there was an element of something missing on the track.
So we ended up asking the choir to come down and record some vocals on it - and now the rest is history! All I can say is that particular day I felt so excited about this record because it stands up for everything I see myself as an artist – real, raw and soulful.
Can you walk us through your process when it comes to conceptualising and how involved are you with the development of the visuals?
Like I do with my music, I like to get deeply involved in the whole creative process. I actually wrote out my visual treatment and mood board for this music video and Lewis Cater the director helped me bring my ideas to life! I wanted there to be a freeing and adventurous urgency portrayed in the video for Risk It All and that is exactly what we created! The video starts with a young couple sat in a roadside café when it comes on news that there has been an apocalypse and the world is ending – they have 24hrs to live – so life turns into the pair of them risking it all in doing whatever they wanna do and going wherever they wanna go to make the most of the time they have left with one another!
What’s your favourite moment from the clip?
EVERYTHING! Haha! I mean the cliff top shots of me and the choir performing the song in the golden hour of day are pretty epic! But honestly I just love the whole visual palette and narrative of the story we created.
What’s one line from the song you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
Probably the post chorus ‘I wasn’t ready… I wasn’t ready’ because it represents how we are never really ready for anything life throws at us, but we still have to take risks and dive in the deep end.
If Risk It All was a piece of pre-existing visual art (painting, sculpture, photograph etc), which artwork would it be and why?
Mmm, I would say Vincent van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. It is dream like and a stunning night time visual that makes me feel hopeful and has a sense of escapism.
Could you walk us through your creative process when it comes to writing and recording?
Haha!! Everyone always asks this and there really isn’t a set way… or list of rules I go by when it comes to my creative process. For me lyrics and the concept are so important because I love to tell a story through my music so my fans can relate.
You released your debut album in 2014, and have kept fans on their toes waiting for a follow up full-length album. Will we get everything we’ve been hoping for, that being a new record this year?
I know it has been a while! But I think the fans are going to love this album and the new records I am bringing out.
I feel like I have really come into my own and I have a true understanding of what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I would say this album is like an open diary and I have really poured my heart out and shared things I haven’t dared too before – it is almost like lyrical word vomit! HAHA! There is definitely no holding back with what I wanna say with this one.
What can listeners expect from your forthcoming releases?
For them to be real, honest and timeless sounding!!!!
With everything that’s been happening in the world touring has changed, what are your touring plans?
I have missed touring SO much! I think when you ask any artist this question right now, we all agree how we have missed being back up on stage! I guess that is where you grow and develop as a performer and artist so it is crucial for us to get back out there! Also, I miss my fans!
Seeing them at my gigs was such a highlight for me, so getting back on the road is definitely a priority for me so yes I will definitely be back touring as soon as it is safe to do so!
The past eighteen months have taken its toll on the music industry, specifically the touring sector, but also in terms of making that in person connection with audience members and creating a shared feeling and experience. How important do you think live music is not only for yourself as a musician showcasing their art, but also for the audience members who resonate with your music?
Honestly, live music is something I feel we all need right now. It holds a universal law of attraction that brings people from different backgrounds together. I think for too long it has been so easily forgotten by certain people just how powerful music can be for human beings.
Being in a crowd, being in an audience or on stage – it doesn’t really matter, we all feel the same thing! There aren’t many things that do that to us on this planet.
Hopefully we’ll see you back in Australia soon!
Absolutely!!!! I can’t wait to come back over and see my Australian fans and eat a load of Tim Tams! Haha!
My Grandad, Amy Winehouse and Fleetwood Mac
Pharrell Williams and Mark Ronson
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Back To Black – Amy Winehouse
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
HONEST, FREE, TIMELESS
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
A Bond theme! That is on the bucket list.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Ooooo has to be Miley Cyrus!!!!!!
What was the first song you loved to sing?
Tomorrow from the musical Annie.
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
First concert you went to?
The Black Eyed Peas
Best concert you have been to?
Beyonce – I LOVE HER!
First album you ever bought?
It was a best of - Destiny’s Child album
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
A SPICE GIRLLL!!
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
I would be Smiley Spice J
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Wembley Stadium for 100,000 people!
Guilty music pleasure?
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Beyonce – I would just wanna hang out with her!
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Prince – he was an absolute legend!
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
To not worry – and live more presently!