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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos

SPOTLIGHT ON ROWAN DRAKE

Dear Ella, is out now!

Image: Supplied.


Rising singer-songwriter Rowan Drake has treated us with the release of his debut EP, Dear Ella,. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release, his artistry and so much more.


Across the collection of songs, Drake navigates first love and its intricate, and sometimes destructive, nature. Intimate and introspective lyricism documents both sides of the relationship, offering differing perspectives and insight. Drake's mesmerising vocals flow above carefully crafted soundscapes that swell beneath and allow for moments of contemplation and reflection.



Could you tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey, and your background in music?


Music has always been present in my life. From the out-of-tune pianos to the partially broken guitars, I was raised in families that valued music. While not together, both my parents individually brought me into their musical worlds. From my mom and her Grateful Dead obsession to my dad who danced me to sleep with zydeco music. The transition from me listening to music to playing and writing it was very natural and, as life started to affect me more, became a very necessary outlet.



Your debut EP Dear Ella, is an introspective body of work that documents the rocky path of a relationship. Could you unpack the themes explored throughout the EP and what drew you to documenting them within your music?

As my relationship with my first love continues to ebb and flow, I have been creating out of necessity. Necessity to not boil over emotionally. Necessity to show Ella that I hear her and her pain. This project is an attempt to immortalize a chapter of our story and put it into the world. I hope she will come back to this body of work from time to time if she ever feels like reliving some of these emotions.



Lyrically it’s such a soul-baring collection of songs. Was there any fear or apprehension being so personal and sharing such an intimate part of your relationship?


As this project is very much written for Ella, there was never a fear about saying exactly how a situation felt. Many of the themes and songs are from her perspective and use some of her own words. So in order to preserve the feelings, it felt right to speak truthfully.


Each song provides beautifully mesmerising soundscapes. How did you craft the sonic realm the EP exists within?


This world comes from my head and from my collaborators' heads. I drew lots of inspiration from artists I listen to and combined that with random ideas that came into my head. There are no rules when creating the sound of something. So from the talking ambience found in many tracks to the subway station sample I recorded in New York. Everything is just an idea given the chance to become a part of the final product.



How did Dear Ella, evolve throughout its creation, from its initial inception to what we hear today?


It’s funny because the more time that passes, the more I realize that this project is just a fraction of the story with Ella. Many lifetimes could be spent attempting to say everything and many more projects will hold the feelings and moments we have shared. This first chapter is simply an attempt to capture a few moments that occurred closer to the end of our relationship. I’m not sure why I’m starting here but I guess it was the first time I felt true loss and true love. These overwhelming emotions led to these songs and I hope she can see that.



What are your thoughts on listening to the EP now as a finished body of work?


It’s mixed. I’ve started to realize that as the artist my healing comes from the initial creation of these songs. After that, they can be relentlessly picked apart, questioned, and misunderstood by people around me and myself. A lot of the essence I once heard in them can be lost for a time. But for others who have never heard these songs, including Ella at times, the songs remain pure. They have the ability to heal and my hope is that eventually I can return to the project and heal all over again if need be.



Which song from Dear Ella, would you play to someone who had never heard your music that you think would make them an instant die-hard fan and why?


I tried to leave my sound wide open with this project as honestly I have no idea where I want to take this sound. All I know is I want to tell a story and create a beautiful world around that story. I would say everyone will be affected in different ways by different songs but I would probably play Haunt Me for someone who has never heard my music.



Is there a particular line, lyric or musical motif from the EP that you find gets stuck in your head, or one that you’re most proud of?


In the song Momentary Feelings, there’s a line that goes:


Hey you, how’ve you been?

‘Cause I’m a skeleton

Of the person you left me

Won’t you let me in?

Can’t I touch your skin?

Just to prolong our ending


This just perfectly describes so many moments with Ella. It’s painful. But we do often search for those brief moments of connection to keep us going. Even long after we both lost ourselves.



When it comes to writing and creating, do you have a creative process or do you find each song and project takes on its own form?


My best work comes from the initial conception of a song being done in solitude. This usually means me and my guitar somewhere with beautiful acoustics like a stairwell. I sing melodies with random words until something moves me. Lately, I’ve also been writing a lot of free-flowing thoughts with no melody or chords. Just words. This is then applied to sounds and melody.



Will fans be able to catch you on tour in the near future? Hopefully you’ll be able to visit Australia for some shows!


I’m starting to enter the world of live music. I’m honestly terrified but so excited to fall in love with the music in a new way. As well as to meet the people who have helped me get to this point. Look out for more info in the coming months.



GET TO KNOW ROWAN DRAKE


Biggest influences?

Bon Iver, Justin Bieber, Jeff Buckley, Mazzy Star, Radiohead, Ray LaMontagne.


Dream collaboration?

Bieber would be hard to beat for me but The Weeknd could be incredible as well.


Album that has had the most impact on you?

In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith or Pink Moon by Nick Drake.


How do you define your musical style in 3 words?

Brief emotional clarity


If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?

Stand by Me


What was the first song you loved to sing?

“Demons” by Imagine Dragons


A song you would love to cover on tour?

“Fade into You” by Mazzy Star


Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?

Strange Trails by Lord Huron


First concert you went to?

Tom Petty


Best concert you have been to?

Novo Amor or Ed Sheeran


First album you ever bought?

In the Lonely Hour by Sam smith


An artist you would love to see cover one of your songs?

Bon Iver


Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?

Spice girl


If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?

Sad boy spice


Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?

A hometown show called Rootstock


Go-to karaoke song?

“Hallelujah”


An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.

Jay-Z


What advice would your current self give your future self, for a year from now?

“You’ll be ok… remember you are loved and can reach other to lots of people who truly care for you”


The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?

Singing at a talent show on a vacation when I was very young. Some girls said they liked my voice and I was hooked.



Dear Ella, is out now!


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