Exclusive Interview with Elyse Saunders
Elyse Saunders is an independent, alt-country/pop recording artist who blends her small-town Ontario roots with the bright lights of Toronto and Nashville – captivating crowds with powerhouse vocals, a dynamic presence, and an interactive charm.
Why country music ?
~ I grew up singing all types of music but the essence of who I am at the core fits best with the Country music genre and when I made the decision to pursue a career in music, I knew it’s where I needed to be. Country music is part of who I am, where I grew up, my roots and I love how the lyrics tell a story. The genre has evolved and I really enjoy being able to bring some of my pop/rock/soul influences into my melodic hooks. Country music fans relate to authenticity and I knew I wouldn’t have been happy in a genre where I couldn’t be myself.
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which two people should sing the ultimate country duet?
~ Chris Stapleton and me! 🙂 I LOVE Chris’s soulful, gritty voice. He has such a range and versatility that I think we could create a super duet together no matter if it was a ballad or an up-tempo. I think our soulful tones and vocal interpretations would be a fun match. He’s also just freakin’ cool.
You recorded your debut album in 2008. What do you consider the major changes in country music in the last 10 years?
~ The genre has quickly shifted from being a smaller niche market to a booming, trending, commercial and influential one. With that shift, the market has definitely broadened its look, sound and audience. I know that some believe the new sounds of Country have taken away from the traditional sound of what made Country Music a genre in the first place, but to me, if Country music sticks to great storytelling rooted in its tradition of talented voices leading authentic lifestyles, than why not push the envelope a little bit in order to hone in on your own brand and audience? There’s a ton of music in general being put out there, so it’s even more important now to create something that is not only commercially appealing but also authentically your own.
What song you ever recorded means the most to you and why?
~ Every song I create, record and put out there means so much to me! As I like to say, they’re all like my babies! But right now, my recently released single “Feel You Leaving” means a lot as it’s the first of my new collection of songs, which are a part of a new stage in my career.
“Feel You Leaving” started in my sleep and after I took the idea to my co-writers (Shawn Moore, Doug Folkins), we wrote it and I knew I had to record it. The story is all about letting of your past and embracing everything that is now, which fits too perfectly with where I’m at in my career. It has an empowering feel to it and I love singing it live. I have so many fans telling me how much it relates to them and how good it makes them feel. The song just feels like my jam right now.
How did you came up with the idea to organize a benefit concert for Warm Coats Warm Hearts?
~ It started from my elementary school days when all of us kids would be outside for recess on some of the coldest days of winter. There was a boy who would come to school everyday with no hat, no mitts and a spring jacket. My friends and I tried to help him out in the best way we could, but I didn’t truly understand what was happening at the time. Flash forward, as I was growing in my career, I realized that I had a public platform where I could make a difference in people’s lives beyond just music, but didn’t exactly know how. It wasn’t until one day when I was riding on public transit that I had found a paper to read for my travels and came across an ad that mentioned the need for winter coat drives and the tools to make it happen through a website called OneWarmCoat.Org. I was immediately taken back to the memory I had from elementary school and the cause connected with me. After that, I decided to create Warm Coats Warm Hearts Coat Drive & Concert – a benefit concert that would include a fun night of music with some of my music peers and a gently used, warm winter coat as admission. It started 7 years ago and has been pretty special to see the many communities come together in giving back through this initiative. To date, we’ve put thousands of warm winter coats on children, youth and adults. As I continue to grow in my career, I hope to continue to give back as much as I can.
What is the one thing that readers/fans would be surprised to know about you?
~ I’m a huge animal lover and I’m also kind of obsessed with ancient history. OK, that’s two things… 🙂 I’ve always said that one day, I would love to own a ranch with all kinds of animals. A couple of pigs, some horses, cats, dogs, chickens, a cow or two. I love being surrounded by nature and animals bring me so much joy. We will see what I can make happen. And the ancient history stuff, I could spend hours reading about the world’s ancient past and its mysteries. It’s pretty fascinating to me and I hope to get the opportunity to travel more, so I can see more of the places I read about.
Give us one country song you never want to hear on radio anymore and tell us why.
~ I don’t know if I have just one song that I never want to hear again. What drives me nuts is when I enjoy a song and then it’s overplayed to the point that I need a break from it for a long while. That’s when I go on the hunt for new music and create my own playlist. Don’t get me wrong though, I love going on long road trips, blasting the radio, but I just don’t like too much repetition.
New music video for the summer single, “Feel You Leaving”
What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and…you wish they would?
~-Why do you do this?
I do this because I love creating and if I can connect with people through my show and make them smile, laugh, happy, feel something, then I’m happy. There’s a tough and sometimes emotional grind that goes on behind the scenes of being an artist, but the fun that emerges from crafting a song, creating in the studio and playing it live is what makes the grind all worth it. If I’m a financially stable artist that can support my dream and my team, then that’s all I can ask for. I wouldn’t want to do anything else!
You often bring us a message with your songs. What is the next message you would like to put in a song?
~ Appreciate that 🙂 There’s a few ideas floating around but that would ruin the surprise!! Stay tuned xoxo
Johnny or June ?
~ Ahhh! Such a good question. I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan! Johnny was never afraid to push the envelope and made people really listen. He was a philanthropist, created songs with messages and was always himself. I highly respect him and look up to him as an artist. But with that said, I’m also big fan of June – a talented songwriter in her own right and her charm on stage was magnetic. I’ll be honest – I’ve taken facets from both of them. They’re a duo that can’t be broken!
Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any “rituals” to calm you nerves.
~ I don’t really get nervous anymore but anxious, yes! Funny enough, when I began singing on stage, I was naturally a pretty shy kid – a shy kid with an inner performer that always wanted to come out! But those first several performances were the scariest in my life at the time. I would feel cold, hot, nauseous, extremely stressed all at once. But now – being an entertainer is definitely my FAVE and makes me so excited and pumped! A couple of days before the show, I try to avoid anything that will dry or dehydrate my voice. The day before, I try to get my set list printed out and my outfit planned. The day of, I give myself time to get ready, round up my checklist of materials to bring, drink lots of water, eat a light nutritious meal and spend about 30 mins warming up my voice to a program while I drive to the show. If I’m feeling anxious before a show, I’ll run through some positive affirmations and repeat them to myself so that I can trick my brain into feeling less anxious and more confident. Repeating positive affirmations is what initially helped me to beat my stage fright early on and now it’s a great tool for when I need that extra boost.
What was the most memorable day in your musical career and tell us why.
~ I have quite a bit of those but the one that first came to mind is when I opened for ACM artist Deric Ruttan in front of a crowd of at least 10,000 people. At that time in my life, I was pretty green to the scene. I had spent only a few years showcasing on small festival and fair stages for singing competitions as well as a couple of soft seat theaters. In addition, I had spent about a year developing my studio chops in my my producer’s home studio. My producer, Cyril Rawson, was also my very first mentor. We had just got back from Nashville where we collaborated with some of the best pros in the industry to record a few songs towards my very first album. This opportunity came up for me to showcase the new material and the artist I was becoming. So I would say that this moment of bringing it all together on my hometown stage, in front of thousands was a make it or break it point for me. I practiced every day for a month before the show until I didn’t need to think about it anymore and then went out there and did it. It was that moment that I was hooked and knew I could do this. Since then, I’ve grown tremendously and am proud of the professional artist I’ve become but will never forget who I was and where I started.
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