Creatives in Focus: Robert Ellison, London-based musician

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Robert Ellison is a musician based in north London. His work has been featured on television.

He describes his creative oeuvre as, “a dark electro cinematic fusion of dub grooves with soulful melodies” and talks with MannedUp about his work.

He bangs the drums

Robert initially tapped his musical talent as a youngster in the Midlands.

“When I was young my nan used to take me to church. One day they brought in this old, battered drum kit and I was just mesmerised by it. I waited and waited, and finally got my chance to play — I picked it up almost straight away. It was the first time I felt a fit with something,” says Robert, about his first memories of making music.

He has lost count of the number of songs he has written during his career.

The soundtrack of a museum

Like many musicians and creative souls, Robert finds inspiration in everyday life and art.

“If I go to a museum and look at a painting, I think to myself, ‘if I could put a soundtrack to this scene what would it be?’” he says.

“I also people watch a lot, which is fascinating in London. You can get a lot of inspiration from this,” he adds about his day to day muses.

In addition to his imagination, Robert draws on an Apple iMac plus Logic Pro software.

“The quality of home studios has risen over the years, meaning you can get big sounding results on a modest budget,” says the artist, who often works at home while creating melodies.

The creative cycle of a musician

So how would Rob describe his creative cycle?

For a moment he looks reflective then shoots back his answer: “Despair. An Idea. Start to record. Ideas start to flow. Mix and finish the song. Struggle with next idea. Back to despair.”

Despair? Surely there are rewards to being a musician? Robert nods.

“Being a musician gives me the freedom to be expressive and creative. I also like the fact I can connect with people in a different place, even if I have never met then, live in their country or speak their language,” he states.

Robert Ellison
Portrait of London-based musician Robert Ellison

The challenge of the creative economy

Balancing work that pays well with being expressive is an issue that has dogged many creative souls over time.

Robert sees his biggest challenge in balancing “paying bills through commercial work and undertaking more creative projects.”

The Internet: angel or demon?

Some creatives believe the Internet is a blessing, others see it as a negative influence on the creative economy. So how does Robert see it?

“The Internet is good because it gives me a chance to get my voice out there and reach like mind people. The down-side is the need for everything to be instant,” he responds.

“I really have to resist the temptation to put something out as soon as possible. Taking my time and making sure my songs are spot on has helped me cut through all the ‘noise’ out there,” he adds.

Over time Robert has built a network of music publishers, among whom he pitches ideas. In turn, the reach out to him when suitable projects arise.

Making money from music

The $64,000 question is, does being a musician keep you in beer money? Never shy of going where the money is, is unafraid of discussing whether something is lucrative.

“It can be if you get the right project,” responds Robert. “Don’t you think Match of the Day could do with a new theme tune?” he adds with a whimsical smile.

And he’s no stranger to hearing he work on the telly.

Being at home with the television in the background, all of a sudden I hear music I recognise being played and I’m like ‘that’s mine!’ It was an excellent feeling.”

Looking ahead, Rob aims to release more material and to playing live regularly.

“I would love to collaborate more with artists from different disciplines,” he says before revealing “I am working with an animator at the moment and it’s proving really interesting. I would also love to do a soundtrack for a film.”

You can listen to examples of Robert Ellison’s work via Spotify.

The evocative photographs illustrating this feature were supplied by Robert Ellison and are the work of rwd2design.

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