With her stint as team captain on Spicks And Specks at an end, former Killing Heidi lead singer Ella Hooper is getting back in touch with her first love: making music. Hooper’s new single from upcoming album In Tongues is ‘The Red Shoes’, a take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
“I think it’s so evocative,” she says. “It’s well-covered territory; everyone’s had a go at reinterpreting this tale. I think the biggest influence on me was actually the  film – the beautiful adaptation that was done around the ballet, where the ballerina dances herself to death. It’s about obsession, but remains very delicate and classy with the way it handles it. I think with this whole album, I’m looking at lots of different ways that things can take you over and push you off your natural path, and sometimes that’s a bad thing and sometimes it’s a good thing. ‘The Red Shoes’ is a little bit of both, I think.”
Fans of Killing Heidi will find much to like about the new single, but Hooper says to expect a few new ingredients throughout the record.
“[‘The Red Shoes’] is actually the rockier side of the album,” she says. “It’s not all like this. My first single ‘Low High’ is probably a better indication of the meat of the record, but I really wanted to get ‘The Red Shoes’ out there too because it is my rockier, more anthemic song, and it’s been going nuts live. There’s probably two or three other tracks in this vein, and the rest is more ethereal and a bit more kooky.”
While these are the first tentative steps into a solo career for Hooper, she was able to count on an old friend for support and musical direction.
“There’s definitely a big influence from my producer Jan Skubiszewski,” she says. “He comes from a more urban background, so that was another reason I wanted to put down the guitar for a bit. I write almost all my stuff on guitar, so I wanted to put that down and get into a studio with Jan to work with some beats and do a couple of things I haven’t done before. He’s probably the reason why it sounds so different to everything else I’ve ever done.”
With much changing in Hooper’s day-to-day life as a radio and TV personality, it was inevitable that her songwriting on the album would be affected, she says. “It’s about Saturn returning, which is that astrological phase when you reach your late 20s in which everything you’re not meant to take into adulthood is ripped away from you or falls away, and you have to redefine yourself. I ended a long-term relationship and changed my working situation. You know, I’ve always been in bands with my brother and this is the very first time I haven’t worked with him. A lot of it has been scary and a little bit painful, even though I know it’s right. So the album is about going through those things to come out better on the other side.”
Hooper will play release shows in Sydney and Melbourne to air the new solo material, but don’t be surprised if she pops up in other projects soon.
“I’m focusing on the future,” she says. “We like to chuck in a couple of interesting covers, because I do know it’s hard for a crowd to sit through a whole set of brand new music. We like to throw in anything from Fleetwood Mac to strange country songs. I already do miss [being in a band]. I miss hiding in the band and being part of a whole thing. I have an amazing backing band now, who I feel very close to. They’re fantastic musicians, and will be touring with me for the Sydney and Melbourne shows. I sort of feel like I have created a bit of a band around me, but I definitely look forward to other side projects where it’s not under my name; where I can just be a character amongst other characters again.”
While Hooper’s stint on the rebooted Spicks And Specks came to an abrupt finish with the recent announcement that ABC wouldn’t be recommissioning the show, she remains upbeat.
“I would definitely love to do more [TV work],” she says. “It was just the most amazing opportunity, and it was really sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’m hoping to keep looking at things in that arena. At the end of the day, it was just not up to us and we’ve all had to practise letting go. I’m a big one for trying to get more music on television; I just think it’s crazy there’s so little. We have the fantastic RocKwiz, which I’ve been really involved with, and Spicks was another really great way to get more music on TV. I’m passionate about that, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to be involved in something that gets more music on TV.”
Although the show is a big loss to Hooper and lovers of music on television, don’t expect to catch her putting her feet up and taking things easy.
“Music isn’t how I pay the rent anymore,” she says. “I’ve got my radio show on Sunday nights all over the country on Austereo. I also host a program called The Telstra Road To Discovery, which is a songwriting search for the next great generation of songwriters. I’m also doing a few other things that I can’t talk about yet – some more mentorship and songwriting projects. I’ll also be writing some music for an event in the countryside where I come from. Oh yeah, and releasing my album [laughs].”Write a Letter to the Editor