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Q&A: Aussie legend Ella Hooper

Writing by Rose Sejean // She first burst onto the Aussie music scene in 2000 as the dreadlocked, pierced lead vocalist of Killing Heidi. Now the brilliant and uber-cool Ella Hooper is set to rip up the stage at BIGSOUND Festival. The award winning songwriter chats to Rose Sejean about her new single, ‘To The Bone’, career lessons and some great advice for new musicians.

Writing by Rose Sejean

Hey Ella! Thanks so much for hanging with us; how are you?

Great! Busy as, with a million different things, but feeding off of it!

You’re set to rip up the stage at this year’s BIGSOUND Festival (in Brisbane, Australia – for our international readers!); what can fans expect from the show?

It’s fun, full of harmony, quite driving and punchy; definitely a set you can move to! – There’s a lot of cowbell, for example… Haha! 

Despite being a seasoned muso, do you still find yourself battling nerves before live performances?

Not lately, I tend to read my nerves more as excitement – which is a good tick I learned years ago – but sometimes I still get butterflies and I’m pretty sure I will for BIGSOUND.

Congrats on the release of your banger of a single, To the Bone! Amidst its funky, synth-pop vibe, your kick-butt rocker roots still manage to shine through in the vocals; how do you balance allowing yourself to evolve creatively without losing your original ‘essence’?

That’s a very good question! And I’m not exactly sure of the answer. I think it’s something around being okay with people not liking or not getting your stuff. In the last few years, I have been able to acknowledge that I make music mostly for me; to scratch an itch, to find something out, to explore a side of myself, or even just because I want to enjoy taking on a role – that has always intrigued me.

My ‘essence’ is someone who tries things! It can express itself in a myriad of ways and I really don’t want to rein that in, just yet! But the flip side is, that it can make it difficult for people to understand you as an artist, but you just have to deal with that – and I do, gladly.

You’ve described To the Bone as a song for “when you’ve had all you can take and you want to dance til you break”. Tell us more?

Yes, it’s kind of a tune you can channel loose, aggressive energy to, maybe it’s my version of slam dancing; chaotic physical release. When you’re deeply frustrated – especially at and/or with yourself – this kind of free dancing can be a great way to release it and feel clean and calm again. It helps me every time, and that’s what the song is about – burning it up to get clear.

I remember totally idolising you when you first burst onto the scene as the dreadlocked, pierced lead vocalist of Killing Heidi, because you weren’t afraid to embrace your uniqueness. What advice can you give our teen readers who are just starting to experiment with their style?

I feel strongly about freely and boldly exploring your style when you’re young. Do it. Be fearless. Hair grows back (mostly) piercing holes close over (mostly) and if you want to have fun with it, have fun with it. I feel less of a need to clearly distinguish myself from the mainstream the older I get, so, I’m SO glad I went for it when I was young! – Who wants to miss out on all that good stuff!? How will you know what you like if you don’t try a few crazy things?

You’ve sustained an enviable music career and accumulated a trove of awards in the process – including being the first female EVER to be awarded APRA’s Songwriter of the Year (2001). What challenges have you faced as a female musician, and do you feel optimistic about the future of ‘Women in Music’?

Yes, I feel VERY optimistic! The coming years will be the best time for woman in music. It’s great to behold so many opportunities and see opinions shifting. I don’t feel I faced too many challenges personally – I know that’s lucky and I’ve often wondered why that was the case for me, as I know many others have really struggled.

I also don’t see myself as a female musician first, just a musician who is female and therefore, I don’t consciously see my work through a gendered lens – having said that, I am and always have been an enthusiastic feminist. I’ve always been happy to be a role model for other girls and women coming through, to lead with positivity, to champion and illustrate possibility.

Tell us a bit about your work with NOW Australia and how we can get involved?

It was an easy choice to get involved; sexual assault and discrimination are huge issues. Every industry needs to look at how it treats and protects women when they are just trying to work and create and do their thing. They have a great website ( where you can find out more.

Ok, if you could present a gift to your 14 year old self, what would it be?

Oooh! Maybe an electric guitar? I had an acoustic back then, but never graduated to electric and now I find it really hard! Also, the Slyvanian Families caravan set (if you know you know).

And finally, what parting advice could you give our Ramona readers wanting to get into music making?

  • Find, harness and protect your individuality; your quirks are important.
  • Be ambitious. Be ready. Play and perform ALL the time (this sh*t takes practice!)
  • Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t copy others, if you can help it – reference, yes, but rip off, no.
  • And GO FOR IT! It’s the best pursuit in the world. There’s room for everyone and you should and CAN be a part of it!





Rose Sejean

Rose is a music editor at Ramona and also works for a pretty cool record label in Sydney, Australia. xx

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