‘Experimenting with music is my joy in life’: 25 years on and Ella Hooper remains committed to her craft

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‘Experimenting with music is my joy in life’: 25 years on and Ella Hooper remains committed to her craft

Words By Tammy Walters

Any Ella Hooper News is Good News.

It’s not a secret that Ella Hooper is dearly loved far and wide. 

Whether she’s rocking out with her brother in Killing Heidi, making us laugh during her appearances on Spicks and Specks, joining A-leagues of rock royalty for special events including her recent run of Rock the House, or keeping us guessing as a contestant on The Masked Singer or serenading us over a live stream thanks to Geelong Arts Centre, Ella Hooper kept everyone well entertained during the tedious pandemic period.

Stay up to date with all the epic festivals and events happening in and around the region here.


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“I did a lot of weird stuff during the pandemic like The Masked Singer and things like that – made an album.”

That album, Small Town Temple set for release on January 20 2023, includes her three latest releases, the lulling ‘Old News’, the raw ‘Achilles Heel’ and the playful ‘Words Like These’. 

‘Old News’ was the first new music from the Australian golden girl since 2018’s disco dazzler ‘To The Bone’, a track positioned to be a phoenix moment for Hooper, reframing herself outside of the rock route. Surprisingly, no disco balls are spinning in the ‘Old News’ picture. This time Hooper digs her heels into the alt-country dirt. 

“A lot happens between songs and touring and I change so this new record I made during the lockdown during the pandemic is a lot more chill, a lot more adult and is reflecting the new old me,” Hooper explains.

“It’s funny when you look at my catalogue; it’s a lot and I’m into following the muse. I love so many different kinds of music; I love alt-country, I love rock and roll, I love pop, I love blues, I love anything that’s good and that all comes out in my music. It’s a little schizophrenic but I have to try it all because I love it all. Experimenting with music is my joy in life so I have to let myself, you know. I’ve been in this industry for 25 years now so I’ve just got to let myself play.”

‘Old News’ takes inspiration from the Hooper parent’s record collection of 60’s and 70’s masterpieces, confettied with country colouring and Cooder, Ry Cooder that is. Contemporary muses came in the form of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen. 

Produced by Marcel Borrack and Tim Harvey, ‘Old News’ sees Hooper engage in a songwriting collaboration with Sara Douga. Whilst no stranger to the co-write method from the Heidi days, this co-write was a new experience for Hooper. 

“It’s so weird actually because I don’t think about Jesse and I as collaborating because he is just an extension of me and we’ve done it forever so I don’t think I have to bring the best version of myself to the co-write, but with Sara, she was quite an experienced co-writer and from that Nashville world where you get in the room and it’s a really different setting. 

“We met when I was in Nashville in 2017, and we didn’t really get to hang out much. We started hanging out online and writing together which was great whilst I was in lockdown and there were the times when I was losing my mind from not touring and felt really stark and unproductive, we’d jump on zoom while I was waking up and she was putting the kids to bed and write a song.”

‘Achilles Heel’ followed ‘Old News’ in September. In this track, Hooper sings Everything I know, I am gonna have to unlearn and explains the sentiment behind the song, saying, “I left the blood on the page with this one. During the pandemic, I was thinking about the person I wanted to be with. I actually said how I felt and what I wanted. The song almost came out all at once. It felt scarily honest and very cathartic.”

Hooper recently released her third single, ‘Words Like These’ in October, taking musical cues from Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt. Rhythmic and playful, here Hooper turns the wattage up and reveals more colours and textures in her music and songwriting, a further taste of what is to come from the album. This is also the first reveal of the stunning backing vocals that feature throughout the record, performed by celebrated stalwart of the Australian blues scenes – JoJo Smith and Hooper’s own mother, Helen Keighery, who both possess rich honeyed vocal tones that warmly underpin Hooper’s delivery.

These three singles mark a new beginning for Hooper as she explores maintaining her status as an active musician at this point in her career. 

“I’m finding myself again and again and again,” she laughs, “I was feeling a bit apprehensive about putting out a new record and taking up space in the industry when I’ve been here so long and the voice inside my head would say ‘move out of the way, make room for someone else, you’re hogging the mic, you’ve already had all of those opportunities’, but then I started to fight the voices and say ‘why can’t I contribute and keep contributing when I have things to say’ and I think I will always have things to say. 

“This is about giving myself a rev up to allow myself to do that again!”

Written in her hometown of Violet Town, Hooper’s forthcoming album, Small Town Temple will further showcase Hooper’s deeply personal songwriting that we’ve heard in these new singles, with the record standing as a love letter to her hometown – just a humble little mystery that keeps me going and coming on back” – as well as her family and friends..

Alongside Hooper’s mother featuring on the album, her dad Jeremy closes the record, playing the alto recorder outro on ‘Long Gully Road’. It was the first time that Ella had featured her mum and dad on one of her records, and she dedicates the album to Violet Town and her parents, “for all they taught me with their lives and their love of music”.

“They are the reason I make music and why I am who I am.”

But, as the classic song noted, true love travels on a gravel road. The Small Town Temple story took a tragic turn with the passing of Hooper’s parents. Jeremy died suddenly after an unexpected cancer diagnosis, and Helen died of cancer two weeks later.

“I had no idea when I started making this album how things would turn out,” she says. “It’s been a very strange time, to say the least. But I’m so grateful that something told me to include mum and dad. It seems so appropriate that they open and close the album.”

After a multitude of gold and platinum records and four ARIA Awards, Hooper remains committed to her craft.

Ella Hooper will be taking these songs on the road for an extensive national tour, freighting into Bannockburn Railway Hotel on Friday 4 November and the Palais in Hepburn Springs on Saturday 5 November.

Tickets can be found at www.ellahoopermusic.com     

Pre-order her album Small Town Temple here.