Ella Jenkins, known creatively as EllaHarp, comes from a long line of musical royalty. Her paternal grandfather was Gordon Jenkins, a composer and arranger who wrote classics for artists like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, and Louis Armstrong. Meanwhile her maternal grandfather was Bill Ulyate, a studio saxophone musician who recorded with none other than Elvis Presley. It was only a matter of time before Ella took up her family’s mutual passion for music. She fell in love with the harp at age 8, forcing her to travel 100 miles to her lessons each week. Luckily, the weekly pilgrimages would prove to pay off.
Today, EllaHarp combines her talent for playing the harp with her knack for songwriting to create her blend of pop music inspired by contemporary blues and traditional folk. Despite being from the Bay Area, the artist takes a lot of creative inspiration from traditional Scottish and Gaelic folk music, all thanks to a three-year trip abroad in Scotland. This inspiration can be seen throughout EllaHarp’s releases, both vocally and lyrically.
Her last album was released independently in 2018, and exploded with popularity amongst the world of contemporary folk, with her singles being featured on 85 radio stations around the world. EllaHarp’s momentum has not stopped in 2020, despite the pandemic. This year, she performed at the online Helpfest 2020, and has seen her single “Time” featured on the hit Netflix series Emily in Paris. In addition, she’s released a number of singles throughout the year, and anticipates releasing her second album in 2021.
EllaHarp released her single “Shotgun Sadie” with fellow Americana group The False Bottom Band just yesterday, December 18th. This song is her debut banjo single, standing out amongst her harp-inspired discography. The lyrics are a unique take on a classic country music trope — a victimized wife murders her abusive husband out of both self-defense and revenge. Unlike the other vengeful damsel in distress anthems, however, “Shotgun Sadie” stands out because of its Gaelic twist. The plucky strings of the banjo and its singing fiddle provide a musical arrangement similar to that of an Americana song. Meanwhile, Ella’s feathery vocals pay homage to the traditional vocal techniques of Gaelic folk singers. This single has proven that EllaHarp is capable of bridging the gap between Americana and Gaelic folk.
Stemming from musical royalty may have its perks, but EllaHarp has proven in “Shotgun Sadie” that her hard work and dedication aren’t to be discounted, either.
Photo by Holly B Rose Photography