Rory Ellis is a singer-songwriter from Newcastle, New South Wales, who has been performing for thirty years. His outlaw Americana style has won fans all over the world, with Ellis touring in Europe as well as Australia. His new album, Inner Outlaw, is his ninth. It showcases his impressive voice and masterful storytelling. And, as it turns out, the twelve songs on the album are just a sample of what Ellis has stashed away. He writes songs constantly, saying, ‘There’s always something that happens every day, really. Since that album I’ve sat out at my little table there and probably written another twenty-four [songs].
‘Little ideas pop to mind or thoughts or things you see or hear,’ Ellis goes on. ‘You can always write a song about something. It doesn’t need to be the biggest thing in the world. It can be the smallest thought in the world. In fact, the song “The Letter”, off the Inner Outlaw album, I was sitting here thinking about my grandfather sitting around his table out in the backyard in Porter Street, Prahran. There’s a little chess table made out of marble and concrete by my uncle Jimmy, who was my godfather. I just started to write about the backyard. It was incredible little place in Porter Street and had a loft, a horse stable, the cobblestones and the big gates out the back. Of course it’s not there now. My dad used to say, you know, there’s people there like Bob Hawke and Arthur Calwell sitting around Uncle Jimmy’s table. So I wrote a song called “Uncle Jimmy’s Table”.’
It is obviously wonderful for an artist to be open to those ideas coming, but there’s a great deal of skill involved in taking that inspiration, that fleeting thought, and turning it into a song. Ellis explains the craft of this by saying, ‘I think the thing is to take a small idea and paint a really big picture in not a lot of words. At the end of the day being a storyteller more so than a pop stylist, you tend not to do the total repetition on everything. So you’re actually telling a story, you’re painting a picture for people so that they can put themselves in the situation, you know, or relate to it somehow. And that’s the skill to it, in my opinion.’