UTG Interview: Brandon James Ellis (Talking Trees / Rocky Loves Emily)


Rocky Loves Emily has been one of our favorite pop rock acts on the rise for the last several years, but during 2013 the group took a step out of the spotlight to re-focus and plans for the future. The results of those efforts are currently waiting to be shared with the world, but in the meantime vocalist Brandon James Ellis has begun working on a side project known as Talking Trees, and today he shares how it all came together.

I have been fortunate enough to know Brandon James Ellis for several years, but I had never heard him speak as passionately about his musical efforts as the day he asked if I wanted to hear his solo project. Brandon’s drive to create music that changes lives is nothing short of inspirational, and the music he’s creating with this new group is some of his best material to date. We don’t know where Talking Trees will go in 2014, but in the interview below we learn what they will do to get there.


UTG: Hey there, Brandon. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Several months have passed since you or any other member of Rocky Loves Emily has made much noise in the music world. What have you been working on all this time?

B: First off, thank you for having me, and yes, we’ve definitely been laying low. We basically took all of 2013 to refresh. The plan was to come home after touring all of 2012 and start writing for the next RLE record. Which has been going awesome. For the first time since we started this band in 2009 the song writing has been a full collaborative effort. In the past I would write the main skeleton of the songs and then the guys would fill them in with leads, drums, keys etc., however, with this album everyone is bringing songs/lyrics/melodies to the table. It’s the best music we’ve ever done and the morale is higher than ever.

UTG: In addition to the band’s new music, you have been developing a solo project of your own. When did you first realize you needed another outlet for your music?

B: I really didn’t want to start something on my own. The whole concept of doing “my own project” seemed egotistical to me. My fear was that if I did something on my own it would be portrayed as either B-sides of RLE or my attempt to leave RLE. Neither of those is true. The truth is there were so many songs floating around the RLE camp last year and I realized I had a few ideas taking me in a different direction. I was writing lyrics that were so introspective and self-critical I was almost embarrassed to even read them out loud. The song “Where Did We Go Wrong” talks about my thoughts on my role in the music industry the past 5 years. The chorus line “What have we become? It’s like the Devil’s got our tongues.” speaks for itself. “Weary Eyes” talks about my struggle to accept grace even when it’s freely given to me because I had gone through periods where I literally despised myself. For months and months I tried to just push the songs to the side assuming they would never see the light of day, but something kept telling me I had to somehow get these lyrics/melodies out there. I thought maybe other people could relate to what I’m going through too, you know? I guess that’s how “Talking Trees” was born. I have awesome people working with me too. My friend Kyle Serruys on drums and friend Natalie Green Bell from Tennessee on back-up vocals. This project just means so much to me. It’s basically my journal put to music. Talking Trees are songs for broken people.

UTG: How did the members of RLE react when you spoke with them about your desire to create music outside of the band?

B: They were all really supportive actually. I remember when I first got our songs “Weary Eyes” and “Where Did We Go Wrong” back from mastering. I crammed in a car with Pete and Andrew and blasted it. They were literally yelling, “It’s so good! It’s so good!” I guess I’m just blessed to have such a cool group of guys to have in my life. We all support each other with all the different adventures that come our way from personal relationships, to touring with other bands, and to making music on our own. It’s great.

UTG: How many songs do you have written/recorded at this point, and when can fans expect a proper release?

B: If you ever stole my phone and opened my recording app you’d probably laugh. I have hundreds of song ideas in there from the past couple years. Some are sick, and some are absolutely terrible, but for Talking Trees we have four songs recorded so far and are still recording more. Two of which have been released already. We have the blessing of working with producer Justin Rogers (Ocean Recording Studio in Roseville, MI) who literally lets us in his studio anytime we want. He lives about 15 minutes from me so it’s seriously perfect. He is incredible at what he does. We are either releasing a 7-8 track EP or just doing a proper full-length. We haven’t really decided yet. It will be out this year for sure though. In the meantime we are just releasing songs one by one.

UTG: What about live shows? Do you plan to take these solo efforts on the road in 2014?

B: Well that’s funny you ask that. Yesterday we booked our first show for April. We will be announcing the show soon. We are taking this time now to prepare a live show and finish recording. Sean and Andrew from RLE are actually going to be playing with me live which is awesome. I hope to be playing a lot of shows this year and possible a few dates on the road. We’ll see what happens!

Written and conducted by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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