Jeff Ellis Makes Music With Heart
e has released five records and won awards. He has served his country for more than a decade, with tours in Iraq and Kuwait, as part of the U.S. Army. He recently married and is starting his own family. And he’s just 30 years old.
But Huntington native and singer-songwriter Jeff Ellis accomplished one of his biggest musical goals when he played as part of West Virginia’s Mountain Stage, a live radio show by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In 2008, he not only achieved his goal—he won the Mountain Stage NewSong contest. “I’ve got to tell you, I did not think I was going to win,” Ellis says. “It was a shock to me just as much as it was a shock to anyone else.”
NewSong Recordings is based out of Brooklyn, New York, and the contest connects musicians to artists all over the U.S. and Canada. “It’s a great experience to network and to meet new people. They pick the best from each region,” Ellis says. “You know when you’re there, everybody is going to be good. Just for being in the contest, you get to play in front of people you normally wouldn’t get a chance to.”
Most of Ellis’s fourth album, “The Forgetting Place,” was written overseas, though he now lives in South Charleston. That album was recorded with producer Eddie Ashworth, who has worked with Sublime, Pennywise, and Unwritten Law. “The Forgetting Place” was recorded at the Ohio University recording studio in Athens, where Ashworth teaches music production and music industry.
Ellis says he was influenced by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Steve Earle. “A lot of my writing stems from those four artists, but I listen to a little bit of everything,” he says. “I have a love for pop and some of the hard rock. At some point, everything I listen to filters in.” He says his melodies come from pop more than anything else, and there are times when he’ll have a melody in his head for months without words.
Ellis says he just likes to write songs and play them for people. “It makes my day when someone comes up to me and tells me one of my songs touched them in a certain way. I think that for any songwriter, that’s the ultimate goal.”
His latest album, “The Line,” is out now.