Music 31.10.2013 06:02 am

Track by Track with John Ellis

John Ellis’s latest release is Bush Telegraph, a five track EP that takes less than 20 minutes to listen to, and yet packs a huge amount of thought-provoking inspiration into its running time.

“The overall theme,” says Ellis, “has to do with me feeling that I no longer have anything to prove. I now write music I want to listen to. I’m not trying to be true to a brand.”

Bush Telegraph: “That’s a song about trying to communicate with God – I’m not ashamed to say that anymore – using any means necessary,” says Ellis. “A bush telegraph is an unsophisticated system. I loved that idea, and combining it with all the images of satellites and antennae and all the stuff we use to communicate today. Ultimately, I think every effort to communicate with God is rudimentary.”

Oncoming Train: “This is an uncharacteristic ‘seize the day’ song,” Ellis smiles. “What it’s saying is that, even if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, we can run alongside it, jump on and ride, rather than being flattened. The sense of it is: this time will be different; the end is not nigh.”

All Too Soon: “I’m really proud of this one,” says Ellis. “I feel it’s a great example of crafting a lyric around the melody I wanted. It’s a very rueful song. There’s an awareness that good things don’t last. It’s being honest; talking about feeling that the things we feel we should have at 40 – marriage, money, success – go away ‘all too soon’. We should embrace them more when they are there. Oh, and I get to quote David Lee Roth, but you’ll have to look for that yourself.”


Soon There Will Be More Of Us: “I saw that phrase on a poster when I was walking down Long Street in Cape Town one day,” explains Ellis. “I copied it down because I thought it might be useful, though I didn’t know who ‘us’ was or how soon the ‘soon’ would be. It’s an old-fashioned song. It reminds me a bit of Neil Young. It talks about the burgeoning attitude of dissatisfaction that we have in South Africa. It will add up; the tipping point will come eventually.”

Waiting To Be Rescued: “That’s another one that’s out of character for me,” says Ellis. “There’s not a single guitar in that song. The lyrics are very tongue in cheek. It’s a litany of topics I’ve looked at or things I’ve tried over the years; things I’ve tried to find meaning in. A lot of it, too, was just looking up at my bookshelves and what was lying around on my desk, and writing down the titles of books or the names of objects I could see.”

Find John Ellis’s songs on his blog

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