by Carter Vosper
Ella Forrest is an emerging artist who has commanded attention since she burst onto the stage in 2022. Her fusion of jazz, funk and disco creates a sonic experience that transports the listener to a bygone era of grooves and melodies, breathing new life into beloved genres while simultaneously forging her own musical identity. Hailing from the prairie city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Ella discovered her passion for music at an early age. Growing up, she experimented with a variety of instruments and musical styles. It was through jazz that Ella fell in love with music in a new way, captivated by the sounds and creative freedom of the genre. Drawing on inspiration from the likes of Corrine Bailey Ray, Silk Sonic, and Earth Wind & Fire, she channels her own experiences and translates them into compositions that resonate with authenticity. Ella seamlessly blends genres, infusing elements of jazz, funk and disco to create her signature sound. With the smoothness of Tom Misch, the groovy basslines of Thundercat, and the timeless appeal of Stevie Wonder, she carves out a unique space in the music world, paying homage to the greats while forging her own path. At live shows, Ella leads a dynamic 8-piece band in soulful, high energy sets. Taking the stage as “Ella Forrest and the Great Pines”, the band combines the rich, melodious tones of the horn section with velvety vocals and groovy rhythms that will get you on your feet.
I had the opportunity to pick her brain about her debut single “Dreams”, as well as her writing and recording process, musical influences, relationship with the Regina scene, and plans for the future of “Ella Forrest and the Great Pines”.
Hi! How are you?
Hello! I am great! Very excited for my first interview!
You’ve recently released your debut single; what did the process leading up to this look like?
“Dreams” started out last summer, as a soft little love song I wrote on guitar about a long
distance relationship. I honestly thought that’s all it would ever be. But then my band and I
started rehearsing and arranging it, and it quickly became the funky and full piece that we
released. I had the opportunity to then record and develop the track as a part of the
Recording Artist Development program at the Creative City Centre, which involved the help
of so many incredible creative people along the way. It’s just crazy to me how this song grew
up, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
Many who follow the Regina indie scene have come to love your music through live
performances and some Soundcloud demos over the past few years; how does it feel to officially share your music with the rest of the world?
SO GOOD. I always held off uploading any of my demos on streaming because I felt like my
music was missing a piece, and once I started playing with my band I realized I found what I
was missing. I wrote my first song in grade 8, playing the ukulele under the covers and
crying about a boy, and if you would have told me that I would ever have music released, I
would not have believed you. It truly is something I could have only dreamed of, and it feels
very surreal to me that it actually happened. So much work went into the track, and I just
love hearing everyone’s thoughts of the song.
Once a song is released to the public, are you still able to enjoy it for yourself, or does it change the way you view it? I always find it’s easier to enjoy your own originals during the period when they’re just yours.
Oh you are definitely right. As much as I still love jamming to my songs post-release, I think I
get the most excited right after we first arrange a song and I’m listening to the muddy voice
memo on the drive home from rehearsal. One of the most exciting parts is just getting to
enjoy your music without the pressures of if people are listening or not, and I have to admit I
have spent an embarrassing amount of time excitedly doing laps around my kitchen island
while listening to some original arrangements of our songs.
Your new single masterfully blends elements of jazz and funk; are these genres that you were raised on, or were you drawn to them on your own?
I would honestly say a little bit of both! I started playing saxophone in jazz bands at school in
grade 7, and it felt like something began to fit into place when I was playing. The
instrumentation, rhythm, and harmonies just click so well together in my brain. Funk and
R&B slowly began to integrate their way into my music taste when I was in grade 8. I
listened to the 24K Magic album by Bruno Mars every day walking to school, and I think that
album was the bridge for me into my current music taste.
What does your songwriting process look like? Do lyrics or instrumentals come first? Is it collaborative, or do you lock yourself in your room until you emerge with another banger?
Usually I begin my writing process with a conceptual inspiration of some sort, whether it be a
love song about someone I’m crushing on, a made up scenario in my mind, or an analogy I
just thought would be cool. I have also written quite a few songs as a way to process my
emotions about certain scenarios, and those songs definitely have a special place in my
heart. What comes next then is actually usually a melody. I figure out how I want the chords
to go, and then will start a voice memo and just sing random words over top until I find a
melody I like. The last step when I am writing is lyrics, which help me pull it all together.
Sometimes this part of the process takes the longest if I don’t have a well thought out
inspiration, but once I know what I will be writing about I can rip out lyrics pretty quickly.
From there, I’ll take my song to the band, where we will arrange it with all the instruments,
and add in some cool elements. I love a good instrumental solo and highlighting the
incredible musicians in the band, so most songs we arrange with solos as well.
What have you been listening to as of late?
Oooooh good question. Well, since it is fall I do have to say I pulled out my fall jazz playlist
and have been listening to that quite a bit. I’ve always thought jazz has helped ground me
when I might be getting stressed in the middle of a busy semester as well. Lately I’ve also
been OBSESSED with the Whispers. There’s nothing like putting on a 70’s disco record and
just dancing it up. The instrumentation is crazy and makes me very happy to listen to.
Same thing as Japanese City Pop. I just feel transported into a different era and time when I
listen to that, which I love so much. As for my current favourite song, I would have to say it is
“Day by Day-A Colours Show” by Amaria. I think her approach to R&B is awesome.
Who inspires you as an artist?
Well, I have to say the 70/80’s funk/disco legends inspire me a lot, but also an incredible
amount of modern musicians. Someone I have always been inspired by in terms of vocal
performance is Corrine Bailey Rae, as I love her intonation and vocal tone, as well as the
jazzy influence in some of her music. Reuben James is an artist I have more recently started
listening to, and what inspires me about his music is how he is able to fuse so many different
elements of R&B so seamlessly and smoothly.
Every time I watch a live show I’m inspired by the stage presence of different artists, and I
strive to have an effortless yet charismatic presence when I am on stage. Lastly, I am inspired by the many local Sask. musicians, especially the R&B queens Katie
Tupper and Ariel. They are both literally killing it and I look up to them so much as artists.
How do you think being a part of the Regina/Saskatchewan Music scene influences your sound or approach to being a musician?
It’s made me realize how community based music is, and how lucky we are in Regina and
Saskatchewan to have such a supportive and close-knit music scene. I have met so many
musicians and mentors who have helped and guided me, and I am sure I will continue to
meet awesome people. Everyone is just rooting for everyone to succeed and sharing in their
love of music, and I think that’s the coolest.
What is, in your opinion, the recipe for an electric live show?
I think the first thing is having a moment to be a little silly and goofy with the band backstage, to loosen up those nerves and remind each other you are doing this because you love it. I think having friends and loved ones come out to support is SO key, as they will always hype you up. It makes me happy to see my friends enjoying my music. Lastly, going up there and enjoying the moment. Sometimes things aren’t going to go to plan, and I believe as long as you can laugh it off and move forward, the show is still going to feel great.
Do you have a favourite venue or location for live shows?
This is tough! I honestly don’t think I can pick a favourite, as I have enjoyed all of the venues
I’ve played at for different reasons. Whether you like a more intimate show, retro feel,
classify vibe, I feel like Regina has it all. The staff are so nice and helpful at each venue too.
I think we are pretty lucky here in the city!
What does the future look like for Ella Forrest and The Great Pines? What are some
short-term / long-term goals for you and the band?
Our first EP, “Butterflies” is releasing soon, which is probably the main goal of the band right
now! You can also catch us playing more local live shows, as well as playing our first out of
town show in Saskatoon in November. I also hope to keep applying for grants amidst school,
because there are so many songs I want to record and share. We are releasing some pretty
sick merch along with the release too, which was a goal I’ve had since starting the band. As
for more long-term, we want to keep playing, meeting more people, and see what happens! I think our music is pretty awesome, I would just love to reach as many people as we can to