Songs to Get You Through the “Heavy”: A Conversation with Elli Ingram

Elli Ingram © 2020
British singer-songwriter Elli Ingram talks to Atwood Magazine about “Heavy” and her journey with music and mental health, and Ingram put together an exclusive playlist of songs that get her through heavier days.
Stream: “Heavy” – Elli Ingram




Elli Ingram is doing the best she can, but sometimes she forgets to give herself enough credit. After a whirlwind of a career which took off after her 2013 cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” went viral, 2020 started for Ingram with the promise of new music and all that comes along with it – shows, interviews and photoshoots, music videos, the usual. But then came COVID, and everybody’s plans were suddenly warped.

While shows turned into livestreams, interviews and photoshoots were mediated by computer screens, and the making of music videos for a while seemed impossible, Ingram stuck to her plan and released music anyway. “Bad Behaviour” and “Flowers”, her first two singles of the year, paved the way for what probably became her most impactful song to date: “Heavy”.

Heavy - Elli Ingram

Heavy – Elli Ingram

I’ve gotten heavy
Nobody wanna hold me up
Ain’t asking for help
I’m stubborn and I know myself
I’ve gotten heavy
Nobody wanna hold me up
Ain’t asking for help
I should be strong enough to do it myself

Released on October 16th, “Heavy” touches on mental health, suicidal ideation, and the weight of feeling like going on might just be a little too much, enveloped in a soulful and upbeat sound. It’s a showstopper of a song that makes people feel seen, but also encourages them to go on even though you might not feel like that’s possible. Ingram feels like you do, and she’s here, she’s thriving, she even started a YouTube cooking show! “Heavy” has empathy and sincerity at heart, and while it focuses on the darker days, Ingram becomes living proof that light is just around the corner.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Elli Ingram about “Heavy” and her journey with music and mental health, and Ingram put together an exclusive playlist for Atwood Magazine for songs that get her through heavier days.

But I haven’t slept in weeks, not a wink
It must be all the drink
Yeah, it keeps me up, makes me think too much, too deep
I’m too young to feel this shit
I wonder how long I can hold my breath
(One, two, three, four)
I think the sky looks pretty
Even though the weather’s shitty
I bet you right now that behind all the clouds are blue
I’m telling you
I think there’s hop up there for me
Maybе I can finally meet Amy
Just gotta get out of this old city

— —

:: stream/purchase “Heavy” here ::
Stream our Elli Ingram x Atwood Magazine playlist:

A CONVERSATION WITH ELLI INGRAM

Heavy - Elli Ingram

Atwood Magazine: I’d like to start off by personally thanking you for “Heavy”. Not only is it a great song, but I struggle with my mental health as well and it feels so good to hear someone actually, talk about the things that I feel on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, and make it feel like it's fine to feel this way and still go on, so thank you, personally.

Elli Ingram: Oh, well, thank you, I really appreciate that. It’s a bit daunting putting out something like that and I do feel like a lot of people really appreciate it. But I feel like, I don’t know if it’s just more my family because now they’re a bit worried about me, But I feel like the older generation that I’ve sort of spoken to a little bit, I spoke to my dad about it the other day and he’d just spoken to my uncle and he basically said that he’d seen what the song was about and then my dad was like “Are you okay, I’m a bit confused, you seem fine”. And I’m like, “No, I am fine. But I go up and down my emotions” And he said to me “Well, you shouldn’t say things you don’t mean, because people will get the wrong impression”. I think he meant it from a genuine place and he was just like “You’re fine, aren’t you?”, he didn’t really realise it and now I guess he’s a bit more aware of how I’m feeling. I use my songs and my lyrics as my little opportunity and window to be like this and then close the door because I don’t really want to talk about it.

Has songwriting always been this escape for you?

Elli Ingram: Yeah, absolutey. That’s definitely what I do. And it’s so funny because there’ll be a problem or some way that I’m feeling in my life and then I release the songs and these conversations start happening and people are like, “Are you okay?” or “What happened?” I wrote a song about it. I wrote loads of songs about my partner and things that we’d gone through and then people would be like “Did that really happen? What’s going on?” And I’m like, “No, no, I don’t want to talk about it. Thank you, the song’s enough, you can have the song and you can just figure it out”. And I’ll run away now because I don’t want to talk about it.

Elli Ingram © 2020

Elli Ingram © 2020

Mental health especially is something so difficult to verbalise. Why did you feel like now was the time for you to release this song?

Elli Ingram: I guess I just thought that everyone is probably feeling pretty similar to how I am right now and it just felt like I wanted people to know that. I’m feeling really bad, and I’m sure you are as well as the listener, and we’re just all in it together. And my mum said to me, like when she heard the song she was like, really “I really liked this song but people don’t need sad songs, people need light”. And I was like, “Mum, you are right, people do need light. But it’s a very, very dark time. And I’m not writing five fucking releases on them. If right now I was like, ‘I’m so happy. I love my life!’ everyone would be like “Thank you, you make me feel even worse”. So it just captured everything that’s happening right now and it’s so nice to hear people to say that they really relate and really are grateful to know that other people are going through what they’re going through.

What's the feedback been like ever since you released it?

Elli Ingram: It’s been really good. I’m really happy. We got our first Radio 1 play last night, that moment made me feel good. I felt like I needed that. I needed that I was because when I released the song, I really go through such an emotional journey, because it’s very up and down. You release this song and you expect so much and kind of expect it all happen on the first day and it’s a bit quiet, you think, “Oh my god, no one cares. No one’s heard it”. And then you get a play on the radio, and then you’re really happy. It’s very up and down. But it seems to be really good, and I don’t think I’ve ever really had a song before where I’ve actually really had so many messages from people saying like, “Thank you for the message and thanks for talking about what you spoke about” because not many people touch on it and so many of us feel like it. Also for me to know that I’m not alone and that actually so many other people feel how I’m feeling.

What was the process of writing the song like for you, how did it feel to finally get this out? Mental health is so delicate and taboo, did you even think about how people might perceive it when you were writing?

Elli Ingram: Well, when I was writing it, no. I think whenever I write any of my songs, I never actually think of that at all. I never really think what people will think. It’s not until it’s kind of finished and then I can start playing it to people or when it’s released that then I think they’re going to listen to the lyrics and they’re going to know what I’m talking about and they might want to know more. But at the very beginning, it’s just therapy for me basically to just be able to get it all out. I worked on the song with Aston Rudi, he’s basically like my brother, and that’s kind of a double reason why it felt even more like a therapy session because I was there with someone that I was very, very comfortable with. I couldn’t have written that song with just a random producer that I don’t really know.

We were sat there together and he really asked me so many questions. We were going back and forth and talking about all of this and it was difficult, but it was good for me to get it out of my system. I also tried to keep it a bit light, you know, when you think of what could have been. When you listen to “Heavy” and you don’t really know what I’m talking about it doesn’t feel like a sad, depressing song, it was kind of just a bit like, “I’m just sat here looking at the sky and actually, I would rather be there right now”. It didn’t even feel particularly sad when I was saying it. I just felt like, that’s just how I feel. I’m a bit fed up and it was just much nicer up there.

Even thinking about the lyrics and theme of the song, the experience of listening to it isn’t necessarily heavy. The song is quite enjoyable and light. How did you deal with the balance between light and darkness in the song?

Elli Ingram: If it was too dark it would have been too much for me, I wouldn’t have been able to sing it, I wouldn’t be able to perform it. If I write a song like that and if the production and the melodies were, you know, a completely different tone and much sadder I would be a wreck if I had to stand up on stage to sing it. I’m almost sort of shying behind the more joyful production. It’s kind of like, there was my little comfort blanket to hold your hand and keep everything sounding sweet while you talk about how you’re really feeling. Otherwise it would be too much. So I think it needed to sound like that so I could get really deep.

Trying to relax
Kick back, put on the TV
Gavе up on myself
Started writing my CV
Jackie didn’t help
She’s always talking money this and money that
Get a job instead of sitting ‘round and getting fat
I haven’t slept in weeks, not a wink
It must be all the drink
Yeah, it keeps me up, makes me think too much, too deep
I’m too young to feel this shit
I wonder how long I can hold my breath
(One, two, three, four)

You talk about meeting Amy in the song and I am assuming you're talking about Amy Winehouse. What impact has she or her music had on you?

Elli Ingram: Everything. She’s my absolute favourite angel sent from above. I love her so much. I wish she was still with us and making amazing music. She’s just my number one girl. I love that and her lyrics, and just the way she was always so open and honest and told such amazing stories through her lyrics and all of the sounds and the production and just everything about her. I just think she’s just fucking one of a kind and then you just look at her and she’s just like, oozing with stories and pain and joy and just everything.

I think the shy looks pretty
Even though the weather’s shitty
I bet you right now that behind all the clouds are blue
I’m telling you
I think there’s hop up there for me
Maybe I can finally meet Amy
Just gotta get out of this old city

I’m sure as just as much as this song has helped me, it's gonna help other people and going to make people feel listened to and feel safe. So I'm wondering if you have any songs that you turn to for comfort?

Elli Ingram: It’s a very good question. When I’m having a bad day I definitely listen to upbeat music and that’s gonna make me feel good. I’ve got a playlist of tunes that’s just bangers to get me through a shitty day. Sort of like, disco, a bit of Prince in there, Aretha Franklin. I’m definitely someone that listens to upbeat, happy music. And when I’m having a terrible time, having a shit day and I’ll put on sad song it’s almost like, “Elli, what are you doing to yourself, because you’re literally just trying to push yourself over the edge. Just don’t do it.

These kinds of things are something that we only learn about ourselves after we've been actively getting to know ourselves and our mental health for a long, long time. What's been your relationship with mental health like?

Elli Ingram: It’s been very up and down. It was particularly bad when I was 19 and 20. I just get very depressed, I don’t really get anxiety, but I get very depressed and very low. When I was younger I didn’t really know how to deal with it and just would have a terrible, terrible time. And now I feel really good at dealing with it. Now I know if I’m feeling shit and how to get myself out of a downward spiral because when you get there it’s so so easy to just move down and down and down. Sometimes I almost feel like you kind of have to let yourself go a little bit, you need to just get it out. But then there needs to be a point where you’re like coming back to normal because otherwise you’re just going to be fucking bed bound for a week. You need to just get yourself out of this hole. But yeah, it’s very up and down. I actually experienced my first panic attack like two weeks ago, just terrible. That’s no fun.

I've read about your career, and it feels like you've done everything. You've gone viral with a cover, you've been on a major label, and now you're an independent artist. If you look back at the 2013 Elli who was about to break what would you tell her? What would you say?

Elli Ingram: Yeah, it’s been a journey, sometimes I really forget. I don’t know what I would tell myself. I mean I always say that you shouldn’t want to change the past kind of thing. But I think in this industry you have to be very, very prepared to work extremely hard, take no days off, and be really, really confident. I never really realised that to be able to keep going every day, and when you feel like you might be getting thousands of nos and you’re not really going anywhere, you just have to be able to be like “Cool, I’m going to get there, I can do this”, even though if you look around, it might seem like that’s impossible. You just have to literally be so prepared. Just be like, “I will not stop, I will keep going until I get where I want to get to, and no one’s going to get in my way”. You have to really have that in your head because the minute you step back and step away from things, your opportunity will be gone.

Elli Ingram © 2020

Elli Ingram © 2020

What has the year have been like for you in terms of not only how you're feeling but also music, what can we expect?

Elli Ingram: Yeah, I mean, it’s been a funny old year for all of us. I feel like I need to remember to give myself credit, because I have actually released three singles now this year, I started some silly little cooking show, I’ve got myself a little part-time job, I am really, really going for it. I just have to remember “Elli, you are doing enough, and you’re doing really well, like you are”. And it’s just so hard because normally I’d release a song andprobably be like going out and about for the promo and all these things. But it’s a bit weird when you’ve got a new song out but you’re just sat at home, it feels like nothing’s really happening. It’s very hard to process that in your head and remind yourself that you are doing all you can do right now and you’re doing well. I mean, you might have been doing it differently last year, but we’re in a fucking pandemic, and there’s not really much else you can do. So I’m just going to continue to write my music, release my music and think of all the ways that I can be doing shows and just sort of being as productive as I can, in these current times. And yeah, just give myself a bit of credit and keep pushing on.

You deserve all the credits: You've had such a career. What’s been your biggest lesson after all these years in music and all these years, dealing with your mental? What’s the biggest thing you've learned?

Elli Ingram: Be brave, trust yourself, and trust the process. And trust your  ability to be who you are Just be brave and go for it.

— —

:: stream/purchase “Heavy” here ::
Stream: “Heavy” – Elli Ingram



— — — —

Heavy - Elli Ingram

Connect to Elli Ingram on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
📸 © 2020

:: Stream Elli Ingram ::



Avatar

Is a dogs and music enthusiast, and spends most of her free time discovering new music, writing out thoughts, or photographing anything and anyone. An avid fan of Lady Bird, A24, and anything Saoirse Ronan and/or Timothée Chalamet related. Started a cactus collection she loves to talk about (they have names), and has very strong opinions on very random subjects like soup.